On Recommendations and Rejection

Yesterday was Boxing Day in Canada, which means that I received a lot of texts/messages that went a bit like this:

“Erin, I have all these Chapters gift cards and I don’t know which books to spend them on! Any suggestions?”

or this:

“Since I’m going away on co-op next term, I’ll have a lot of free time to read. Want to make me a book list? I trust your recommendations.”

As a former library page, I’m no stranger to giving book recommendations. However, when it comes to recommending books to my friends, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m so happy that they chose me of all people to ask. It makes me feel special. On the other hand, though, I’m terrified because what if they don’t like the book that I recommend? If it’s a book that I absolutely adored and that impacted me while reading, I’d be a bit sad that they didn’t like it – after all, recommending books that are that important to you is like handing people a tiny part of your soul.

I want to say that I’ve devised a fool-proof method to find the perfect book for someone, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened quite yet. I’ll admit to shelf-stalking on Goodreads and looking up their favourite books on various sites to find associated recommendations, but even that doesn’t always work. Instead, I’ve learned that the best method is to take yourself out of the equation completely. Everyone has different opinions about what makes a book “good,” and it’s important to remember that when choosing a book for someone else. If your favourite book isn’t their cup of tea, try not to be too offended and make a mental note of why they didn’t enjoy it so that you’ll know what not to recommend for next time. Who knows, this conversation might even bring you two closer in that special way that books can.

How do you choose what books to recommend? And how do you handle recommendation rejection?

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7 Comments

  • I have about three different friends that I regularly recommend books to, but that is mostly without them asking, to be honest. If I read and love a book, I just want to share my love with my friends, but I always try to be careful with my recommendations. I think I have a pretty good idea of what kinds of books they like, and if I don’t think it will be their cup of tea, I will tell them that. I will explain what the book is about and why I loved it so much, but I will also make them aware of the things I don’t think they’ll enjoy. That way they can decide themselves if they want to give it a shot or not, and so far, nothing catastrophic has happened. πŸ™‚

    Personally, I don’t get offended if my friends don’t love all my recommendations, but if they don’t even give it a chance and I’m 100% sure they will like it, I will keep pushing until they give in. πŸ˜‰

    • I really like how you tell them both the things that you think they’ll enjoy and the things that they might not like as much; it definitely lets them make a much more informed decision, and sometimes being forewarned about some of the less enjoyable parts leads to a better overall reading experience. : )

      Haha, there are a lot of books that I’ve enjoyed but wouldn’t have picked up if it weren’t for some persistent friends, so that sounds like a system that works quite well!

  • Hmm well I sure don’t take it as seriously as you do! Haha makes me feel guilty now XD Usually, I just recommend to them the books that first come to mind when I think ‘favorites’, because most of the people I recommend to have the same taste as me anyways, so I just go for whatever I like, and hope that they do so too πŸ˜€ Usually they end up liking it, but in the case that they don’t, we just laugh it off and settle our differences anyway. No one book can please everyone, after all!

    • I usually would just recommend my favourites like you do, but recently one of my friends asked me to make him a reading list… and then revealed that he doesn’t like the Harry Potter series (or fantasy books at all, which made me really question how we could be friends, haha). I kind of took it as a challenge to come up with the perfect book list, which led to shelf-stalking and all that fun stuff. πŸ˜›

      It must be so nice to have people with similar tastes to give recommendations to! Especially if they enjoy the ones you suggest, since it’s such a nice feeling to know that someone else loved your favourite book. πŸ˜€

  • I always look at a person’s non-bookish preferences when giving recommendations. I figure Amazon is better than I am at recommending books that are exactly like the ones the person has already purchased. A couple years ago my MIL took a trip to Halifax and loved it, so I loaned her The Birth House and she devoured it. If I’m recommending to a non-reader, I look at their movie preferences and what they like about a certain genre/style/character. It’s worked out pretty well so far, because it plays to their likes but still defies expectations.

    • I never really thought of taking non-bookish preferences into consideration, but it’s such a good idea — after all, as my high school English teacher constantly reminded my class, our experiences do impact how we interpret and enjoy a story.

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