Recommending books is a tricky thing for me. I really want a book to be fabulous for more than one reason before I will recommend it to a friend. I have my own preferences and pet peeves in style and plot, but who knows what might be the deal breakers for a friend? (Personally, I have very little patience for whiny protagonists or love triangles.) Some books are so compelling that I can’t stop talking about them; those are obvious choices when someone is looking for a book to try. Sometimes I will read a book that I don’t love but find myself suggesting it to others. Here are three examples (and why I recommend them anyway):
168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam fascinated me for the first 2/3 of the book, but I eventually lost interest. I didn’t love it because many of the examples were so far from my life right now (like paying someone to do my laundry or better organizing board meetings). I can’t help recommending it anyway, though, because I love the way she challenges the assumption that we are too busy to do the things we dream about. Even though I only skimmed the last chapters, I still find myself thinking back to some of her examples as I evaluate my own schedule.
The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls is a book I completely missed somehow. Not only had I never read it when it was selected for book club, I hadn’t even heard of it! I didn’t love it for many of the reasons I don’t love memoirs in general. By the middle of the book, I was so overwhelmed and depressed that I found it hard to want to keep reading. I recommend it anyway because it really is a remarkable story and because the setting is so evocative. Much of the book takes place near where I was raised in Arizona, and the way she describes her childhood there made me homesick. My opinion of the book also improved during the lengthy (and passionate) book club discussion, which is yet another reason I recommend it freely.
The Book of Strange New Things: A Novel by Michel Faber is weird. But then again, it’s really not. The story follows a pastor on his year-long contract to minister to the natives of a faraway planet. Despite that, the book doesn’t feel like science fiction at all. Most of the story follows the main character’s attempts to fit in with the crew, gain the trust of his parishioners, and connect with his wife despite their distance. I didn’t love it because of the ending, which colors my whole memory of the book. I recommend it anyway because I think it would be just the right book for plenty of other readers. I can still see the setting and a few important scenes in my mind’s eye, even though I read the book over a year ago. I have read very few books that were so completely (and subtly) immersive. I would love to read the book again just to figure out how Michel Faber worked his magic.
Have you ever read a book that you didn’t love but couldn’t stop talking about? I’d love to hear which one(s)!