The last two booking posts have been a casual experiment in word-of-mouth book promotion. Today we'll look at the results. I'll play chief lab rat.
People's book recommendations generally have three effects:
1. We read the book.
2. We don't read the book.
3. We can't decide to read or not to read.
In comments on the first booking post, F. O'Brien Andrew got my attention with this statement about This Perfect Day by Ira Levine: "I used to buy all the used copies in every book store I could find then give them away to friends and family."
I do the exact same thing with books I love, so this instantly registered as a true statement to me. F. and I are in tune; we share a common if at times somewhat annoying habit of being book tyrants, and I liked the rest of what he said. Result: I'm reading the book.
Phoenix, I'm going to pick on you for a minute, but only to illustrate result #2. In comments, Phoenix wrote of On the Beach: "Why? Because it's utterly depressing and makes you realize that life isn't that bad."
Two words hit me right away: utterly depressing. Phoenix does add a good save right after with a reason to read it anyway, as it: "...makes you realize that life isn't that bad." Other people enjoy this kind of fiction, but it's hard for me to get through seriously depressing books without becoming depressed myself. Result: I don't want to read this book.
Finally, one of you anonymous posters wrote of Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire: "...a book that makes you question why we did nothing and still do nothing."
To be picky again, I don't know this book or this author, or the subject matter, so this cryptic description doesn't help me get a handle on what it's about. What did we do, or not do? It could be a book about religion, war, civil rights, abortion, slavery, etc. I don't know and I need more information. Result: I'm waffling.
Does a personal opinion = truth? What is true for one person may not be for another; we all experience things individually. F.'s recommended book could be a bomb, Phoenix's recommended book could be a gem, and Anonymous's recommended book could be one I'd put immediately on my keeper shelf. One or more of them could also be exaggerating, downplaying or lying about the book.
The problem is (linguistically speaking) that we unconsciously invest opinions with truth as part of the natural process of comprehension:
"In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of." -- cognitive scientist George Miller
In the end, how much trust and validity we invest in word-of-mouth promotion like this depends on what resonates with us, and how much we're willing to allow that other person's opinions to guide our choices.
Thoughts, comments, wedges of cheese, anyone?