[commentary] On Recommending Books to Friends


[commentary] On Recommending Books to Friends

August 2016

I’ve become very suspicious of any book recommendations that aren’t qualified. When one recommends a book- “this book is amazing”, it must be qualified with “for those who are investigating/fascinated by the question of [blank].” 

As a ten year old, Fanon’s “Black Skin, White Masks” would have been unreadable. As a freshman in college and newly conscious of race, it was medicine for my soul.

As a freshman in college, Power Inc. my David Rothkopf would have induced severe drowsiness. Entering my junior year and at the moment fascinated by the tensions between public and private power, the book delivers epiphanies and joyful moments of connection.

Good books must grapple with the issues of their times. The moment they are no longer relevant they must dutifully return to the shelf and gather dust until the historical moment (or a student’s scholarship) calls it forth once again. That being said, sometimes an issue is timeless and these go on to be called the “classics.” 

But even “classics” sometimes fail to connect with readers in the same way that a contemporary novel can. The story of a young man finding himself is timeless, yet when I am reading about a young white boy living in small town in Virginia in the 1920′s- the recognition is not quite there. Reading about characters like me, who are living in a similar epoch, is an enrapturing experience. Of course the capacity to recognize the cyclical nature of history, and the universal in every particular is virtuous- yet sometimes reading is simply about enjoying an effortless connection.