Monday, June 22, 2009

Not a book adviser

Man Reading by Georg Friedrich Kersting

When people discover that I'm a bibliophile, what pops out of their mouths is the inevitable question "What should I read next?" Well, I'm flattered when asked about this, as if people think that I'm an authority on books and reading. But the flattery lasts for about 37 seconds, after which the feeling evolves into frustration and bewilderment. The conversation that follows is something like the one below.

Friend: What should I read next?

Me: Hmmm... I don't know really. What are you into?

Friend: Oh, a lot of things. Fantasy, suspense, mysteries. That kind of stuff.

Me: What was the last book you really enjoyed?

At this point, the answer is usually any one of the following: The Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Harry Potter books, the novels of Dan Brown, and, more recently, The Time Traverler's Wife.

Friend: Well, I really loved Twilight.

(Hearing this, I exert all efforts as possible not to cringe. But if you look closely, you'll see that my pupils have dilated.)

Me: Perhaps you should check out other vampire books? Are you familiar with any of them? Kostova? King? Stoker? Rice even?

Friend: Honestly, I'm not into vampire fiction, except for Twilight.

Me: Hmmmm... Let's eat.

Except for the last line, notice that all my responses were questions. Perhaps it's because I feel uncomfortable rattling off specific titles to my friends, as if telling them to read this and that. I hate it when people tell me what to read, so I certainly won't force any of my reading tastes on my friends. For what it's worth, I also have that same problem -- sometimes I couldn't decide what to read next, which leads me to ask . Should I finally give Rushdie's Satanic Verses a go? Can I stomach another round of YA fantasy novels? Do I resume reading all the novels of the Booker shortlist last year? The questions can go on and on.

I guess that's why I check a lot of book blogs every day, which is something that people looking for the next book to read should do as well. Book bloggers have their own wonderful take on the books they've read. And when two bloggers have completely different opinions on the same book, it makes you just want to read the book yourself.

Of course, there are sites such as Shelfari, Library Thing, and Good Reads, which serve as platforms for people to discuss what they've read and what they will be reading. Lately, two of my friends told me to check out these sites -- Whichbook and What Should I Read Next. I didn't follow the results I got though, but it was interesting to find out the titles they came up with when you input your preferences.


line of flight said...

I always show my library first and once that is done, I rarely, if ever am asked that question on what they should read!

Anonymous said...

This is a great topic. I get this as well and I used to just have a book diary of sorts that I would hand them and see what I had read and what I thought. Then blogging came along and I dirrect them to my blog and to nose around in other book blogs as well.

Thomas said...

I think book recommendations, both giving and receiving them, are a bit of trial and error until you know the other person's reading tastes. I have given some really great recommendations to people who ended up not liking the books and I have had friends rave about books that I thought were absolutely terrible. But, after a while you figure out which friends to trust.