Book Recommendation 101

A true bookworm cannot not have recommended books for fellow friends to try in the naïve hope of converting them into fellow bookworms, or for their literary enrichment, or just plain thoughtfulness for thinking of something you’d thought they might enjoy. I say naïve because bookworms often have this misconception that a fellow bookworm would naturally read the same genres or be as open to other genres. Perhaps it is also naïveté, thinking that the amount of enthusiasm you give out with your book recommendations would be reciprocated a response equally as enthusiastic. However, just as it is in the real world, the bookworm world is full of disenchantment, snobbery, prejudices and stereotypes. The real questions are, how do you go about recommending a book and how do you give a proper response to the book recommendation?

Recommending a book can be a tricky business because there’s a personal ongoing conflict between recommending a book you truly absolutely enjoyed and recommending a book you want your friend to enjoy. Often these two dilemmas are thought as one, and the end result is that you have recommended a book you truly absolutely enjoyed but your friend truly absolutely hated it, simply because you did not have her literary and personal tastes in mind when you selected the book.

So how do we go about solving that conflict? First, it’s terribly important to remember that you are no mind reader. Hence, no matter how much thought you put into recommending a book, you may not get a positive response. Therefore, do not take the book rejection as a personal gauge of your book recommendation ability.

Next, take into account your friend’s personal characteristics and usual book genres. If she’s a brooding, serious character, don’t expect her to enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series no matter how much your belly ached from laughing while reading the series. If she’s a staunch Christian, she definitely won’t want to read a fengshui book or The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. If she’s a high-brow booksnob, she would have her prejudices set already even before reading that excellent young adult novel The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. Look at what kinds of books your friend usually reads before selecting something from your bookshelf that is as similar to the genre she reads. If that doesn’t do, the next best thing is to recommend some popular, award-winning fiction.

Your book recommending part is done now. Let’s switched roles – now you are the person reading that recommended book. If you had loved it, you wouldn’t have a problem of returning the book with your enthusiastic review. But if you hated it, how are you going to go about giving your negative feedback?

The cliché of honesty is the best policy rings true in this context. There is no other way about it. However, the key ingredient in your honesty is diplomacy. I believe that with carefully chosen words, you can express your disgust with that awful read of a book and at the same time not offend the recommender. I’d also suggest that you show your appreciation of the recommender’s recommendation so that she wouldn’t be so disheartened to the point that she won’t recommend any more books in the future. Her first try may have bombed, but you never know her recommendation may set you on the right path to literary orgasm!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Etiquette of Lending & Borrowing Books « The Literary Pursuit

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