As a teacher, I'm always asked for book recommendations. In that role, I can usually direct a student towards a good book from our reading list for the class, or I can at least direct them to books that will add to what we've studied. On the other hand, I also get asked by friends, family, or even strangers for help in finding a good book. Here's what I've observed about recommending books:
- People like to see how much you've actually read, so when you're in a bookstore they'll walk around saying, "Have you read this? What about this one? Did you like this one?" As if you didn't know it already, you find out pretty quickly where your reading interests lie.
- Giving a book summary can become a careful dance in not giving away the main "twist" of the story. Nine times out of ten, the person I'm recommending to will say, "Just tell me. I don't think I'm going to read it anyway." Why they want me to give away the entire story is beyond me, because inevitably they say, "Huh. That sounds kind of good." I then feel guilty that I gave it all away, even though I know, deep down, that they could have read the same summary on a book site, right?
- If you don't care for a genre, yet you know the gist of what a book is about, they still don't trust you because YOU don't read those books. For instance, I don't read thrillers (for the most part), so although I know what Jeffrey Deaver writes, I haven't really read his books nor want to. It's not that they're not good books; it's just that I don't care for them, and I have a million other books I do want to read.
- It can often take a real interview process to get out of someone what they DO like. I find myself asking what they have read, or in the case of those who simply don't read (and those are the ones I delight in finding a great read), I inevitably have to ask what is their favorite movie. Everyone loves a good story, so you just have to find the one that best fits them.
- Once in awhile, I've noticed that I can match the person's personality and interests to a book that mirrors them in some way. Several years ago I directed a family member who was reluctant to read, but loves the mountains and wild animals, to the young adult author Will Hobbs. That did the trick, and he was off and reading!
- Sometimes you just have to trust that a book you loved, and has received other great reviews, might catch their attention as well. Here's the thing though. I just won't do it while standing in front of my own bookshelves, because if I really love it, I can't bear to part with my copy. In those cases, I keep extra copies that I can handle loaning out and not getting back. Yes. I realize I'm a bit neurotic and selfish. For instance, my UK Adult Hardback version of the Harry Potter novels are NOT lenders, so I have US paperbacks I'm more than happy to share!
Do you like recommending books to people? How often do you get asked to recommend a good book to someone, and how do you go about doing that?