You know how friends will push books on you, saying that you’ll love them and that they can’t wait to discuss them with you?
I owe a lot of my library to those friends. Most of them come from just two people.
My friend Michael has extremely varied taste in fantasy and science fiction, and both his library and recommendations show it. The first book I bought on his say-so was Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark. It’s a monster of a book, so once I decided I was going to like it, I also bought a copy for my Kindle. It was well-worth it.
He’s also got an amazing collection of older sci-fi. He introduced me to Norman Spinrad with Child of Fortune (which is now available in e-format and oh gods people buy it), and it was like taking a trip – on LSD. This is the author who also wrote Bug Jack Barron and The Void Captain’s Tale. I devoured them, because they’re a mesmerizing combination of word play and mind-bending plots. I’m considering buying all that writer’s work. Hard copy, because once I’ve decided to follow an author, I want the physical object. It’s like a sign of commitment to completeness.
Michael also managed to get me to read a Piers Anthony novel that I didn’t immediately hate called Macroscope, back when Mr. Anthony did not attempt to write the same novel 400 times. I still didn’t really enjoy it, but it managed to surprise me.
Finally, Michael introduced me to the awesomeness that is Tim Powers. I want everything this man ever wrote. He pushes every literary button I have, and apparently his latest novel is all that and more.
I say “apparently” because I gave this book to my other enabler, Dana, for her birthday. One must reward the enablers by enabling them back.
Dana has given me a huge, wide range of books to read. I’m not really a reader of non-fiction, but Dana has managed to send me things like Griftopia by Matt Taibbi that make me less stubborn about the genre.
The largest collection is in fiction, but fiction of all sorts. Dana has sent me things I never would have picked up on my own, like What Love Means to You People by NancyKay Shapiro which made me cry, A Stabbing for Sadie by Wednesday Lee Friday which chilled me to the bone, and Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin, which managed to put a new spin on the Jekell/Hyde myth that made me very happy.
I can’t even count the number of e-books Dana has sent me. She’s found ways to make YA palatable again to me, who is mostly allergic to romance, especially the Twu Wuv version I expected to find in YA these post-Twilight days. I’ve got mysteries and thrillers and fantasies I would never have bought thanks to Dana. She even managed to make me willing to try out John Scalzi’s novels, after getting snagged on The God Engines which I thought was perfect and Scalzi referred to as a thing he’d never done and would likely never do again. I’m now working my way through The Old Man’s War sequence and have Redshirts in my Amazon wishlist.
Her most influential recommendation by far is the work of Catherynne Valente. Dana sent me a copy of Ravens in the Library, an anthology containing a story by Valente called “The Ballad of the Sinister Mr. Mouth” which Dana had gotten signed for me. I got to the end of that story and just wept – at the poetic language, the amazing imagery, and a story so unique and beautiful and horrible that I dreamed about it for days. Catherynne Valente is probably my favorite author now, and it’s thanks to Dana.
There are a few other people who made game-changing recommendations to me – Margaret loaned me Tam Lin by Pamela Dean and The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. Bret loaned me his copy of Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams.
I treasure all these people, and think of them every time I pick up one of those books. I hope everyone has a few of these book pushers in their friends’ circle.
If not, I have a list to send you.