Monday, August 13, 2018

How to Disagree About Books

Everyone talks about how books bring us together.  But sometimes I'm reminded that they can also separate us.

It's happened to all book lovers (I think).  Your friend discovers that you love to read.  They tell you a few of their favorite books.  You read one.  You think it's terrible.  How can you still be friends?

Or, you are part of a book club.  You feel confident that the book you just read is the best/worst.  You go to the meeting giddy with the anticipation of loving/trashing the book as a group.  You sit down.  Everyone around you begins hating/raving.  Should you find a new book club?

Or, a book you see all over bookstagram, the best-seller list, and Facebook makes you angry because you think the writing is poor, the plot thin, and the character development non-existent.  Can you share this on social media without being called a heretic?

Surprise: these little scenarios are from personal experience.  

In the early stages of our friendship, a very dear friend recommended a book that I could hardly stand.  She thought I would absolutely love it and checked in on my progress regularly.  I read the whole thing despite my aversion so that I could list specifically the things I didn't like about it.  But in a nice way.  I am happy to report that years later, we are still friends.  


Just this month I went to a book club meeting super excited to discuss a book I enjoyed.  As I sat down the other women were chatting about how annoying they found the writing, how they couldn't stand the characters, and how glad they were to be done with it.  I had to think on my feet about what I was going to say.  Should I defend it or succumb to peer pressure?  In the end, I did a little of both.  I heard their main critiques of the book and could see where they were coming from, but I did add in my two cents and explained why I enjoyed it.  Now, we are all looking forward to our September book and no one is leaving the book club.  Well, except for the teachers who can't meet during the day anymore.  😢

In January I read a book that was getting so much praise.  Everywhere I looked I saw it lauded as the next great thriller.  Before it was published, it was optioned for a movie.  It seemed like the whole world loved it.  But I didn't.  When I saw posts talking about how wonderful it was, I would begin to question my own views.  Being alone in your opinion really makes you think about your reasoning.  And, after much thought and self-reflection, I realized I needed a break from novels centered on unreliable women who drink waaaaaay more than anyone should.  

who am i and why don't i like this dumb book???

Disagreeing over books is the natural result of reading.  It shouldn't turn us away from books or each other.  There is an implicit understanding--there should be, anyway--that reading is subjective.  I like what I like.  You like what you like.  Our reading tastes are dictated by life experiences and what we've read lately.  AND THAT IS OK.

wise advice, genie.

We often look to others to confirm what we believe, but reading is unique because this is not necessary.  One of my favorite people to talk to about books has very different taste than me.  
We avoided talking about books intentionally.  Now, we've learned that it's ok to tell your friend about a book you read without the hint of a recommendation.  "This is just a book I love and I'm so happy to tell you about it,"  not "This is a book I love and you must read it and love it too."  

Liking/disliking a book that everyone else hates/loves can be a lonely place and that is part of why I love goodreads.  When I'm wondering if I'm the only person who hated that bestseller, I can click on the title and filter the ratings to see if there are at least a few other people who felt the same way as me (in the case of my January book 5,064 other people rated it like me, hallelujah I'm not alone).  Seeing that makes me more likely to share my opinion with a little more confidence.  

How about you?  Have you ever been in an awkward situation because of a book?  

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