Can you recommend a good book?
No, seriously, I need some help. The weekend is almost here and my “To Read” list is bone dry.
You’re probably wondering what a librarian is doing asking you for reading suggestions. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Is this Opposite Day or something?
I’m always curious about how other people find books to read. Back in university, I relied on bibliographies to conduct research, but recreational readers have to rely on more creative means. And when you’ve been a devoted reader for decades, finding new material can be challenging.
For my part, I have tried systematic approaches, such as reading through works by Nobel Prize for Literature winners, or internet “Top 100 Best Sci-Fi” lists. But lately—and, as a professional librarian, perhaps I shouldn’t admit this–I just kind of wander around the library, picking out books with interesting covers. When I find a good one, it is almost completely by chance.
Google “what to read next”, and you’ll be guided to an array of online tools that may help you find the next great book of your life.
“Whichbook” provides recommendations based on a series of binary choices the reader selects from (happy/sad, funny/serious, safe/disturbing, sex/no sex, etc.).
“Gnooks” provides a visual map of similar authors using a “self-adapting community-based gnod engine”.
“Bookyap” saves your search information so that the more you use it, the more they know about you, and the “more targeted your recommendations become”. Hmm, sounds a bit like some FBI black bag operation.
Closer to home, I heard about one library patron who decided to read one book from each shelf of the library. And another who is reading through the biography section book by book.
I once met a guy on the Greyhound who would only read books with purple-coloured covers. Okay, I made that up, but why not?
At the library, we’ve tried “blind date” promotions where you get a mystery book wrapped up in colourful paper to introduce adventurous readers to new authors they might not otherwise try.
Some of our patrons just ask Pat Tomasic, who orders most of our adult books, what she recommends. I have to admit that I find it hard to pass by when I see that green ‘Pat’s Pick” label on a library book.
If you are truly desperate, you could look for books labelled “Aaron’s Pick”. And on that topic– which just happens to be my favourite conversation topic–how could I let this opportunity pass without mentioning a few of my favourite authors?
Just for starters: Jose Saramago, Gene Wolfe, Doris Lessing, Amos Tutuola, Philip K. Dick, Peter Heller, Ursula LeGuin, Woody Guthrie, Chuang Tze, Charles Bukowski, Eduardo Galeano, Patrick deWitt, Franz Kafka, and many, many more.
By the way, in case you were wondering, Opposite Day is actually celebrated on January 25 each year.
One last note. The Creston Valley Embroidery Guild, which meets every second Wednesday of the month in the library meeting room, will be holding their Annual Card and Craft Sale on Saturday, November 5, 10am-4pm. Proceeds help support the library.
Happy reading everyone!
Aaron Francis is the Chief Librarian at Creston Valley Public Library. He is currently reading The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel.