Here is one of the things upon which I am spending my energy, bland assignments for classes that I don't want to take, but which the Utah State Office of Education wants me to take because of Mr. Bush's No Child Left Behind fiasco:
Inasmuch that books are a great method for exploration, understanding, recreation, learning and teaching, choosing a good book is a handy talent to cultivate. It can become a bit of a job, since one must understand to some extent the author’s background, the content and style of the book, the person the book is for, the taste of the person reading, and most of all, the purpose the book will serve.
Books are the brainchildren of the author who writes them; if one knows something about them and their background, one will to some extent understand their books. My favorite books are written by authors with whom I feel some affinity or connection, and whose lives I can understand and empathize with.
Ed Abbey was a man whose writing I love, as was Ellen Meloy's. T.S Eliot is a favorite of mine, and I count anything by Orson Scott Card as a good book, too. Each of these authors’ lives and opinions have something to do with my own, and even if they each diverge quite radically at times, the passion with which they write about things that matter to me keeps me exploring their writings.
Most authors have within their reach different styles and perspectives, so being acquainted with the author of a book is only part of choosing a good book. I have heard more than a few authors describe their chose profession as a sort of prostitution, a whoring of their talent to the purposes of description and what the public might want. Authors sometimes write things that don’t reflect their own views or ideals.
Besides, even though one might think or hope that he knows his favorite authors, one can never hope to know another’s personality completely. Authors are generally people who plumb the depths of their own souls, and often those depths get transcribed onto paper through stories. It’s best to peruse a book a little bit, to get to know the individual book’s personality, before choosing even a familiar author’s work to read.
Sometimes one might choose a book for another person or group. In that case, one needs to understand the personality of that individual or the group collectively. Although not as easy as if choosing for one’s self, all one needs to do is gauge the reading ability of the person or people, and understand their interests to some extent and their tastes in previous readings. Each person is different, but the human condition and desires are indeed universal with minor adjustments for ideals and personality, and that is the beauty of books. Each is slightly different according to a person’s personality.
Finally, when choosing a book, it’s important to know what purpose the book will serve. While all of the previous information will help to find a good book for a person or even a group, one must keep in mind the reason the book is being looked for, whether for recreation, information, assignment, or a combination of all of these.
If for recreation, a good book is found using all of the previous information and a healthy dose of present mood. The moment needs to take precedent in these situations. For an assignment or to find information, the subject matter is king. Sometimes a good book just has what one needs to get the job done in the quickest time possible. One needs to keep in mind the reason for which one will be reading.
After all, reading only serves to expand the experience of the self beyond the firsthand. That’s why we need to know what we’re after, a good book will do the trick every time.
That was almost as much fun to read as it was to write! Hoo boy.