The Hive Mind of Book Recommendations

We’re in the final three weeks of the semester now, which means my mind has turned toward final assignments, and of course, final grades. Like a lot of schools, mine encourages teachers to write mid- and end-of-term comments, but let’s be honest: those end-of-term comments are hard, especially for graduating seniors. There’s typically little more to say than an Edward R. Murrow-style “Good night, and good luck.” Such gestures always strike me as pat and hollow.

I hate that, because if there’s one thing I’m good at in my teaching, it’s developing a rapport with my students. By the end of a semester, I want them to know I’ve been actively thinking about who they are and what makes them stand out in my mind. I want them to know they matter to me as an individual, enough to warrant some words meant just and only for them.

But still. End of semester, man. My drawer’s out of spoons.

So, to avoid mouthing platitudes at kids who deserve better, I’ve turned to ending Speculative Fiction Studies with a comment in the form of a science fiction or fantasy book recommendation. The rules are simple: I have to be able to articulate why I believe this particular student would like this book, and I’m not allowed to give any repeat recommendations.

One year, I had to write ninety of these.

This year will be easier, with just forty-five in total. And yes, I read a lot of sf, but I’m a big believer in the power of the sf fandom hive mind.

That’s where you come in.

In the comments section below, pitch me a science fiction, fantasy, or other speculative book you’ve read and loved and would happily recommend to another reader (particularly, perhaps, a precocious teenager). What jumped out to you about this book? Is there a particular type of reader it would appeal to?  Does it remind you of anything else you’ve read, fit into any genre sweet spots of yours?

Who knows — you may help me find, or remember, just the right fit for a student who’s a little hard to peg, or whose reading interests are very different from my own. And even if you don’t, we’ll get into a good discussion here.


3 Responses to “The Hive Mind of Book Recommendations”

  1. Julie S. K.

    The Riddle-Master Trilogy has:
    *marvelous accounts of what it would be like to turn into a crow or tree.
    *one of the mc’s is the second-most beautiful woman in the country, whose father promised her in marriage to the winner of a riddling contest–and these turn out to be the least interesting things about her.
    *other mc spends one volume as a pacifist, one bent on bloody revenge, and a third figuring out what can possibly come after that.
    *people in robes in libraries. I will always be a sucker for that.

    • Tracy Townsend

      Julie, I think you just added something to my TBR pile! Thanks!

      • Julie S. K.

        It’s SO GOOD. But I think an entire generation missed it because they had it in misleading paperback cover art for the eighties and nineties. I still remember my college roommate looking at it and saying “I could never read THAT.” They have all 3 volumes wrapped up in a nice paper cover with a tree now.


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