Thursday, March 22, 2012

30 Days of Book Discussion: Day 29

A book everyone hated but you liked

Alright, people. We need to talk about a little thing called Personal Preference. Frequently I have patrons who come up to me and say, "Do you have ____? My friend read it and said it was good." Usually, this is a big, big title that is checked out and we don't have on hand. Thank heavens! If I ever inquire into this friend's "recommendation," they usually admit to me that they know nothing about the book, all they know is that their friend liked it. Silly people.

Luckily, when we don't have the book checked in they usually say, "Well, can you recommend anything for me?" WHEW. Thank goodness. You made the right choice.

See, librarians are trained in this little thing called, "Reader's Advisory." That's a clunky term that's short for, "We're trained in figuring out how to recommend a book that's just right for you to read." We start by asking questions like, "What do you like to read? Do you have a favorite book? What have you read that you liked?" Some silly patrons are very resistant to these questions and just want me to pick a book off the top of my head that they will love. More helpful patrons will give me even a couple of answers to work with.

Usually I find that the person who had come in to ask for "The Kite Runner" (that their friend recommended) is really interested in cozy mysteries and Shannon Hale's light young adult fantasy books. Not that there's anything wrong with The Kite Runner... apart from the brutal sexual abuse, maybe. And maybe that person would like it, of course there is always a chance of that! But I will probably recommend something a little closer to their tastes... like something by Gail Carson Levine or Alexander McCall Smith.

So anyway, I have been doing this 30 "days" of books thing, and a few people have said to me, "Hey I read that book you liked. - I didn't like it." Hehehe. Well, I understand it's hard to resist when you hear a really emphatic review of something, or when you like the reviewer.

But the point of all this is to say: if you're looking for something good, something you will like, read a few reviews first (maybe one good and one sort of in the middle - Amazon and Goodreads make this so easy), or call your local library. Seriously, we do this over the phone. Just have a couple of book titles ready that you really liked and they can make some good suggestions for you. Ask different librarians, since we all have our own ideas also. There are also great websites out there that build read-alike lists (i.e. if you liked The Hunger Games they have a list of 20 other books you might enjoy), author read-alike lists, very specific genre searching, all sorts of stuff. Novelist is one of my favorites, which your library probably subscribes to. It has some great search options that let you narrow your search by crazy things like Pace, Tone, Writing Style, etc.

In case you're interested, it seems like what a book focuses on can be the real dividing line between Personal Preference. Readers usually gravitate to one of the following:

Action-packed: Pulse-pounding, high-octane excitement is the rule in these books!
Character-driven: The interior growth and development of the characters is an important element in these books.
Intricately plotted: These books have intricate, complicated, or elaborate storylines, often involving multiple plots, large casts of characters, or numerous narrative twists and turns.
Issue-oriented: Issue-oriented books explore controversial themes, which may cover a variety of emotional, ethical, or social problems.
Plot-driven: In these books, a pivotal event or series of events move the story forward; characters often react to the events, rather than causing them.
World-building: Almost exclusively found in works of fantasy and science fiction, these books immerse the reader in a vividly-created imaginary world that possesses such intricacies as invented histories, languages, geography, or cultures.

For instance, I am a world-building kind of gal. I really like immersive world type experiences. Historical fiction can really float my boat in addition to science fiction and fantasy, if I can experience a different world or time through the sensory experiences of the novel. However, I would never recommend a novel with world-building as it's main focus for a certain co-worker of mine (you know who you are). She is really into character-driven books - oh my goodness. If a book has believable, realistic characters who go through some kind of profound growth or development, and the book mainly focuses on them and doesn't get too waterlogged with setting descriptions and battle sequences (or preferably none of those), she's good!

Sometimes you find books that satisfy multiple kinds of people. I love the Hunger Games for the plot-driven world building. Experiencing a different world and time, the consequences of what has happened in history and how people are dealing with it, I love that. My co-worker loves the same book because of what happens with the characters - they are totally believable and she loves watching how they act and react, the choices they make, how they change, all that stuff. Other people really like the action in the books, or the plot twists, or the love triangle, or the controversiality of teens in a death battle.

So, in conclusion, this post was supposed to be about a book that "everyone hated but you liked." But I don't want this to feel like the proverbial drawing of a line in the sand between you and me, this book or that book. Everybody's different, and as far as I'm concerned as a librarian, everyone is making good choices. If you're reading a book: good for you. I will not judge you if you want another recommendation for a boddice-ripper romance. I have a couple favorites. =D

So, I would have to say for A book everyone hated but you liked, I would choose the Eragon series.  This is sort of a grey area, as there are LOTS of people who really like these books.  But I have also come across a LOT of people who don't like them.  I've heard a lot of complaints about "the writing" (which I think is a subjective term anyway, but that's another post), or complaints about the length or tangents or whatever.  Basically, all I'm hearing is: "I don't like long descriptive passages about fantasy crap."  Or "I like fast-moving books and don't want to diverge on tangents again and again."  Or whatever.  It's all just preferences to me.

Personally, I love all the descriptive tangential fantasy crap.  But that's just me enjoying the world he's created.  See?  So what about you?  Is there a book you feel like no one liked but you?  What about your reading preferences?  Are you a world-building plot fanatic like me, or do you like intricately-plotted, character-driven books?

(Next up: The last post of my book discussion and my Favorite Book!)


Erika said...

I read one recently that really touched me. It's called "No riding your bike in the house! (without a helmet!)" It's about a normal Jewish family that had four kids, and then adopted 5 more kids from Bulgaria and Africa. It's about the angst and joys of adding on to a family, about feeling like you're failing and unexpected successes. It's a thoughtful analysis of many aspects of the adoption system. But mostly it's about what it means to be a family and to love who you've got. Some of the stories were just amazing. It made me cry and laugh. But, I'm not sure it's a book that would appeal to many others.

Sharon said...

One reason I have enjoyed this series of posts so much is because I think our preferences are pretty compatible (I suspect you are a bit more hard-core with the fantasy, but its a genre I embrace!)

And Erika's comment above cracks me up -- because that books fits her perfectly. I think I'd like to read that one, too.

I LOVE having friends who read. : )

Brooke said...

I loved this post! I recently read "The marriage plot" and quite liked it but I was royally shouted down by a friend of mine who loathed it. What can you say? I am liking "Middlesex" evenmore, so maybe she was right and it was just an introduction to him?

Anyway, I miss reader's advisory!

Brooke said...

...I did like the kite runner...:)

Breanne Gilroy said...

Lol Brooke, The Kite Runner is a good book. I think it's funny how shocked people can be when other people have opinions that differ. Silly people.