Friday, September 11, 2015

When Someone Hates a Book You Love

Welcome back to RNFF! I hope you all had a happy end of summer (or, for those readers in the southern hemisphere, a happy end to winter), and are looking forward to a productive end to 2015.

I had intended to kick off this fourth year of blogging at
RNFF by writing a review of one of the not strictly romances I ready over my summer break—Naomi Novik's spring 2015 fantasy Uprooted. But before I began typing away, I had the urge to check out some other reviews on Goodreads, to see what other folks might have already written about the book's feminist aspects. And there, right at the top of my "Reviews From People You Follow" list, was a long, review of Uprooted, written by a reviewer whose views I respect and typically find myself agreeing with. And the review was filled with reasons why this reviewer didn't like the book. And not just any reasons—specifically feminist reasons.

Reading this review, and thinking about my responses to the experience, made me wonder—what do you think, and what do you feel, when someone whom you like and respect disagrees with your assessment of a book?

For me, it depends both on who is doing the disagreeing, and how strong my own feelings about the book are. If it's a casual acquaintance, and/or a book in which I don't have much of an emotional investment, I can easily shrug off the disagreement. If it's someone closer, especially someone whose opinions are thoughtful and worth listening to, it's a bit harder, although I can usually get back the initial "What? This person I respect doesn't agree with me?? Waaah!" burst of inner dismay to allow my thinking brain to hear and weigh the reasons put forth.

The most difficult is when it's one of those books—Pride and Prejudice; The Witch of Blackbird PondThe Queen of Attolia—that I hold near and dear to my heart, that says something vitally important to me, and about me. When that happens, I end up wondering "Can this person who doesn't appreciate my most cherished books really understand me? Appreciate me? Are we even really friends?"

So many people say "Oh, you'll love this book" when they truly mean "I loved this book, and since I like you, you should love it too," without really thinking about whether what the recommender and recommend-ee have in common, what they like and enjoy about each other, is present at all in the book being recommended.

Obviously, not everyone has the same taste in books, even if they share a love of reading. But still, it can throw you for a major loop when a cherished friend and a cherished book just don't get along. . .


While I'm off writing a response on Goodreads to the Novik book, I have a question for you to consider: What makes you feel comfortable enough to recommend a book you love to someone else? And how do you respond when cherish a book, but someone you like hates it?






10 comments:

  1. I know this feel! Although somehow we still manage to respect each other, despite my not getting the love for "Witch of Blackbird Pond" and you not getting my love for the Prydain Chronicles. Anyway, I will move Uprooted up on my to-read list...

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  2. I love "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" so much I feel like it's a part of me. I don't recommend books I love anymore because it is so hurtful, it's like I'm being rejected! So I just put them out there but don't "push" them. It's a very interesting topic, though--it could be a way of exploring the variables we can't control that influence our response to particular books. No matter how much I want to love the book my friend loves, other factors (what are they?) can prevent it.

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    1. How do you "just put them out there," Pedersanna? Verbal recommendations? Have them lying on the table at your house? Recommend them online?

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  3. One of my favorite books, "American Gods", is hard for me to recommend to others. It involves a bit of mythology in a way that may upset others because of their beliefs, plus there is a sex scene (not in a romantic way). But I love the way the story stretches the boundaries of what's possible out there, and it's a good story to boot, so I usually have to say, "You may not like this book, but if you do, I think we'll have a lot to talk about afterward!"

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    1. I really like the words you use here, Hazel—they say you respect that your friends may have different tastes, but simultaneously extend the invitation to dialogue. I'll have to remember them next time I want to recommend a well-loved book...

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  4. Hello, wellcome back!

    I'll try to answer your questions.

    I think I feel comfortable enough to recommend a book when I have loved that book and I know it's not only me, but that there are many people out there that have also loved this book, and I know they liked it because I've seen good reviews in blogs and webpages. I don't recommend on my sole experience of that book.

    About the other question - how do you respond when cherish a book, but someone you like hates it?

    Badly, at first. I mean, the first thought that comes to my mind is -you don't know a shit about this-. Which is completely unfair, as not all the readers are the same and sometimes it's not the book but you. It happens the other way around. There are many books people adore that I just cannot stand -Outlander comes usually to my mind when I say this-. So after my first emotional response I try to understand why that person had that experience with that book.
    And do you know what? Many times they are right, they point out problematic things that you can really find in the book. The only difference is that I was so involved in the story, or the writer's style, that I could overlook those things and enjoy the book.
    In the end, I'm not very sure we really know why we love or detest a book. I'm afraid that sometimes a book gets to a part of your unconscious mind, or tickle a certain emotion you are not aware of.

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    1. Welcome back to you too, Bona!

      Yes, that initial emotional reaction to the rejection is tough, isn't it? Good thing the thinking part of the brain kicks in and lets us remember that even if someone doesn't share our tastes, that doesn't mean they're an idiot; they often have valid things to say that we've overlooked because of our investment in the book. I think it's fascinating to explore what things trigger that "involved" response in different people...

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  5. I think it depends on whether I can see where they're coming from! Most often, when someone hates a book I loved, it's because they were bothered by an aspect of the book that didn't bother me, and I can say, Okay, yeah, that's a facet of the book, I can see how a person wouldn't like it. The most likely thing to really bum me out is if someone reads a book I loved and can't say why exactly, so they'll just say "Oh the narrative voice bugged me." THAT'S when I feel like maybe they just don't get ME. :p

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    1. Interesting distinction you draw here, Jenny. When people say "I don't know" when I ask them why or why not they liked a book, that drives me batty! My daughter has been on a urban fantasy/steampunk romance kick this summer, and she'll often say she likes or doesn't like a book. But she doesn't often want to talk about why or why not. I have to respect her desire to not engage in critical analysis of her pleasure reading, but it still makes me sad, that chance for connecting lost...

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