How Do You Choose Just One Book?
So if you’ve been paying attention, you know that I have the very cool (I hope) Carlin Gettliffe from Project Ontheread coming to stay with me. And it’s my job to pick one book for him to read while he’s here.
Now, as you might have guessed, this is no easy task for me. HOWEVER, never let it be said that I backed away from a challenge.
Before I get to my decision making process, Lanceschaubert made an observation in the comments on Monday that he would get to know Carlin a little bit first and then choose the book from a short list of what he called “crucial books for life.” He felt this was not intended to be just about your all time favorite book.
So I agree about wanting to choose an important book versus just a favorite book, but I’m going to have to disagree on the catering side, although to be fair, Lance was not the only one to mention catering his recommendations to his audience. In fact, even I do this all the time in my normal life.
However, I believe that with Project Ontheread, Carlin is looking for recommendations that are specifically NOT catered to him. He’s staying with strangers for exactly that experience—to read books that have been meaningful to his hosts, and see if they will have meaning in his life.
Actually, I haven’t met Carlin yet, so I have no idea if that’s what he’s thinking, but hey, that’s what he’s getting here, so hope that was your plan, Carlin!
But what is an important book, anyway? (JASON!! What’s an omelet?)
Can it be a book that has had an impact on my life that I also happened to love? Is that even possible?? Or do we have to struggle with a book in a “that which does not kill us makes us stronger” kind of approach.
Ooh, this is actually really interesting given my book choice, but since I’m not revealing that today, we’ll have to come back to this.
Anyway, here’s how I chose my book:
Well, I noticed that many of the books on Carlin’s journey so far have been non-fiction. However, the first thing I did in making my own selection was rule out non-fiction.
Cue big buzzer sound à la Family Feud.
Sorry, non-fiction. There’s a lot of big, important non-fiction out there. I’ve even read some of it and pretended to read plenty more. However, in my heart of hearts, I’m a fiction reader, so I just wouldn’t feel right recommending non-fiction.
The second thing I noticed is that a lot of people recommend the “that which does not kill us makes us stronger” sort of book which is also often called “great literature.”
Yeah. I didn’t choose one of those either. Not only am I a fiction first kind of gal, but I’m really a lover of commercial fiction.
What can I tell you? I love a great story!
Perhaps you can’t dissect every line and word for symbolism; or maybe you can. Either way, it doesn’t really matter to me. That’s not the kind of reader I am.
In fact, in a TimeEntertainment.com article just today, “Literary Revolution in the Supermarket Aisle: Genre Fiction Is Disruptive Technology,” author Lev Grossman discusses literary fiction versus genre fiction. I particularly liked this quote:
“But plot is an extraordinarily powerful tool for creating emotion in readers. It can be used crudely, but it’s also capable of fine nuance and even intellectual power, even in the absence of serious, Fordian prose.”
When I thought about what book to choose for Ontheread, I wanted to choose a book that I had not only loved and felt had an impact on me, but also one that I thought represented the kind of book that I most love to read—the oft maligned commercial fiction.
I feel strongly that there’s a place for books that are read purely for entertainment purposes. But I also think there’s a tremendous amount that can be learned—that I have learned—from reading commercial fiction. And I really wanted my book choice to represent that side of me.
I’ve learned about friendship, betrayal, love and loss. How to be a good daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend, and neighbor. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about relationships and what kind of person I want to be. And I learned a lot about what kind of person I don’t want to be.
So just to be clear, I don’t want to pretend like I was raised by books. Or wolves. Or books about wolves, you know? I have wonderful parents and my core values came from them and were learned at home. But I do come from a family of readers. And I learned a lot from those books.
The book I chose describes a world I have very little (ok no) exposure to. I have no real way of knowing how much is true or not, except from other books, news stories, history, and common sense. But I find, with every read, that there are incredible lessons of friendship, loyalty, love, integrity, betrayal and more within those pages.
Not to mention a damn good story.
I am enjoying the book as much on this read as I can ever remember enjoying it on countless reads before.
I can’t wait for Carlin to get here and read it. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
And in the meantime, I love seeing your choices! Keep telling me which book YOU would choose in the comments.