March 8, 2016

Three Types of Recommended Reads

I've been thinking recently about book recommendations. It's a topic I've written about before because, unlike many readers, I have complicated feelings about them. I want to love having someone recommend a book to me, but there's something about a targeted recommendation - someone saying "I think you should read this book!" - that makes me pause. I'm not completely sure why I feel that way, though I have my suspicions. That being said, I've read a few books recently that fall into three common recommendation categories. I thought it would be fun to look at each category and see how I felt about the books I read from each!

First, you've got the Recommendation That's Already on My Radar. This is probably my favorite type of book recommendation - and the one I'm most likely to read! Sometimes I'll see a book cover I like, read a summary that interests me or find a new book by an already-read author, and I'll add that book to my Consideration shelf. I typically let them hang out there so I remember to look for it at my library (no cost or commitment!) or until I can get more information about it (like reviews from trusted readers). I love when someone recommends a book that I was already interested in, especially because it motivates me to read it sooner!

That was the case with Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay. I read and loved Of Beast and Beauty last year, so I immediately added Jay's newest book to my Consideration shelf. It sounded so interesting and had the biggest element that I'd loved from the other book - a twist on a fairy tale! I had a feeling that I'd eventually read it, but Alexa's glowing recommendation (and repeated pushes to read it) sealed the deal. When my Secret Sister gifted me a copy, I knew I had to dive right in! Thankfully, it was everything I was hoping for and more. I loved how Jay used the story of Sleeping Beauty as a jumping off point for her complex world and incredibly fascinating story. The heroine, Aurora, is fierce, intelligent and ready to face any obstacle. Along the way, she meets Niklaas - a stubborn and arrogant prince with his own agenda... and possibly a heart of gold hidden under that prickly demeanor. Their chemistry was AMAZING, and I couldn't get enough! I loved the way their friendship and fights brought them together in their individual quests and then in their joint need to defeat the villain(s). Add in Jay's gorgeous writing, and this book definitely earned my so obsessed with rating!

Next, there's the Recommendation That Requires Some Convincing. This is, typically, my least favorite type of recommendation. It's the book that doesn't really interest - and that I'd likely never pick up on my own - if someone wasn't pushing me to read it. My disinterest can stem from any number of reasons including a dislike of the genre, a lackluster previous reading experience with that author, a storyline/trope in the book that rarely works for me, etc. Unless I really trust the recommender's taste, I'm not likely to give this book a chance. I might appreciate the thought behind the recommendation, but I'll just let it slip from my mind with no feeling of guilt or obligation.

But what happens when I decide to actually give it a shot? That's what happened with Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I'd previously read The Husband's Secret and thought it was okay. I didn't dislike it, but it wasn't a very memorable read for me. Because of that, I never felt a strong desire to read Moriarty's most recent book. I'd heard great things, but I didn't plan on reading it. But I didn't count on my friend Cassie and Kelly begging me to pick it up! Both absolutely adored it - and both promised me that it was even better than The Husband's Secret. Cassie gave me a copy for Christmas, and I read it soon after. I could see why they'd recommended it! The plot was compelling - opening with a pretty vague reference to tragic event and then flashing back to show you what led up to that fateful moment. As with the book I'd already read by Moriarty, Big Little Lies has multiple narrators. But in this book, I connected to the characters in a way I hadn't before which made me much more invested in the story and its resolution.  It was definitely a more memorable read! I found the ending very anticlimactic (and it's still not the kind of book I ever see myself re-reading), but I was glad I listened to my friends. I so enjoyed it, and it reminded me that it's good to give authors multiple chances!

And then there's the Recommendation That's Based on Reading History. This type of recommendation can certainly come from friends, but I think of it more as those suggestions from Goodreads or online retailers based on your browsing or purchase history. Since this type of recommendation doesn't come from a person, I love it because I have the freedom to ignore or investigate it as I see fit. I love that I don't have to worry about whether someone will ask me a few weeks later if I've read the book they recommended! That being said, losing the personal element does mean that it's more likely it won't fit your taste. I'm sure most people have browsed the "Recommended for You" section on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and wondered how in the world some books made the cut. Predictive analytics don't always get it right!

When they do, however, it's such a satisfying feeling. I was looking for new editions of Pride and Prejudice on Barnes & Noble's website a few months ago, which resulted in a recommendation of Unequal Affections by Lara Ormiston. It's a retelling of that beloved novel and asks an interesting question - What if Elizabeth Bennett had accepted Mr. Darcy's original proposal? Instead of taking back you through the very beginning of their acquaintance, it starts with that infamous proposal at the Hunsford parsonage and explores what might have happened if Lizzie had admitted she didn't love him but had agreed to marry him anyway. I've always loved reading retellings of my favorite classic, even though I rarely love the books themselves. I just can't resist giving them a shot! I was curious about this one because I liked the idea of the premise but wondered about the execution. Thankfully, I was delighted with the result. This is definitely my favorite Pride and Prejudice retelling! I rarely felt like Lizzie or Darcy acted out of character, and Ormiston raised challenges and portrayed conversations that I'd never considered. She brought to light new aspects of Darcy and Lizzie's relationship while still retaining what I've always loved about them. I think what I loved most about Unequal Affections is that it was true to the spirit of Pride and Prejudice, but it brought something new to the story. It was creative, engaging and so much fun to read. I already bought the audiobook for my future re-read - a sign that I'm absolutely so obsessed with this book!

Do you like when books are recommended to you?
Is there a specific type of recommendation that you prefer?

5 comments:

  1. I'm usually very open to trying books recommended to me, even if they're not the sort of books I'd normally read.

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  2. This is such a fascinating post! I love it Hannah! I have a complicated relationship with recommendations too. I like getting recommendations from friends but I feel guilty if I don't read the book right away so it gives it this added pressure for me. But I have some friends that give great recommendations of either books I wouldn't pick up on my own but they think I would like (Like I Shall Be Near To You!) or books that they say is a Morgan book. Usually only people that know my reading taste super well tell me that so I'm more likely to investigate it or move it up my TBR if I own it. This isn't quite the same but I have a few people that I trust with my reading taste similarities. I am very likely to enjoy a historical fiction novel if you or Jessie @ Ageless Pages Reviews has enjoyed it. You and I agree on many books actually, it's nice :) Same with Jessie and fantasy. And I am extremely likely to enjoy fantasy or contemporary if Christina @ Reader of Fictions or Gillian @ Writer of Wrongs loved it. We have very similar taste in tropes and style, especially romance and ships. So if I see a book that is not only being loved by multiple bloggers but by very specific bloggers, I will pick it up. Online algorithms almost never work for me but I peruse anyway. And WOW I really want to read that P&P retelling! Have you reviewed it more in depth? It sounds fantastic! This comment was awfully rambly, I apologize :)

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  3. First of all, I must express how happy I'm feeling about seeing Princess of Thorns got your highest rating! I'm so happy you did wind up loving it as much as I thought you might <3 And as for recommendations, I only trust certain recommenders without question - though I'm not afraid to disagree with what I've heard if *I* have strong opinions about a title. Whenever I get a general recommendation, I'm quite hesitant to pick up a novel and will most likely to add it to my "consideration" shelf. It's fascinating to see all the kinds of recommendations you've included here!

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  4. I've always loved reading retellings of my favorite classic, even though I rarely love the books themselves. I just can't resist giving them a shot! -- same here. Or even retelling of books that I'm just super familiar with to see what people do with the premise/characters. Hearing something is a retelling will make *that* much more interested in it, even if I wasn't previously interested at all.

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  5. I'm definitely more likely to read a book that a computer algorithm recommended over a book that someone else told me to read. It's pretty rare that a book someone told me to read is one that I really appreciate, so I guess I trust stats more than friends >.<

    But thanks for putting Unequal Affections on my radar! I love P&P but have NEVER liked a retelling that is set in that same period (though spin-offs are great - You've Got Mail, Bridget Jones...). I want to find one that I like though!

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