Recently my aunt had to go in for surgery and was looking for book recommendations so she could have something good to read while recovering. When she asked me, I gave her a long list of some of my favorite titles, including Tamsin by Peter Beagle, The Angels of Samaria series by Sharon Shinn, Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint, several Morgan Llywelyn books (and a lot more).
And then I realized something about myself. I am not a casual recommender of books. I mean, I can be if I am not too invested in the book that I am recommending. If I liked the book (as opposed to if I LOVED the book), I can recommend a book lightly but there is a select group of books that hit me too personally to be casual about. If I loved the book that much, I will be terribly anxious that the person I recommended it to will love it as well. If they don’t love it (or worse didn’t finish it) it feels almost like a personal rejection.
(For the record, I am working on this complex and I try to not hold anyone accountable for their literary tastes and how it impacts me emotionally. It is entirely possible that this is something I should bring up with some sort of therapist at some point in my life but until that day, this is just how things are.)
This has landed me in some hot water over the years, especially with my nieces. From the moment my oldest niece, K, was born, I COULDN’T WAIT to give her Little Women or Anne of Green Gables. These books were extremely important to me during my own childhood and all throughout my life and I was really looking forward to sharing that with this beautiful new baby girl from the first moment I held her in my arms. Twelve years later and she is just not feeling it. I try to be understanding. I try to maintain hope that maybe she will grow into it. I try desperately not to grab her and scream “This is Anne Shirley! Can’t you tell how amazingly COOL she is!?!” I try to keep in mind that having a book pushed at you is not going to endear the book to you so a certain level of backing off is necessary if I don’t want to be counterproductive. I try not to panic that if she doesn’t love Anne Shirley and the March sisters and Laura Ingalls now, what does that suggest about her future relationships with Elizabeth Bennett and Jane Eyre and Hester Prynne when she is older? (In K’s defense, she loves The Secret Garden and recently told me that she has been reading The Jungle Book. It’s just that she really hasn’t clicked yet with the books that I have been not-so-patiently waiting for her to fall in love with).
What I think this all boils down to is that I internalize certain books; that loving them is a part of how I think and feel about myself and so sharing them makes me feel a little vulnerable at times. However, the rush I get when someone I recommended a book to comes back to me (like my aunt did today) and says “I loved it!” is incredible.
This all reminds me of one of the most romantic things that my husband, Rob, ever did for me. He asked me what books I loved most of all. I gave him a couple of titles, including Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. He then borrowed my copy and read it because he wanted to understand me better and part of that was getting to know the things that were important to me. When he finished reading the book, he looked up at me and said “there is so much about you that makes more sense now.” It was one of the sweetest things he (or anyone else) has ever said to me or about me.