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Sunday, 9 November 2014

Bilbo and Book Recommendations

Book recommendations are like pieces of advice - it's so satisfying to have exactly the right one to dispense to a person in need. There's approximately the same risk involved, too. Dislike the book I recommended and you might start to wonder about my reading tastes, and therefore, me as a person. Give bad advice, and, well... we all know how that ends. The reverse is also true. My friend, Angela became my friend because of books. She came into my house when we first met, saw my bookshelves, and said, "Oh, I know you."

It's true. I've been known to judge people by the books they like. I have an instant kinship, for example, with anyone who loves Ender's Game, Outlander, The Name of the Wind, Ship of Magic, and The Code Book. 

I know I can laugh and drink wine with friends who loved Neanderthal Seeks Human and any of the Charley Davidson series. And there are knowing nods and winks to be shared with readers of The Fever Series, The Elemental Mysteries, The Psy/Changling books, and the Shifter series by Patricia Briggs.

Then, of course, for the YA readers, it's all trilogies, with first books including: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Hunger Games, Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Thief, and City of Bones. The Graveyard Book stands in a category by itself, but so does everything else by Neil Gaiman.

And then there are the authors. Until I became one, authors were mystical, magical people who had access to impossible imaginations. Now, through the beautiful solidarity of writers, I actually know some, and through blogs, charities, and social media, have access to the everyday thoughts of others. Penny Reid is among the most generous and lovely of all writers I know, and the characters she creates would be my best friends if, you know, they were actual people. Patrick Rothfuss is a legend, a humanitarian, a giant geek, and so wryly funny in his blog postings it makes my son perk up as I'm laughing out loud, to declare, "Must be Patrick Rothfuss." And Neil Gaiman, like his books, is a category of human unto himself. Passionate, prolific, extraordinary, and a true gentleman. His advice tends toward fearless creativity, and his advocacy for childhood reading and libraries is inspiring.

Books and their authors, like the best advice-givers, also have a way of dispensing their truths in subtle and very effective ways. Ways that allow their readers to feel like they divined the truths for themselves through the characters and their stories.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” 
― Neil GaimanCoraline

“We see the strengths and faults in others that we do not or cannot recognize in ourselves.” 
― Penny ReidNeanderthal Seeks Human: A Smart Romance

“ The truth is that the world is full of dragons, and none of us are as powerful or cool as we’d like to be. And that sucks. But when you’re confronted with that fact, you can either crawl into a hole and quit, or you can get out there, take off your shoes, and Bilbo it up. “ — Patrick Rothfuss

I love the phrase, "Bilbo it up." It is such a part of our culture that a person doesn't even have to have read (or seen) The Hobbit to understand it. We instinctively know it means to pull ourselves up out of our cozy, comfortable lives, and just do whatever it is that confronts us.

The characters in my favorite books are always Bilboing it up. And just like my reading recommendations, it's the advice I most often give when someone asks, "How did you become an author?"

I read everything I could get my hands on, took off my shoes, and Bilbo'd it up.