Upon earning my degree and exiting the padded cell of life that is college, I was faced with the overwhelming fear that I wouldn’t know how to pursue knowledge beyond the realm of higher education. Unfortunately, I am the kind of personality to panic over not having something to read. Never trust a person who hasn’t brought a book with them, right? Hear me out though: I studied English literature. On average, I bought 15-20 books per term, took on many simultaneously and finished them over the course of 12 short weeks. I always had something to read.
Even if I hadn’t studied literature, I would have still considered myself an avid reader, but the thing about being a mass consumer of books while studying literature is that 98% of the books I read in the last four years were all chosen for me. I didn’t have to think about anything. This is what you’re reading. No exceptions.
For the most part, I didn’t mind this so much. Up to this point, I was trying to turn away from the young adult literature that filled the shelves of my formative teen years. Being forced to read Ernest Hemingway or Jane Austen was a massive step up and actually really good for me. No more kid stuff for me. I am an adult and I should be reading like one, I thought, pounding with gusto my fist on the nearest flat surface.
However, being released to the general public, theoretically, a fully functioning individual meant possessing an unparalleled amount of freedom to forge my own literary path. The only problem: I didn’t know where to start. I could search dejectedly for hours among the glossy book covers. They all tried to pull me into reading their ridiculous plotlines – all just cheap knockoffs of stories I’d already read. They weren’t the real deal, and when I did stumble upon something that looked even remotely interesting, I was afraid of being Jedi-mind-tricked into thinking these were not the droids I was looking for. It was all just a bit too much.
The solution: Instead of wandering the library stacks to no avail in search of something new and noteworthy, I reached out to other like-minded, former literary students. Unlike me, they had found some books they liked and others they didn’t in their time away from college. Before I knew it, I had pages of titles that all came gift wrapped with glowing recommendations from people I knew well and trusted to give me things to suit my taste. I am currently juggling an adaptation of the world’s mythologies, a memoir, and a supernatural whodunnit.
The point is, you don’t have to be an expert on marketing to know that referrals matter, whether you’re looking for a new book or a new dentist. In all facets of life, we trust our friends to take the hassle out of dealing with unnecessarily stressful things. We rely on the people who tested the waters first, blazed the trail before us, and returned to report their findings.