I've talked before about how I'm an eclectic reader. I like to sample from so many different sections in the bookstore! Although I have my favorites, I have deliberately tried to cultivate a curiosity for stories instead of focusing on categories. But, as I said in my post on the classics conundrum, I sometimes have conflicting feelings when it comes to reading.
I think that what someone chooses to read doesn't determine whether or not they're a "reader," and that reading should ultimately be enjoyable; however, I also think that it's also important to keep an open mind when it comes to choosing what you read.
Both of the posts I mentioned focused more on reading outside your comfort zone, so I thought it would be fun to write a little more about the first part of that statement - enjoying what you read. Obviously, there are a million different reasons to read - to learn, to be challenged, to escape, to be entertained, etc. But since you're reading a book blog, I'll assume you're probably reading because you want to and not because have to.
And it's okay to trust your gut
when it comes to choosing what you read.
As a blogger, I think it's really easy to lose sight of this fact. We're constantly inundated with opinions on books - both good and bad. From discovering books to rating them, my entire reading experience has been impacted by my involvement in the book blogging community. For the most part, it's a wonderful thing. But it's also easy to get distracted by what everyone else is reading, discussing, rating, loving and loathing... and at the end of the day, I want to read for me.
Here are a few times when I think you should ultimately trust your gut:
If you're really interested in a book, just try it.
No matter what the ratings show.
Recently, I was browsing in a bookstore and found a new release with a cover that caught my eye. I added it to my stack of books, made my way to a chair, and started reading samples. The next thing I knew, I'd read three chapters of it. I was hooked! So, did I immediately buy it? Nope. I looked it up on Goodreads, saw a lot of "okay" ratings, and debated purchasing it. Ultimately, I left without the book.
But I got home and couldn't stop thinking about it! I finally went back and bought it, and I immediately started reading it. I finished it within hours - I'd fallen in love! It wasn't a perfect read, but it was practically perfect for me. And I almost missed it because I was too concerned with how other people had rated it. It was an important reminder that I need to focus more on what interests me than on what the ratings show. Ratings and reviews are helpful, but don't let another person's experience keep you from experiencing a book for yourself.
If you're not interested in a book, don't worry about it.
No matter who says you HAVE to read it.
I've written before about my issues with recommendations, so I'll try not to repeat myself. I've found so many wonderful books through recommendations from other blogger and readers, but sometimes I don't want to add one more book to my TBR. Whether it's a specific recommendation or just seeing lots of hyped books, I often debate whether I'm thinking about reading something because I actually want to read it or because I've just heard a lot about it.
I've tried to be better this year about being aware of my reasons for reading a book and not just following the crowd. If I really am interested, awesome! If not, there are a million other books out there for me to read. And for books recommended specifically to me, I've learned the power of taking something into consideration and either letting it go or politely sharing why I don't think it's right for me. It's as simple as that!
If you're not enjoying a book, stop reading it.
No matter why you "should" keep going.
Oh, the good ole DNF. The struggle to push through a book, the pressure to finish, the guilt if you set it aside... is there anything else that causes the same amount of angst for so many readers? While I think it's probably most common when it involves review copies, I frequently hear bloggers lament their inability to leave a book unfinished once they've started reading it.
If I'm not enjoying a book, I typically respond in one of two ways. If I think the problem is me (timing, mood, etc.), I'll set it aside for later. But if the problem is the book (bad writing, one-dimensional characters, etc.), then I call it quits. If it's a library book, I return it. If it's a book I bought, I trade it in a my local used bookstore for credit. If it's a review book, I try to pass it on to another blogger. And if I'm still a little curious how it ends? I just flip forward and read that part. The End.
If you loved a book, don't apologize for it.
No matter who disagrees with you.
So, there's two scenarios where I see this play out. The first: you finish a book and are ecstatic about finding a new favorite... only to discover on Goodreads, Twitter or in reviews that a lot of really disliked it. In this instance, I think it's common to maybe feel a little disappointed that other readers didn't love it like you did. But you've (hopefully) still got your "so obsessed with this book" feelings, and that's the end of it.
The other scenario is when readers feel like they need to apologize for loving something that others look down upon or maybe even ridicule. It's the idea of a guilty pleasure - you love it, but you kind of feel bad that you do. Instead of being disappointed that others didn't love it (as in the first scenario), maybe you feel a little ashamed of just how much you did love it. Don't apologize or let someone else make you feel dumb about what you love! Channel T.Swift, remember that haters gonna hate and just SHAKE IT OFF.
If you hated a book, don't feel guilty about it.
No matter if you feel like you're the only one.
Who hasn't had this experience? You don't love a book that it seems like everyone else is loving. People are raving about it. The hype machine is in full force. This book is life-changing, it's ground-breaking, it's THE BEST BOOK IN THE HISTORY OF BOOKS... and you're just like, "What? I don't get it." Or maybe it's more: "SERIOUSLY? THIS IS A THING PEOPLE LOVE?" And all of the sudden, you feel like you don't quite fit in.
I've definitely felt this way about plenty of books! I don't usually feel left our or like something is wrong with me, and I don't usually think something was wrong with the other reader. It's just about the right book finding the right readers. A lot of times, I learn something about myself or my reading taste in those moments. I figure out what sets me apart, what makes me unique, and that can help me pick the best books for me in the future!
Trying new things is wonderful, but don't forget:
you know you.
Nobody knows you - what inspires you, challenges you, entertains you, motivates you, delights you, bores you, interests you, enrages you - like you do. You know what will make your heart race or your blood boil. Other people may start to learn your reading taste, but you'll always be the one who knows it best. So, read what YOU want to read! Trust your instincts, and follow your interests.