Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Trust yourself

Do you ever feel you HAVE to fall in love with a book?

Everybody around you loves it. It reached the top of the bestseller list. It won a prestigious award. It's considered a classic. Someone whose opinion you respect told you how wonderful it was.

And, yet, when you read it, you didn't love it. Sure, you liked it just fine, but it didn't find its way into your heart. And then, (if you're like me) you end up doubting yourself. After all, everyone else loves this book. Why don't I?

Start by looking at the context in which you read the book. I think this is a crucial factor that's often overlooked. See this post for a longer explanation of the who, why, where, how, when and what of reading a book.

And then, trust yourself. Recognize that it's okay to feel differently about a book than everyone else. Appreciate that you can still respect a person's opinion without loving exactly the same books that they do. Remember that award committees look at very specific criteria when judging a book, and you don't have to love every book that wins a shiny sticker. Everyone approaches a book through the lens of their own experiences. Since everyone has a different lens, it's only natural that everyone would have different reactions to books.

Above all, remember this. Your opinion is valid. It's just as valid as the opinion of your best friend, your mom, your neighbor, your book club, your favorite blogger, your professor, or the New York Times book reviewer. Maybe they have more experience or expertise in certain areas than you... but you don't have to love a book just because other people do. You should love a book because there's something between the covers that speaks to you.

So, don't doubt yourself when other people like different books than you do. You're the only one knows what books YOU love.

And, yes, it's okay if you don't like Harry Potter. I'll still speak to you.


  1. It's so funny that you post this today because I just read Jackie's review of The White Darkness and find myself in exactly this situation... Everyone seems to love this book and I... well... don't.

  2. Aw, what an affirming post! :-)

    I agree, of course. Whenever I do reader's advisory, I never promise kids they'll love something just because I did or because it's popular or what-have-you. I try to give them an assortment so they can "test" them out. Because if anything makes a book unenjoyable, it's feeling like you *have* to like it!

  3. And with that logic, one of my New Years resolutions was to stop reading books that I felt like I *had* to read. If there's a book that everyone in the world seems to love, but it's just not my thing? I don't have to read it. I need to come up with some kind of mantra. Something catchier than "I don't have to read it."

  4. I remember when Carl Hiaasen's Hoot came out I read it first thing. The book did nothing for me. I have three reading list, books I want to read because they look good to me, books I want to read because I've heard good things, books I have to look at b/c we have a lot of copies in the store. If I only read the books everyone else is reading I would start to hate reading. There is something nice about discovering a book all on your own.


  5. Abby- Actually, not everyone loves The White Darkness. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard some word-of-mouth mixed reviews.

    Lisa- Your comment on my post about context was why I wrote this post. It sounds like you have a great reader's advisory method.

    Laura- I think "I don't have to read it" is a great mantra. Or how about... "I don't have to finish every book I start."

    EarthieGirl- I completely agree. There's really something wonderful about discovering a book on your own.

  6. Is there a particular book that inspired this post? Just curious!

  7. Anne- uh oh. You're going to make me be totally upfront and admit that there are books that everyone else has given wonderful reviews to that don't really do it for me.

    Ummm... (can I put this in small type?) I'm luke-warm about the new Trucktown picture book. I like Knuffle Bunny Too, but I don't madly and passionately love it like I do the first one. The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County doesn't thrill me the way it does everyone else. I don't like What Can You Do With a Tail Like This? And I still can't get past the first page of The Golden Compass.

    Wow, this stuff is harder to admit than I thought. Is everyone still speaking to me?

  8. Now I feel free to make a few confession as well,

    SkippyJon Jones, I've read two still nothing
    If You Give a Mouse a Muffin (Mouse always wants more, that's not cute to me, just greedy)
    Penderwicks- I just thought it was okay.
    Finally the big one I have never finished a Harry Potter novel

    Wizard, I don't care that you haven't finished Golden Compass. You just gave me a safe place to confess, so Thank You


  9. Another confession:

    That hack who wrote The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown -- I tried hard to read another book of his called Digital Fortress. I got only 10 pages in and threw it across the room in pure disgust.

    I only picked up Golden Compass because I wanted to see for myself what all the complaints were about.

  10. The Book Thief. I only liked it, didn't love it.

  11. Doret- Actually, there was a whole discussion on a listserve recently (I think it was child_lit) about Skippy Jon Jones, with several people saying they didn't like it. Thanks for sharing. It's hard, isn't it?

    Pirate Ninja Mommy- I read all of The Digital Fortress... and you're not missing much.

    Kelly- The Book Thief, huh? That's good to know. I haven't read it, but that's one I feel like I have to love because everything I've heard about it.

  12. Oooo, I really like this conversation. I feel the same way about some books. I am not making any confessions today, but I can think of several books that I was thinking... ??? What was all the hype about?

  13. Susan, I agree with you about the Trucktown book (Smash Crash, is that what it's called?). We tried it in storytime last week and it was... okay. The best part was my coworker who read it, when she got to the part with the ice cream truck, she read it in a funny high-pitched voice really quickly and that was very amusing. But yeah, other than that... eh...

  14. i have to admit that i'm with you on "the chicken chasing queen." i tried hard, but i just wasn't feeling it. like, at all. there are actually tons of books i find myself being very underwhelmed by ...

  15. Twilight.

    I've tried, really I have. I keep coming back to, why is an old guy like Edward, he just looks young, so interested in a young teen girl? Creep.

    I can see why teens love it...

    I confess I couldn't finish it. Maybe it got better?

  16. I have tried to read the Peter and the Starcatcher books~I adore Dave Barry!~but can't read more than a few pages before I get bored. I, too, have forsaken almost all Adult Lit for YA. I just opened a brand new school library media center and I take home great stacks of books to read every weekend. Fast, fun, interesting, good writing..and I get to share them with people who think I'm a genius~my students!! I Love my job!

  17. Megan- don't worry. You don't have to confess any specific titles. =)

    Abby- Oh good. I thought I was the only one on the Trucktown Smash Crash book. It's gotten so many good reviews, so I feel weird about not loving it.

    Jenn- And I'm relieved to find that I'm not alone on The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County. I tried SO hard to love it.

    Camille- I haven't read Twilight, so I can't give an opinion on it. I have the idea that there are two very definite camps on that book... those who love it, and those who don't. There seems to be little ambiguity about it.

    Library Girl- It sounds like you have a fantastic job that you love. That's terrific!

    I had a hard time getting past the first chapter of Peter and the Starcatchers. I started it a few times and put it back down. But I will say, that once I read a bit more, I really did fall in love with it. The audio version (narrated by Jim Dale) is what hooked me. But, no pressure if don't love it!

  18. Anyone else not love The Lovely Bones, because I really didn't. And I really didn't think it was a great book for kids, but I sure saw a lot of them with it.

  19. I also did not like The Lovely Bones. It was just creepy and depressing to me.

    Can I admit that after the first reading of Knuffle Bunny I didn't see what all the fuss was about? (Don't hurt me, Susan!! :) But after re-reading it, I've come to enjoy it more. I think that I'm in a weird place with children's books because my son is too little to respond to them (except for putting them in his mouth), so I bet that a large part of the experience of reading a hit children's book is the interaction with the child and his/her reaction. Which I don't get yet, but I look forward to the day when I do!

  20. I didn't like the Lovely Bones either. It was very creepy and disturbing and I couldn't get past the first half of the book.

    Jody- of course you don't have to like Knuffle Bunny. Admit away! And I'll confess that I didn't love it either (or was that impressed by it) the first time I read it. It was only a few years later, when I read it to my son, that I really started to like the book. It works so well as a read-aloud, and isn't as successful as a read-to-oneself.

    My son was just mesmerized by it, and I think it was partly his reaction (and his constant demand to hear the book again and again) that made me fall in love with it. Plus, reading it so many times has given me a lot of appreciation for the writing and illustrations and how well they flow together.

    I just read Knuffle Bunny at a storytime yesterday, and every child present (from ages 1-5) was completely transfixed by the book. I followed it with Knuffle Bunny Too, and the reaction just wasn't the same. There was a lot more squirming.