Reflections on Recommendations and Interests

Last weekend, I received a book recommendation for ‘Lone Wolf’ by Jodi Picoult. As the plot was explained to me, it sounded intriguing and since I’ve been on a bad reading slump this month (I have yet to read a single book from start to finish after reading 17 in February), I decided that it would be a good time to give this one a shot. I’m probably about 60% of the way through the book and am glad I decided to listen to it.
I will have a lot to say about ‘Lone Wolf’ after I have finished reading it. I will say that it is highly likely that I will write a review of the book. But what I will say now is that for better or worse the book has definitely got me thinking.


One question I got to pondering was rather unexpected because it is really not related to the book at all. It is more related to the book recommendation. So since the question popped into my head and since I needed a topic for today anyway, I thought I would lay it out here.


First a note of clarification. This is not a question I have actually been asked. It is not a question I have asked anyone else. Neither is this a question that I expect to have to really confront in the near future. It is purely a “what if” scenario.


Suppose that you were talking to someone and an interest of yours came up in conversation. Suppose that the person with whom you were speaking had little or know knowledge of whatever it was that interested you. And then suppose that they asked you this question or something similar.

If you had one and only one chance to make me understand why it is that you like this show much what would you show me?

I realize that question sounds a little weird put in that way. So I will use a real world interest of mine.

If you had one and only one chance to make me understand why you like pro wrestling so much what would you show me?

Anyone who has read this blog of mine for any length of time can probably think of other things I could put in that question. Football, Star Wars Audiobooks, Weird Al and so on.


I am going to freely admit that the question really isn’t fair. All of the elements that make me like pro wrestling so much are not necessarily going to be found in a single match or storyline. I would say that this is a lot like music in a sense. If I could only play a person one song to try and demonstrate to them why I like a particular band or artist it would be difficult since that kind of appreciation is usually built over long periods of time. But the fact that the question is unfair to begin with is one of the reasons that I find it such a fascinating one to consider.


I think the best way to come up with an answer to that question would be to first ask yourself what point you were going to try and make. What would be your objective? If someone asked me about pro wrestling would I want to:

*Show them something to try and explain why it appeals to me

or

*Show them something that I feel would serve as a good example of why it might appeal to them

There is a difference between those two points and it is not a minor one. In the first, I am showing a side of my personality. In the second I am trying to appeal to a side of their personality.
For example, if the person who posed that question to me were someone who liked to take a lot of risks, I might want to consider showing them a wrestling match with some pretty insane risk taking like Mick Foley in Hell in a Cell. If they were someone who liked obsurdist humor or funny bloopers, I might want to show them this:



Okay, I probably would not show them that if I only had one shot but it is one of the funniest damn things ever and I thought I’d break up all this fun talking with a video.


Admittedly, I tend to overthink things most of the time. I’m really bad at interpreting signals, finding hidden meanings and can analyze to death things that really meant nothing. So for most people, how they would handl something like this would be obvious.

They would just go for what they think is the best representation of the interest in question. The best book, best performance, best recipe, best song, best game or what have you. Of course if you pick what you consider the absolute best and tell them that is why you picked whatever it is you’re discussing you then have a problem. If it falls flat in their eyes you can’t really try and convince them to give you a second chance by claiming that something better is out there. If that were true, then why did you say the first sample was the very best?


After considering this question for a few hours I think this is what I have resolved. If I were asked this question I would try to demonstrate why it might appeal to them more than why it appeals to me. I would not do so with the hope that I would be able to convince them to share in my interest to a greater degree in the future. As I have said before, I do not need the people in my life to have all of the same interests that I do. My best friend doesn’t really like sports and I’m a Star Trek agnostic and yet we’re still friends because even though we don’t like all of the same things we do have a lot that are common between us. Besides, if I only associated myself with people who like the same music, movie genres, authors, foods, sports, travel destinations and TV shows that I did how would I make new discoveries? Also, I feel like it would make me pretty lonely.
But I would rather show a person why something could theoretically appeal to them instead of why it appeals to me. I think that it would show them that I was trying to relate it to them and to who they are and show them that I am trying to understand them just as much as they are trying to understand me by asking that question in the first place.


In yet another possible follow-up question, it might be worth considering what makes us listen to another person’s recommendation. I have a friend who only reads books or watches movies recommended to them by other people, they find nothing new for themselves. They say that they don’t have time to find things on their own and that it is just easier for them to work exclusively with things that come recommended by others. Hearing that explanation makes my head hurt as there are so many things I personally enjoy that I discovered on my own.

So why did I decide to read ‘Lone Wolf’ before I read something that had been in my library for a very long time that also looked interesting? Why did I decide to read ‘Lone Wolf’ ahead of another book recommended by someone else? Those are pretty interesting questions and maybe they’ll be answered here at another time. Or maybe they’ll only get answered if I’m asked directly.


So what the hell is my point for writing out all of this? I’m honestly not sure. Perhaps it is as simple as writing it down may keep me from thinking about this as I march towards the end of this book. Perhaps it is because I couldn’t think of anything else to post today and since this was on my mind already it was my best shot. It is even possible that I posted this to show you how my mind works and that I am the only one who could ever consider such a question in the first place. I said it was possible not that it was likely.
I certainly didn’t have a goal. I don’t know if this will make you, the reader, think or if you’ll just move on to the next Youtube video or Facebook post in your daily Internet travels. I don’t even know why this is so long because as I have been writing this I have not been listening to my book and I want to get back to that.


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