The Fine Art of Recommending Books

Recently I recommended The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson to my mother – I knew she would love it because it’s a mystery, a thriller and love story all in one.  My mother is a champion reader – she reads everything and she reads it FAST.  Sometimes she likes my suggestions, sometimes they’re too esoteric for her, which she thought Dragon Tattoo might be.  She started it but because it is translated from Swedish and because the names and locations are Swedish, she said she was confused from the start and put it down.  One week she couldn’t get her Half-Price fix so she had to resort to reading this book.  She called me right after she finished and said she LOVED it!  She couldn’t put it down!  She’s already read the second book in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and we are waiting for the The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest to come out in paperback so we can read it together.

In this case it was easy to recommend a book to my mom because I know her taste and I know her history with books.  But what if a stranger asks you to recommend a book to them?  What if you have to recommend a book to a book club?  It’s not easy to make everyone happy and satisfy their needs.  Lately, we have used length of book as a criteria.  I think the point of a book club is to read new books, books you might not have picked up, books you may hate or may change your life.  We have read several such books – we hated Eat, Pray, Love and The Road changed some of our lives.

Laura Miller reviews books for Salon.com and is constantly asked to recommend books.  She discusses this in her latest article:

As Pearl sees it, four “doorways” allow readers to enter into any work of fiction or narrative nonfiction: story, characters, setting and language. “The difference between books is often a difference in the size of those doorways,” she explained. Someone who agrees with statements like “I stayed up late to finish the book,” is drawn to story, while someone who picks “I am in awe of the way the author could put words together,” cares more about the beauty of the prose.

On The Morning News, the Bibiloracle will recommend books to you if you let him know the last five books you’ve read.  He says he has “something like an 85 percent success rate”  and “If your chosen book fails to please you, the Biblioracle will refund you the cost of your free recommendation.”

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