Anytime I hear someone ask for a book recommendation, I tense up. Silly, but true.
Yesterday, someone I know asked for book recommendations via Facebook. I almost jumped in there, but pulled myself back. My reasoning may sound strange, but stick with me.
I have been an avid reader since before preschool. I taught myself how to read, and one of my earliest memories was of my mother humoring me when I told her I could read. She didn’t believe me, and I sat down at my impossibly small desk, opened a small hardcover book (it had something to do with basketball), and started to read to her. I remember stumbling over the words “basketball” and “everything,” otherwise I did okay. I remember she was stunned.
Books were always my refuge. They hold a very special place in the very gooiest centers of my being.
In a word, they are, and always have been, private.
If I have ever shared a book recommendation with someone, it means I think of them in the highest regard.
If I haven’t, it means I’m just not ready to share with that person (or the other people who might see that recommendation).
Some of the books dearest to me are considered children’s books, and I’m certainly not precious about what I enjoy. I don’t read to impress anyone. I read because I adore it and I can’t not read.
Each year, I generally read over 100 books, and each year I keep a little notebook of what I’ve read and the date I’ve finished it. I like being able to look back across my literary landscape to see what appealed to me and when. When my partner and I met, we both had an impressive collection of books individually; combined, they were moderately massive (with very few overlaps, surprisingly). We now have upwards of 3,000 books, and we both read on a regular basis. Here’s just one shot of our living room. The long wall is the fiction wall. The furthest wall is science/math/sociology/etc.
We love books.
The picture at the top of this piece is of my bedside table books. I try to keep that selection curated with the titles I want to read sooner than later. The first half is non-fiction, the second half, fiction. I usually default to my bedside selection when choosing a new title.
Twice on my website, I’ve done book reports: Reality is Broken and 8-Bit Christmas. One was fiction, one was not, and both were books I thought other game-minded folks might enjoy.
I also take recommendations from others to heart.
And, if someone goes to the length of sending me a book, well, I couldn’t love that more.
Allow me to explain something that recently happened:
A little over a week ago, I was bringing in the mail and there was a flat package that could only be a book. It was from a city and state I hadn’t ordered anything from and I was puzzled; what was this book? Where did it come from? Who sent it?
I carefully opened the box, and the book inside was wrapped in brown craft paper. I had a feeling something was special about this book, but I couldn’t have known just how special it was.
I peeled the paper off and immediately burst into tears. It was a vintage copy of a book I wrote about not long ago, The Mysterious Tadpole, by Steven Kellogg. It was printed in 1977, and the book was nearly pristine. I just stared at it and touched it and cried my eyes out. I was so moved that someone would send me a copy just like the one I used to have (and had been separated from). I opened up the book and was stunned to find it was signed by the author, just like mine had been when I’d met him back in grade school. There was the drawing of the tadpole, just like in my long lost copy.
I was beside myself.
There was no name on the package or the invoice. I had no idea where it came from. I wrote to the two people I know who live in the state it was shipped from, and they had no idea what I was talking about. The only thing left to do was to call the phone number on the invoice. All I could think was that I had to thank whoever sent it, and I had to do it as soon as humanly possible.
When I called the number, I didn’t reach the bookseller; I reached the person who sent it to me.
It was the wife of my good friend (and regular co-op partner). They had found me this copy, just like my missing copy of yore, and sent it to me. I couldn’t imagine a more moving gift. It’s like they reached into the best parts of my childhood and brought them to me in the present.
I could not be more grateful. It is easily one of the most moving and purely lovely gifts I’ve ever been given. I couldn’t thank both of them enough. I will probably never be able to.
If someone sends me a book, it’s one of the loveliest things they could do. I take recommendations from others quite seriously.
I’ve often had people ask to borrow a book, but I’m equally often inclined to just purchase them their own copy as, over the years, I’ve never seen most of those loaned books again. Some books are so wonderful that I buy up several copies if they are on sale, just so I can send them out. Certain books I will only recommend if I have a particular connection with someone. There are books that are so personal to me, it’s as though I’m sending a part of myself I don’t normally allow people access to.
Books are my insides.
As time goes on and I read more gaming-related books, I will probably continue to share them here, but I’d also like to venture forth recommending various non-gaming books, too. After all, words are meant to be read, no? Otherwise, what am I even doing?
What are some of the books you hold dearest? What are your recommendations for me? I’m always keen to hear what other people like to share. Books are just the frosting on that connecting cake.
That’s such a great story about how you got the old childhood book of yours. I don’t know if you like fantasy novels but the a song of ice and fire series I like quite a bit. I’ve always enjoyed reading and I’m currently reading It by Stephen King.
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It was a beautiful gift. One I never imagined I’d receive. I’m so grateful.
I like all kinds of books, fantasy included. I will have to check that out. And I hope you enjoy IT. It’s fantastic…except for that one weird part.
BOOKS! That’s a wonderful story how you were reunited with your childhood tale. One of my biggest regrets is that as a child I sold my shoe box filled with Boxcar Children books in a yard sale for quick cash. Last week one of my most anticipated books of the year released, The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin. It’s the end of a trilogy in which the other 2 books have both won the Hugo Award, science fictions highest honor. I haven’t even started the book yet because I don’t want to finish it and for the trilogy to be over. Also, Evicted by Matthew Desmond is a fascinating read about the impact of poverty in the United States on accessing housing and it won the Pulitzer this year. I wish that I had more time to read. I bought my sister and I, The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Montefiore, because my sister is fascinated with the Romanovs in order for both of us to read it and chat. Ah, I love books too!
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And yes! Thank you. I was just beside myself with gratitude.
Oh no! The good news is that you can still buy them! I actually bought the set of 1-12 of them from Amazon back in 2013. I know it’s not the same, but at least you could buy them again.
I very much understand what you are saying by not wanting to start it so it won’t be over. I do that, with games especially.
I will definitely look into Evicted. Actually, I just added it to my Amazon cart!
A book I’d definitely recommend to you is Gang Leader For a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh. I found it on a TED Talks reading list years ago and it was a powerful read. Non-fiction.
Oh man, books are the best. :)
In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan, to both the hold dear’ing and recommending questions.
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I believe I read that years ago for both those reasons.