I’ve noticed a trend in books that I love: they also love each other.
When I first read Anne of Green Gables, I was intrigued by the part where Anne gets caught reading Ben-Hur when she is supposed to be doing her history lessons. First of all, I share a great deal with my partial namesake. Like Anne, I was an expert at looking like I was studying when I was actually reading novels. (A deep apology to all of my math teachers.)
Now, I’m reading Ben-Hur. I’m sure I would relish this tale on its own, but the fact that one of my favorite books recommended it has enhanced my enjoyment. Although Anne of Green Gables is a great book in its own right, it is made even better by referencing and respecting the books that influenced it.
Like confident people, great books are unafraid to reference other great books. Further, I am continually convinced that it is the duty of good books to recommend great books. In my novel—stashed away while I work feverishly on a nonfiction book—I do my best to reference and praise great works of art and literature. My novel has a good story, but it would never thrive as an island. It needs the community and support of greater stories.
This realization has also helped me understand why I can’t stand certain books: they try too hard to exist independently. They attempt to stand alone as great books when they would have done better to reference great books and accept their fate as good books.
P.S. Mark Twain hated Anne of Green Gables and I can’t stand Mark Twain. Coincidence? (Seriously, I tried to read Huckleberry Finn and not only was it hugely offensive, it was painfully dull.)