When Everybody Loves a Book Except You….

Recently, I returned to my roots as a bookseller and started moonlighting at a new Indie bookstore that opened close to home. (Yes- a new bookstore actually opened!) Though I’m only there a couple of times a week, I’ve really enjoyed connecting with individual readers and having the opportunity to recommend favourite books.

A week or two ago, I was discussing YA fiction with a customer (who avidly reads YA) and in the course of conversation, she admitted that she didn’t like The Fault in Our Stars, and is not a John Green fan.

What particularly struck me was that the woman was actually apologetic about not liking his books as though she were doing something wrong by not being among his legions of fans.

This got me thinking. There has been a lot of discussion lately about shaming people for liking certain books (ie- Slate Magazine article about YA), but there’s another side of it too. We also have a tendency to shame people for not liking certain books, which in my view is equally as bad. It’s almost like a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes. You know he’s not wearing any clothes, but not wanting to rock the boat you’ll never admit it.

I didn’t enjoy reading The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings and I can’t tell you how many disdainful looks I’ve received from people whenever I’ve said this. They look at me as though I’m somehow faulty for not liking something that is widely appreciated and beloved. I tried really hard to like them, and I’ve picked them up more than once, thinking that being a different reader and a different age I might feel differently about them.

But why am I trying so hard to like them? Why should I (or anyone) feel guilty for NOT liking something that the majority does? There are millions of books in print, and not every book is for every person. Reading is an act of pleasure, made more so by our ability to share, discuss and debate. Read what you like, don’t read what you don’t, and never feel embarrassed to be honest about your feelings towards a book.

17 Responses to When Everybody Loves a Book Except You….

  1. Suzanne Jul 2 2014 at 5:25 am #

    Very good points. I had a conversation with fellow English teachers once about how some popular books just don’t interest US at all. Most of us read what we’re comfortable with, and feeling our tastes aren’t valid isn’t good for the book blog world.

  2. Mary Jul 2 2014 at 8:59 am #

    So glad you expressed this!! Sometimes I feel as if what I read isn’t ” good enough” for other people. I love mysteries! Would rather read a good old mystery anyday than the latest advertised book. In good company, though, as the great Mississippi author Eudora Welty also loved mysteries and would check stacks of them out of the library.

  3. Terry Walsh Jul 2 2014 at 9:10 am #

    Amen! Wish more people were honest about this.
    Maybe it goes back to book reports: “The reason that I liked this book is…” I never saw an option for NOT liking the #$%^ book.

  4. Robert Polk Jul 2 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Great post! I’m sure, at times this applies to every reader.

  5. Stacy L Jul 2 2014 at 9:58 am #

    I completely agree. I get this same reaction all of the time when I share my displeasure with The Book Thief. People look at me like I’m crazy. Even when I list out my frustrations, most with which they actually agree!, they still are shocked that I disliked the book. I equate it to the emotional reaction one had whole reading. Those who love a book love the memory of reading it more than the actual text, and they don’t want to relinquish that personal emotional memory. Everyone has their own taste.

    • Carrie-Anne Jul 2 2014 at 2:00 pm #

      I hated the damn Book Thief too. My review of it was even rejected by Ink Pageant for being “too demeaning.” I had to bite my tongue so hard in my YA Lit class when everyone else was gushing all over it. There’s a reason I stay far, far away from books surrounded by massive hype. Almost always, I end up hating them and not going along with the crowd.

  6. Annie Jul 2 2014 at 10:02 am #

    I love this post! Because I totally get it – I apologize all the time for not liking books that are really popular. Or, if I find someone else that doesn’t love them I get excited because there’s finally someone I can talk to about it without feeling like I’m insulting someone’s puppy. Because that’s the interesting thing about books – they are beloved and it takes a lot of intention to have a rational conversation about something you love instead of an emotional one.

    But I think it’s a great perspective to keep in mind and to strive for in the book community 🙂

  7. Deanna Damon Jul 2 2014 at 11:49 am #

    For me, I usually don’t read or see a movie based on that book if the media has hyped about it too much. I just get so annoyed with it that I don’t feel like reading it.

  8. Rachael Jul 2 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Very excellent points. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. Not naming names, there’s a certain extremely popular author that I’ve never really liked. I’ve read most of their books hoping that something would change and it hasn’t. I can even pinpoint why for the most part. I feel very uncomfortable bringing it up on the risk of being insulted. I adore John Green but I’ve met people who don’t like his works. To each their own, but I do have a problem with people whose dislike of his books turns to hatred of him.

  9. Carrie-Anne Jul 2 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    Being an Aspie, I’m used to being different from the others, and don’t much care what anyone thinks of me. However, it really annoys me to see my reviews, and other people’s reviews, given “Not Helpful” votes just because we didn’t kowtow and proclaim whatever book as awesome. I hate Ernest Hemingway and don’t think I should have to pretend he was awesome just because so many other people worship at his altar. I also hated the freaking Book Thief with the fire of a million suns. Just thinking of that smug, obnoxious narrator with his endless parade of spoilers and obscene language passed off as cute, charming, funny terms of endearment makes me want to punch him in the face!

    I stay far away from books with massive hype. If a book, film, actor, band, etc., is really all that and a bag of chips, it’ll still be there for me to discover on my own, long after all the hype has gone.

  10. Ibrahim Khan Jul 2 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    I appreciate your points of view!

  11. Cari Jul 2 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    My students occasionally come up to me with big eyes, holding a book they love, and hand it over for me to read. They love it and so they want me to do love it, too. And I do try! Sometimes, I do like the books they lend me. If nothing else, I at least like the opportunities they give me to have candid conversations about literature with them. The big ones this year were Divergent and John Green. I can’t say that I love either of them, but since I do love that they’re reading, I’ve just started telling them that I’m tool old for YA romances. =) And don’t worry, Rachel. I have several students that don’t like The Hobbit. You’re not alone!

    • Ibrahim Khan Jul 2 2014 at 7:31 pm #

      Same condition here too! 🙂

  12. Fiona Jul 2 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    I agree and it made me laugh because the first book that came to my mind was the Hobbit . I kept getting lost in the Hobbit map, and after trying the book 3 or more times I gave up. (of course, the movie, aka extended video game to make literature appealing to gamers only proved my point, IMHO)

  13. Patrick Stahl Jul 2 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    My biggest ones are 1984 and The Great Gatsby. Both of them are dreadful in my opinion.

  14. Cassidie Jhones Jul 6 2014 at 4:37 am #

    You are right – unfortunately. It’s sad that we tend to dish one another for not liking a certain genre/book. I won’t say that we are the book blog community therefore we should all stick together and be agreeable all the time, that’s an irrational mirage. However, we could embrace the differences. It would be much fun to discuss what X loved in that book and what Y didn’t. Not only would we thrive on this kind of “debate”, for learning to reason better and perhaps even see the read differently, but would avoid getting hurt as well.

    P.S I’m not the biggest fan of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings either.

  15. Alexa S. Jul 6 2014 at 5:12 am #

    “Read what you like, don’t read what you don’t, and never feel embarrassed to be honest about your feelings towards a book.” This is my favorite quote from your post, Rachel! But I absolutely agree. No one should be made to feel bad for not liking a book that someone else might love! I try to be understanding about that when I talk about books, since I know we’re all so different that what may work for someone might not be my cup of tea. Thanks for reminding us all with your post!

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