I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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Sometimes I wonder how people come to recommend books, like how, or why it is that they decide on one book over another to share with a person. I do know that in reality it’s no more complicated than arbitrarily picking a title that you have either enjoyed or have heard about and suggesting it, but I don’t know, I think that I want it to mean more than that. A typical person reads on average four books a year, and when you consider how many books are published every year the whole concept of the arbitrary book recommendation—errgh—it’s like everybody flooding their unwanted political opinions throughout social media—you know, we’re living in the age of your fact being just as real as my opinion, when really almost everything that we do, in our social media life, is veiled by the umbrella of validation, it’s like someone saying, “damn it read it, cause I told you to, although I didn’t really read it either…”
But, we don’t recommend books to validate ourselves, so what is it actually that I’m trying to say?
While working in bookstores I learned pretty quickly that one of my most important responsibilities, at least in regards to customer service, is the book recommendation. People walking through the doors are most eager to inquire about their next read, and they leave this profound task upon the shoulders of a perfect stranger. I know from experience that many booksellers really are not that eager to engage with someone when it comes down to the recommendation because, for a number of booksellers, they tend to be a little highbrow in their tastes and, therefore, in the particular act of recommending a book to someone whom “has likely never even heard of a single author that [I] might go out of my way to suggest,” said bookseller will resort to recommending something as similar as possible to the last thing that you read, and it would be irrelevant to them whether you actually enjoyed it—assuming that is that the bookseller hasn’t brushed the request off by being “too busy.”
With that said, I have always enjoyed giving recommendations, in part because sharing is caring, right? I mean introducing a person to a new author, or a new style of writing, or even a book written by an author they might be familiar with though the title is unfamiliar to them, or perhaps they have always meant to read it and have never gotten around to it and I just happened to remind them. Regardless it’s irrelevant what someone may usually read, and whom they may not be familiar with—especially in terms of the last book one might have finished. Recommending books is an interesting challenge, and even more so when someone walks through the door looking for recommendations and have filters that need to be maneuvered.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman; this is a conventional historical novel—read in many book clubs—that takes place in Australia shortly after World War I, a young newly married couple suffered a stillbirth only to discover a small boat which has washed ashore, on which they find a dead man and a living infant girl, a happenstance that the young woman convinces her husband “to be a gift from God.” It is very well written, and is well worth your time
The Light Between Oceans
by M. L. Stedman
I googled book recommendations and went through a number of the sites that popped up—I noticed recently that I look at landing pages differently, and the ranked pages that are the first few that Google lists now that I have spent a great deal of time studying SEO—most of the articles offer the same incite, which is “Where do [we] even begin?” and then they all follow through to list a number of books but, I mean, if you’re a book reviewer or writer or you run a bookstore in some fashion writing about book recommendations is incredibly important if only to direct traffic to your site. I have, of course, thought about writing the blog many times over the past years, since I started this website and blog, and every time I actually sat down to write the blog the idea that I was trying to convey would be lost somewhere after the first few paragraphs, and I’m not sure if I can explain why. I could do exactly what every other site and article that I happened upon has done, which is to write a short introductive paragraph and start listing books, but I think, for one thing, and as I have mentioned in a previous blog: reading is deeply personal for me, I’m not always eager to share my experience of reading a particular book with anyone. I love the conversations that watching movies and listening to music and even writing often develops but reading, for whatever reason, is a conversation that I actively avoid, and especially the sharing of the experience.
However, I love sharing the act of reading with people, but because it’s so intrinsically existential I suppose, for me, recommending a book should have more of an impact than tossing a copy of Red Sky at Morning on the floor at someone’s feet whispering, “Read it.”
Red Sky at Morning
by Richard Bradford
There are a handful of authors that I have learned I really enjoy recommending, and I think it’s because there is a certain universality to them while also introducing people to someone new, but of course it depends greatly on whether whomever I’m talking to has heard of said author. I’ve also learned that depending on where I have lived certain authors are less commonly known, and I have become pretty good at reading people as a result. Haruki Murakami is one of those authors, and especially when recommending some of his earlier novels because they were considerably more epic than his more recent works, his newer stuff feels a little forced to me—although I have read everything, and will continue to—he is kind of known for being formulaic, his novels follow a very specific formula which I discuss in my blog Haruki Murakami: A Profile.
Kafka on the Shore
By Haruki Murakami
When I think about writing this blog, I’m looking for something more to say or to offer, as if I were attempting to create some platform of intent: after reading this blog you’ll have everything you need to in order to maneuver the subtleties of the book recommendation, like, for example, I would want to create an app, kind of like a dating app, you input some information, maybe take a compatibility test, and the next thing you know you are well on your way to exploring every book that would inherently consume your being, but alas “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
It is important to branch out, and to experience new writers, and new styles, and new ideas, but you will likely find that it’s also enjoyable. A friend of mine in high school and I used to introduce one another to new music. Every time we saw each other, which was every day, he would have new musicians or bands for me to listen to, and I would leave him with his own list to explore. Every one of the musicians that I listen to today was discovered because of that experience either directly or indirectly, as some ripple effect of those conversations. I have three friends, at least, from Barnes&Noble either in Salt Lake City or New York City whose friendship was enlisted in much the same way, although it was with books. We would simply throw ideas out at one another and dive into great new authors. It was also during one of those ventures that I learned that it is OK to not finish a book, if you really just don’t like it. Put it down, never pick it up again, and you know what, as a matter of fact, just get rid of it—I don’t mean to toss it out a 5th story walkup or to burn it but sell it back to a used bookstore for a little extra cash or trade.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; another conventional historical novel—also read in many book clubs—that takes place in German occupied France during World War II. I little girl goes blind when she was 6 years old and her father goes through extraordinary measures in order to help her to live an independent adult life.
All the Light We Cannot See
By Anthony Doerr
While I was browsing for book recommendation sites on Google I did come across this article on Mashable, and it’s no different than any other that I came across however the feeling I got while reading it was better than most. Also I came across a How To of recommendations on BookRiot’s website and, by the way, if this is a site that you have not yet visited take it on my word, you should. It’s a great site.
BookRiot’s 5 Tips for Being Great at Recommending Books:
1.) "Recognize Read-a-Likes. If the person asking you for a recommendation is asking for a book that is like another title, you’re looking to match two things: motifs and tone. Motifs are recurring elements in a book that give it its particular flavor; tone is atmosphere, how light/dark the book is, whether it’s cynical, hopeful, funny, etc. For example, if someone asks you to recommend a book to read if they loved The Night Circus, look for a book that has similar motifs (magic, Victoriana) and a similar tone (romantic, lush, hopeful, tense). Comb your book memory for a title with all or many of those things; of course, if you don’t have an encyclopedic memory of everything you’ve ever read, you’ll need to…"
2.) "Keep Good Records. If you have trouble remembering what you’ve read, keep a book journal, an account on Goodreads, a spreadsheet, or some record of your reading life. It should be easily accessible, so when you’re at dinner with a friend and she asks you for a rec, you can pull it out and quickly consult it. For 201 level record keeping, add tags to each title for its genre and the format in which you read it. Someone wants an excellent audiobook about nature? I can find one in my spreadsheet in about three seconds. Need a romance that you want to read digitally? Done and done. I can even tell you if it’s available at our local library."
3.) "Ask the key question. “What’s the last book you read that you loved?” is the only question you ever need when someone is asking you for a reading recommendation and you don’t know anything about their taste. The answer will give you motifs and tones to pull from; if you haven’t read it, you at least have a genre to pull from. If the person can’t remember or isn’t a big reader, ask the same question, but about movies. You might luck out and find they last watched a book adaptation, but even if that’s not the case, you’ll get an idea of what kind of story they enjoy."
4.) "Read wider. If you only read the classics and bestsellers, you’re not going to be a very effective or interesting recommender of books. No one needs you to tell them to read Dickens or Stephen King or Agatha Christie or whoever won the Pulitzer this year. Branch out. Read in the genres you haven’t read yet, pick up books from small presses. Read diversely from authors in translation, from authors from different ethnicities and sexual orientations than your own. Become a source of serendipity for the people you’re recommending for. Help them discover gems."
5.) Abandon snobbery. No one is going to ask you to recommend their next read if they think you’re going to judge them for their current one. If you still hold onto outdated ideas about science fiction or romance or comic books, you probably haven’t read from those genres for the last few decades: go do so. If your James-Patterson-obsessed dad wants a recommendation and you happen to be a little snooty about JPatz, you’re going to have to move away from that attitude to fairly consider what it is about those books that has your dad enthralled so you can give him the next book he’ll love. Books have readers for reasons. Be open to those reasons.
I often see friends of mine asking for book recommendations on Facebook, and I rarely make any suggestions, though I rarely engage on Facebook in any respect, with the exception only of my Communitea Books Facebook Page. A couple weeks ago a friend of mine posted a desperate need for a book recommendation and she listed a handful of filters, a number of books immediately came to mind, so I did browse the comments—which is another reason why I rarely engage on Facebook, the bloody comments, my goodness people will come up with any reason to bash Obama (even still) or to taunt Trump…whoa, I thought this was a book forum?!—but regardless of whether I was planning on actually commenting, I did want to at least, I don’t know, make sure that people were recommending books, but in the snobbish, “…these books are lame,” kind of mentality, it was more in the sense that I was looking to reinvigorate my hope in humanity—that people are still reading! Of course, I know they are, but it’s fantastic to be reminded of that.
…furthermore, if you are interested in a book recommendation please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org I am quite good at it, and I’ll get the book, if we don’t already have it, for a better price than you will find anywhere online in comparison with the same book of condition and edition ;)
Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford
Trade Paperback; Used. Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford.
"The classic coming-of-age story set in New Mexico during World War II about the enduring spirit of youth and the values in life that count.:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Trade Paperback; Used. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Historical Fiction.
"...about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times)."
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Trade Paperback; Used. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.
"Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.
Here we meet a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who is on the run, and Nakata, an aging simpleton who is drawn to Kafka for reasons that he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, acclaimed author Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder, in what is a truly remarkable journey."