Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Recommendations: More Complicated Than You Think

I was struck by Melissa's very excellent post yesterday, which both summed up my own current malaise with reading/picking a book to read and made me think about a problem I have in general with recommending things.

I am so completely overwhelmed by choice that I'm actually finding it hard to just read one book. And when I do pick one, like I started a book I was really looking forward to that I got at ALA (not Carnival of Souls), I find it to be...mediocre. Not worth finishing. Trust me, it was a huge disappointment since this book should have been everything I love in a book and it was the first book in weeks I'd really invested the time and energy to read. Anyway, I wrote a bit about this on tumblr before.

But she also wrote,

I'm reading book blogs, book reviews, feeling meh, about everything. Feeling that I can never quite understand how the reviewer truly feels. Where are the books where there is no logic, no rhyme, no reason? It's different than like. It's different than, oh, yes, that was a good book. It's even different than that was well written. I'm talking about pure, inarticulate, head over heels in love books where you just scream Read it! Read it! YOU HAVE TO.

The last time I was really enthusiastic about anything on this blog it was not a book, but a TV show. And I know of at least 4 people that started it, but I definitely got the general sense from all of them that they sort of felt like....why do you like this so much? And it's that sort of reaction, mixed with the fact that I'm so used to constantly interacting with an assortment of people with different tastes, that makes me really reserved in expressing unabashed love for anything to the point of being evangelical. In fact, I almost commented on Melissa's post that the last book I really felt that sort of love for was Jellicoe Road but then I remembered she has tried to read it several times and doesn't like it.

So I think I've been really conditioned through blogging to do the thing Melissa describes, to talk about a book and its strengths, to express a level of acceptable enthusiasm without ever going overboard. Because to just be like...READ THIS BOOK it's awesome, only sets people up for disappointment. And yet...

At the same time I agree with her that I'm LOOKING for for that kind of enthusiasm from people. I'm so weary of reading things that only disappoint me, that I'm letting other people read everything first. I'm really carefully choosing the books I choose to invest my time in because I want a good return for it. I want to read the books that connect with me and have something to say. I want my mind to be blown, I want to fall deeply in love with characters and worlds that exist only on the page. I want to change and become a different person. I want to know what people are talking about when they reference the classics.

There's no exact formula. A story about girls shipwrecking on an island and trying to survive is made up of everything I should love, and yet...I don't. A European World War II story is something I would normally turn my nose up at, and yet I was riveted--turning the pages and weeping through the story. The most recent thing I've watched on recommendation is Avatar: The Last Airbender, something that if described to me I would probably not even consider. But two of my favorite people online (who are very different from each other, btw) both like it, so I had to watch it you know? And surprise! it's a lot of fun.

So I guess I rely and depend on recommendations. And to be honest, I think knowing what a blogger likes is becoming more and more important. I've realized that just because I like a blogger, that doesn't mean I will like the same things they do. Finding that compatibility is so hard. And relying on the crowd, as opposed to the individual, is becoming more and more important maybe?

How do you feel about this? Do you feel reserved in expressing your love for books or maybe you just don't often feel the kind of love Melissa describes? Or are you on the opposite end of the spectrum where you are always shouting with enthusiasm about what you love? Have you ever read/watched something that was so enthusiastically recommended only to discover you didn't like it at all? Do you have a go-to person for recommendations?

Btw, I love to talk about recommending books a lot, I think, here are some simliar posts:
Literary Identity, The Weight of Recommendations, and More
Love Me, Love This Book


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