Lots of people have their own ideas on how best to find their next novel to read. Some keep lists of books they intend to check out at a later date. Some rate past purchases and books they’ve read on Amazon in hopes that it will refine the site’s suggestions. Others scour book club lists or the New York Times Best Sellers. Many use GoodReads, a social networking site whose purpose is to categorize and rate books, and share your views and recommendations with your friends. In a similar and less Web 2.0-savvy way, others go by word of mouth of friends and family.
I use all of these tactics and then some. But do you know what has worked best for me? Taking note of my English major Facebook friends’ tastes.
Think about it: who better to ask for book recommendations than those who willingly read 15+ books a semester for their classes (or at least picked a major that required such)? English majors read and analyze the greatest, most worldly works in literature and in many cases take upwards of ten classes dedicated to their study. It isn’t illogical to think the kid on your hall who wrote a 23-page paper analyzing the works of Kafka might know a thing or two about a good book. Wouldn’t you rather navigate the overwhelming ocean of books with a seasoned oarsman as opposed to a first-time paddler?
While I don’t keep a running list of every book an English major mentions on their Facebook profile, I long ago noticed that many cited the same ones. I figure, these people have read hundreds of books, and likely hundreds more than most of the population. If they think something is the best, they’re probably drawing from a larger, more comprehensive sample than little ol’ me.
So what books do my English major friends’ profiles display over and over again? Here’s a short list:
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera
- To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
- The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
- Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
- On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
- Everything Is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer
- A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
- As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
- Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Marquez
- Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
Are all English majors’ recommendations amazing? Of course not. But scouring profiles for suggestions has lead me to some quality reads in the past (anything Vonnegut, Prep, gods in Alabama, etc.). As a result, I decided this week to pick up Everything is Illuminated. Though I’m only on page 15, I’m gushing about the author’s writing style already. A quick peek at my favorite line in the book already (page 4):
“My stomach is very strong, although it presently lacks muscles. Father is a fat man, and Mother is also.”
Hilarious! The narrator says so much about his personality and appearance in so few, but perfectly orchestrated words. Wonderful.
Thanks English majors for keeping your Facebook profiles updated, or at least your “Favorite Books” section. I’ve been secretly hitting y’all up for suggestions for years!
What books do you see again and again on your friends’ Facebook profiles? How do they compare to that of your English major friends? Have you used them for other suggestions, like to find a movie or new TV show to watch?