08 August 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading 8


  • Red Prophet - Orson Scott Card
  • After the Quake - Haruki Murakami
  • Skellig - David Almond
  • Charmed Thirds - Megan McCafferty
  • Teen Girlfriends - Julia DeVillers
  • Wonder Boys - Michael Chabon
  • Mary Jane - Judith O'Brien
It's so hard to recommend books to people. Even when I personally love a book, I'm at best sixty percent positive someone else will like it. Usually it's a toss up. That differs from movies quite a bit doesn't it? A good movie is a good movie, regardless of whether it's your particular genre or not. If you ask me if a movie is good or if it's worth watching, I'll can say with some confidence whether or not you'll like it just based on the quality of the film. A movie that works is rarely a waste of time but a book recommendation, that's a four to ten hour thing you're handing out. Plus, a book can work perfectly well but personal preferences can still torpedo the enjoyment of it.

Out of this month's books, many of them were friend recommendations of one sort or another. I started Card's Alvin Maker series last month and I even have all seven books on hand but I just can't get into it. I love the Ender's series (actually, I mailed a copy to Shelley and she liked it so I felt great) so by extension I like Card. I received solid recommendations for Alvin Maker from both Jennifer and Janice and even with all that, the first two books just didn't work for me. Like I probably enjoyed twenty percent of what I was reading. I slogged through five hundred pages like it was a chore. And I did it for friendship! I decided to let that go and come back around to it in a few years or something. Friendship is worth one book apiece, not seven total.

"Murakami" has been the word of the month. Jennifer gave James and Bassemah different Murakami's to read (Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore, respectively). They were both well received and much appreciated. I happened to start the Murakami short story collection one day at her house and ended up reading most of it. I feel like having "Murakami" flow effortlessly off your tongue can only do good things for your literary game. Japanese names just sound so authentically smart. Then again, if you confuse designer Takashi Murakami with author Haruki Murakami, you'll just look uncultured. Or racist. Or both.

Nick Hornby, best selling author and not a personal friend of mine by any stretch of the imagination, recommended Skellig in one of his columns. He gave it a hearty two thumbs up and the subject matter and potential audience (YA) seemed pertinent to my life right now. Instead I found the story a bit weak and boring. I don't know if I can trust Nick anymore. Just one small disagreement with a gushy review of his and I'm already questioning our imaginary book friendship. It's so hard you know?

One of my favorite book recommenders, Christina, really likes Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts and the Jessica Darling books that followed. Of course, the library didn't carry anything except the third one and I pretty much just shot her recommendation through the foot by diving into the series backwards, from worst to best. Also, I took out Don DeLillo's White Noise for the second time but didn't even start it. Everyone tells me I'll love Don but I just can't seem to motivate to give him a fair shake.

If someone told me that a best friend could be made by just stepping outside for a quick coffee date, I would go right? So why can't I just start the DeLillo? Am I afraid it'll ruin the credibility of book recommenders I care about if I hate it? Maybe... I'm just afraid of disappointment alright? What does it say that everyone absolutely agrees I'll like DeLillo and then I don't like him? Do my friends know me less than I think they do or am I just too dumb to recognize quality work? See the potential problems here? "It's complicated" isn't just a relationship status, it applies to absolutely everything.

I think if I'm going to recommend something, I have to get over the idea that if they hate it, it'll reflect poorly on me. Reading is such a personal experience that you can't really judge exactly what a person will like versus what they'll hate. Even if the writing style, the genre, the everything matches up, you can still end up with a busted book blind date. So the way to keep plugging along pushing books on other people is to just blame them when they don't like something. It takes all the guilt out of the process I think. Once again, self-delusionment and non-responsibility seems to be the answer. I'm sensing a theme here.