EragonI didn’t love reading Eragon.  But I struggled right through because my son implored me to read it, his favourite book.  With talking dragons, magic, sword fights and an ordinary-boy-destined-for-greatness plot what’s not to like?  Absolutely nothing – if you are eleven years old, that is.  Cough, cough, formulaic, cough.  However my son also recommended I read The Hunger Games, which I loved.

To be fair, I too have burdened my boy with recommended reads.  Who knew he wouldn’t like A Wizard of Earthsea?  It was only when I subsequently re-read it myself (and went on to devour the five sequels) that I realised how adult and complex are the themes the Earthsea books encompass.  But when I read some of those same sequels twenty or more years ago, I was totally nonplussed too.  In turn I also suggested my son read Black Beauty.  He loved it.

Which all points to something every enthusiastic reader knows anyway – books speak to each of us differently, and differently to the same reader at different times.  And might explain why the To Be Read pile is a toppling tower of guilt and procrastination and random purchases made when hungry or angry or in a quandry and gifts given by well-meaning friends who don’t know us quite as well as they think they do.

With this in mind last time I pressed a book upon a friend, I enclosed a note.  In the note I explained that I understood that book recommendations were a burden and that I didn’t mind a bit if my friend didn’t read or finish this particular book.*  I only wished that said friend might come home safely to tell us of his adventures.  To this day I’m not sure if he’s read the book… or even if I meant my note.

Perhaps the difference lies between a disinterested recommendation like “I enjoyed this book and for these reasons I think you might too,” and all-out insistence: “You have to read this book because it will change your life.”  Which really means “You have to read this book or I will be hurt.”

It could be that I’m over thinking this.  I confessed to my son that I didn’t really enjoy reading Eragon.  And do you know what? He wasn’t the least bit worried.


*Leviathan by Philip Hoare.  The friend is a crew member with an anti-whaling organisation.  Obvious recommendation, no?  I can’t believe he didn’t read/enjoy/comment on it.  Sheesh.