Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thanks for making me read this

Choosing what to read next can be a daunting task. How do you decide what to read next? You don't want to waste your time reading crap, so how can you be sure what you select will be worth your time? Recommendations. Or more specifically, recommendations from trusted sources. Plenty of people can recommend you read something, but for a recommendation to truly have merit it's got to take the potential reader into consideration. I can, and do, recommend absurd authors all the time because they're my favorites. But if a non-fiction, American history fan were to ask me for something to read next, I probably shouldn't steer him towards my normal selections. Or suggest them with a clear description of what the reader would be getting into, along with a selection he may actually take into consideration.

With that wordy intro, I bring us to the point of this week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish: What are some titles you may never have picked up on your own, but are very happy someone recommended them to you? I think I can actually make it to 10 with this topic!

As with my usual top ten posts, the order of these books only reflects the order I thought of them in and not any sort of rating system.

1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark - This was recommended to me long before I started blogging, by 2 of my reader friends. One of them even brought it with him when a group of us went to Ireland on spring break and there's just something about bringing a tome like this on spring break that screams "this book is worth it". I would only ever get vague descriptions from them followed by a "You should read this. You'd love it." I'm so happy I found a copy and followed their advice. One of my favorite books.

2. Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States by Bill Bryson - One of the Strange & Norrell recommenders lent me his copy of this book to read and I've been hooked on Bryson since. Language history told with humor, it has made me very happy.

3. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde - Another favorite of mine and it is a recommendation. In this case the recommendation came from my mom's boyfriend's daughter, who read it for her book club. She liked the book but not enough to read the rest of the series. I, on the other hand, I found a new favorite author.

3. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore - Another favorite author. I apparently cannot find favorite authors on my own. They must be given to me. Moore was actually recommended to me by two different people. My one friend told me how much he loved this author Moore and apparently each time I would just smile and nod. Because really, in my defense, that friend is getting his PhD in a very specific subset of American History and I figured our choices didn't meld. (Also if you're wondering, he's not the friend I was thinking of in the intro. Apparently "American History buff" is a specific friend demographic I'm cultivating.) Eventually a co-worker of mine forced me to read Lamb. I apologized to my friend when he starting going on about how he'd been telling me about how awesome Moore is. But really, even our Moore tastes don't line up: he loves Island of the Sequined Love Nun which is near the bottom of my I-Love-Moore list.

4. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain - My "Made in America" and "Strange & Norrell" friend is back with another recommendation. I really miss living with him because then I had these great book recommendations all the time. That and good food. Bourdain gives a humorous and sometimes upsetting view of the restaurant world as he knows it and it's an excellent read for someone who loves food or who at least finds Bourdain entertaining. My friend loves both these things and on top of being lent a bunch of fantastic books, I used to come home from work to find things like freshly baked madeleines or crab cakes waiting for me while my friend tried out some new recipe.

5. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling - Here's how my personal discovery of HP went. I was going to study in Italy and wanted to bring some English language books with me. But I didn't want to buy anything because I anticipated spending plenty of money overseas. My brother had a copy of the first HP book that he never read so I chucked that into my bag. I finished this and the other books at my disposal, so while perusing the English language section at the Stazione Termini bookstore I found an inexpensive copy of Chamber of Secrets and read that. And then I put down HP and didn't think about it for awhile. Skip ahead and Boyfriend, another friend and I are going to spend the day at the beach. The final HP book just came out and my friend is a big fan. She wanted someone to share the experience with, so she lent me the 3rd book. I learned I really do not mix well with sun and that even multiple applications of SPF70 are not enough to keep me from turning into a lobster, from my neck to the backs of my knees. I spent a few days laying on my stomach trying not to move, which gave me plenty of reading time. I had the 4th book (also my brother's, also unread) in my possession so I finished these and was eager to carry on with the series. Luckily a month or so later I moved in with beach friend and she, of course, had the entire series for me to borrow.

6. World War Z by Max Brooks - This surprisingly was a book recommendation from my brother. Surprisingly cos he does not read. Actually the mere fact that he doesn't read and the fact that he was searching for and enjoyed this book made me want to read it all the more. Zombie nightmares aside, I was very happy with this one.

7. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl - Another friend shows up again with a fun book recommendation. This recommendation came from he who brought Strange & Norrell with him to Ireland and this was actually a surprise recommendation. He sent me a package that had a book I had lent him (Galapagos by Vonnegut), a book our friend had lent him I wanted to read (The City & The City by Mielville) and then this surprise book. Love a surprise book.

8. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - Lest you think I only take book recommendations from people I've actually met (and who can lend me copies of their books) I also look to the book blogging community for an idea on what to read next. Brenna from Literary Musing had a fantastic review of this book, and I just had to read it. I'm very happy I listened to her.

9. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper - Another book read because I liked what a book blogger had to say about it. In this case it was Greg from The New Dork Review that made me want to pick up this book. Hell, he starts the review with "[This book] is, simply put, one of the best books I've read this year" and then describes it as "edgy, witty and fantastically hilarious."  Done and done.

10. Room by Emma Donoghue - This wasn't recommended by an individual so much as everyone seemed to be reading it and talking about it, including bloggers I trusted, so I had to see what was going on. That and I got a copy from a friend, which makes things even easier. This is absolutely a book I wouldn't have bothered to pick up had it not been recommended by so many people. It's not my favorite book but I'm so glad I read it.

I didn't want to add this one to the list because I haven't finished it yet, but I'm currently reading Black Coffee Blues by Henry Rollins on the recommendation of Ben from Dead End Follies. The book recommendations continue on!