The Perils of Book Recs
I have officially hit that point of the afternoon where I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. I should SO live in a country that believes in siestas!
I got back from lunch to an email from a coworker recommending a book. “I just finished this. I think you’ll like it!” So I toddle over to Amazon, look it up, read the description. Confirm the “dude, you have no clue what I actually like” I already suspected.
I find book recommendations (both making and receiving) to be an area that is either supremely awesome and fun or fraught with awkwardness. I am a hard core romance lover. Probably 95% of what I read is some subgenre of romance because I want to read about relationships and I want a happy ending. There’s enough negativity and crap in the world IRL without my seeking it out in my fiction. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy being twisted into knots (C.J. Redwine and Laini Taylor, I’m looking at you) over the course of the story–but I want the pay off of a happy ending. You can’t count on that outside of romance.
When I find other readers who, if not as hard core into romance as I am, are at least willing to try it, I LOVE digging through their preferences and winnowing down until I can come up with the perfect Gateway Book (you know, the book that’s going to show them that ROMANCE IS AWESOME and turn them into a convert). I also love glomming over favorite couples and stories with other romance fanatics.
Where I run into trouble is talking books with…everybody else.
Because romance is such a…I was going to say polarized, but maybe instead, an oft denigrated and misunderstood genre, people who don’t read it often make it…uncomfortable to talk about for those of us who do. My coworker, for example, has been recommending these TOMES. Big, doorstopper thick historical fiction (sorry, none of that is going to hold my attention for 800 pages) that probably has a literary bent. I don’t think I’ve actually heard of ANYTHING she’s mentioned (being not romance and not YA, none of it is on my radar at all) except for the ineffable Neil Gaimon. It’s largely “intelligent” fiction, the kind of thing I imagine she could discuss at cocktail parties with other university faculty and whether they read it or not, nobody would think any less of her for it.
I hate that I don’t feel comfortable as happily spewing “I just finished this great lumberjack romance by Inez Kelley (The Place I Belong, Country Roads #2, for those who are wondering). It was AWESOME!” like I would (and have) online. A little of it is that I work in academia, where there’s a prevailing snobbery and intelligentsia bent. But more of it is that socialization of these reading preferences being somehow not good enough, of being afraid of being looked down on for loving something that not everybody loves. And now that I’m realizing that, it pisses me off that I’ve let it stop me from being loud and proud about the books I love with people who aren’t guaranteed going to be receptive.