Books

What To Read, What To Read

| Thu Aug. 13, 2009 11:30 AM PDT

Maybe I'm late to the online book-recommending party, but I just came across Book Seer, a site that allows you to enter in a book you've enjoyed, and based on that book, pulls up a few suggestions (compiled from other sites like Amazon, Library Thing, and Book Army). This is the kind of thing that really can suck me into an Internet vortex, but I have a frighteningly long to-do list this morning, so I decided to give myself some rules for experimenting with Book Seer: three books only, one fiction, one nonfiction, one poetry. For fiction, I chose David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, since I was curious to see whether Book Seer had any other books up its sleeve about addiction, tennis, and Quebec separatists. My nonfiction choice was Angler, Barton Gellman's Dick Cheney biography, which I haven't read but always intend to, and my poetry pick was Jane Kenyon's collection Let Evening Come, since I recently finished it and was pretty moved by it.

1. Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace).

The results: Amazon uncreatively recommends a bunch of other DFW titles, Library Thing does the same, plus some DeLillo and Pynchon (fair enough), but Book Army has this list:

I guess the idea is coming of age stories? Which I guess Infinite Jest is. Sort of.

Most intriguing recommendation: Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis-Lessons from a Master (A Fireside book) by Brad Gilbert

2. Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency (Barton Gellman).

The results: Kind of a weird mix of books about business and books that are in some way related to the presidency, including:

Most intriguing recommendation: Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner

3. Let Evening Come (Jane Kenyon).

The results: Lots of Mary Oliver, who, like Kenyon writes about the natural world (and New England specifically) plus some greatest-hits-of-poetry type suggestions (The Waste Land, Leaves of Grass, Shakespeare's sonnets: all good, though not particularly Kenyon-ish).

Most intriguing recommendation: Without: Poems by Donald Hall

Okay. Back to work.

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