Suspend Your Disbelief

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The dangers of book recommendations

Melissa disliked the flash going off as she read

Image Credit: Flickr

Since I’m a writer, friends often ask me for book recommendations. It’s incredibly difficult to predict what people will like based on other things they’ve liked. Netflix offered a million dollars, literally, to anyone who could improve their predictions on what viewers would enjoy based on other movies they’d enjoyed.

It’s marginally easier to make predictions if you know the person—but it’s infinitely more risky. Suddenly your knowledge of literature AND your knowledge of your friend are tested. Ross loved Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You, so would he like Aimee Bender? David Foster Wallace? Wells Tower?

At the Guardian Books Blog, Darragh McManus discusses the complexities of making book recommendations—and the difficulties that ensue when friends recommend books you hate.

It’s lovely, how this enthusiasm for books and writing draws us together like molecules in liquid, gathering and binding us. We willingly become entangled in a sort of literary waltz, a pleasant to-and-fro of fresh discovery.

But what about when someone presses a book on you, assuring you that you’ll simply adore it … and you don’t? Worse – you hate the thing, and can’t understand how anyone would think of it and then think of you.

How do you cope when someone recommends a book you hate?

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