Recommending Books

For some reason I feel incredibly anxious when sharing what books I like.

Some are easier to recommend than others. Dune, for instance, is one of my favourite all time Science Fiction novels, despite the fact that even now it remains a difficult read. The book introduces so many new concepts (Mentats, shield warfare, the gorram spice) but from the first sentence you are treated as if you were a native of the universe, and so expository info — dumps are rare when they need to be more common. To say nothing of the incredibly strange logic each character follows, which probably makes sense in universe but just causes us to scratch our heads trying to figure out what the hell everyone is thinking. All the while the book is just shaking its head and saying, ‘Keep up.’

Dune (2021). Feels weird typing that. For the longest time, I never thought anyone would make a Dune movie.

Still, there’s one reason Dune is easy to recommend; blockbuster movie. At worst, you could point to it and say, hey, this is The Book of The Movie(tm). And that would explain everything. It’s one way my love of The Lord of The Rings was accepted. That one had a movie made for each book in the trilogy. Hell even now, almost 20 years later (god saying that makes me feel so old) people are still memeing stuff from the movie, which proves the huge cultural impact those movies had on the world.

This is the version I had. I had so much fun tranlsating the Tengwar around the edges of the cover. That…should probably tell you something about me.

But when there’s no Blockbuster Movie to support my love of a particular book, things get dicey. One workaround is to only recommend nonfiction books. That’s easier. The book I’m reading right now, about the race to develop the Covid — 19 vaccines, is one such book. It’s both entertaining and informative. A lot of the sentences may sound like technobabble gobbledygook to the uninitiated. Here’s what I mean:

Exhibit A: Technobabble

“…added two prolines to the stem of the MERS-CoV spike protein, holding the protein in the shape it took just before it infected host cells. For the new vaccine, Wang once again adjusted the amino acid sequence of the spike protein…”

Admittedly, it’s not that bad. The book doesn’t assume you have a PhD in molecular biology or biochemistry to be able to read, just that you can read and understand English. For the most part, it’s written in this semi — formal magazine article style, the kind of thing that you might share off on social media without reading (shut up, you do it too).

Now compare that to this totally random sentence from the abstract of a random ass biotech article I found:

Exhibit B: Now It Makes Sense

“Comparison with previous reports reveals substantial change in the number of known nuclear protein-coding genes (now 19,116), the protein-coding non-redundant transcriptome space [now 59,281,518 base pair (bp), 10.1% increase], the number of exons (now 562,164, 36.2% increase) due to a relevant increase of the RNA isoforms recorded.”

I put it to you Exhibit A is much, much clearer.

Okay, so I can recommend books with a movie, or a nonfiction book. But what about a book that fits neither category? How do I recommend a Warhammer 40k book by Dan Abnett, for example? Say I try to promote the Gaunt’s Ghosts series to someone. How do I do that? First I’d have to introduce the grim dark universe of 40k, then I’d have to intro the series, and I’d have to do that without spoiling too much…

This, of course, assumes that someone is asking me for book recommendations and not just being forced into a conversation about books when they’d clearly be doing something else.

Part of my resolutions is to read more, though, and I think there’s no harm in me doing a short journal post about the book I just finished here. Maybe I’ll write up about a book I already read in the past if the mood strikes me. It’s a lot better than watching peoples’ eyes glaze over when I talk about books in real life. At least you guys came here of your own volition and can leave whenever you want before I start detailing the history of the Warhammer universe in the year 30,000 for an hour.

“So the Emperor is betrayed, okay, and half of the Primarchs have fallen to Chaos because of this Horus guy. But Big E isn’t dead yet. They basically strap him to the fucking throne, and use it as a sort of ICU bed to keep the guy alive. And it works. He’s still alive ten thousand years later.”

Hey, I warned you.

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