July 31, 2009


It is scary to recommend a book.

It's hard not to feel like a book says a lot about you - what you like, what you value, what you spend your time on - and to hand it to someone else feels like you're saying "This is me. Don't come back and say 'I hated it.'"

Oh, am I too paranoid? (NEVER!)

After I praised The Wednesday Wars up and down, a friend of mine, who I deeply admire, bought three copies of it to read with her two oldest children (ages 15 and 12).

About two weeks ago, this friend told me she'd finished reading it aloud with her son (the 12 year old) and when they finished he said, "This is my new favorite book."

As you can imagine, I breathed a massive sigh of relief.

Then, about a week ago, Bart and I went to the library and he said, "I need some books on CD to listen to while I drive to and from campus" (as I'm no longer driving with him every day, he clearly needed something to replace my gripping and brilliant conversation (otherwise known as me falling asleep in the front seat)). I pulled about five books from the shelves, ones that I'd loved and thought he might enjoy, and he picked The Wednesday Wars.

After a day or two, he said "You know, I'm enjoying it, but I'm not sure I'll like it as much as you did."

In some cases, this might have filled me with dread, but I have so much faith in this book that I didn't even mind. And sure enough, as each day passed, Bart would say, "This book is so good. I can see why you love it. 'Toads! Beatles! Bats!'" He finished it today and told me he loved it. That it made the commute something to look forward to instead of dread. That it makes him less bothered by traffic or poor drivers on the road.

I may or may not have done a victory lap.

I have never thought of this blog as a book review blog. I don't review everything I read and I never plan to (since a huge portion of my reviews would then be something like, "meh, not terrible, not great"). I try to write only about books that I feel strongly about (mostly strongly in a positive way, although sometimes a truly terrible book needs to be ranted about at length) or that I would recommend to a close friend.

And because I know a lot of the people who read my blog personally, I try and be careful to be clear about what kind of book it is - is it a Wednesday Wars, appropriate for practically any audience? Or is it a Graceling? Great story, but definitely for a more mature audience? Is it one that has wide wide appeal or will it have a smaller audience?

It's hard for me not to second guess what I've thought a book when I read reviews that are very different from mine - if someone whose taste I admire hated a book I praised or someone I love adored a book I could not stand.

There just is no accounting for taste, obviously. I'm just doing the best I can.


  1. I ALWAYS feel worried when I recommend a book. Even though I don't mind if someone recommends a book to me and I end up not liking it, I don't want it to happen the other way around. Apparently I have high standards for myself.

  2. I read The Wednesday Wars after you raved up and down about it. It is not one of my favorite books. I have made all my friends here read it, and they have all loved it, too (as people of good taste typically do.) I always appreciate your opinions about books.

  3. "There just is no accounting for taste, obviously." You are right. The reviews you give are your opinions, but I like your reviews. Whether or not I like a book after I read it isn't anyone's fault. SO, please don't stop giving your opinions. :)

  4. You have just summed up how I felt yesterday when I recommended a book for you to read.

  5. I'm wondering if Jennifer Lee meant to write, "It is no[w] one of my favorite books."

    It was a great book. It took me into a place and time that I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. It broadened my appreciation for our country's history, and strengthened my confidence in youth.

  6. I think we all stress that, but I'd say you're doine just fine!

  7. Ummm, how exactly did you Jenny over at Daily Blessings free advance copies of a book? Just wondering:)


  9. It is even scarier recommending books when it's your job. It is sometimes really, really hard to match up tastes, and that's the problem, really: what I love, someone else might hate. And honestly, I'm aware that my reading tastes are much different than most of the people who come to the library, so I have to be careful!

    I think you write great reviews, though!

  10. A book does reveal a lot about a person's taste- and people are going to ask you for recommendations all the time because you are a librarian- the key is to read a vast spectrum, zero in on a person's taste in seconds- and viola- and you've got the knack for it:) it's scarier WRITING a book, and then having someone read it- writing is such an intimate and private revelation and it's scary for people to read and review- and I'm just getting over this fear- ahhh books- what they do to us!

  11. I feel exactly the same way, especially when I recommend books that are so near and dear to my heart, they have changed my life. Then if the person doesn't like it, it's like my life-changing event was just a total sham. (not really...but actually kinda really)

  12. I feel the same way you do. It makes me nervous when someone says, I just bought this book because you loved it!

    In the same sense, I just posted a review on my blog for a book that I hated. OK, hate might be a strong word, but I truly disliked a lot of it. And Nymeth, whose opinion I respect so much, loved it and raves about it. Every person is different, and I just have to realize that.

    On a side note, I haven't heard of The Wednesday Wars. Must go look up right now!!

  13. P.S. I hope you don't hate Sunshine. But then, we can still be friends even if you do.

  14. That is why I try not to recommend books because I can't handle the rejection if they don't like it! Also, if they are offended by a part of any recommended book and I wasn't I worry that I'm immoral or something.

    BTW, I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED "Found: The Missing Book 1". Have you read it yet? I read it while on a trip and now I'm so excited to be home so I can go to the library and get the second book in the series.

  15. I, too, always worry when I recommend a book to someone specific. In my reviews I often say "I recommend this book to people who like such and such..." but to say, 'Hey Janssen, you'll love this book," I'd be terrified you wouldn't. And who feels exactly the same way about every single book out there? No one. Even those you agree with 90% of the time are going to sometimes make you think, 'Really? You didn't like this?' It's what makes it all interesting, but it also makes it unpredictable- and that can be worrisome. :)


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