We have strong feelings about book recommendations here, as you might have noticed. We believe in them the way some people (I'm not naming names) believe in magic. They seem to us a sort of higher calling. There is nothing so satisfying as finding a book for someone that they really love. I had the honor of having shoved into a friend's hands The Golden Compass, and I still (three years later!) find it gratifying.
Ah, but, but, but. BUT: it's like the problem with love. Sometimes, you get it wrong. And worse? Sometimes, you can't get the right one.
Case in point: my mom. She read, and loved, She's Come Undone. And I do mean loved. It satisfied something in her, a hunger for a particular story. And she wants to read another book like it. The problem? Well, we all know the problem. His other books? They're not so much like that. In fact, nothing is quite like that, and what she's looking for—well, it's to have that wonderful reading experience again.
I am sure we all have books like this. And sometimes it even goes beyond specific books. It's the combination of the book, and where you are in your life, and the particular circumstances. Sometimes Agatha Christie read on a beach with a beer at sunset—it can't be improved upon. It reminds me of that M.F.K. Fisher essay, The Pale Yellow Glove, about perfect meals. Their ephemeral radiance (though heaven knows she wouldn't say that, but that's how I think of it: the old woman with the clear cup of Jasmine tea in the woods, the perfect meal).
There was a request a while back, from two girls who were in love with Katie Woo. They loved her so much, what else could they read that was like Katie Woo? We came up with some suggestions, but I heard the followup from the source: nothing was as good as Katie Woo. They were haunting the desk of the library who wrote in, like tiny insatiable wraiths. Always disappointed.
What to do about this situation? Revel in the excellence of those perfect reading moments? Continue ever onwards in the quest for more and better? Accept life as it is? (I never want to do that last one, fyi.)
Did you have a book or reading moment that's ruined you for everything else? I bet you do.