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Recommendation Consternation


This may sound ridiculous given that my free time outside my day job is filled with not only reading, but also talking about books, writing about books, taking photos of books, etc., but I shy away from "recommending" them to people. It recently dawned on me that some people think I am recommending books all the time but I'm not really doing that.


Let me explain.


For me, a recommendation is a personal interaction. It's an intimate, one to one conversation. In order for me to give you a recommendation, I need to know things about you. I have frustrated so many of my in real life (IRL) friends who have asked me to give them a book recommendation but not offering any context. My reply is always a rapid-fire series of questions: "what genre are you in the mood for?", "what was the last great book you liked?", "do you prefer plot or character driven books?", "what book do you despise?", etc. Invariably, I get a weary look from them and they will change the subject. Is it safe to assume that the subtext is that if they knew all that info, they wouldn't need a recommendation?


I used to take it as fact that books I love would appeal to others as well and I would be crestfallen if they didn't like it. I'm embarrassed to admit that I carried this belief into my adulthood. I would ask all sorts of probing questions to see where my recommendation went wrong, and how I could improve it the next time, which would garner the same tired look as I received from those who didn't get a recommendation from me, as listed above.


Now you and I both know that there was rarely another next time. Most readers aren't like us, are they? They may read 3 or 4 books a year and if my one suggested book didn't hit the mark, they aren't coming back for more. The stress was too much.


And that is why I started my YouTube channel- to meet other rabid bibliophiles like myself. To be able to talk freely, without shame, at the amount of books I read, at what new books I had discovered, at what I wasn't enjoying, at what I just found at a used bookstore, was liberating. I love hearing others, like myself, who cycle through books with a rapidity that others don't understand. Being able to hear the devotion and joy others fellow book lovers have when sharing what they have been reading is like hearing a language spoken in an octave only really registering with like minded literary folk. I tap into that energy and feel seen every single time.


But back to recommendations. Someone recently made the comment in a video that they love my recommendations and my head tilted immediately. I had to go back and think about what I said. I will admit there are times in a video or in an instagram post where I will flag a book for a particular audience by saying something like- "If you like x, y and z, then this book may appeal to you" but that doesn't feel like a recommendation to me. I think of it as an opportunity for the viewer to self identify and then choose to see if they would like to take it up.


So that begs the question- what do I think I am doing in my videos? I think I am sharing my experience with each book -what I have discovered, felt, and learned. I suspect that a majority of the people who watch my videos share some of my tastes when it comes to books, though I am sure I deviate often onto my own paths, as everyone does. So I hope that the viewers take my videos with the full picture in mind- who I am as a reader, who they are as readers and can parse out which books may be of interest for them, which I think almost everyone does. But it makes me cringe when I think that someone may just pick up a book only because I read and liked it without taking those other factors into play.


It's funny to think of the amount of stress I feel at the idea of being responsible for a recommendation. In my last blog post I talked about readathons and a few people indicated that they seemed stressful to them. I am curious if they find the act of recommending books to people as stressful as I do?


Please let me know your thoughts on recommendations. Do you recommend books? What's your process, if you do?

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