Friday, May 30, 2008

And Another

After thinking about it, I would like to revise my book-recommendation strategy.

When people find out I read a lot, they often say something like, "Oh, man, I wish I read more. I've been wanting to read, but I don't know what to read. Could you recommend some books to me? Like, if I only read one book, what book should it be?"

To this I say: "Read whatever book you really want to read." What I mean is that, since there are more books than anyone can possibly read in a lifetime, it's no use worrying about and apologizing for all the ones you haven't read. It doesn't matter if you read Moby Dick or Hank the Cowdog; the point isn't what you read, it's that you read. Besides, reading is supposed to be enjoyable first and foremost, especially if one expects to continue doing it. The kind of people who ask me for recommendations are the kind of people who haven't been swept away by the joy of reading, so if they obsess over reading the right book rather than a book they are interested in, they're likely to continue hating reading.

Thus I tell them, "Go out and read whatever book you've always wanted to read, and don't worry whether it's Mark Twain or Anne Rice. And if, halfway through, you lose interest, pick up another book." Sometimes we aren't ready for books, even when we are interested. Just because I read Huck Finn like a comic book, laughing aloud the whole time, doesn't mean it'll jive with you. You can always come back to a book later and see if you've become ready for it (for example: how I couldn't read Wuthering Heights to save my life in high school but I flew through it last year just for fun [you're next, As I Lay Dying]; how the Book of Mormon all of a sudden started making sense to me sometime in late high school—now I didn't have to decode the language of every verse bit by bit; the book opened up for me and I could enjoy it for the first time).

However, I would like to revise this policy. From now on my recommendation is thus:

"I recommend you go to the library and get a copy of the one book you've always felt obligated to read—something big and scary, preferably—Atlas Shrugged or Uncle Tom's Cabin. Take it home and read it for a few days, and then pop in to a book store and browse around until you find a book that really interests you, preferably paperback and short (feel free to judge by cover). Then read that book instead of and in sight of the first book, thinking often of the impending due date."


Special K said...

1. I have nintendo games for you. Sorry they're so tardy. I'm finally unpacked and moved, etc., etc., blah.
2. I always smell my books. Especially borrowed books. There's something very sensual about smelling borrowed books.

Jennifer said...

I have many things to say:

I hate Huck Finn.

I double hate Atlas Shrugged.

I think the easiest way to pick out a book is to go into the bookstore/cornerstore in the airport. You are a little pressed for time, so you can't dwell, but you need to have enough time to look at the covers and read the summaries on the back and look at the size of the print. (It matters to some. Vacation is only larger print, in my opinion.)

I am just barely starting to put down books I don't like. I've always felt obligated to finish any book I start, but it is true: there are more books than I can ever read. I might as well only read the ones I like.