ON RECOMMENDING BOOKS
One of the things I enjoying doing on my website, and when I speak in public, is recommending books I’ve read that I think other people will enjoy. Sometimes readers express surprise at this practice of mine, and I don’t quite understand that. I believe they feel that if I’m saying, “Go read this book by Suzanne McLeod,” for example, I’m cutting off a sale I might have made.
But that’s not the way I see it. Do you? Is there anyone who buys just one book a year? Or anyone who goes to the library to check out one book? I don’t think so. When people enjoy the written word, they’re going to read/check out multiple books. Now, these might be all Regency romances, or zombie novels, or p.i. noir adventures, but there will always be more than a single volume!
I find in all the books I list that I enjoyed, there are definite degrees by which I can recommend them. Some books are pretty poor entrants in a series I’ve followed; but I figure if you’ve read the whole series, you’re not going to skip one because it’s less than stellar. You’re going to pick up that entry too, just to find out what’s happening to all the characters, and you’re going to hope that the next book bounces back to the series’ previous excellence. I’m generally good for two or three poor episodes before I give up on a writer.
And there are books that were just . . . so-so. They’re not bad, not enough for me to simply not mention at all. But they weren’t great, either. Good enough to finish, not good enough for me to put the writer on my Biggest Hits list. However, if I was engaged enough to read the whole book, I figure another reader will be, too, and I’ll give that book a mention.
The worst books (in my opinion, of course, because what else are we talking about, here?) are the books whose names are never in my Book & Blog column. Those are the books I didn’t even want to finish, the books that I thought were so poorly written, or so lacking in internal logic, or simply so boring, that I couldn’t picture myself saying to anyone, “Maybe you might want to pick this book up at the store.” Since I can’t see any point in giving a negative opinion, I don’t give one at all.
One writer I talked to recently had gotten the worst PW (Publishers Weekly) review I’d ever read. I’d thought his book was a good read, and I’d said so publicly. When I saw the PW review, I asked him if he’d run over the reviewer’s dog. He told me glumly that his sales had plummeted after the review came out. Such is the power of reviews, whether rightly or not . . .