|Photo: faungg via CC license|
A few weeks ago, my husband asked me the most wonderful, surprising, and romantic question ever. It was not "Will you marry me" - it was even better because it was about books.
I've always been a bibliophile. When I was young, I'd go to the library with my mom every Saturday morning and bring home a stack of books two feet high. Then I'd curl up in a big easy chair with a blanket and some snacks and spend the next two days reading.
In university, I applied for a job at a bookstore. The manager listened to me rave about my book collection and my desire to help other people find books they love, then he hired me on the spot.
A few years later, I got married. My husband had many great qualities, but he was not a reader. To him, reading was a chore and books were almost universally dull. By this point in my life, I was a fully-fledged librarian, so obviously I had to fix him.
I began occasionally bringing books home that I thought he'd enjoy. One of them was Swim the Fly, which made me laugh so hard I cried. I looked for anything that was fast-paced and interesting: quick, fun reads.
Like a moustache-twirling villain, I searched for my husband's weak spot while pretending disinterest. Nonfiction was good, but the subject matter was key - I needed to be able to sell it in a single sentence. I'd bring home a beautiful photographic volume and casually drop it on the counter, saying, "I found this book about underground cities at work today." Then I'd watch out of the corner of my eye as he lifted his head and eyed it from across the room.
This project went on for ten years, but the amount of effort I put into it dwindled after we had kids. Then one day, he said, "I finished my book and I have nothing to read. I need you to get me some more books." WHAT. My head snapped up and my nostrils flared, like a lion scenting a limping zebra.
I no longer worked at the library, but I started to make more regular trips to grab books for him. Is this book about a paramilitary spy? A skydiving firefighter? A sports hero with a checkered past? GIVE IT TO ME.
Then, finally, it happened. He asked me The Question, AKA The Best Words He Has Ever Said to Me. I was crawling around the floor at home, picking up toys. He came up behind me and said, OH-SO-CASUALLY, "Hey, is there an app or something I can use to track which books I've read?"
I froze, my hand inches away from a wooden cookie. The world as I knew it ground to a halt. The implications of his question flew through my mind: he is reading so many books, he is losing track of what he's read. He wants to expend effort on reading and tracking his reading. He wants to dedicate storage space on his phone to it.
I sensed that he was growing uncomfortable with the lengthening silence between us. A strangled gasp escaped me as I stood and whirled to face him, my hands at my throat, tears shining in my eyes. "Yes," I exclaimed, "there IS!" I began to babble as I grew louder and more excited. "It's called Goodreads, and you can follow me and see what I'm reading too, and you can rate your books and it will tell you if an author you like has a new book out!!"
He was standing very still, his face carefully neutral, hands slightly raised with his palms toward me. As if he were facing a lunatic or a rabid dog. I made a conscious effort to reel in my enthusiasm, but I couldn't help myself. My love of books and my love of HIM FINALLY WERE ONE. VICTORY!!! I threw my arms around him and sobbed, "You're a reader now!" I did manage to restrain myself from chanting, "One of us, one of us!"
It was the most satisfying moment of my librarian-life. If you have a bibliophile friend and you want to make their day, ask them for book recommendations. For real. NOTHING will make them happier.
You can also use the Penguin Hotline, which is staffed by professional book nerds who would really really really love it if you asked them for book recommendations. Use the web form to tell them about you (or the person you are shopping for), and they will give you a list of books.
The Hotline is run by Penguin / Random House, but they are recommending books from all publishers. Because like me, all they want is for everyone to read and buy books and also talk to them about books.
What's the best book that's ever been recommended to you?
Full disclosure: I have not been compensated in any way for this post. Penguin asked me to write about the Hotline, and I really wanted to brag about this.