Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Unnecessary question: What should I read next?

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People do seem to ask this question, but almost everyone I know has no trouble landing on their next read. If you’re at all tuned in to books, odds are you have a TBR stack up to your waist. One of the advantages of the fabled independent bookstore is that vast knowledge of the well-read staff, but I don’t remember ever asking a bookstore employee, “Say, what should I read next?” Why should a total stranger have an inkling of the kind of ink I’d appreciate?

Never fear, though. There is a convenient service that will assist. It’s called The Book Seer, and all you have to do is type in the book you’ve just finished and he (The Book Seer is apparently a be-bearded Victorian man) will make some recommendations. For instance, I just typed in V, by Thomas Pynchon. The Book Seer thinks I should move on to everything else written by Pynchon, plus a book about Gravity’s Rainbow. For 50 Shades of Grey, TBS says I should keep dabbling in similar indulgent soft-porn, plus The Hunger Games Trilogy.

Hmmm. Maybe this thing is more of a party game than a useful tool. It purports to use Amazon.com’s algorithm to come up with its suggestions. We know how incoherent those results can be.

By the way, when I typed in both Yesterday Road and Parts Unknown by Kevin Brennan, what did the bearded one come back with?

Nothing… (Well, no books anyway).”



7 comments on “Unnecessary question: What should I read next?

  1. cleopatralovesbooks
    April 21, 2014

    The problem with algorithms is that they assume that you want to repeat the same read that you have just had. I love variety and I don’t think I have ever asked anyone what I should read next but I love it when people suggest a book to me as that way I find books I may never have tried before. I read my first Graham Greene precisely for this reason and loved it!

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 21, 2014

      So true! It’s actually much more complex than staying with the same ilk. And when things come out of the blue and really hit you, the serendipity factor is everything.

  2. ericjbaker
    April 21, 2014

    Amazon’s algorithm-driven recommendations are a major source of amusement for me. I once bought a CD by Dee Dee Warwick from amazon, and they enthusiastically suggested I buy albums by Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dee Dee Sharp. Clearly, I enjoy artists named “Dee Dee,” regardless of genre.

    In fact, I just named my car Dee Dee because I like the sound of it so much.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 21, 2014

      Sounds like an addiction, man! Is there an AA for people who can’t get enough DD?

  3. 1WriteWay
    April 24, 2014

    I plugged in House of Mirth and got, as one would expect from a low-functioning algorithm, a list of other Wharton novels as well as some Theodore Dreiser. Made me feel like I was back in college …

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 25, 2014

      Yeah, it’s kind of a duh thing, isn’t it. Fun for a moment or two…

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This entry was posted on April 21, 2014 by in Publishing and tagged , .
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