Where do you turn when you need to recommend a book or buy a gift – for someone with completely different reading tastes than you have?
This holiday season I was looking for something to give to a somewhat reluctant reader who has enjoyed everything Chuck Palahniuk has ever written – and little else for a number of years. Personally, I loved the Fight Club movie, but haven’t read any of Palahniuk’s books, and don’t quite have my head around the gritty-macho-sensationalist-violent-comedic genre enough to recommend other authors with confidence.
On Christmas Eve, I visited the central location of the large public library system in the mile-high US city where I spent Christmas, and asked for help. Public librarians can of course be a great resource for reader advisory – the ‘if you loved this, then you’ll like that’ argument. I spoke to several people before I found one with the resources to help me. After a bit of searching, he recommended John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces and Carlton Mellick III’s Electric Jesus Corpse. I took a look at both and decided that they were quite different from each other, as well as too niche to seek out for my Palahniuk fan.
Another factor in my search was that in an ideal world, I would come across an author who has published a number of books, and who preferably is still active in authoring new stories, as every avid reader’s dream is to encourage those who drag their feet to discover new writers to love. With that in mind I went to plan b: the nearest big box downtown bookstore, where I inquired at the help desk. Without hesitation, the staff person I spoke to recommended Christopher Moore’s novels, and pointed out Lamb as a particularly popular one. I recognized the cover of Moore’s You Suck from bookstores everywhere throughout 2008.
I decided to let all this information settle in my brain before making a decision, and later in the afternoon finally picked up Lamb from a smaller, totally non-big-box store. The book was gifted that evening and well received, though it’s hard to tell when the recipient will have time to open it.
A few days later on the opposite coast, while visiting a small New England town, I strolled into a used bookstore hawking the overflow from the local public library’s wealth of donations. I stumbled across a special edition, signed copy of Lamb (gilded pages and leatherette black cover reminiscent of a certain holy book) for a third of the price of the new paperback I’d purchased a few days earlier and had to laugh. Giving a signed special edition copy of a book would probably be sure to turn off my reluctant reader friend, but perhaps I should have picked it up in anticipation of the day when an actual Moore fan crosses my path.