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The Sunday Salon: Recommendation Success Stories

Last week a friend slept on my couch over a night on a drive from the Twin Cities down to Louisville, Kentucky. I had homework, sadly, so we spent a quiet evening around the apartment. As it turned out, he forgot the book he was reading in his car, so I got the chance to make a book recommendation from my shelves and shelves of books.

book at restaurant

He’s an English and grammar nerd like I am, so I recommended The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. My friend said he loved it, enough to buy his own copy of the book when he got back home — recommendation success!

Since I live away from most of my good friends, I don’t get to make reading recommendations in person very often. So getting the chance was really exciting — I felt like I had done a good deed, or something.

What’s your most successful recent book recommendation? Do you find yourself making recommendations people don’t take, or do your friends trust your judgment?

Image Credit: db*photography on Flicker via Creative Commons.

I’m not sure what the picture has to do with the post but I thought it was just beautiful. Check out the rest of her photostream if you have time, it’s quite lovely!

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  • Vasilly October 18, 2009, 9:50 am

    For me it can go both ways, some people like the books I recommend but there are times where a book I’ve recommended falls short. A success story I remember is Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. I’m glad others liked it as much as I did.

  • Louise October 18, 2009, 10:09 am

    I often recommend books for my little sister. We share SOME reading tastes, but not everything I like is something she wants to read. Our mother only reads mysteries and thrillers and is ALWAYS one step ahead of me, its almost impossible to recommend anything to her. I also recommend books to my cousin, but other than that, I am not really able to recommend much, because only my sister, mother and cousin are English readers. Most of the books I read are not out in Danish, and if I read a Danish book, it is often not worth recommending!

  • Andi October 18, 2009, 10:41 am

    Sadly, I don’t make nearly as many recommendations as I used to. When I was in grad school I was surrounded by readers, and we flung our recs around like madmen (and women). My friend Elise was always the best at taking my recommendations, and I took hers readily. We were definitely reading twins. 🙂

  • The Literary Omnivore October 18, 2009, 11:05 am

    Good Omens, since it balances Neil Gaiman’s fantastic imagination with Terry Prachett’s wonderful humor- it’s a great primer for both of them, as well as just a great book in itself.

    My friends tend to trust my judgment, but they usually tend to avoid books I didn’t like more than read books I recommend.

  • diane October 18, 2009, 11:40 am

    Don’t you just love it when you picks are a hit? The 2 I recommended recently that were a hit were: The Help; Stockett and Labor Day; Maynard.

  • Jeanne October 18, 2009, 1:13 pm

    I feel like my friends and I are always recommending books to each other and then talking about them (to the extent that the couple who have been our best friends as a couple since we all four went to college together often inscribe a new book they give us as a gift “pre-read for your enjoyment” meaning we can talk about it with them as soon as we’ve read it).

    I feel like my most successful book recommendations are when I order a book for a class and some of the students end up enjoying it. This has happened in the past few years with Feed by M.T. Anderson and Boomsday by Christopher Buckley.

  • softdrink October 18, 2009, 1:28 pm

    How funny that you mentioned that particular book. I gave it to my uncle to read a couple of years ago. And Friday he called because he couldn’t remember the name of the book, but he wanted to recommend it to someone else.

    I’ve started Say Everything…still on the first chapter, but it’s fascinating!

  • Trish October 18, 2009, 4:34 pm

    I’m always reluctant to make book recommendations because my reading is so varied. My mom LOVED The Book Thief and Maus, which made me really happy. The Professor and the Madman is a great book–I loaned out my copy and never got it back. Don’t think the person even read it. 🙁

  • Kathy October 18, 2009, 6:54 pm

    I recommend books all the time to people I know well and to complete strangers. I think most just ignore me, but my sister and one good friend trust my judgment.

  • Susannah October 18, 2009, 8:27 pm

    I couldn’t think of any recent successful recommendations, but in jumping back to your PatM review, I wondered how many other recent books you’d rated as As. Do you have a running scale of the books you’ve rated? I can’t keep track!

  • Lisa October 18, 2009, 8:30 pm

    Recommendations have gone both ways for me. I think my most successful recent recommendations were two to my mom: The Housekeeper and The Professor and Hannah’s Dream.

  • Steph October 19, 2009, 7:49 am

    I actually pride myself on being a really good book recommender! Of course I am always suggesting books to Tony, but even apart from that, whenever I start talking books with friends (and even strangers) I always like to hear about what they enjoy reading and then suggest something for them to see how well I can guess what they’ll like. I’ve had good success suggesting East of Eden by John Steinbeck and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen to one friend, Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky to another, and even the Harry Potter books to another!

  • Kim October 19, 2009, 7:20 pm

    Vasilly: Mine sometimes miss too, usually when I want someone to like a book because I liked it rather than because I think they’ll love it.

    Louise: Ha ha, I’m sorry Danish books aren’t often recommendable 🙂 I’m usually ahead of most of the people I recommend books too, at least when it comes to nonfiction, etc. I’m never up on new books.

    Andi: I made more recommendations in college too, although since I was around people reading a lot of the same things as me I didn’t get the chance to as much. I haven’t found a reading twin yet — someday!

    Literary Omnivore: I haven’t heard of Good Omens, sounds really interesting though!

    Diane: Congrats! And yes, I do love it… I get really excited hearing someone loved a book that I suggested (in person and online 🙂 )

    Jeanne: I love the idea of “pre-read for your enjoyment” 🙂 I think classes with professors are a great way to find new books — that’s one of the things I miss most about college.

    softdrink: It’s good your uncle liked the book — it’s an excellent one. And yay for another recommendation; Say Everything was fascinating to me.

    Trish: It’d be hard not to love The Book Thief, but I might be biased about that. That is one thing that’s hard about lending out books — you might not get them back!

    Kathy: I’ve never recommended a book to a stranger, that I can remember anyway, but I suppose I’d do that sometime 🙂

    Susannah: I think I’ve given two books A ratings — The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I gave up on ratings for awhile because I found them annoying, but I really should implement them. I just installed a plugin that claims it can make a table with reviews organized by rating, but I haven’t figured out the PHP to make it work. I do have all the books I’ve reviewed listed in my Archive though.

    Lisa: Congrats on the good recommendations 🙂

    Steph: That’s cool! You could start a feature on your blog — tell me what you like and I’ll tell you a book. That would be a fun one 🙂

  • Jodie October 20, 2009, 4:08 am

    So hard to recommend for my friends because we like totally different stuff (or they like things a lot that I like in moderation) but a couple of weeks ago I posted a copy of ‘Magyk’ by Angie Sage to someone I knew really liked Harry Potter and she bought the whole Septimus Heap series. I was also really chuffed when my mum read Temeraire at my insistance (she was quite sceptical) and said it was lovely.

    • Kim October 20, 2009, 5:31 pm

      Jodie: Ooo, that’s really exciting — it’s great when you get people to buy books because of a recommendation.

  • Ti October 21, 2009, 9:12 pm

    My friends usually trust me if I recommend a book to them. I know them pretty well and usually I am right about their likes and dislikes. Usually 😉

    • Kim October 26, 2009, 4:57 pm

      Ti: It’s tough to be right all the time 🙂