Laura Miller investigates the art of recommending books to others. I find it quite artless and mercenary. See? No, but seriously, I’ve been recommending ex-Ninja Peter Darbyshire’s The Warhol Gang mostly. I see it as required reading. So buy it. (Also, buy the aphorisms… I just finished reading them and they’re pretty damn good! That guy may be on to something.)
As Pearl sees it, four “doorways” allow readers to enter into any work of fiction or narrative nonfiction: story, characters, setting and language. “The difference between books is often a difference in the size of those doorways,” she explained. Someone who agrees with statements like “I stayed up late to finish the book,” is drawn to story, while someone who picks “I am in awe of the way the author could put words together,” cares more about the beauty of the prose.
The ideal book, of course, excels in all four aspects, but such works are rare. (Pearl lists “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove,” and “Angle of Repose” by Wallace Stegner as her fail-safes â€” that is, recommendations likely to please readers of any taste.) “For a recommendation to mean something, the book has to have a door that matches the person you’re recommending it to,” Pearl observes. “You can like a book that doesn’t have your doorway, but you’re going to have a harder time getting into it.”