When You Dislike Someone’s Book Choice

I believe you can tell that Debbie Stone and I truly enjoy reviewing books together. Originally we had planned to sit down and tap out our words as a team, however, since we started during the pandemic, our pattern became writing separately and then I combined our two articles to meet newspaper requirements. We have maintained that format for a number of reasons, the primary one being convenience. No matter where we are or how packed our schedules, our routine works well. 

Sometimes we love the book, but the good news is that most often we like it in different ways. It would be monotonous for us to blab away with identical thoughts. Even more fun is when we have differing opinions, like with June’s Unlikely Animals. Debbie loved the magical realism while I found the writing tedious. Same book, same reviewers, varying angles and deductions drawn. It’s a mysterious feat and an agreeable one at that. We also respect each other so if we do not agree, it’s rolled into one of the pleasures of writing together – diverse views.

At other reading times, I admit, it is a challenge to dislike a book. One benefit of belonging to several book clubs includes stepping out of my normal reading preferences and exploring new territory. One of my sisters selects mysteries – not my usual genre. Her choices are always tantalizing: Dick Francis, famous for his horse racing thrillers, for example. 

They follow the mystery outline: hint, hint, red herring, repeat, with a surprise ending and a wealth of information packed in between. The ending only materializes by analyzing each hint and rejecting every red herring. Other mysteries may follow the initial design above, then, at the end as the denouement approaches, various inconsequential or never before mentioned characters and events are chucked in as the solution. Huh? A “Where did that come from?” moment is not fair to the reading sleuth.

Sometimes the book chooser is wild about a book, raving on and on about every instant of the plotline. Meanwhile, to me the book was poorly written, the plot proved pointless, and the ending made me want to scream. How do I share my disapproving state of thought without stepping on toes or extinguishing another’s enthusiasm? The same falls true with some of my book selections. 

I prefer heavy, non-fiction, requiring a slow read with potential sidetracks to help me understand the historical significance of a point or to better understand a complex concept. To add to this, I like long books and that is not a positive aspect for some club members. I recognize the sigh of exhaustion when my name is announced as the next stop on a book club tour.

At the Humboldt County Library Book Club, we pick books in advance. Our October and November sessions include scouring reading recommendations and then creating a list for the following year. The library then orders for us and we plow through the titles month by month. Fortunately for some “bad” books, time intervene between picking and actual reading so whomever chose the book remains safe as no one quite remembers who or why we added it to our list. In 2022 we are reading from our 2020 list (COVID break, you know) and so no aspersions can be cast for a lousy read.

At Literary Club each team of 3-4 members reviews a book at our luncheon (innocuous situation). In May we all read the same book and then discuss it. One year a senior member selected 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Translated from Spanish, it is a glorious book about life in a mythical town, Macondo. Language nuances, historical intrigue, and clever descriptions attracted me while for many, the complexity and mysticism overloaded them. There are ways to express disfavor in a book review that still spin the positive; then there are attacks. Sadly, too many attacks jumped around the room that day and I felt pain for our literary guide as she tried to get the group to refocus and think.  

Now I don’t appreciate teen romance, but I realize that others do. I say, “Let them read on.” Are you a book club member? Do you visit your public library or search books online? Books are a wonderful outlet for mental stimulation and intellectual growth. From children’s books to philosophy and psychology, each edition holds something for everyone.