Looking for a few good books. Looking hard, coming up either empty or with books that turn out to be disappointments. having chosen. I’m sure some of you find yourself in such a position, wondering what might be the best source of recommendations for good books to read that you would not have found on your own or simply, in a world full of books, what to read next.
This problem, which various websites and periodical book reviews helped me to kind of, sort of address mostly in terms of newly published and bestselling works, was a big enough deal in my life that–and I’m not kidding even one teensy bit about this–it became one of my primary motivations for starting a book club that worked from member suggestions.
I always let anyone who wants to tell me about a book know that if I’m given a thoughtful personal recommendation with the understanding that I’m probably going to share my honest opinion of the book in some public forum after I finish it, chances are I’ll get to it sometime. And I’ll usually find enough good in most books to at least have made them worth reading.
But if anyone wishes to try to come up with a book that I will adore and wholly recommend to others, he/she should take a close look at the author’s style. I wholeheartedly believe in looking at literature as an art, and how a book is crafted is much more important to me than what and whom it portrays. If I’m subjected to the work of some author who is truly blessed with a tin ear, his/her little lapses in diction, heavyhanded metaphors, and the like will come trip-trap-clunking through my mind at random future moments and irritate me all over again. Happens all the time with Ayn Rand. Happens all the time with Theodore Dreiser. Yes, I have been told that many people consider this an elitist view, and such persons have told me that “it shouldn’t really matter how a thing’s written, just so it gets the point across.” My response to that has been that I wasn’t looking for a “point” but rather looking for an experience, and artistry is what creates experience where there would otherwise have been only content. Content that, if style is no issue, might just as well have been rendered in another medium. And as far as whether I am looking at things from an elitist perspective, well, if people think that’s the case, I’ll still be stuck looking at them that way, so there’s nothing I can do but accept that. And what about you?
With all of that in mind, I thought we might chat a bit about what various members consider to be the defining characteristics of a “good” book for this particular group,. about what each of us is personally looking for in a reading selection, and about anything you’d recommend as a good general source of future reading ideas. And of course, if there are authors whose achievements in artistry you consider praiseworthy, I’d love to hear about them in your comments.