As someone who reads a decent amount, I often get asked for book recommendations. Now, this process works pretty well for me, and it works with movies too, except in those last few steps, but we’ll get to those in a second.
- Ask if the requester is looking for something good, or something fun?
These are two different qualities. I can’t stress this enough. There are things that are of high quality but are about as enjoyable to consume as a bucket of nails. The example I always reference is the movie the Pianist which I felt was very good, but not a pleasant or fun experience that I will ever repeat. Sometimes a person wants to be entertained, not challenged. Establish that up front.
- Determine Genre Preferences/Requirements
Depending on the reader, this can get quite specific. I see requests on Reddit for weird stuff like “books with wearable computers.”
- Get a couple of top authors or books.
Establish a baseline for what they like. Look, someone who is a huge fan of Stephen King is probably not going to want to read… well, I can’t think of something here that you won’t immediately find a counter-example of to prove my point. But people have tastes. Figure out what those tastes are, even if they aren’t yours.
This is the part where you take the constraints they gave you above and you run through stuff you’ve read or know people have written, etc. I give myself bonus points in this game if I can recommend a book by someone I personally know who is new and building their career over some classic multi-year best seller from the 50s. I’m looking at you, people whose answer to every question is “Heinlein!“Hopefully you’ll come up with at least one title that matches the requirements, If not, go to step 5.
- If all else fails, just suggest something by Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett. (For films, default to Hitchcock.)
Everybody loves Neil! And at this point, there’s a Terry Pratchett book about every major subject. Like economics? here’s a Pratchett book. Like the postal service? Here’s a Pratchett book about that.If even that fails to take, I guess there’s always Tom Clancy.