Modern, Internet-savvy readers are known to be very vocal about the books that inspire strong emotional reactions: Posting flailing reaction GIFs to Tumblr or detailed takedowns on Goodreads, they’ll speak out about the books that do and don’t resonate with them.
But what happens when the book comes recommended by a close friend? And even if you force yourself to finish it, you discover that you’re missing that same emotional connection?
When I love a book, nothing can stop me from pressing it into the hands of everyone I know. Unfortunately, when a book rubs me the wrong way, I can’t let it go.
In college, my two roommates and I came up with a sort of round-robin book club where each person in the apartment recommended two books to the others, so that for a few months’ span we were all reading the same stuff and then could talk about it.
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The way the rotation went, I was the last person to read Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, the female roommate’s recommendation. It sounded cool enough: a woman born with giant thumbs hitchhiking her way across the country, sexually open cowgirls with names like Bonanza Jellybean, and commentary on everything from free love to religion.
I hated it. The plot points were too ridiculous, the commentary too hyperbolic, the thumbs too phallic. I was so incensed that I couldn’t stop myself from cornering our male roommate and demanding to know what he thought. He patiently let me vent my various issues with the book to him so that by the time our other roommate wanted to know what I thought, I had had time to formulate a more measured, though still truthful, response.
Imagine if I had started in on bashing the book that had comforted my roommate as a teenager when she first read it!
The best way to handle disliking a friend’s beloved book, I’ve found, is to first get your initial reaction out of your system.
Read what other people think of it on social media, so that you have a better sense of context. Find a friend who doesn’t mind you ranting for a few minutes.
Really consider if your bad response is because the book is poorly written or because you have a gut reaction based on your own beliefs and interests. This could range from a certain genre just not being your cup of tea, the presence of material that triggers something in you, or an incident in the text that doesn’t match your own experience.
Basically, get yourself prepared before the inevitable “So, what did you think?” from your friend. Ask her what she thought of it; chances are, she’ll reveal what parts affected her personally, giving you a better sense of what not to insult accidentally.
Just because you disliked a book doesn’t mean you can discount it out of hand. After all, you would be incredibly insulted if someone whose opinion you respected crapped all over your favorite book.
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