My wife and I just closed on a house. After 14 years in one house, we upgraded to another one in the neighborhood. In the process of choosing lighting, paints, carpeting, flooring, and other cosmetic changes to the 70-year-old house, she decided to hire a decorating consultant.
My fear was this woman would be like Nancy Reagan’s astrologer, Jeanne Dixon, who would be consulted on every move the First Lady contemplated taking. I didn’t want us to feel crippled, as, if we couldn’t make a decision without her input or blessing, but I did recognize the need for a trained eye and a sounding board when it came to things I gave very little thought to.
She turned out to be helpful with ideas but it ended up clouding us with too many options and choices. In the end, I’m not sure that we followed much of what she said. But the idea is a good one and it made me think about having reading or book consultants.
What if someone spoke to you about your reading habits and preferences – and about your life, needs, desires, hobbies, abilities, and lifestyle – and came up with suggestions on books to read?
Think about it.
When you are younger teachers, librarians, and parents will suggest certain books to read. Many are classics or part of a recommended curriculum, but there was some guidance provided. Once you are out of school, you are on your own.
Some may look at reviews, others what’s on a bestseller list, and others just go by what a friend recommends. Many browse and stumble upon the books they read. But wouldn’t it be great to have a home decorator-type professional who can customize book picks for you?
The hardest thing about recommending anything – whether a paint color, clothing design, or a book – is it becomes a deeply personal thing. How can you avoid – as a consultant – injecting your own bias, preferences, and psychological flaws into whatever you offer another? How do you support the decisions of others when you’d never be caught dead making such choices for yourself?
On the other hand, there’s no one way to do anything. You can wear striped pants and a ripped t-shirt, and funny-looking glasses if you want to. You can paint your home exterior black or purple and you can read any book that you desire, no matter the genre or the quality of the book. So who’s to say what’s right or wrong or even better/worse than something else? Sometimes bucking trends may look ridiculous or have you feeling isolated but you may be onto something, sparking a new trend that someone can then buck in a few years.
A book consultant can be found in a good indie bookstore, library, or quality, book review outlet. You can be your best book consultant by researching, exploring, and experimenting. Read a wide variety of books – various genres from a variety of eras by a diverse group of authors. What you thought you wouldn’t like, you may end up loving, and what you think you want more of may just leave you feeling tired and bored.
My house may not make it into a magazine shoot for I’m sure we broke certain rules or patterns of decorating behavior, but it’ll be our very own canvas from which to keep painting. No expert can really tell me what I want unless I tell them.
Book consultants could be helpful to new readers and those who haven’t yet developed a permanent pattern that they want to oblige themselves to. But even the best-intentioned book consultant, like the home decorator, will need to allow the client or reader to make his or her own decisions.
Do you know what you’d like to read next? Don’t ask me!
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