Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Finding something good to read

Good books come from different places. A friend might recommend something to you. You might overhear something being mentioned. Sometimes a good book just makes itself known, by being in the right place at the right time, or by strange coincidence, or by just being really famous. Sometimes I don't know what to read next, but a good book always turns up, by the mystical forces of whatever. What doesn't work, is going to look for one. Especially on a computer. I don't think computers have any idea what a book is, even though they help to make them. To a computer, a book is just a collection of words that someone has typed, bits of data that become an object you can buy. Sites like Amazon don't give recommendations based on the real content of a book, they just know that somebody who bought this also bought that, and so you should buy it too. It's logical, but not very useful. Only a person knows what a good book is.

I made an account on Goodreads*. It's a website that recommends books. That's the whole point of it. You tell it all the books you've ever read and it shows you other things. I think, though, it might be a bit useless. My first mistake was saying I really like a Haruki Murakami book. It's response seemed to be, 'here are some more writers from Japan'. Never mind. And it's divided everything into genre, like fantasy, sci-fi, and 'mystery', because if there's one thing your book collection is missing, it's discipline. I've never thought, 'yes, I would like to read some science fiction now, I will go and look for some science fiction'. I just want something I'll enjoy. I don't know what genre things are half the time. Goodreads says that one of my favourites, The Road, is science fiction, despite that not being true at all.

The biggest problem with all this, though, is that it will never recommend something completely different to me. Something I never would have thought of. Only a friend can say 'this is brilliant, you should read it'. And that's the only recommendation I'm going to trust. Stupid internet.

*Like all social media, it does a good job of making you feel inadequate in a really blunt way. The first thing it tells me is 'You have no friends yet'. Oh.

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