Friday, July 30, 2010

Crossing social media streams: #fridayreads on Twitter

Last week,'s Laura Miller wrote a piece about the fine art of book recommendations which spurred some fascinating discussions in the book-blog-reading world.

Since the other regular feature I write for Salon is all about recommending books, people often ask me for tips. It's a ticklish question. In a review, I can expound at length, giving readers a pretty good sense of what I like so they can judge if my preferences align with their own. One-on-one, however, what really matters to me is what you like to read.

This rings true for anyone who's ever majored in English, worked in a bookstore, taken a job in publishing, or just consistently shown up at family gatherings armed with books (and yes, there are some people who are described by all four of these situations). How to tailor one's recommendations for the right person? And the horrible feeling of recommending a book you love--only to have the person not quite enjoy it.

Miller advocates something more personal and complicated than's familiar "customers who bought this item also bought" e-commerce algorithm, which skews so heavily towards the big bestsellers.

But on the opposite side, we've found ourselves really enjoying a book mention/recommendation that comes in 140 characters or fewer--the Twitter hashtag topic #fridayreads (if you're not a Twitter user, you can still view the Tweets by clicking here). In this case, brevity is the name of the game, and most Tweets are confined to just a title, sometimes an author, and a few words on why the person is enjoying the book, if that much. Started by Bethanne Patrick, also known as The Book Maven, this post on Know Thy Shelf has more of the history of this topic.

We're always pleasantly surprised to see our own titles come through on the #fridayreads feed (thanks, @reftechrob, for recommending Marathon!), but in general, watching it scroll by each Friday is a great window into what people are reading all over the world. Sometimes they are miniature recommendations, sometimes they're just a 140-character-or-less peek at a bookshelf or night-table.

So if you're not yet part of the #fridayreads community, jump in! Or leave your own current reading list in the comments. We're looking forward to seeing this topic continue to grow.

Either way, knowing that this many people are reading warms our bookish hearts.

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