April 22, 2008

The Belligerent Reader

I've recently come to realize something about myself: At least some of the time, I am a belligerent reader.

What I mean is this: when someone talks a book up to me, and then gives it to me to read (or I find it on my own on account of their recommendation), I tend to read it like this:

"Oh yeah? Prove it!"

If I just pick up a book on my own and read it, I'll probably enjoy it. I have very broad tastes, and I enjoy most of the books that I read -- the vast bulk of them, in fact. But if somebody tells me that a book is amazingly good, or changed their life, or is luminously brilliant, the odds are good that I won't like it. I may, in fact, actively dislike it (which is different from just not liking something -- this is where it gets personal).

It's very contrary of me and I don't know why I do it.

Now I'm worried that I'm missing out on books which actually are amazing.

How do you react to books you've heard great things about? Do you read them and expect greatness? Or do you read belligerently, expecting them to fail?

11 comments:

bookchronicle said...

For the most part, I avoid books that are suggested to me, which seems slightly odd considering that part of maintaining a book blog is to at some point suggest a book for someone else to read. But book's like The Kite Runner or anything by Phillipa Gregory I have been avoiding because of the hype. Why I do this, I don't know.

Kristen said...

Interesting question! For me, it depends on the source. I have two friends who are always spot on with their recommendations for me. I have other friends whose recommendations I sometimes like, sometimes not.

Recently I've realized that I am impatient with the touted writers of my generation -- I really didn't like Then We Came to the End or The Savage Detectives, mostly didn't like Man Gone Down and am not sure about Oscar Wao yet. They seem too self-absorbed and the references too "clever" (trying to show off, etc.). So, maybe I am a belligerent reader w/ regard to my peers!

Devourer of Books said...

I generally know which of my friends can suggest books I will like and which can suggest books that are horrid, and I will often take the advice of some trusted fellow book-bloggers/LibraryThing members over my friends, probably mostly because they are actually explaining why they liked something in detail, instead of just saying "this is amazing." I'm very hesitant about "amazing." Books that are routinely called "amazing" I will avoid unless I've read and enjoyed something else by the same author.

Mrs. Micah said...

Some days I feel just the same about books. Especially at the library, I'm always getting recommendations. One reason I haven't read the Kite Runner. Probably stupid of me, but I don't like being told what to do...

kegsoccer said...

Like you, whenever somebody tells me a book is good.... I seem to not like it. Or it's okay, but I can't get into it. The exceptions are book reviews online. I don't know, maybe it's the fact that I don't personally know the recommender.

Mrs S | 50 Book Challenge said...

Great question! I have high hopes for hyped books so get more disappointed if I don't enjoy them! Sometimes I like to read them to see why the hype - like with Harry Potter - but I loved those books. I read the Stephanie Meyer trilogy before I realised there was mega hype about them - I really enjoyed them but think the hype might have put me off. I think it really depends who recommends the book and how much they wax lyrical about it before I read it :)

Alice said...

So...if I have a friend who reacts the same way as you...what's the best way to get them to read a book?

glumpuddle said...

hahaha, you just don't like Snow do you just 'cause I said it was amazing and threw it at you.

anonym said...

I have this with music, but not books. Perhaps because any foo' can "recommend" dreck to you; and most people think they have great taste in music when they really do not! Books, not so much, because not everyone thinks they are a competent arbiter of things literary, so the crap is already filtered out to some degree.

I'm a belligerent contrarian when it comes to actually discussing something -- art, ideas, politics, whatever. But books -- not so much. I tend to evaluate books on their own merits (I think!), and I'm seldom disappointed by a book recommendation. Of course, this could also be a function of the friends you keep. If your tastes align, or if they are perceptive readers, you too will tend to enjoy what they enjoy.

Sometimes I find my belligerent scepticism "carrying over" into a book recommendation from a friend, but almost always it is dispelled quickly when the book itself weaves its spell.

thisredheadreads said...

Not only do I "read belligerently", sometimes I won't read the book at all. This happened with the Harry Potter series, initially. I didn't get around to reading any of them until a few months after the fifth book came out because everybody and their mother kept saying "Oh! You really MUST read these books!" Bleh. I almost didn't make it past the first chapter of the first book, but I thought I might as well read at least one whole book in the series. Now I like them. (I'm this way with a lot of things, including movies. I still haven't seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies because of it.)

That's why I just tend to put it on my "To Be Read list" and, more importantly, NOT list where the suggestion came from.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer « Paperspine Blog said...

[...] I suddenly saw the book in several blogs and was afraid of the hype. Scornful of it, actually. I’m a belligerent reader. [...]