Books, Recommendations, and Amazon

I really like to read. I read almost every night and I have since I was a little kid, so I’ve gone through a lot of books. Lately though I’ve noticed a new trend in my reading; I’m reading books that no one recommended to me. Well, no person recommended them to me, I guess it is all Amazon at this point.

Normally, and this goes back to the first time I read the Lord of the Rings, the Belgariad, or the many books of Piers Anthony, someone would mention the book to me and I’d go find it at the book store or the library and I’d be set. For years, this is exactly what would happen, going through Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey, Terry Goodkind, etc. but recently I found myself buying two different book series that absolutely no one had ever talked to me about before.

The first was a set of two books (with hopefully more to come!) by Peter V. Brett; The Warded Man (aka The Painted Man, his first novel) and The Desert Spear. Both of these were excellent, the kind of books that I gave up many hours of sleep for because I couldn’t bear to stop reading.  Shortly after, due to Amazon’s decision to show it to me I suppose, I read the debut novel by Patrick Rothfuss; The Name of the Wind and then pre-ordered his follow-up the moment it was available. So, both series are by new authors, completely unknown to me and between the two of them they are some of the best writing I have ever read. I’ve just finished reading The Name of the Wind for the second time as a matter of fact… which is not unusual for me, I don’t want to even try to guess at how many readings of Dune I’ve gone through, but still it says something since it hasn’t been very long since my first reading of Rothfuss’s books that I felt compelled to go through them again.

I think this shift, from all my reading flowing from word-of-mouth suggestions to finding books through the algorithms of Amazon’s recommendation engine, is due to two things. One is that such a system never existed when I was a kid, your friends were the only source of “if you liked that book, then you’d probably like this book” suggestions around. The second, which is a bit sad, is that as far as I can tell almost none of my friends read. We discuss movies, TV shows and video games all the time, and many recommendations are made, but books almost never come up. I won’t go on and on about this, I probably already sound like an old man at this point, no need to take the leap into “the problem with kids these days…”

In a little bit I think I’ll make another post that goes through the various books I was a big fan of over the years. They are, for the most part, all pretty popular books in their genres so it won’t be a great list of new books to run out and get, but so many of them are excellent that they deserve to be discussed.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply