They’re Books, Not Bludgeons

From the Chicago Tribune’s “Great books not meant to be used as weapons

Up north in Canada, novelist Yann Martel (”The Life of Pi”) has started a book club of one member — Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Every couple of weeks since mid-April, he has been sending a new book to Harper in an effort to get the national leader to increase funding for the arts.

I want elected officials to work for literacy, but what Martel is doing feels obnoxious. I love books, but if Martel (or anyone) sent me a book every couple of weeks, I would show up at his house and chuck the books at his head.

I all but stopped giving and loaning books after I read this insightful deconstruction at Outer Life. Gift books create an obligation, both to read and to enjoy the book. I am terrible about reading books in a timely fashion. Gift books often sit on my shelf for years, gathering dust and sending out prickly rays of guilt. I try to finish a book before I recommend it. I learned that lesson from Smilla’s Sense of Snow. I also try only to recommend books I love. As the author of Outer Life noted in another post, recommendations are difficult, too. Too often I’ve sensed the careful phrasing of friends after I’ve loaned or given them something good but not great. And even if I loved the book, like John Burdett’s Bangkok 8, it won’t be every person’s cup of tea.

Instead, now, I try to gently recommend books. I review everything I read here, so readers can seek out or avoid books as they are inclined. The books I am pleased to receive are ones I’ve placed on my wish lists at Amazon. They’ll still sit on my shelf, but at least they are wanted.

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