Thursday, June 5, 2008

I like this book, you like that book.

One of my girlfriends recently asked me for a few book recommendations. She's a new mom on mat leave, and her new plan is to read for a couple of hours every day while the baby is napping. This is really two accomplishments in one: the first, that she has gotten her baby to nap for long enough to do anything and two, that she's going to attempt to do anything. I'd probably just sleep or watch TV. Anyway, I got to thinking that even though I love reading, it's hard to recommend books to friends. Just because you are friends doesn't mean you like the same sort of books. One of my other friends and I have come to a realization that although we love the same clothes, magazines and even desserts, we do not like the same kind of books. I like books that are rooted in reality. She likes ones based in fantasy and history. Whenever we have lent out a book and can't remember to whom, we know it's not each other.

I find it hard to take book recommendations from friends before I know if they like the same sort of books as I do because it's awful when they say "I just read the most amazing book. You'll love it. I'll lend it to you." And then they do. And then I hate it. And then I don't know what to say. Even though we're all allowed to have our own opinions, I always feel like I'm insulting someone.

My favourite place to get book recommendations is Amazon or Indigo. If you click on a book that you loved, it'll tell you what books other people who bought the book you loved also bought. (Got that?).

For example, if I click on Remember Me?, by Sophie Kinsella, which was one of my two favourite books so far this year, I get this list:

Love the One You're With, by Emily Giffin - which is my other favourite book this year.
Certain Girls, by Jennifer Weiner - which is the followup to Good in Bed, and which I want to read.
Baby Proof, by Emily Giffin - which I loved.
Shopaholic & Baby, by Sophie Kinsella - which I did not read because I have Shopaholic burnout.
Cocktails for Three, by Madeleine Wickham (aka Sophie Kinsella) - which I actually just BookMooched and am going to read. I actually mooched the book twice by mistake, so now I have two copies. I hope it's doubly good.

Speaking of BookMooch, someone tried to mooch Stuck in Downward Dog from me even though I didn't have it listed for mooch. I thought it was pretty ingenious though. I mean, what better source than the actual author? Which made me realize that, like Amazon and Indigo, you can also get recommendations for other books to mooch that you might like, based on the books you have already mooched. And then I thought: what if I click on my own book? I mean, I wrote it, so surely it must be a book that I would read. So what other books might I like?

But when I clicked on the Recommended List, it read like this:

Wicked Widow, by Amanda Quick
Master of Wolves, by Angela Knight
Highlander Unchained, by Monica Mccarty
Kissing Sin, by Keri Arthur.

What? Wicked widows, wolves and Scottish people? These don't sound at all like books I would read. I felt very sad like maybe I don't even understand my own book. So I went back to Indigo, typed in my novel and came up with this list:

Frenemies, by Megan Crane. I loved this book.
The Last Summer of You and Me, by Ann Brashares. Also loved this book.
Queen of Babble in the Big City, by Meg Cabot. I'm addicted to Meg's blog and have read the first in this series, but not this one.
The Men I didn't Marry: A Novel, by Janice Kaplan. I haven't read this one, though it sounds cute. The author also wrote The Botox Diaries, which sounds like a textbook for my day job.

Anwyay, I feel a bit better. So while BookMooch is great for free books, I think its recommendation list gets a little muddled simply because you can't get all books all the time and also some givers make you mooch 2 other books from their list just to make shipping worthwhile. I've found myself in this situation before. In one case, the giver was a 54-year-old man with a clear love of trains, vampires and Harlequin romances. I'm not sure why he had a Marian Keyes book on his list, but he did. As a result, I ended up with my Marian book and two Fabio covers. Then again, when I clicked on Shopaholic, it suggested The Kite Runner. Which aren't anything alike, but which I liked equally, for different reasons, seasons and moods.

So maybe Marian and Fabio do go together after all. Like PB&J. Who knows.

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