Sunday, April 18, 2010

Flashlight Worthy Follow-Up

Apropos my previous blog entry:

Peter, the fellow who runs Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations, just got in touch out of the blue. (He clearly has Flashlight Worthy on Google Alerts.)

Peter's making a concerted effort to increase the number of book lists in his Book Club Books category. Interested in writing a book list? Think you know a number of books that would make a good addition to his collection of book club recommendations? Get in touch with Peter at and he'll fill you in on the details.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lists! I Love Lists! Especially Book Lists!

I recently discovered a blog that I'm now looking at every day. It's called FLASHLIGHT WORTHY, describing itself as "Handpicked Book Recommendations on Hundreds of Topics."

The Flashlight Worthy bloggers say they're "Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime." They explain, 

Why Flashlight Worthy Exists

Amazon sells every book in print, but the choice can be overwhelming. Flashlight Worthy is here to help: We don't list the best selling books — we list the best books. We don't list 6,072 results when you search for John Irving (including 251 versions of Garp!) — we list only his best books just once. We don't make you hunt around for hours to find the very best books on parenting — we do the work for you. Flashlight Worthy is nothing but thoughtful, hand-picked recommendations... Organized into hundreds of useful, interesting, fun lists... And all we do is books. :)

Every day, a new list, with a bit of commentary. How about these:

Just a sampling.

There is even a Questions & Answers page, where you can ask other readers for recommendations of specific types of books, or other book-related info.

I love reading the lists, and making notes about books to add to my (already immense) TBR shelves. I like seeing how many of the books on the lists I've already read, too, and whether my opinion matches theirs. It's a book nerd's delight.













Thursday, April 08, 2010

Reading Great Literature. Or Not.

I was an English major in college, many years ago. My college work was almost entirely reading, then writing about what I'd read. (I chose English as a major simply because I'd always loved to read. At 18 I was far too impractical to worry about what kind of job I could get with an English degree.) Many of the assigned books were not to my taste. Callow and smug, I missed a lot of the subtleties and themes in the Great Literature of which all English majors must partake.

Yet I knew those books were considered great for good reason. Some were ground-breaking at the time they were written, even if they seemed ponderous or boring by modern standards. Others had beautiful prose or great stories or unforgettable characters; some had all of the above. I always knew, however, that I had to consider every book within the context of its times. Even the ones I had to force myself to read -- such as The House of the Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter-- were important within the context of the eras in which they were written.

After I graduated from college, I still read constantly, but I turned to popular fiction, with emphasis on genre fiction of various types. I wanted to read for pleasure; I didn't want reading to be "work." Yet although I prefer Popular Fiction to Timeless Classics, I am disheartened by "Amazon reviewers think this masterpiece sucks," Jeanette Demain's essay on one-star reviews on Amazon. The article is funny yet tragic. Demain describes the reviews by people who hated, just hated, the great novels of the the English language. What saddens me is how little these readers seems to realize the books they're panning were written in different eras, written by and for people whose lives, history, educations, and moral backgrounds differed vastly from ours. Examples:

The Grapes of Wrath -- "trite, contrived"
To Kill a Mockingbird--"sappy, cliched"
Jane Eyre--"endless, pointless description ...  stupid metaphors"
Charlotte's Web--"how in the world does a pig and a spider become friends?"
An American Tragedy--"bleak narrative of little consequence"

There's more--not only in Demain's essay, but of course on Amazon. I won't go looking for more one-star reviews, however, because they would depress me too much. Certainly every reader is entitled to have his or her opinion of a book, but I'm saddened to realize how many people are ignorant of history, of literary experience, and of the desire to experience the many different forms of the novel.