Are questions of the form "I really liked X series. Could you recommend me some similar works?" allowed?

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    A down-vote without comment... great. I am of course trying to promote a discussion about what kind of questions are on and off-topic. In the gaming SE site, "recommend me" questions are explicitly not allowed. I was trying to promote discussion about whether or not such questions are appropriate for this site, as there are no such guidelines currently in place. Nor are there previous questions on this topic.
    – Nellius
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 10:11
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    @Nellius: It has long been established that a down-vote in meta simply means that someone does not agree with your proposal (in this case, saying "no, not allowed"). It does not mean you asked a bad question. We explicitly removed the reputation awards from meta discussion, precisely so people would feel free to vote on the merit of a suggestion (yes or no). Don't take it personally. Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 3:16
  • In my quest to find my answer to this question, I asked this (other) question on meta.stackoverflow meta.stackexchange.com/questions/75521/…
    – DavRob60
    Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 18:18
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    So, are they allowed? I just ran across two that were closed. One asking for humours SF writers, while another asking for writers similar to Pratchett. Weird. Commented Feb 12, 2011 at 18:29
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    We're now discussing this and all on-topic questions in What questions are on-topic, and what questions are off-topic?
    – user366
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 20:07
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    The responses and votes on this page are out of date, please see the page Mark Trapp mentions for the most recent views on recommendations questions. Which is that the community has voted them off-topic. Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 16:06

9 Answers 9


Actually, there are guidelines: the site definition questions. And based on the votes there, I'd say that recommendations are on topic here.

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    I'm puzzled that you seem to like recommendations better than list questions. I find recommendations far more open-ended and subjective than lists.
    – user56
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 20:06
  • @Gilles @Dori So, then, are we allowing recommendation questions? There still seems to be quite a bit of confusion about them. Certainly if one person answers with a list of recommendations, that's great; but I've seen only a day or two ago one of these recommendations turned into a CW. I would certainly like to see a definitive answer, and I don't think I see one yet...
    – morganpdx
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 19:43

Should definitely be allowed. It's very common for people to enjoy a relatively exotic sub-genre of sci-fi and having a hard time finding similar novels. The niche aspect of some sub-genre makes word of mouth the best way to discover new gems.


I am quite confused by the current situation. Unless I am misunderstanding, essentially everyone that has answered/voted on this question is in favour of allowing these questions. However, this is being applied fairly inconsistently at the moment. For example:

Perhaps I should ask this as a separate meta question, but what can we do about this? It seems like the closing does not match the meta discussion, which in turns makes meta seem a bit pointless.


Quite frankly, I use a very large number of the questions as the "recommend-me" questions to some extent.

For example, in https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/130/what-are-the-most-common-ways-of-communication-between-humans-and-aliens besides satisfying my curiosity also gave me a list of interesting books to read.

As another example, https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/7/has-any-science-fiction-work-accurately-predicted-the-emergence-of-future-technol is probably the best question I've seen on this site (just my humble opinion). And, surprise surprise, it contains a nice list of interesting works, each one implicitly being a recommendation.

This site is a great place for science fiction enthusiasts to recommend things to each other, and to be completely honest, I don't see a problem with that!


Here's a question... How to mark these as answered, when there are multiple good answers. Unless I don't have a permission yet or something, only one answer can be marked as the answer.

  • That's the problem with an open-ended question.
    – Slick23
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 1:53
  • Is that a "there isn't" then? Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 3:52

I think all "recommend me X similar to Y" questions should be rephrased as "List of good/famous X similar to Y" and opened as community wikis


I think we should treat recommendation questions like we treat questions: they are acceptable, but held to high standards, and we make this as clear as possible to users. It seems clear from the other answers here that nearly everyone can see the high value in these questions.

A broad recommendation question ("What's your favourite epic fantasy series?", "I just read Ender's Game, now what should I read?") is not acceptable.

A specific recommendation question is acceptable.

  • The question explains why the criteria have been chosen. "Books like Asmiov's Robot Series" is too vague. "Books where the moral and ethical implications of human/AI interaction are explored, like in Asimov's Robot Series" is better.
  • The question doesn't ask just for a title, it asks why. Good answers explain why this is a particularly good match for the recommendation criteria. This results in detailed, interesting, answers, not single-sentence type answers.
  • The question asks for answers that draw on personal experience, but are impartial. Good answers explain why the recommended work using their experience with it as an example, without assuming that everyone shares their viewpoint.
  • The question may ask for references. For example, good choices for recommendations may have won awards (not just a Hugo/Nebula, but perhaps some lesser-known award), or may have been recommended by someone with significant reputation in the field in question.

How do we draw the line between broad and specific? We don't - we note (in the FAQ, in the wiki) that specificity is a requirement, and then we vote as we each see fit - if it's poorly asked (in your opinion) downvote, if it's too broad (in your opinion) close vote, and if it's great (IYO) upvote.

To use StackOverflow as an example (since it's the eldest site): "what's your favourite programmer's cartoon" is not ok, "I need to do full-text queries using a SQL-like interface with 4-10GB of data, sub-2-second queries, and real-time indexing. What's the best tool to use?" is ok. (The first of these is certainly not acceptable on SO or even programmers.se; I'm pretty certain the second would be fine).

Community wiki in case anyone would like to improve this.


Next time someone asks for a scifi or fantasy recommendation point them to this wonderful chart


They're a sickness and serve no good other than making themselves into polls with chunky text and letting people high five each other.

Rephrase them all you want, the pointlessness is still the same. And they're lists, let's not delude ourselves from that fact.

Not knowing what book to read or film to watch next doesn't validate the question, nor this site.

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