If you’re a bibliophile, being asked to recommend a book is similar to the harrowing experience of setting up two of your friends. Sure, it’s a great honor and a great responsibility, but playing cupid is playing with fire. You’re going to be judged arbitrarily and subjectively, and beholden to the inscrutable whims, moods, and tastes of your friends. One misstep and your credibility is shot for good. There are no second chances when it comes to love, literary or otherwise.
Below, the 12 stages (and challenges) of literary matchmaking:
You start off eagerly by asking what their type is. Short? Long? Funny? Existentialist? Russian? Exotic? Historical fiction? Fantastical postmodern Japanese? Of course, they’ll never give you a straight answer. Everyone always shrugs and says, “I like everything.” Just hold your breath and wait for the “except for…” followed by a laundry list of all the things you were going to recommend.
You wrack your brain. There are the usual contenders—your personal favorites, or the classics, or the infamously controversial, or the books shortlisted for the so-and-so prize. You keep musing, because you want something unique. Something just right, something that will become your friend’s literary soul mate. This isn’t going to be just one hot date, but a life-changing romance. Let your thoughts simmer for a while.
3. The Search is On
You rummage through your shelves, looking for inspiration. You’re also wondering where you put that one book you were reading last summer that you knew you’d want to lend someone someday. You have books everywhere, so it might take some time to find. You get distracted during your search and start alphabetizing your book collection.
4. A False Victory
You think you’ve found The One for your friend. As you peruse the first few pages to confirm your selection, you realize you can’t give him that one. What were you thinking? The main character’s girlfriend’s cat has the same name as your friend’s ex! That would never do. He’ll get distracted by the name and you’ll never hear the end of it.
5. Back to the Drawing Board
You decide to ask for more specifics. This time, you won’t just ask what his type is, you’ll be ruthless in your cross-examination: “What was the last book you read more than twice?” “What was the last book you recommended to someone else?” “What was the last book you dreamed about?” You get distracted by an argument over whether a mutual friend’s attempt at screenwriting counts as a book.
6. Finding the One
Success! You’ve found it! This is the one, you just have a gut feeling about it. He’s going to love it, and worship your knowledge of reading material. He’ll forever turn to you for advice on literature, love, and other great questions in life.
You’re almost 100% positive this is the right book for him, and you remember how much you loved it yourself. Hmmm. Maybe you should make sure it’s still as good as you remembered. Maybe you should read it again before giving it to him. You know, just to double check. Just a quick peek at the first chapter couldn’t hurt…
8. Doing Your Research
Two hundred pages later, the book is even better than you remembered. You can’t put it down. You’re positive this is the right book for him. Now back to finishing the last couple chapters before you hand it over.
9. Judgment Day
The ceremonial “Handing Over of the Book” is upon you. You’re nervous and your palms sweat as you clutch your literary offering. This is it, no take-backs. You hand it off casually, not wanting to oversell it. “Maybe you’ll like this, it’s pretty good,” you say, feigning nonchalance. You don’t want to get his expectations too high, lest they not be met. You’re just not going to say anything.
10. Stating Your Case
Ten minutes later, you can’t stop gushing to him about the book. All he did was ask what you liked about it, and now you can’t stop raving. The floodgates have opened, and you want to tell him every delicious detail that you remember from rereading the book four hours ago.
11. Awaiting a Verdict
An interminable period of unknowing descends as you wait for him to finish the book and give his verdict. You’re waiting for his opinion with bated breath. Your self-worth hangs in suspense. It’s almost as bad as that time you asked that guy at work out on a date and he didn’t text back until the next day.
12. A Literary Triumph
He said he liked it! Oh, happy day! You are the maestro of matchmaking, the fiction facilitator, the erudite Eros, the literary love guru, the greatest friend to ever read a book. You’re going to inundate him with recommendations and he’ll never be at loss for what to read again. You get carried away and ask him to refer to you as “Oh Captain, My Captain” from now on. He says no, but what’s your next recommendation? And the fun starts all over again.
What’s your favorite book to recommend?