Confessions of a Reader #1: The Recommendation

I love getting book recommendations, don’t get me wrong. A large amount of the books I actually buy are recommendations from friends, people whose book habits and preferences I know well and trust. Sending a ‘thanks for the suggestion, I loved the book’ message to someone is very satisfying, not to mention the all-important continuing the chain by recommending it to somebody else (this is how everyone seems to read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, after being told ‘it’s devastating but it’s so good’).

The problem is, sometimes people will not stop recommending you something you do not want to read. A genre you don’t like or a book you gave up on the first page of. Something with an insufferable first-person narrator. A book the time for reading has really passed (can you tell which specific book that I have actually read those last two are referring to?). It happens for other media types too, especially whatever TV series is big at that moment, and can leave you unnecessarily hating certain things that otherwise should just pass by you with ease.

For me, it tends to be fantasy or sci-fi books, because my tastes in those are very specific, especially the former. My Lord of the Rings exposure is having half-heartedly read The Fellowship of the Ring years ago and having owned The Hobbit as a child and never getting more than a few pages into it, despite liking the dragon on the cover. I don’t have any interest in it. I only like fantasy if it is a) Harry Potter b) modern/urban fantasy close to magical realism or c) very close to horror and probably either modern or like a historical novel but with the Unseelie Court or something. I share my undergraduate tutor’s hatred of Tolkien, though hers was more to do with his reputation as a tutor and his academic work. Mine is because I’ve had years of being told I would like his work, but I don’t.

I know from ranting about this with friends that I am not alone in this problem. I think that ranting with like-minded people might be the answer to this one, seeing as saying ‘X is not for me’ to somebody recommending it can sometimes just result in them trying harder to convince you. Often I feel like I have a club with anyone who also dislikes Lord of the Rings, or other things that are often recommended but not for me, one based on the exciting exchange ‘I don’t actually like…’ ‘oh my god, me neither!’. To anyone fed up of the same old recommendations of things they know aren’t for them, I say: come chat to me. We can rant together.