When is it okay to hate a book? And what does saying that mean really? Do you need permission to hate a book? Do you have the right to hate a book? Why do other people get upset when you hate a book that they love? Do you get upset when a book you love is hated by someone else? Do you expect everyone to agree with you all the time when it comes to books? To love what you love, to hate what you hate, to be bored when you're bored? Is it more acceptable to talk about a book you love, than a book you hated? Aren't both love and hate just opinions--subjective opinions? Does a reader saying that he/she hates a book reflect more on them--their response, their opinion, their experience--or on the book itself? Does one person hating a book mean its a bad book? What if there are twenty thousand people that hate a book? Is it bad then? What if more people love a book than hate it, is it a good book? What makes a bad book, bad? What makes a good book, good? If every "good" book has been hated by some reader, somewhere, does that make it any less "good"?
Okay, that was more than a few questions for you. I admit.
Reading is subjective. Rule number one. Consider it the prime directive. It will always be subjective. This is more good news than bad news. That means that while not every book will be unanimously beloved, adored, and praised, it means the opposite is true as well. It would be rare--but not impossible I suppose--for one book to be unanimously hated, abhorred, trashed and attacked. Every single book that has ever been published--will ever be published--will meet with a variety of responses: some will love it (some might even love, love, love it), some will like it, some will just give it a quick shrug of the shoulders, some will dislike it, some will hate it, some will get angry about it. That's a fact of life. I sincerely believe that every book out there has within it the opportunity to become someone's favorite book. That would be my rule number two. Every single book (or 98% of them at least) has this potential to become "the book" that one amazing life-changing book that flips a switch--if you will--and makes a person love reading. Every book has the potential to wow a reader. But it's also true that a person could read hundreds of books but still have only a fraction of them register as "favorites" or "must-reads."
What do I think it means to hate a book? Keeping in mind that reading is subjective, it means simply this: this particular book at this particular time is not for me. It doesn't mean that I think that a particular book couldn't be, wouldn't be, shouldn't be right for someone else. It doesn't even mean that the book couldn't work for me at another time. I could call to mind at least half a dozen books that I "hated" at one time just to do a complete turnaround and love at another point in time. Octavian Nothing, volume one. Frankenstein. Jane Eyre. The True Meaning of Smek Day. Silas Marner. Just to name a few. I'm sure I could think of more if I sat down long enough. The point is this, opinions change. Let's make that rule number three. A book you once hated could at some point along the way become a book you love. And a book you once loved, you could end up at some point not loving. I don't know if you could ever truly hate a book you once loved. But your opinions can definitely change over time. You can fall out of love with a book. A book that satisfied your needs as an 8 year old may not be as satisfying when you're 40.
Each experience reading a book is different. You cannot make someone have the exact same experience, same reaction, same response, same feeling as you did. No matter how much you want to believe that every single person should feel the exact same way about a book, it just isn't so. There are many people out there. In the blogging community, it's typical to find some that agree with you on some books--but never on every single book you've ever read. There are bound to be differences show up sooner or later. And the sooner you realize that it's okay--more than okay--to have different opinions on such matters, the happier you'll be.
Every opinion of a book is valid. It may not be an opinion you share, that you endorse. You may see things completely differently. But it's an opinion all the same.
Book discussions are great. And a large part of the reason book discussions are great is because of the diversity of opinions expressed. How boring life would be if every single person shared the exact same thoughts all the time. Discussing books with others is fun because you can see things from multiple perspectives. You can see how and why the other person feels the way he/she does. They might bring up a few good points in their discussion. You might come to an understanding and appreciation of your differences. It's good to feel heard, to feel validated. You may never see the book exactly the same. But that's okay.
I'm a big believer in the Readers Bill of Rights...the only thing which I wish it mentioned--and I think it's certainly implied--is the right to have your own opinion on a book. (Likewise, your opinion is never the "only" opinion of a book. But it is the only one you have to live by. So if you've discovered you don't like an author, you shouldn't keep forcing yourself to try over and over again (Dickens for me, cough cough) That doesn't mean you shouldn't ever try again. But be reasonable about it! If you didn't like it last week, chances are you won't like it this week. But give it a year and who knows?) You don't have to like a book because you're told it's good. No one can make you like a book. They can try. But it will only make you hate it more. You can make a person read--in a way--but you can't make them enjoy it.No one should be told how to feel about a book.
Readers' Bill of Rights (Daniel Pennac)
That being said, I think I'm about to abandon Dune because it is just not working for me at all.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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