The Book Recommendation dilemma

File this under “random thoughts” on a Wednesday. πŸ˜‰

Sometimes, I can’t help but gush about whatever book I’m reading to a co-worker or family member. This happened to me last week, and my co-worker asked me for some book recommendations. For a minute, I was a bit stumped. I’m happy to recommend most of the books that I read, since I spend a lot of time researching books that I truly think I will enjoy, but I can’t recommend them to just anyone without knowing what they like. This particular co-worker is 25 years older than me, and I have no idea what she looks for in a book because I don’t think she reads very often.

I thought about this a bit because I realized that to SOME people, a good book is one that you can undoubtedly recommend to anyone and know that they would love it too. That’s why bestseller lists exist. They are bestsellers for a reason, just like classics are classics for a reason. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a book that I loved to someone that doesn’t read a lot. If you haven’t read a book in 5 years, it might not be helpful if I recommend Pride & Prejudice, even though I love that book. It also might not be helpful for me to recommend The Lunar Chronicles if you don’t like YA.

I thought about it a bit and recommended a few books to my co-worker that I really felt could be a book she might enjoy, knowing nothing about her past reading life.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The Chief Inspector Gamache series (“how surprising!” said no one) by Louise Penny

Kate Morton‘s books (I’ve still only read 2 but I love her writing)

One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

The Rosie Project by Don Tillman

Where’d you go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Anyway, my co-worker found Big Little Lies in the used book cart here today and she was overjoyed and has already started it. I read it in e-book format which prevented me from skipping to the ending…and I hope she does the same and fully enjoys the reading experience πŸ˜‰ #yaybooks. The good thing is that there are 3 more Liane Moriarty books for me to recommend if she likes this one! πŸ˜‰

I feel confident recommending Louise Penny because I have officially gotten 4 family members on board. She is also a great author for me to recommend to friends here because she’s Canadian so there is that element to her books that people who like Quebec might enjoy. However, not everyone is looking for a series and some people want faster-paced books.

Last summer, I exhausted everyone I know by recommending The Martian, which is still a great book but again is not for everyone. I think most people who are interested in it but aren’t big readers will have seen the movie by now. I feel the same way about books like All the Light we Cannot See…if you’re not a big reader, that might not be the one to start with even though it was fantastic.

Part of me is always dying to recommend Harry Potter or Angels and Demons or The Nightingale, but not everyone is up for that either. Most people who like thrillers have probably already read The Girl on the Train. I have a much easier time recommending a book if I have a bit of a sense of what other books that person has read or enjoyed.

Here are some books I’ll be reading soon that I feel have the potential to be “recommendable to almost anyone”: 

Bel Canto (just started this one) by Ann Patchett
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Today will be Different by Maria Semple
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
This is Where I leave You by Jonathan Tropper
The Help (rated so highly on Goodreads – how have I not read it yet?!!!) by Kathryn Stockett

I also find this book site, Book Marks (“Rotten Tomatoes” for books!) to be really interesting because on Goodreads, a book could be rated 4.5 with only 100 ratings or it could be rated 3.8 with over a million ratings. It can be hard to tease that apart and find the good books. I mostly consider anything that’s rated 3.5 or higher to be worth my time if the subject matter looks interesting.

Have you recommended any books lately without knowing what the person likes to read?? Have you read any of my recommendations or hopeful ones? It’s hard to reconcile this type of question when I myself feel so immersed in the book community on the internet! If someone even tells you one or two books that they’ve previously enjoyed, it is much easier to recommend something!!!

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