Books have been a hugely important part of my life. As a kid, when Mom took us to the mall, I loved going to B. Dalton bookstores and Waldenbooks. [I’d get so excited that, within ten minutes of walking the aisles, I’d need to pee.]
For my twelfth birthday in Cockeysville, Maryland, my parents hosted a group of my friends for roller skating and pizza at Skateland. Most of my friends gave me books as gifts. We had a leaning stack on the table that included favorites such as “Catch Me if You Can” by Frank Abagnale, “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, and “The Stand” by Steven King.
Some older kids walked by and Mom heard them say, “shoot, that kid must really like books!”
To this day, I still have most of those books, and I enjoy swapping favorite book titles with others. When people ask me for book recommendations, I have found myself following an informal set of rules.
First, I only consider recommending books that I’ve read. Would you write a recommendation for a person you’ve never met? Would you recommend a restaurant you’ve never eaten at? Yet, on dozens of occasions, I’ve fielded suggestions anointed with “I’ve heard that it’s great…it’s supposed to be good…” Anyone can look up the best seller list.
Second, I recommend books that I’ve reread (or would read again). Which books do I actively revisit, for whatever reasons? For me, this includes a novel I read last year, “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles. Recently, I spoke with a woman who had read the book and we spent a joyous few minutes sharing our love of the book. A colleague of mine overheard this and said, “I really need to read that book.” [I loaned it to her.] Another friend of mine, a retired professor, said he cried the day he read the last page because the book ended, and he wanted it to last longer.
Finally, I recommend absorbing page turners. Like a great movie or concert, a satisfying mystery or adventure takes you on a little trip. When I read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Steig Larsson, it carried me right through the night. A gripping thriller.
What books do you recommend? Why? I welcome your comments below.