how to decode a book rec (even mine)

by Jackie Ferrari in #AmReading

a few dirty little secrets of author life plus 4 fun holiday rom-com reads

Tl; DR: Make sure your bookstagrammer has read the book! Scroll down for this week’s recs.

Some time ago—long enough now that I don’t feel any worries about anyone wandering through the way-back machine and thinking I’ve dissed them—I wrote a list of books for a thing that was not this email. (Note: I have written MANY such lists over the years.) Because I felt that it needed to be a very current list, I included a book that I had not yet read. More than one. Oh, who are we kidding, I’ve done this more than once. With books that sounded good. Books by authors whose earlier books I liked. Books by people I know.

Subsequently I read the book (books, fine, this has happened more than once) and found myself disappointed to have been in the position of recommending it, because as it turned out, the book was not for me.

As I say, it’s happened more than once and will likely happen again (although NEVER here, I will always tell you fully and completely in this email if I’ve started or finished a book or if it’s just on my #tbr). As a sort of a mea culpa I’m going to offer you this PSA regarding authors and book recs: Read carefully to make sure the person who appears to be recommending the book has actually READ it. We’re writers, not just readers, after all, and this is our community, so it’s going to happen once in a while that we want to help another writer share their work before we’ve read it. Or even after we’ve read it and not been wowed, or read the back cover and concluded that it’s not our cuppa.

That doesn’t even have to mean bad things. For example, Jane Rosen and I were once messaging about her next book. I’d loved A Shoe Story and I was, I told her, really looking forward to On Fire Island. But I also had my next cancer scans on the horizon (I’m totally healthy at the moment, this is just for context). “I’m so excited,” I said. “As long as it’s not about someone whose cancer comes back and is going to kill them, I’m in.”

HAHAHAHA. It’s not exactly about that. It’s about the summer after the protagonist… dies. From cancer. Do NOT read this book, she told me. But let me tell you, a lot of people LOVE that book, even if it was 100% solidly not for me in that moment. But that didn’t mean I didn’t want to be sure that anyone who it was for knew about it! So on pub day, I posted. I congratulated, I shared flap copy and cover images. And if I were making a list of teary summer reads you can bet it would be on there.

So there are some of your clues. We authors—when we’re posting as authors—support each other. We share pub dates and cover reveals and great blurbs or reviews. We make lists of books because in our mind, it’s ALWAYS good when someone buys a book! We would like you to know about every possible book that might interest you at all times.

But as readers… sometimes that’s different. So when you’re seeing a book all over the place and wondering if it’s for you, here are my suggestions. Look for bookstagrammers whose taste you agree with and see if they’ve read it. If that bookstagrammer is also an author, maybe look a little more closely. If they’re not telling you what they thought, but instead what the book is about… they’re not recommending the book. They’re recommending you consider the book.

Is that fair? Maybe not. I know I’m shooting myself in the foot here—but I try to be incredibly clear. If I tell you I loved a book, I loved that book. If I am dancing around and waving that book at you and telling you you HAVE TO READ THIS, (I’m looking at you, Starter Villain), then I adored that book. But if I’m putting it on a list of “fun holiday reads on my December #tbr,” that’s exactly what that is. It might be awful. (OMG did I immediately dump two holiday-themed rom-coms recently… there’s a particular selfish-protagonist-learns-meaning-of-holiday/A Christmas Carol theme that I wholeheartedly dislike for some reason.)

I get a lot of my books for free, so I can sample a lot of awful—and because I wear both the writer and reader hats, it’s pretty rare for me to tell you I didn’t like a book, although I’ll sometimes tell you why something is not-for-me.

So consider this a warning! Meanwhile, in the vein of Christmas-themed books I DID like, consider In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (the one and only Groundhog Day style book I have ever liked), A Season for Second Chances from Jenny Bayliss (I have her newest, A December to Remember, right here but I have not read it yet.), Duke, Actually by the well-named Jenny Holiday or Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory (which features a wonderful older heroine who has been described as being based on Meghan Markle’s mom).

Any holiday books you’ve read and loved yet this year?

P.S. If you haven’t read Playing the Witch Card yet, trust me that witchy vibes stay fun all through these dark months! Or try The Chicken Sisters (which is still my most beloved-by-readers book) or In Her Boots.

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