On book recommendations

February 11, 2008 at 11:17 pm 5 comments

Reading Dramacon and Garage Band took me something like a grand total of twenty minutes, which was honestly a little unnerving. I’m used to my comics/graphic novels taking me a little longer to read–the various installments of Strangers in Paradise took me reading time comparable to a short novel each (although, granted, I was reading the pocketbooks rather than individual issues, and there are also a few pages in each one that are short on art and long on text) and even my beloved Archie digests are usually read in installments.

But beyond my discomfort with reading something that takes me less time than a long shower, I just really wasn’t that into either of these titles. And it’s not that I have anything against manga or comics/graphic novels in general–I love the previously stated ones, as well as a number of webcomics, Blankets, Goodbye Chunky Rice… the list goes on. It’s just that nothing in either of these really spoke to me. Also the artwork really wasn’t my cup of tea.

This brings me to some of the discussions we’ve had in class about book recommendations. Personally, I’m terrified of recommending books to kids. Truth be told, I have trouble recommending books even to people I really know and like, because it’s brutal to recommend something you love to someone you love, only to learn your tastes don’t overlap in that particular instance. (I’m much freer with TV and movie suggestions, though, and happen to be pretty good at getting other people hooked on the shows I like. Which is convenient, because then we can watch them together. See: Gilmore Girls, Lost, Carnivale, and Friday Night Lights. I’m also not as offended when someone rags on my TV or movie picks, so I’m not too hurt by my brother’s disdain for my pedestrian tastes.)

Collection development, though, shouldn’t be all about my recommendations, or I’ll end up with a library full of Laurell K. Hamilton, Florence King, and the complete Achewood. (Vampires, lesbians, cartoon animal nudity–oh my!) Clearly I’m going to push for copies of my (age-appropriate) favorites, and luckily a lot of YA critics seem to agree with me (Cormier, Crutcher, Hinton, Zindel, Sleator…) But beyond that, a strong reference collection, and some donations, a lot of my new acquisitions will have to come based on student recommendations, whether I personally like them or not.

This, I think, ties in nicely with “Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.” When you buy a book you don’t particularly like but that one of your students does, you’re saying Your opinion is important.

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Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List Leave your parents at home

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Linda  |  February 12, 2008 at 7:53 am

    So am I reading this correctly there is more of a personal investment – at least for you – when recommending print but that same personal investment doesn’t follow-through for other media recommendations?

    What I’m thinking is that this goes back to the concept of the value we/adults place on text on the printed page, reading, vs the value we put forth on other forms of entertainment and learning.

    I’m not sure it’s a good idea to be super-concerned about recommending movies and TV but does being more concerned about recommendations of one vs. another mean more of a value of one over another? Or I’m a reading into this in an incorrect way.

    BTW, when I was on quick picks we had a Laurell K. Hamilton on the list. I’d never read one of hers before. What fun.

    Reply
  • 2. pandanose  |  February 12, 2008 at 8:00 am

    That’s a very good question, and I’m not entirely sure how to answer. I don’t know if it’s necessarily about value so much as… Well, see, I watch a lot of TV and movies. I’m a total Netflix addict. And I try to make my selections pretty diverse–from cheesy romantic comedies to Law and Order to documentaries to Seven Samurai.

    So maybe it’s just that if a TV/movie recommendation fails, I have a lot to fall back on, but I don’t read nearly as many books. So with the books, there’s a much higher ones I love to ones I’ve read ratio.

    Does that make any sense?

    (Was it an Anita Blake mystery, or something along the lines of Kiss of Twilight? I’ve only ever read the Blake series.)

    Reply
  • 3. Becky Mazur  |  February 12, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    I feel the same way (about recommending books vs. TV) — books feel so much more personal. Likewise, I feel pretty guilty admitting to someone that I didn’t love a book that they recommended. (I think Linda’s right that we put more value on the printed page, but it’s also true that logistically it’s a lot easier to watch a TV episode than read a book — the cost/benefit ratio is just different.)

    Reply
  • 4. mk's ladyfriend  |  February 12, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Firstly, Goodbye, Chunky Rice. Not So Long. Secondly, I always forget about that book, and when someone reminds me of it, I get teary all over again. DANDLE. OH GOD. Thirdly, I hope you never have qualms about forcing your own book preferences onto your future students. I definitely read many things I never would have come across had my various Teacher Crushes not mentioned their favorite books. The only one I never got through was A Canticle For Leibowitz. (That was Sexy Lacrosse Coach’s fave.)

    Reply
  • 5. pandanose  |  February 12, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Man, I always get that wrong, don’t I? Regardless–it’s so dangerous to recommend books to kids. It’s one thing to take the Maggie Bush approach (“Read this and tell me what you think about it”), and it’s entirely another to recommend a book to a kid the way you would with an adult friend.

    If I say to you, “You should try reading a Laurell K. Hamilton novel. I totally love her Anita Blake series,” you would most likely say something along the lines of “You are totally insane, and I refuse to read an erotic vampire mystery.” But you still might believe me if I said Summerland was totally awesome.

    But if I say to a kid “Here’s a book you might like” or “Here’s one I loved” and it tanks, that kid will never believe me again.

    Also? I cannot for the life of me remember a single time a librarian recommended a book to me when I was a teenager.

    Reply

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