Recommendations: Love or Hate?


Y'all, I have to admit something that's been weighing on my mind lately... I have issues with recommendations! WHAT?! A book blogger who has some issues with book recommendations? That's me!

I've seen plenty of posts about book recommendations before, but I don't feel like I've ever seen anyone express the way I secretly feel about this aspect of loving books. There's two different aspects to recommendations - giving them and receiving them. My issue? Receiving specific, personal book recommendations. Many readers love when someone says, "This is such a YOU book!" or "Hey, YOU really need to read this book right this second!"

While I used to love recommendations, I feel like my feelings for them have gotten more complicated over time. It's not that I want people to stop telling me about books that make them think of me or quit bringing books to my attention that might be a good fit. It's just that sometimes recommendations stress me out!

A general, positive review recommending a book to other readers? LOVE IT. I'm all over that because I can sit and read for myself what someone liked/disliked. The best part? At the end of reading the review, I can decide for myself if it's something that feels like a fit for me.

But a specific, targeted recommendation? It's like my brain turns into a deer in headlights! It happens most often with people I know in real life (since finding out I like to read can often prompt someone to offer their own recommendation), but I have felt it at times due to blogging. Here's just a sample of the complex feelings I have when someone specifically recommends a book to me.

Things I Might Think When You Recommend A Book Specifically To Me:
  1. "Why do you think this book would be a good fit for me?"
  2. "How do you know if it's a me book if you're not actually me?"
  3. "DANG IT! Now I have to add it on Goodreads so you don't think I'm rude."
  4. "Crap! This book really doesn't sound like anything I'd ever want to read, but I can't say that to this person!"
  5. "What if I read it and don't like it? How will I tell them?! Will they be disappointed or sad that I didn't?"
  6. "Time to do more research on this book." *downloads sample* *reads other reviews* 
  7. "I don't want to know what I ought to be reading! I want to just read what I find and explore from there. I've already got too much on my TBR."
  8. "Oh this does sound good, but I'm really not looking for new books to read right now."
  9. "How much do I trust this person? Do we have similar taste in books?"
  10. "YES! This book really sounds like something right up my alley!"
I can absolutely adore everything about a book, but I likely won't push it on anyone unless they specifically ask for a recommendation or ask for my opinion on that particular book. And I think that's at the root of my recommendation issues these days. I'm not a big book pusher, so sometimes I struggle with people pushing books on me.

There is always going to be a level personal attachment and emotional investment involved in reading and recommending. Recommending a book to someone isn't the same as recommending a restaurant or a product. It's what makes reading great, but I think it's also why I sometimes have issues when people push books they love onto me. What if I don't like it... or even if I don't want to read it at all? 

Usually, my issue with recommendations is that the book being pushed doesn't interest me. At the end of the day, I know that I'm under no obligation to read anything that someone recommends to me. However, I usually feel like I should at least give it a shot.  I don't want anyone to stop telling me about good books, and yet I have to admit my feelings for it can be complicated!

What do you think when someone tells you that you've just GOT to read a certain book? 
Do you have a love/hate relationship with personalized book recommendations?

11 comments:

  1. I know exactly what you mean! For me, it's not that I don't appreciate someone thinking of me when they read a good book. It's more that I don't like that feeling of obligation, which may sound snobby, but it's the truth. I have my own method for making my way through my mountainous TBR, and if someone personally recommends a book to me, I feel obligated to go read it, right then and there. I don't mind asking what people think about a specific book, though.

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    1. No, that's it exactly! I love that someone would think of me when reading something and have found some of my favorite books through recommendations. But I always feel like I'm a little obligated to read it right then - or at least add it to my TBR. I need to be better about just saying thank you and not feel like I HAVE to read it.

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  2. This is so honest and I think how you're feeling is probably more common than you'd think -- as book bloggers there is just a constant stream of new books we're learning about from all different sources and it can be overwhelming -- adding that personal element can be great if the person actually does know your taste really well (like if my best friend recommends a book to me, I know she wouldn't steer me wrong!), but especially if they don't, it can really complicate things. I feel like I've been struggling lately with all recommendations and reviews in general though because my TBR pile is just INSANE. I'm at the point where no matter who recommends something it has to be really, really special for me to even considering adding to stacks! I'm hoping that method will lead to finding just the best of the best of books that appeal to me personally, but we shall see :)

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    1. Yes to all of this, Christine! It's the constant stream of books from all these different sources - it ends up being so overwhelming. Like you, I have some great friends (in real life and through blogging) that know my reading taste really well and make great recommendations. And the best part? I also know them well enough that I don't feel bad about telling them if a book they've recommended just doesn't interest me for some reason. The relationship makes it easier to tell them how I feel!

      But I'm with you - my TBR pile has gotten really out of control lately. I'm making some changes on my end to combat the problem (like no more NetGalley for the foreseeable future), and I know my issues with recommendations have grown as my TBR pile has. The more books I find that I want to read, the more I get stressed out when someone brings another book to my attention. Hah! I'm hoping a few of the things I try to do to combat the TBR pile insanity will help bring back my love for recommendations :)

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  3. I hear ya. It's tough. I think people usually base it on reviews of books you've done and stuff they've seen you like.

    I usually just say thank you and promise to give it a chance. Nothing more. No pressure.

    I'm now secretly hoping I haven't given you a bad one before. :)

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    1. Yeah, it's not as much of an issue for me with bloggers or people I've met online since they often read my blog and have a good idea of what I've liked/disliked in the past. I think it happens most often with people I know in real life, once they've found out I like to read. They immediately start telling you how you'll love their favorite book. I need to learn from you and just be really gracious in my response but not feel obligated or put pressure on myself to read it.

      And oh my goodness, you definitely haven't done it! Even if you had recommended something to me that I didn't like, I would still appreciate and welcome your recommendations. I read and really enjoyed The Outcast based on your rec, and I probably wouldn't have discovered that one otherwise :)

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  4. Seriously Hannah, it's like you're in my brain sometimes and it's SCARY. I really feel this way about books that people recommend specifically for me! I almost always look up the recommendations that I get, to at least give the book a fair shot. But generally, I still make the executive decision about whether or not to really take on the recommendation in the end -- as I'm really the only one who can decide what I think will work for me.

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  5. It's a little eerie how much I was able to identify with this discussion post, Hannah. I'm convinced now more than ever that you can, in fact, read minds. Just remember to use your powers for good instead of evil! ;)

    I think there's a lot of pressure inherent in a book recommendation, regardless of whether you're giving or receiving one. That said, receiving them is definitely a little more stressful. I feel an immediate obligation to check out the book, because someone has gone to the trouble to recommend it just to me, and with that comes all the problems you've listed, and more. What if the book doesn't sound like something I would enjoy? What do I say when the person who recommended it to me asks a month or two later as to whether or not I've read it and/or liked it? I always appreciate the thought behind a recommendation because it demonstrates that someone was thinking about me, but there's a lot of additional expectations and pressures that go alone with that. You don't want to hurt the other person's feelings, particularly if it's a book that's near and dear to their heart. Sometimes a negative review or rejection of a book you love can feel like a personal attack because of how much the book meant to you, and I would never want to make someone else feel that way.

    You're definitely not alone, Hannah! I've felt and thought all of these things on more than one occasion! At least there's safety in numbers :)

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  6. Omigoodness -- this is SUCH a great post! I have had some similar thoughts on recommendations. Although I do love to talk about books with people, I also prefer to choose my own books. Like you said, my TBR is out of control enough as it is! But I've also read some excellent books based solely on others' recommendations (ahem -- Cassie -- ahem), so I know that I'd be sad to miss out on an amazing read if I didn't listen to a recommendation.

    My philosophy is this: I take any and all recommendations (sometimes people in real life will tell me that I just MUST read a certain book and I'll jot it down). More often than not, I just forget to look it up (or lose the scrap of paper -- that's happened many times!) but then I figure that I'm at least not being rude. If it sounds like a book that I genuinely am interested in, then I might add it to my Goodreads TBR or request a copy from the library.

    I prefer recommendations from people that I know are really, really familiar with my reading tastes. My husband has recommended some great books to me in our 9 years together -- and vice versa. I suppose this rule is similar to the reasons why I follow some bloggers and not others. I know that I'm reading blogs of readers who have similar tastes, so I know that the books that are reviewed are ones that I might consider reading. But then, as you pointed out, that's me LOOKING for a book to read, not the other way around.

    Sorry this got rambly!

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  7. I definitely have a similar relationship with book recommendations.

    I know my mom used to recommend books to me, that I'd then read almost out of obligation. Except most times, afterwards I would wind up really enjoying the book. She's actually the first that lead me to Cassandra Clare and the Pink Carnation series. But even knowing that I would enjoy most books she recommended, I always go in thinking if it was really that good I would have discovered it myself.

    But now as I've gotten more and more into book blogging, it's almost as if I don't have time for other recommendations. I have so many books that I agree to review, and so many others I want to read, that I just don't have time for it all. I love the idea of being lent a book to read, but hate that to read it I'll have to wait to read others that I've been wanting to read longer.

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  8. Oh I LOVE personalized recommendations....from other people that I know read a ton and know my reading styles. There are a few people that say a title and BAM, it's a done deal, because I know they know my tastes and I will eventually get around to that book. Random people off of the street and in everyday life, though, I kind of smile and say thank you and I *may* look it up on Goodreads. But my bookish friends, I take them very seriously. That being said, I don't feel an obligation to read the book right away. I will probably add the book to my Goodreads (if I remember) so that I don't forget about the recommendation. But I don't feel like I need to get to it right away. I can remember specific recommendations that close reading friends have made to me like two years ago that I haven't gotten to yet but totally plan to one day - the timing just hasn't been right. But I LOVE LOVE LOVE it when someone tells me that they read something that they think is an Asheley book! And honestly, I assumed others did too until I read these comments! Now I suppose I may be putting undue pressure on people when I send a title to a specific person, and I never ever mean to do that - only that there is something about the book in particular that made me think about that person. And I don't get offended when people don't read the books I recommend.

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