Thursday, December 20, 2012

Giving book recommendations

One of the things I’ve treasured in the last few months is my ability to recommend new books to friends who are similarly discovering a love for classics or for domestic fiction.  Someone who only ever re-reads old favorites might live in a comfortable and familiar literary world, but without branching out, how can you excitedly tell a friend, “I just found this great new book; you should try it!”  One of the beauties of this blog is that it keeps track not only of what I’ve read, but how I feel about it.  That way, when a bookish friend asks for recommendations, I can just turn to my yearly book list and look through for my favorites.  And then I can turn to my review, or pass it along to them.

Perhaps it’s because I used to be such a voracious re-reader, but does anyone else find it curious that it’s often difficult to remember details about a book several months after the first reading?  I’ve read so many new books this year.  While I read them, I delight in their prose or quirkiness or sympathy in the face of dreadful situations.  But when I return to my list months later, I don’t tend to remember much.  I don’t think reading books only to forget a lot about them later means that reading new things is a waste of time.  Every book you read stays with you in some way.  Perhaps it introduces a new word into your everyday vocabulary or suggests a response to a real-world situation.  Books change a person’s worldview, often in very subtle, but very deep ways.  And if nothing else, they provide great conversation-starters!  (Seriously, I’ve talked more about the Brontës in the last three days than in the entire rest of the year combined!)  The only intimidating bit about book-forgetting is that I feel as if I should re-read them, so that more of the details stick with me.  My TBR list is long enough already!

My husband, who prefers to get books out of the library rather than owning them, often laughs at me for my book-buying impulses, and reminds me that we have limited bookshelf space and are heading into careers that will probably cause us to move a lot in the next ten to twenty years.  (He knows that he’ll likely be the one stuck carrying many boxes of books whenever we move!)  But I’ve recently discovered the true joy of owning books yourself rather than always checking them out of the library.  There is nothing like having a bookish discussion when a friend stops by your house, and being able not only to recommend, say, I Capture the Castle because your friend has never yet experienced that wonderful book, and then pull the book off your shelves and hand it to your friend.  How much easier is it for them, when they don’t have to remember a title or write it down, and then try to remember it next time they take a trip to the library?  Loaning books is a special gift, and one that I’ve really begun to treasure.

How do you feel about giving recommendations?  Do you ever loan books out?  And – this I’d most like to hear – do you forget book details if you’ve only read them once, and how do you feel about that?


  1. I love giving recommendations! In recent years, I've read a LOT more, which has only increased the number of times I mercilessly push books onto family and friends. :-)

    I definitely tend to forget details of books, which is one of the reasons why I love writing reviews so much. Just the act of taking time to record details, favorite parts, thoughts, and impressions locks the book into my memory so that when I re-read the review, I can instantly remember so many things about the book, even things I didn't record in the review. I'm a fan of writing about what you read!

    1. I'm with you there! I know some people keep a book diary. For me, this blog is my diary, albeit a public one. Just like you, if I want to better remember something I read this year, I go back to the review. Do you re-read, after that, or are you content with the first reading and the memories the review enables?

    2. No, I definitely re-read, more now than I used to. In fact, one of my reading goals in 2013 is to read the same book twice in the space of the year because I've never re-read a book that quickly. I want to see what things I pick up in a second reading that I didn't pick up in the first. Haven't decided on the book yet...I'm sure I'll know it when I come to it!

    3. I hope you'll blog about it, when you do! And, if you're taking recommendations (ha!), I might suggest Tove Jansson's amazing "The Summer Book" - it's a quick read, but has great depth and I suspect it's one of those with the potential to mean a lot of different things.

    4. Thank you! I always welcome book recommendations...even if it might be years until I get to it!!

  2. If I didn't review everything I read, I'd forget just about everything about them. There are so many books I read pre-blogging that I only have vague memories of, usually just a feeling of whether I liked it.

    As for recommendations, I enjoy giving them if the person asking for a recommendation gives me something to work with and if I know something of their taste. I like to know if they're looking for something light or suspenseful or challenging or whatever. I never know what to say when they just ask me to recommend something. I have a few standby authors most people like (Sarah Waters, Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood) that I mention in such circumstances, but that's the best I can do.