September 18, 2014

To Thine Own Self Be True


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.

15 comments:

  1. Such a good post! I really liked the "If you loved a book, don't apologize for it" and "If you hated a book, don't feel guilty about it" sections. I feel like this happens to me a lot (deviation from the consensus opinion), especially because I generally like/dislike books based on how they make me feel. So thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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  2. This is just the perfect post, Hannah. I've been caught in the same situation so many times. I make the bookstore rounds, a certain book catches my eye and I do what technology has provided the tip of my fingertips: check reviews. And more often then not, the book is trashed. And then I no longer trust myself. "If no one else has enjoyed it, who's to say that I will?" is a line I often repeat. But you're right. We know ourselves better than anyone else and that, in the end , is what matters.

    Jess @ MyReadingDress

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  3. You're so right! I hate that guilty feeling I get when I see bad reviews of something I'm loving. That feeling of-what am I missing here that makes this not enjoyable? Thanks for the reminder to just own my opinions!

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  4. I love this post! The part about recommendations and dnfing books really hit home for me. I have a really hard time saying no when trusted blogging friends recommend a book to me. For example, I've had a lot of people recommend Pivot Point to me, but for some reason the synopsis has never caught my attention and even after reading all the rave reviews, I really have no desire to read it. I'm not sure why, but I just am not interested. When I get recs for it, I'm like "oh I'll think about it" when really I should just be saying "it doesn't really interest me".

    DNFing books. I'm horrible at it. I have major guilt when I DNF a book and I almost never do it. I'm trying to be better about it, but the fact is, that I suck at it. I always wonder if it will get better and I know myself, I will never flip ahead to read the ending. Makes me twitchy thinking about it. Lol. So I definitely need to work on that.

    And I definitely want to work on reading books just because they interest me, rather than base my opinions on GR ratings or friends review. Because you're right. Every person is different. And different readers react differently to books.

    Wonderful post, Hannah!

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  5. I love this! Yes! Read what you like, stop reading what you don't like, and don't apologize for what you enjoy. Reading is supposed to be fun! (well, unless you're doing a class assignment, I guess the rules don't quite apply.)

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  6. Amen! Loved this post. In the past, I've got caught up in worrying about what other people thought of my favorites or feeling like there was something wrong with me when I didn't love what everyone else did.

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  7. Oh my gosh, YES!!! We so were just talking about this! I like to think I'm 90% I don't give a shit what people say if I wanna read it, I'm going to read it. It's only when I'm on the fence about something that I'll scan Goodreads to get the overall general feel of a book. I don't really trust anybody's opinion except my own and a few trusted friends *cough you and like two other people cough* Great post as always, H!

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  8. Preach it, Hannah! This is such an inspirational post - thank you for sharing. I wholeheartedly agree that sometimes it's just far too easy to be guided by what the book blogging community says about books. Sometimes I have to remember that I'm a reader first, a blogger second. And that's how it always should be.
    I know sometimes I've deliberated whether or not to read books because of either negative reviews or the lack of any reviews. But reading is such an intensely personal experience, and I think your post really gets to the heart of that.

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  9. Good post! I try to go by my gut, but sometimes I want recommendations for books outside of the genres I'm used to (coincidentally my post today). That's when I start looking for what others think and that can be dangerous. Especially if there is an expectation set and I hate the book. I don't hold it against the other person, but it makes me wary to branch out.

    Piggy backing off that, I love the point that if you don't like a book, stop reading it! I used to try and finish books, way before I started book blogging. But now I realize that there is not enough time to read all the books that are actually enjoyable! I think blogging exposed me to more books, so that's why the shift to DNFing terrible stories. If it is a review book and I don't like it, I usually at least skim to the end to see where it goes.

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  10. This is such an inspiring post and I agree with you. Sometimes you need to pick up a book because it speaks to you, whether the community loved it or not. It's the same with not always following the hype. It's a shame to pick up a book you are not sure about, just because you feel pressured to read it. DNF is very easy for me lately. I don't have the time or energy to read books I dislike.

    Great post!

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  11. I love this post!! I feel the same way about recs. Like sometimes I'm just like.. mehhh about a book and don't really want to read it but feel obligated bc so many people rec it to me. On the flip side, I have discovered some books I've loved this way. But yes -- READ what you want to read. love that. I've been the black sheep on books that everyone else has loved and it makes me want to hide and not say anything bc I don't want to be that debbie downer, you know? but different books speak to different people and I shouldn't feel like I need to hide! DNF-ing is hard for me... i'm like, what IF this gets better? I like to think that i'm getting better at it but I also just have been setting things aside thinking "one day"? So maybe my "one day" pile will be my DNF pile, haha!

    I also like what you're saying about not paying attention to low ratings if it's something you want to read. everyone reads differently so I may love it after all! great post, Hannah!

    Wendy @ Book Scents

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  12. These are all such great points! I think the issue I have most often is feeling pressure to read a book just because it's been getting a lot of hype -- not because it's something I would have been interested if I had just read the cover copy. I think it's definitely a good idea to take a moment to think about WHY we're reading something to make sure we're reading because we WANT to.

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  13. I've read this post three times in the past few days, and then kept marking it as unread in my reader so that I could come back and add a thoughtful comment. But the truth is that I just can't, because you've written everything, EVERYTHING that has been on my mind in the last couple of weeks. So bravo and thank you for sharing this post -- it's reminded me all over again why I love reading and this community and YOU!

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  14. I agree with so many of these, except for the DNF debate. I just can't not finish a book once I've started. Growing up when it would happen I would just stop reading since I felt so guilty about it, and eventually it got to be long enough where I'd forget where I even was in the book. Thankfully I don't do that anymore, I think in part because it doesn't take me that long to read a book. Funny enough the last book I started that I didn't finish was about 6 and a half years ago, and that's only because I wound up loosing the book 3/4 of the way through!

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  15. I just want to give you a standing ovation, my dear Hannah, for writing such an incredible post! I love that you've managed to perfectly express something that's been on my mind lately. It's actually even something we've chatted about indirectly before! And I'm pretty sure we'll have more discussions about it in the months/years to come ;)

    I really do believe that, in the end, it's important to be truest to me when it comes to what I choose to read! That's how it's been all my life - go to a bookstore/library, find a book to really get immersed in or fall in love with, and repeat. However, I have noticed, especially this year, that blogging has changed that for me! I've fallen into the trap of "oh, I need to read this because everyone is reading it and it sounds amazing and it's getting five star reviews everywhere" more times than not, and I'm tired of that (especially when sometimes, that book just doesn't work for me). I love blogging, but I'm slowly (and surely) learning to strike a balance between relying on other people to pick books for me (whether directly or by ratings) and knowing if a book is right for me.

    That being said, I really do love a good blogger recommendation! There are certain bloggers I trust a whole lot, and their recs are usually hits with me, so I do have that to consider. Doesn't mean I read everything right away though!

    Thanks for this post, H. As always, your honesty is really inspiring :)

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