Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Book recommendation lists

At tor.com, James Davis Nicholl discusses writing book recommendation lists.

I like the way he starts off:

Surely my lifetime of reading and listing qualifies me to offer timely advice to others contemplating their first lists—lists that I am sure will end up being every bit as apropos as the ones that populate so many discussions of this sort.

The most important rule is do absolutely no research.  If the titles don’t come to mind at once, then how on Earth can they be significant works? Disregard those croakers who dwell overlong on just how many science fiction and fantasy books have been published over the decades and on the fallibility of unassisted memory. Consider this: if memory were notoriously unreliable, wouldn’t I remember that?

Hah!

The sarcasm gets even more pointed after that.

I actually would be interested in one list that Nicholl proposes in the comments:

I wonder if people would like “James’ Top Ten Books That Are By Any Reasonable Standard Terrible That He Still Rereads.”

Sure, I would. That’s kind of a neat idea for a list. I’m not positive I could personally come up with a top-ten list of objectively terrible books I still re-read. I’m not even positive I can think of any. A top-ten list of “meh” books would be much easier.

Other personal lists that might be neat:

–Top ten most re-read before I turned 20.

–Top ten most re-read in the past decade.

–Top ten seriously flawed books that I really like despite the flaws.

–Top ten books on my shelves that I feel worst about not having read yet.

–Top ten books I got rid of that I now regret I don’t own.

Maybe I should get on those and start trying to do a top ten of some kind every week or so.

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3 Comments Book recommendation lists

  1. SarahZ

    I do have objectively meh to bad books that I reread, but I don’t think I could make a list of 10 of them.

    I think “Books that I’m most nostalgic for without wanting to reread them”, or something of that ilk, could be an interesting list

  2. Mary Catelli

    If you’re doing a list about Significant Works, yeah, do your research. But just recommending?

    Besides if you haven’t read those books, how can you recommend them? Classics sometimes turn out deathly dull.

  3. Rachel

    Good point, Mary. Sometimes your recommendations are more like this: Well, for YOU, given that you liked X and Y, maybe you should try Z, which is not a great book, but I bet you’d like it. That’s likely to be the most useful kind of recommendation anyway.

    I like the idea of a top ten list of “books I’m nostalgic about but may never re-read.”

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