Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It’s Not You, It’s Me (Okay, It’s Mostly You)

So the other day, I picked up a book beloved and lauded by many on the interwebs as being the next best thing since egg salad on whole wheat (Yum!).  After five pages in I set the book aside and went to get a snack.  After twenty pages I opted to watch the People’s Court I’d DVR’d instead.  By page fifty I decided to move on to something else, since it was either that or rip the book apart because the characters were so frustrating and unlikeable.
And then the guilt set in.
There is something very difficult about hating a book that everyone else loves.  It’s a little like telling a room full of vegetarians that you really love bacon.  You find your self hemming and hawing, and when friends press you about whether you liked a book or not you shrug, give a half smile, and murmur “It was okay.”
WHY?!?  Why are we so afraid to say “I hated that book with the burning fury of a thousand suns going supernova?”  Instead, we demure and make excuses, and pretend to be glad when a friend gives us the next book in the series for our birthday. Yay.
Look, it’s okay to not like books.  Just like egg salad on whole wheat, not everyone is going to like every book.  It’s not your fault or the book’s fault (okay, sometimes it’s the book’s fault, but that’s a subject for a different post).  If you didn’t like egg salad you would say, “Ah, no thanks, I don’t really care for it.”  We should be able to express our dislike of books the same way, without being afraid to express our opinion but also not becoming that loud mouth jerk that slams the book, either.  Surely there has to be some happy medium.
So feel free to tell me you don’t like egg salad on wheat, just do it with some tact.  It’s cool.  More for me.


ari_1965 said...

Once at book club, after a glass and a half of wine, I blurted out that as a child I had found the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder boring and preachy. Talk about "You could have heard a pin drop." But why sit there and pretend that I liked them when I didn't. It's not good for the digestion.

Some people seem to believe that if you don't like something they like that it means you are criticizing them or their taste. I think that's silly. There's very little more subjective than one's reaction to a book. If when you remember Little House in the Big Woods you get misty eyed and want to clutch your childhood copy to your bosom and look heavenward, go for it. If, on the other hand, the recollections of Ma, Pa, and all those sunbonnets make me want to yawn, so be it.

Miranda Kenneally said...

Great post! I often wonder what's wrong with me if I don't like a book everyone else LOVED. But we're all different and this business is super subjective, and we have to remember that or we'll all go nuts.

Pam Harris said...

Love this post! This happened to me last year when a book everyone else adored left me scratching my head. I'm still too embarrassed to say I don't like this book for fear that I'll be shunned from the YA community!

Kellie said...

At least the shame is a little worse than admitting you haven't even gotten around to reading a much beloved book.

... I should really get on that whole Hunger Games thing.

Alwyn said...

I guess it's because book carry a personal investment for person who gives it to you/recommends it, and I know I lie about liking books not to protect myself from judgement (because seriously, I have no issues saying what I think) but to protect the feeling of the person who leant it to me/loved it. I lend books A LOT and the first time I loan someone a book I am always a bit anxious. What if they hate it, what if they judge ME for liking it etc. So when I am on the other end of that, I lie.

I mean, sure you'd say "No thanks I don't like egg salad" but if someone made you a cake, you tried it and hated it, you wouldn't really just out and tell them "it was the worst cake ever, seriously never bake for me again".

LM Preston said...

I believe when we pick books we like, we are picky with books like with out food. Why? because it's something that sticks with us a lot harder than a movie - we take effort in reading it. So when I read something that was recommended or that's a top story and I don't like it, I usually have a reason why - and it has to do with the type of characters I prefer, storyline I prefer and sometimes my expectations of the book.

Justina! said...

@Ari - I feel your pain. I also hated the Little House books. I was more of a Caddie Woodlawn girl, and the Little House books made me want to hit someone, mostly Laura Ingalls Wilder.

@Miranda - I'm trying to keep that in mind for when my book comes out and someone writes four thousand words about how that hated it :(
@Pam- I think most people feel that way about at least one or two big titles. Come, join the club! We can be shunned together!

@Kelli- You haven't read the Hunger Games? Ahhh! I bet you hate puppies as well! All jokes aside, I liked the series a lot better before I read the last book, so maybe just read the first two and stop there. Or, just wait for the movie. That's what I did with Harry Potter *waits for lightning to strike*.

@Alwyn- I once blurted out at a conference "I loved that book, but the writing just wasn't up to snuff. She should've spent more time on character development." Only to find out that one of the author's friends was sitting at the table. So you're right, sometimes it's safer to just keep one's mouth shut :)

@LM - I agree. I try to pinpoint what about the book didn't work for me, because then when I say I didn't like it I have a more compelling reason than "It sucked."

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