The Book-Loan Phobia

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I’m a voracious reader. I’ve been reading books every single night before bed for years and years. If you’re reading this blog, I expect you might be a voracious reader too. I’m also a writer (that’s not the occupation I would write on my passport application form, but for all intents and purposes, I’m a writer; I’ve published an indie book – ergo, I’m an author, of sorts). So people know I read and write a lot.

The trouble is, a book is a very personal thing. If you’ve read something that made a big impact on you, maybe changed your perception of how you think about the world, you may want to impart that gift to others – share that joy with the people you care for. It’s just if one of those people is me, things can get tricky…

The problem started when a loved-one bought me the novel, ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ for my birthday. An inscription inside the front cover conveyed how the authorship of the book had been so inspiring for her as a writer. Now, I apologise if you absolutely adored ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ or the author is your Dad or something, I’m really, really sorry – but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Firstly the language was too flowery and verbose for my tastes (perhaps I’m just a stupid Neanderthal, I don’t know) but I found it a struggle from page one. Secondly, I didn’t have a terribly keen interest in the San Piedro residents or the ins and outs of it’s Japanese-American fishing industry, and a fifth of the way into the novel, that disinterest hadn’t changed. There was a murder to liven up proceedings but the book failed to make me care enough to want to find out who did it. But this book was a best-seller so my humble opinion means little to nothing, and perhaps had I given it a chance and tolerated all the flash-backs, I’d have enjoyed it. But I closed the book, never to be opened again. Now what are you supposed to do when you see that loved-one who was generous enough to want to share that literary masterpiece that meant so much to them with you? You lie. You lie and profess that you’ve read it and go on to embellish the reasons as to why you enjoyed it so greatly. That’s what you do.

You probably think I’m a bit of a thicko for admitting that (apologies again, ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ author, you’d probably dislike my book too), and you may be given to thinking I’m a simpleton only bright enough to read ‘Sweet Valley High’ or something. But I’ve read some amazing works of fiction; real classics. I’ve read everything ever written by Jane Austen, Bill Bryson, Agatha Christie, Robin Hobb, to name but a tiny proportion. But I can dislike a book of any genre just as equally – be it highbrow or trashy, I can find fault with anything. I was recently loaned the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy. I only made it sixty pages into the book. I couldn’t even get to the sex-part, and I really tried! If a novel doesn’t grab me, it doesn’t grab me. I’m not terribly fair on fiction, perhaps I don’t give it a fair crack of the whip. But, you as an author, have a short period of time to grasp my very, very short attention span and make me want to devour the book from beginning to end. You see, I can’t bear to be left feeling, ‘well, that’s two weeks of my life I’ll never get back’.

This, of course, is very unfair of me. I’m a writer. I expect people to buy and read my book all the way through (and like it, god-damn you!). So the irony isn’t lost on me. But I know you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I don’t expect to float everybody’s boat. I understand that.

And I’d just like to alleviate the concerns of anybody who has ever loaned me a book; they don’t all turn out to be non-starters! Some people hit the nail on the head, they’ve trusted me with a novel that I did indeed share their opinion of. Yes, it was a great read and you were quite right to believe I would enjoy it. But sometimes I just won’t share your view. Like I say, books are a very personal, subjective thing. What one person could find inspiring and absorbing, another could find tiresome and dull. That doesn’t make you a stupid person. That doesn’t make me a stupid person. Neither of us has embarrassingly bad taste. We’re just different – and we are stimulated by different things. Our differences make the world go around, right? Still, I’ve a feeling David Guterson and E.L. James may have gone right off me…

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7 thoughts on “The Book-Loan Phobia

  1. I’m slogging through a book that I really want to stop reading, but I’ll endure it to the bitter end because I have to write a review of it.

    I think you probably have a fair amount of company in your dislike of 50 Shades.

    So what were the “great reads” that have been loaned you?

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  2. I never thought about it until I read your post — I wouldn’t think twice about telling someone I didn’t care for the movie/restaurant/phone app they’d suggested, but even though our likes and dislikes about many things are personal and subjective, it’s definitely different with books. Maybe it’s because the time investment makes us feel more connected to books than to movies or TV shows. Or maybe feeling bad about not liking a book is a phenomenon only among writers. Very interesting …

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    • I can’t help but fear my dislike of their recommendation suggests their taste is inferior to mine (which it isn’t), there are just lots of highly acclaimed works of fiction I don’t like; Moby Dick, Midnight’s Children etc etc…

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  3. Really interesting post and something that I hadn’t really thought about, but you’re quite right – for me, The Man on Platform 5 by Robert Llewellyn is very personal, but I don’t actually know another person that I’m close to that has willingly read it (and I’ve prodded it at various people now and again). Time investment is a big thing – I find it difficult to commit to watching a movie by myself because it’s a good 2+ hours of time that could be spent doing stuff (stuff of course turns out to be mucking about on YouTube but there you go)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s like an earlier reader commented – you could quite happily tell somebody you didn’t share their taste in a movie or a TV series, but to tell someone you didn’t care for their recommended book..? So should I read The Man on Platform 5..? Or shall we not go there?

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      • If you like fiction, and you’re a bit of a geek (not a lot – the book is more about personality transformation), then maybe. Or if you’re a fan of Robert Llewellyn (Kryten out of Red Dwarf) you might read it out of loyalty. Otherwise… probably not!

        Liked by 1 person

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