The dreaded question, can you recommend any good books to read?
Considering that I blog about books why would this be a question I hate? It’s not that I don’t have any books to recommend but that I’m always scared that people will judge me based on their feelings towards the books.
I think most of this stems from an ex-housemate who was highly critical of many of my choices. At the time I failed to realise that her taste is quite mainstream and science fiction, steam punk, religious thrillers etc. were never going to rate highly. So we repeated a routine, she’d ask for a recommendation, I would give her one, she’d hate the book with a passion so fierce she’d go on to tell everyone she met about this rubbish book I had recommended. In total it took 3 years of living with her for me to eventually curtail what I recommended, keeping it to my equivalent of the Richard and Judy book club.
Now when asked for a recommendation I take the time to ask about what they’ve read recently, who their favourite authors are, are they looking for a page turner or a thought provoker? If I ask enough questions I can generally get a feel for them and make a half decent recommendation. In some cases recommending something I haven’t read, as it’s not to my taste, but I’ve read enough good reviews on twitter, goodreads etc. to feel confident in passing on the knowledge.
But what if someone just had open access to all your books, how do you then filter their choices, how do you protect the books you love so much you never tell others about them in case they hate them?!
Take my other half, we moved in together in October 2013 and he is slowly one by one making his way through my book collection. If my book collection was made up of classics I would have no fear. But that is not me, mine has a more quirky make up with many of the authors and books unheard of by most people. Where do you even begin with making a recommendation?
There are the vampire books (very sexual and written with a female reader in mind so probably best avoided), Scandinavian crime novels, Steam Punk, books about magic, code breaking, quantum physics, my collection of Agatha Christie books, a complete set of Roald Dahl, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, a fair few romance novels, teenage angst, religious thrillers I could go on.
We started mainstream going for books that he had actually heard of and we’ve slowly moved on to lesser known obscure books such as Q by Luther Blissett, The End of Mr Y and PopCo by Scarlett Thomas and The Book with No Name by Anon. As nervous as I was about opening up my collection to someone, I would say overall the experience has gone well. There have been a couple of books he has loved and many that he has liked. A success most people would say, but not for me.
Why not? Because he didn’t like one author and I can’t let that go. I feel judged.
Although he enjoyed the steam punk books in general he didn’t rate George Mann as a writer. George Mann is one author out of the hundreds that I have read and yet this negative review stays with me and irks me. I feel my ability to source interesting different non-mainstream authors is being taken into question. I become defensive when the other half tries to explain what he didn’t like. I feel I’ve disappointed him by giving him something of a lower standard to read. I should say at this point that the other half has done nothing more than say something along the lines of “didn’t really take to the George Mann books, his writing style is awkward and annoying”.
So why am I obsessed with the fact that he didn’t rate them. I enjoyed the Mann books, but I wouldn’t put them on a greatest list if I had to compile one. They certainly wouldn’t be my choice of read on a desert island and yet for some reason I can’t just let his opinion lie.
It has been said the eyes are the windown to the soul, if that is true then what we read should, and often does, touch us in a way we can’t explain. Stories we know not to be true can reduce us to tears, can move us so much we treasure the tale for our entire life. I think this is the nub of my inability to let my other half’s review go. In not liking the book the irrational part of me feels my book lover’s soul has been judged and in this case found lacking.
I know I’ll get over this, eventually, and who knows maybe it will help me hone by skills when choosing new authors. But I do know one thing for sure, I’m not recommending any more books to the other half!