The recommendation came confidently, from a source who claimed to know my reading habits well.
It wasn’t my mother. Or my best friend. Instead, I was trusting my literary lineup to a computer.
All in the name of research, of course.
The Web site: The Book Seer, a database that requires you only to submit the name and author of a book you recently read.
Endure a brief pause, and then you’ll get recommendations from three popular online book sources: Amazon, LibraryThing and BookArmy.
It’s not a new concept.
Individual online retailers like Amazon often accompany a user’s selected items with a “you might also like” list that spans books from similar genres.
But The Book Seer, which I learned about through women’s Web site TresSugar, is unique in its ability to compile reading suggestions from multiple sources.
The lists are quick and handy, at times spanning dozens of selections.
They also offer a diversity of suggestions that you likely won’t get from asking one friend a generic question: “Read anything good lately?”
Still, despite its convenience, The Book Seer begs a simple question:
Are we willing to put our reading lists in a computer’s hands?
When I experimented with The Book Seer, many recommendations were on par.
I entered one of my favorite recent reads, Audrey Niffenegger’s “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” and got some of my other top picks: Jeffrey Eugenides’ “Middlesex” and Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” among others.
There were glitches, however.
Upon submitting Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” one of the search engines assumed I entered the recent mashup phenomenon “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”
So instead of Regency era novels, I got suggestions like “How to Survive a Horror Movie” and “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.”
The system isn’t flawless. At times, you’ll enter your book of choice and one or more of the sources will say “nothing.”
The Book Seer makes it clear that it’s not out to abolish the human interactions that often enhance the reading process. Below the online recommendations, it notes, “Of course, you could go ask your local bookshop or your local library.”
And that’s good, because I can’t imagine sculpting my future reading lists without the awkwardness of deciding whether to honor a friend’s recommendation.
The Book Seer serves a purpose, but a central part of reading is the community that comes with exchanging picks, debating preferences and accommodating different tastes.
Not even the most refined search engine can achieve those goals — yet.
Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at 706-571-8516.