It was a joy reading your responses to my column a few weeks ago about the perils and pleasures of recommending books. Some of you can’t stop yourself from recommending books, whether people are open to suggestions or not. (Such as intrepid reader Signe A. Ilstrup of St. Paul, who sends daily recommendations to President Donald Trump.)
Some of you, such as Jeannie Campbell of Eden Prairie, like to make recommendations but wisely limit them to people whose reading habits you know.
And some, such as Joy Sundrum of Golden Valley, don’t make many recommendations but appreciate getting them.
In one of her recent daily notes to Trump, Ilstrup recommended Blaine Harden’s “Escape From Camp 14,” the true story of a man who escaped from a North Korean gulag. (It is, indeed, a very good book.) Why send suggestions to the president? “Reading can help us develop empathy,” she noted.
Iris Pahlberg Peterson of Minneapolis is the opposite — not only has she never recommended a book to a politician, but she doesn’t recommend books to anyone, except her sister, “as we have the same tastes in books.”
And she’s not terribly open to suggestions herself. “I don’t like having books pressed on me,” Peterson wrote. “I read voraciously and also study book reviews and cruise eagerly through bookstores. I know what will interest me.”
Cary Griffith of Rosemount listens to his wife’s recommendations, but he’s choosy as to which ones he follows up on. “I suspect I read one in 10 of the books she recommends and can always count on enjoying them,” he wrote. “She has excellent taste.”
And when he loves a book, he can’t help but recommend it to others. Most recently, he suggested Paulette Jiles’ “News of the World” to two people in his writing group, but “to date, I’ve heard nothing from either one of them,” he wrote. “Did they enjoy it as much as me? Did they appreciate the writing?
“When you love the book you recommend, you want to hear similar accolades echoed back. I’m still waiting to hear that echo.”
Sundrum of Golden Valley frequently takes the suggestions of one trusted friend, who mails her books along with a Post-it note of comments. “I trust her comments, her choices and am grateful for her gifts of books,” Sundrum wrote. “She is also patient if I don’t get to reading them for awhile.” Sometimes it takes a couple of years. (But that’s OK. Books don’t spoil.)
“There is a selfish element to recommending a book,” writes reader Michelle, who preferred not to give her last name. “Assuming the person likes the book you recommended, it is a pleasant feeling to have found a kindred spirit.”
But also, she said, a recommender has a responsibility to give a little more information than just saying they liked it — they should explain why.
And, finally, Paul Waytz of Minneapolis writes that these days we are awash in recommendations and it’s become too much.
“I have started hating anything that anybody recommends,” he writes. “I’m so tired of receiving e-mails from friends — often people I really like — with links to writing, videos, music, podcasts, TED talks, etc., all things that are ‘truly inspirational’ or ‘will change your life’ or ‘so uplifting’ or ‘so full of information you need to have.’ Aaaarrgghhh. Is it wrong to a) just ignore or b) reply with a thank you or c) lie, and tell them how great it was?”
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune’s senior editor for books. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks.