I’ve written in the past about where you can get good book recommendations when you can’t find a good read. Sometimes, though, when enough people know you are a book nerd, the recommendations just come pouring in from every person that can get their clammy hands on you.
I’ve had some pretty strange book recommendations from stranger people, like my high school world history teacher who only ever ate a Snickers Bar and drank a full 7-Eleven Big Gulp for his breakfast, (in front of us, his first class period,) who recommended I read a motivational book about being your best self, finding happiness, etc. I didn’t even know that he could read, and I”m not sure he was doing it right.
Or, there was that one goth-emo kid in my high school biology class who was way too excited about cracking open the skull of the fetal pig we dissected. He recommended the book Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman by telling me that if I ever found out they were turning that book into a movie and I didn’t tell him, he’d find me out and murder me in my sleep. It was a good book, but frankly I definitely did not keep in touch with him and that has me worried a little bit, to this very day. So, uh, Kevin, if you’re out there, I hope you mellowed out a bit since your freshman year of high school and no, I don’t know of a Good Omens movie that has or will come out yet. Last I heard they were developing or had developed a miniseries of it on some network. That’s all I know. Please don’t hurt me.
High school was a weird time for me, looking back.
I’ve also had close friends and relatives recommend books to me that I couldn’t really finish, like they’d recommended them more out of their own zeal than any idea whether I would like it or not. Not liking these recommendations always makes me feel terrible, because I know it means a lot to someone I like, and that I probably dish out a couple of these recommendations every year myself.
To my darling sister, I never really read The End of the Beginning By Avi, or its sequel. Did you even remember you read that book? We must have been no older than eight or nine when you became obsessed with it. It was about an ant and a snail or something, I think. I recall it being not a bad book, but you’d already told me so much about its every detail that reading the just felt boring. I love you very much and so, again, please don’t hurt me.
I’m awakening a lot of old demons with this post, you guys. I’ll really have to make sure to lock my doors and window tonight. Anyway, you might actually want some advice on book recommendations instead a chance to laugh at my pain. So, from my vast personal experience, here are a few tips about when to take book recommendation and when to leave it, based on who is giving you the recommendation.
If we’re talking about you’re immediate family here, you’re probably safe. They know you, your tastes, better than most. You very likely even told them what to get and did or didn’t forget about it before they gave it to you for a birthday or Christmas.
Aunts, uncles, and grandparents are a less sure bet, depending on how well you know them and they know you, or how quickly they can get your parents phone number and secretly ask just what the kids are into these days. Chances are you’ll learn more about your family’s taste in books than you will about yours, which can be interesting. Wow grandma, never knew you were so into horror and the really grisly stuff like Cormac McCarthy. Is that a copy of Rosemary’s Baby next to the copy of Goodnight Moon you used to read me? Oh Grandma.
Generally speaking, you get to choose your friends, so it stands to reason that you, like me, don’t let any of your friends into your inner circle without having them fill out a one-hundred question questionnaire about their preferred books and authors, weeding out the mentally inferior ones accordingly. In this case, you should really have no problem accepting book recommendations from friends and being pleasantly surprised.
This one group is where I get a lot of the more… interesting recommendations from, in case you can’t tell from the stories above. Over the years, people have approached me with, as far as I can tell, genuine good will in their hearts, and decide to tell this person they know has been spotted reading books, pretty much constantly. They will attempt to connect with me by recommending perhaps the only book they’ve ever read, or a book that’s very near and dear to them and has absolutely nothing to do with any of my interests, like the one friend of mine who was looking for a philosophical self-help type and had a bookstore employee lead her to a book written by that one old guy from Duck Dynasty. If I hadn’t stepped in to help her, she would’ve given her non-American, non-white father the “philosophical” meanderings of a homophobic, kinda racist, kooky Vietnam war vet that needs a whole reality show’s worth of editing experts to make him seem humorous and relatable, and I’m willing to bet his numbers aren’t to big out of the United States and other countries that enjoy redneck-sploitation.
Again, remember, it’s important to keep in mind that these people probably mean well. If you’ll probably never see or here from then again, just gently place their crazy duck man book back on the shelf. If this person is someone you see everyday, perhaps someone that stares eerily at you in your freshman biology class, make a point to at least seem like you tried it and read enough in front of the person so you can pretend you know what they’re talking about if you have to discuss it.
Who knows? People are, in my humble opinion, generally inferior to books but sometimes they can redeem themselves a bit by recommending a surprisingly good read.