One of my favorite authors is Ken Follett. If you’ve never read him, he tends to write suspense novels with a historic setting. If you’d like to give his books a try, I’d recommend Jack Daws.
Typically, this is how a book suggestion goes. You find something you really like, and then suggest it to others. However, it doesn’t always go down as planned. For instance, even though I really like Ken Follett, not all of his books are winners in my eyes.
A few years ago, my mother loaned me the Ken Follett book World Without End, with the promise that it was one of his best books yet. I was excited, and then I strained my shoulder trying to lift the book.
World Without End had over a thousand pages. It is an epic set in medieval times.
I once asked Mrs. Lisakbooks to explain to me what an ‘epic’ was. She stated that an ‘epic’ is a two-hour movie that someone stretched out to six hours. For books, this translates to a two hundred page book stretched to over a thousand pages.
Don’t get me wrong – for some people this is a wonderful book. It is critically acclaimed and he has written multiple books for this particular series.
It just wasn’t my kind of book…
I found that World Without End was simply a Book Without End. Around page 400 I was preparing to bail. I decided to give it one more day and spent about forty-five minutes reading over 50-pages about whether the main character and her father would sell their sheep’s wool at the town fair that year.
It was at this point that I decided the book met Mrs. Lisakbooks’ definition of ‘epic’ – and I returned it to my mother.
A few months later, my father tried it. When I asked him what he thought, he described it as, “Probably a good chick book.”
This is high praise, indeed…and upon reflecting on it, I have concluded it was probably an apt description.
This is one version of a book suggestion gone bad: I call it the, “I Really Liked This and So I Guarantee You Will as Well.”
We’ve all done this before – I am also guilty of this. We read a book or watch a movie we like, and decide that we liked it so much that it must be right for the rest of the world.
For instance, when my wife and I were dating I took her to see the movie Tombstone, which I billed as one of the greatest movies ever made. For those who haven’t seen it, Tombstone is basically a Western about revenge. It is Hollywood’s version of the Wyatt Earp story. To steal a review quote, I would describe it as, “Probably a good dude movie.”
My wife is someone who thinks that certain episodes of America’s Funniest Home Videos is too violent. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I built up Tombstone as a sure-fire winner for date night.
Needless to say, she and Tombstone were a match made in hell. My point is that we’ve all been guilty of this sort of thing.
This past week, my father threw one my way that I think falls into a new category of book suggestions gone bad.
I have read enough Lee Child to conclude that I am not a Jack Reacher fan. You’d think this was contrary to my love of the movie Tombstone, as Jack Reacher is basically all about ending people violently. Believe me, no one was more surprised than me that I disliked these books.
My father expressed interest in trying them out, and so I loaned him the first Child book, The Killing Floor. If you are someone who cannot stomach violence, do yourself a favor and just watch America’s Funniest Home Videos. This book is not for you.
That said, my Dad liked it so I bought him more.
He recently finished the Lee Child book Echo Burning, and handed it off to me. I’ve openly expressed I’m not a Reacher fan. Nonetheless, he handed this book over with the statement, “Try this one out. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on some parts of it when you’re finished.”
That said, despite the fact I am not a Reacher fan, I figured this must mean this one was good.
Before I go further, I need to help you ‘know’ my Dad a bit better.
When Mrs. Lisakbooks was first introduced to my father, he told her his name, but then insisted that she call him by his alias – Captain Kirk. When picturing my Dad, you should think of a cross between Chevy Chase and Jerry Van Dyke.
That said, it should have occurred to me that this book loan may not have been on the up-and-up.
My first warning sign was when the Reacher fan that I work with…who has made it his life’s work to try to get me hooked on this series despite my open hatred of it…told me that I had in my hand, “Probably the worst one of the entire series.”
I read through the first hundred pages – which can be summed up in three sentences:
Reacher gets into a fight in a small town with a guy who winds up being the town’s sheriff. He needs to get out of town so he hitches a ride with a woman who is in an abusive relationship and asks if Reacher will kill her husband for her. Reacher says, “No, I don’t do that sort of thing,” and they proceed to argue about it – FOR ONE HUNDRED PAGES!
The first hundred pages of this book sounded like an argument between Post Tween and the Gremlin:
Post Tween: No, I don’t want to play Candy Land.
Post Tween: No, I don’t do that sort of thing.
Post Tween: No. Please leave me alone now.
Gremlin: But whyyyyyyy?
Post Tween: I just don’t do Candy Land.
And so on…for 100 pages. Just swap out Candy Land with Kill My Abusive Husband and you’ve nailed it. If you ever decide to read Echo Burning you can now skip the first 100 pages.
It was at this point that I decided it might be prudent to ask Chevy Chase what his intentions were in loaning me this fine piece of American Literature, that even die-hard Jack Reacher fans apparently hate.
So I called him on the phone…
Me: So when you loaned me this Reacher book, what specifically were you hoping we might discuss?
Chevy Chase: What did you think of the book?
Me: Well, so far I am 100 pages in and all he’s done is get into a car and argue with a woman who wants him to murder her husband. Even I could have written that in less than ten pages.
Chevy Chase: See…that was exactly what I thought! Now that’s one of the things, I wanted to talk about. See what you think of the rest of it.
Me: Wait…so you loaned me a book that you knew was painful to read?
Chevy Chase: Well, I think it gets a lot better after that first hundred pages or so. Keep trying.
At this point I began to wonder if it were possible to throw a book at someone through a telephone mouthpiece.
I’ve run across many people who have loaned me books or movies and over-hyped them…but never have I had someone loan me something so that they could see if I hated it as bad as they did. Who does that?!
Answer: Captain Kirk
So in short, book loans can go bad. This could also easily be said for movie loans.
The quick solution when recommending a book or movie to someone is to try and place yourself in their shoes. This is sometimes hard to do – particularly when you’ve found a piece of literature or a movie you really enjoyed. We are all guilty of this…myself included.
Before you suggest it to that person, try really hard to think about who they are and whether they would like it. If you conclude the answer is ‘no,’ then don’t suggest it…even though you might be dying to do so. If you conclude the answer is ‘no’ and you still go through with the suggestion knowing full well that person will hate it, I would suggest one of two things: don’t tell them you thought this through to that extent, and/or be sure to wear a helmet on the day they return said book to you for your own safety.