Saturday, February 28, 2015
Reading What Other People Want You To Read
And I don't mean to imply that I somehow think I have better taste in books than the people I share my life with... it's just different. Anyhow, people are forever suggesting things for me to read and I am forever putting them off. What really makes it tough--more so than the divergent reading tastes, is the massive pile of to-read books already in line. So, most of the time I tend to smile politely and make vague promises of picking the book up after I finish the next three on my list.
But then there are other times, times when one day I finally find myself reading someone's recommendation and loving it. I mean, at the expense of all other things in my life- television, eating, showering- loving it. And suddenly, I completely ignore my patiently waiting to-read pile and read every last thing this person has ever recommended to me in a fit of sheepish acknowledgement of their obviuously superior taste in reading.
It's been one of those moments for me lately. I finally got around to reading The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. A good friend read it last year, and bugged me, and bugged me, and bugged me about it. She loved it, and she was sure I would love it too. Well, she was right. It's phenomenal. Just so interesting and different (it's my March Staff Pick, 20% off all month, if you're interested, at the Ravenna store only). Each thoughtful essay in this collection is an examination on empathy-- how we feel for others; how our pain, and the pain of those around us fosters understanding and connectedness. Jamison explores such fascinating and expansive topics that the subject matter alone is enough to reel you in. But it's her experimental form and innovative command of language that are the real stars here. It's a new favorite. It's hard to read this and not be altered, moved, awed ...maybe even a better person. Super smart. Super good.
So after The Empathy Exams, I moved on to the next book my friend read and would not stop recommending. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I barreled through it, until about 45 pages from the end. At that point, I put it down for two days. I was so in love with the characters, I couldn't face leaving them. It's been a long time since I felt that way about a book. Loved it so much I couldn't bear to finish it. Seriously, Americannah restores my faith in the humanity of human beings.
And I know, I know, it isn't as if either of these books is a sleeper hit. Americannah was Ravenna's second best seller of 2014. And The Empathy Exams is a New York Times Bestseller. I just never would have read them if I hadn't finally given in the recommendation. So, now, I'm moving on to her next recommendation, The Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. Hey, if my friend says it's good. It's good.
Maybe I won't discard all of my to-read pile, but I'm certainly going to be a little less dismissive of all those recommendations I get. Never know when someone's going to suggest my new favorite book.