Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Problem with Recommending Books

I have a hard time recommending books.

Because here's the thing. We all like books for different reasons. And that makes it all but impossible to accurately recommend one book to someone else. I've found this is especially difficult for me because, well, I like a lot of books for a lot of different reasons. I read MG to YA to adult (sometimes), sci fi to contemporary, fantasy and romance and magic realism and everything in between. 

Let me give you an example. One of my favorite books is THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan. After I read it, I pressed it into the hands of all my friends and forced them to read it. Many of them (like me) loved it. And they asked what they should read next.

The obvious choice is to look at the plot--at it's very basic form, THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is a zombie book. So, makes sense to recommend another zombie book, right? Like Carrie Harris's (just released!) new title, BAD TASTE IN BOYS. 

Side note: What is WITH Carries and zombies?!

But....a book is more than one thing. THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is more than zombies (and so, btw, is BAD TASTE IN BOYS). 

Let's say you loved it for the writing style--it was lyrical and beautiful and every word was like poetry. In that case, you should pick up LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES by Laini Taylor--another beautifully written book whose prose sings. There's not a zombie in it, but if you're like me, you'll love both books anyway.

But maybe you don't care so much about writing style OR zombies. Maybe the thing YOU liked in THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH was the complicated romance. You liked the love triangle built on difficult situations, the complicated society that constructed a situation where love is a luxury most people can't afford. In that case, you will want to read Lauren DeStefano's WITHER.

WITHER, BAD TASTE IN BOYS, and LIPS TOUCH are three very very different books--but each one is a possible recommendation for someone to read after reading THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH.

And therein lies the problem with recommending books. Unless you know why someone liked one book, it's difficult to really recommend another book based on it.

Things get even more complicated when you bring into account the idea that some people like--or dislike--a book for very personal reasons. I, personally, have heard from several people that they didn't like sci fi and the only reason they bought my book was because it was titled after their fave Beatles's song, "Across the Universe." For personal reasons of my own, I never read books about angels (fallen or otherwise) or where I know the plot relies on sibling death. My husband likes books where there's a terrible, tragic ending--my mom likes the exact opposite.

The truth of the matter is, there will NEVER be ANY book where everyone loves everything about it. And it's difficult to recommend a book to someone based on another title if you don't know why that person likes the book--writing style, subject matter, plot, or characters. There are, quite simply, just too many variables for every recommendation to work.

That said--I'm going to post tomorrow some books that I think are pretty comparable--a sort of, "if you like this, you'll probably like this." It won't be perfect--but I hope it'll make you think of some new titles to read!
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