A Fill-in-the-Blanks Template for Recommending Books
Something that happens when everyone realizes that you’re a bookworm is that you suddenly become the go-to person for book recommendations. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there’s nothing better than introducing a good friend to their new favorite book. But what happens when that friend isn’t sure about your recommendation? Or worse, what if that is the one friend who hated reading books in school and now is vehemently against reading of any sort? How can you convince them to actually take that leap of faith and read?
I’ve thought a lot about this, especially for those friends who need an extra push to read. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few prompts on how I can convince them to read a certain book.
I’m going to share a few fill-in-the-blanks templates for you, which I hope will help you spread the word about the amazingness that is books. They’re general and will rely on your own brand of storytelling to convince your friends. However, they’re a great starting point.
I first break down books by genre because that is of course the most clear form of classification. Most people find comfort in the genres they’ve read before because they (for the most part) know what to expect. In fact, your first question should always be something like:
• What’s your favorite genre?
• What’s the genre of your favorite book?
• Which genre do you read most often?
Literary fiction might not be the cup of tea for most readers. However, you’d be surprised how many people enjoy a literary fiction book if given the chance. These books though are the trickiest to recommend because they don’t always have a clear plot or character development. You can always start by saying something like “A key theme in this book is [THEME] and is explored by characters [MOTIVATIONS OF CHARACTERS].” If there is a plot of some sort, you can always say “This book is about [GENERAL PURPOSE], which you’ll see in action through the authors use of [COULD BE WRITING STYLE, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, E.T.C.].”
It’s heartening to see readers enjoying magical realism and fabulism now more than ever. But how to describe this sub-genre? It’s fiction with some fantastical elements embedded in the storyline that are accepted as normal. You can always start with the general plot: “The story follows [MAIN CHARACTER] who is trying to overcome [THEIR CONFLICT], which they attempt to do by [MAGICAL ELEMENT].” If the magical element isn’t there for conflict, it might be interesting to just lead with it, like saying, “The plot is about [INTERESTING COMPONENT OF PLOT], and the characters use/come across [MAGICAL ELEMENT], which is used to [ITS FUNCTION].”
Historical fiction is a great gateway for many readers. However, some might be intimidated by the length of some historical fiction books or lose interest if they aren’t aware of the historical event being explored. Try explaining it by leading with the historical event or time period in question: “The book is set in [SETTING], and you’ll be immersed in the [INTERESTING COMPONENT OF SETTING] and follow the characters as they [THEIR PURPOSE].” If the story is more character driven, then you can say, “The book is about [CHARACTER], who is a [WHO THEY ARE] and is trying to [THEIR PURPOSE] in [SETTING].”
I find contemporary books to be the easiest to recommend because they’re seen as “safe.” There’s no world building, historical setting, or cerebral elements. Instead, readers can enjoy a solid, fast-paced plot and interesting characters. You can simply tell a potential reader “The story has a great [POSITIVE ATTRIBUTE] and is about [GENERAL PLOT].” If the characters themselves are interesting, you can say, “The book’s plot revolves around [CHARACTER], who is [GENERAL DESCRIPTION] and is trying to [THEIR PURPOSE].”
Horror is more of a mood rather than a genre. I say this because before you recommend a horror story to a reader, be sure they’re in the mood for it. If they are, go ahead and lead with the horror and say something like “What really scared me about this book was [WHAT SCARED YOU].” I say keep it short and sweet so you can reel in the reader. You want them to go into the horror story having no idea what’s going to happen. If they demand more, you can tell them “I don’t want to give too much away, so you can be surprised, but I will say [GENERAL BUT INTERESTING PLOT POINT OR COOL TIDBIT ABOUT A CHARACTER].”
Out of all the genres, I have to say that fantasy is the easiest to recommend. It’s a diverse genre that can take readers into different worlds (i.e. high fantasy) or just incorporate fantasy elements into cityscapes (i.e. urban fantasy). For that reader who needs just a little nudge, I’d say try your best to enamor them with the magic. Tell them “Imagine a world with [SOMETHING FASCINATING ABOUT THE WORLD] in which [THE KEY MAGICAL ELEMENT], and the heroes need to [WHAT HEROES NEED TO OVERCOME].”
Most everyone has watched Star Wars or Star Trek, so space operas tend to be an easy pitch to a lot of readers. However, not all science fiction is space operas. For those books that require a little more explaining, try to lead with the science by saying, “Have you ever thought about what would happen if [MENTION THE SCIENCE BEING EXPLORED]? This book takes a look at that, and the characters [HOW CHARACTERS FIT IN].”
Some might scoff at romance, and I’ve had my fair share of friends who want “high-quality literature.” This always makes me chuckle because those same people always come back for something more light hearted, and romance is always the answer. Romance books are almost always character driven, so start by saying something like “[CHARACTER ONE] meets [CHARACTER TWO] by [WHERE AND HOW THEY MET] and [EXPLAIN THEIR CHEMISTRY].”
Mystery and Thriller
Like with horror, it’s best to keep the mystery or thriller recommendation…well…mysterious. You can set it up though by telling readers “[MAIN CHARACTER] is in [DESCRIBE THEIR SITUATION] AND [MENTION WHAT IGNITES THE MYSTERY] and now [MAIN CHARACTER] needs to discover [WHAT THE MYSTERY IS].”
A lot of readers find nonfiction to be dry, which couldn’t be further from the truth. As such, describing a nonfiction book should be as exciting as describing an exciting plot-driven book. When recommending a nonfiction book, be sure to set the scene and purpose by saying “[THE AUTHOR] will walk you through [THE SITUATION] by explaining how [MENTION AN INTERESTING TIDBIT]. You’ll learn so much about [FASCINATING THING THEY’LL LEARN].
Recommending books is an art. To read more on which books to recommend, check out our latest articles. You can also check out my Guide to Discovering New Authors.