Unwanted Reading Recommendations: Borrowing, Returning, and Remembering Books

What do you do when somebody loans you a book that you don’t want to read? Has this ever happened to you? It has happened to me a few times, and each time is awkward.

It usually goes like this: the person hands me a book and gushes over it. They mention that there are thirty more books in the series that they want me to borrow as soon as I am done with the first one.

In one particular instance, I took the highly recommended book home. I kept that book for a few weeks, allowing it to stab guilt and anxiety into my heart each time I saw it laying on the bookshelf, untouched. I knew from the dust jacket that I didn’t want to read it. Should I give it back the next time I see the person and pretend to have read it? Should I bring it with me the next time I visit this person’s home and slyly put it back on the bookshelf without this person’s knowledge? Should I just read the darn thing? Should I be honest?

These are all of the questions I wrestled with. What to do? I actually don’t remember what I did. I probably ended up returning it face-to-face and explaining that it wasn’t my thing, but why was that so hard?

Books I have swallowed

I think perhaps that I am a people-pleaser. In fact, I know that this is my personality, so I don’t want to disappoint my friends or family members when they hand me things to read. I’m known for being the “reader,” so I should be able to digest anything, right? Well, unfortunately the fact that I read a lot has also refined my tastes. I find that many of the books I have swallowed are not books that other people attempt to swallow. Therefore, I do not attempt to recommend heavy literary tomes to friends whom I know just want to read the latest Alexander McCall Smith, whom I adore, by the way. Anyway, I think my anxiety over reading such loaned books is the fact that I want to please the person who has loaned it to me. I don’t want to disappoint them. I don’t want to have to tell them that their favorite book is NOT my favorite book, not by a long shot. I want to avoid all conflict and remain friends.

Okay, so now here’s my confession. If you see the book you loaned me on this list, I’m sorry. But I think it’s time to come clean. Here are some of the books I have been unable to finish.

Remembering Isaac: The Wise and Joyful Potter of Niederbipp by Ben Behunin (Sorry, Kelly. It just wasn’t my thing! I did read half of it . . .)

One of the Children of the Promise series books by Dean Hughes. (I can’t remember which one, but this guy has written more than ninety books, so who am I to judge.)

One that I forced myself to finish but hated every minute of was Paradise Park by Allegra Goodman. This was my fault. I bought the book for my sister as a birthday gift. I hadn’t read it and didn’t know how terrible it was. We decided to have a mini book club and read it together. Well, I’m pretty sure we both feel that every minute spent on that book was wasted.

There’s also the other side of borrowing books. I have discovered many hidden gems because of recommendations from my friends. Sandra Dallas’s Persian Pickle Club is one of those gems. (Thanks, Kelly!) Another is Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. (Thanks again, Kelly!) I would have never picked these books up on my own, but I’m glad that I have read them. Boy’s Life is one of my new favorite books thanks to a dear friend who let me borrow it.

And then there are the manuscripts. Having worked as an editor, people often ask me to proofread their books. A few I’ve enjoyed, a few I’ve suffered through, and a few I’ve downright refused to look at. I want to help people and I want to be a good friend and neighbor, but if I’m not offered payment for my services, they usually aren’t rendered, especially for long documents. If you are a hairdresser, I wouldn’t ask you for a free haircut. If you are a dentist, I wouldn’t demand a free cleaning. My editing skills are just as important as any other career or profession.

One of the books I most enjoyed editing is called Shadow on the Shining Path by Garland Dennett. It is available as an e-book here for only $3.95 and is about his fascinating experiences in Peru while dealing with the terrorist organization Shining Path. Here are the opening lines:

“It has taken me twenty years to find the courage to tell the story of those I have killed. A friend told me I am searching for a false expiation. Perhaps he is right. In any case, it is time to name the names of those who died in Peru because of me. It is time to give a fitting obituary to those for whose deaths I was responsible. This is their story.

“And it is the story of the man we all sought after or fled from. Abimael Guzman, founder of Shining Path. Some know part of the story of his capture. Theirs is an arrogant and an incomplete fiction. I am left with enough arrogance of my own to believe that only I know the whole of it. This is the whole story. It is the story of those I killed.”

Interesting, no?

And then there are the books I know I’ve read but I honestly can’t remember a thing about them. They were THAT good! They are:

The English American by Alison Larkin
Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livesey
The Butterfly House by Marcia Preston
Once Upon a Day by Lisa Tucker
Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Driftless Area by Tom Drury
Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman

I could go on. Perhaps that these books fail to spark any sort of memory says more about me and my reading comprehension than it does about these books. Perhaps I should reread some of them. But I keep a list of all the books that I’ve read, and next to these titles I have typed “No,” which means I would not recommend them.

So, how do you return a book you don’t really want to read? What books have you suffered through for a friend or family member? What hidden gems have you discovered because of a friend’s recommendation? What books have you forgotten?


343 thoughts on “Unwanted Reading Recommendations: Borrowing, Returning, and Remembering Books

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  1. Ha! Love the topic.

    I suffered through The Left Hand of Darkness for a mentor and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged for a guy I liked.

    A few recommendations that I loved: A Glass Castle, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, and the Hunger Games series to name a few.

    1. Ugh! Ayn Rand. I tried that one once and couldn’t do it. One of my professors said I had passed the age of being able to enjoy it.
      I love all three of the recommendations you love. Very good choices!

      1. How do you return them? Promptly! haha. This is from the perspective of one who has pushed favorite books upon people that I was just sure would love them, only to ask later and have them say, “I don’t remember you loaning it to me. I’m sure I don’t have it.” I think I’ve learned my lesson, because they were important enough to me that I then had to go out and buy them again. Sigh, people do just have different tastes, I’ve learned. And books!!! There are so many!!! (and so little time, I’m sure you agree). One that I had to admit to my sister that I couldn’t read was The Poisonwood Bible, but I enjoyed Prodigal Summer. She and I share most tastes in books, but not all.

      2. Love that comment from your professor on Ayn Rand. A work colleague recommended one of hers and, as you said, gushed over it. I managed to read about 30 pages and then gave up…I think she was offended when I said I couldn’t get into it! If only I’d had the professor’s line handy!!!

    2. The Left Hand of Darkness is one of my favorite books. I feel Ursula LeGuin is just brilliant. But then, I am a taoist, and so is she. You never know: one person’s suffering is another’s nourishment.

      1. “One person’s suffering is another’s nourishment” — Indeed! I know many who raved about the book.

        Nabokov’s Pale Fire was other I wanted to love because I thought Lolita was such a masterpiece. I couldn’t get through Pale Fire — suffering through some books is just too much to bear!

  2. A few years ago, a coworker INSISTED on lending me the first book in the twilight series, with a promise of more to come “As soon as you finish this one!”

    I protested, saying “Vampires and blood and teen romance aren’t really my thing, Pam,” but she literally shoved the book into my hands saying “You’ve got to at least try. If you hate it, give it back – it won’t hurt my feelings.”

    I read for three tortorous pages before throwing in the towel (i.e. writing “Hate it” with a smiley face on a sticky note and putting it in her cubby). She discovered it at lunch and said, “Okay – I guess you really don’t like bloody vampire teen romance!” and we laughed.

    Ever since then, I will usually try stuff people give me, but I am honest about my reservations up front. Most people try to give you books because they genuinely think you’ll enjoy it as much as they did, and most won’t be offended if you’re kind but honest about your reaction to the book.

    More recently, my boss insisted I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. “Oh Jeez!” I thought – more stupid teen romance. But I tried the first book, and despite the fact that it’s written on an 8th grade reading level, the story held my interest enough to read all 3 books in the series before going to see the film. (The film is great, by the way!) As far as teen literature goes, The Hunger Games were pretty good. Not as deep or well written as Harry Potter, but leaps and bounds above Stephanie Meyer’s sadly stupid abstinence-only propaganda that has somehow been passed off as “good reading” to a generation of dumbded down teenagers.

    At any rate, if you’re looking for something fast-paced and thought-provoking this summer, I recommend “Swamplandia!” by Karen Russel. Now’s your cue to look it up on amazon and either say “sounds good” or “not my style AT ALL!” and begin a new era of refusing to read stuff you know you’ll hate. The ball’s in your court!

    1. Your story made me laugh out loud! So funny and so you. Now, Swamplandia doesn’t sound like my thing, but I like the cover. I may just give it a try. Yes, I judge books by their covers, and a post on that will follow soon. 😉

      1. Nothing wrong with that! I choose wine by how pretty labels are on the bottles… which is probably why I prefer vodka.

    2. Love the stick it note… that is something I would do. I have to admit that Anne Rice got me hooked on Vampire fiction (to be fair she writes about more than Vampires) from a young age. I loved her imagery and to me her characters leapt off the page, but if you weren’t into that kind of thing you would probably hate her stuff.

      I found the Twilight books an easy 2hours a day on the train to work filler, not much thought needed to read it, pretty much a magazine with weird teen angst… oh wait that’s what magazines are, they just aren’t 500 pages X too many books!

      I am 28 and definitely the ‘reader’ of my friend group (hence librarian – LOVE books, LOVE learning – AKA bit of a nerd haha) I think the Twilight saga is a disgusting story for young girls to live up to. I don’t think it should be young-adult fiction as it gives girls the message that abusive, controlling relationships are what equates to love. If a guy removed my car battery so I couldn’t go out or locked me in a house for the weekend so I couldn’t see my friends… I’d be calling the cops… or at the very least my father the SHERIFF!!! I certainly wouldn’t be marrying someone who had killed and eaten people… kinda taking the bad boy thing to extremes there! Apologies for the rant, but I HATE the message these books give to young impressionable females and am very glad the Hollywood version downplayed or edited out A LOT of it!

  3. As soon as I read this I thought guiltily of all the books on the shelves in my garage that friends have leant me over the years and which remain unread. And then I thought, why have they never asked me for them back? Perhaps they didn’t like them that much in the first place. Perhaps giving them to me was easier than taking them down to the charity shop!

  4. This reminded me of all the books that I have stashed away somewhere that I just can’t bring myself to read. That’s what’s hard about giviing books as gifts: even if you know that the person is a book lover, you’ve got to make sure you know what kind of books they naturally like before you recommend one to them…at least that’s how I look at it.

  5. Wonderful post, and congrats on your selection in freshly pressed.

    My favorite surprise book was Richard Dana’s “Two Years Before the Mast.” Too many books that I didn’t care for to start listing.

    1. Thanks! I will have to give Dana’s book a try. I am realizing also that there are too many books I don’t like that I can’t list them all, but that I also don’t remember all of the books I have rejected because I never spent any time with them.

  6. This same phenomenon used to take place with forwarded emailed articles. Thanks to social networking sites, this has stopped. I think it’s a good idea to be able to say no at the outset.

    1. Thank goodness for social networking with all of the filters and such! I hated all of those forwarded emails with pictures of rainbows and cats or lists of things kids say. Who cares? (I sound so heartless!)

  7. Ugh far too many to pick one out. They’re usually mystical fantasy realism books that get recommended, for some reason. 1) They’re too long to speed read and feel you’ve done your duty 2) They probably have a great storyline and generally intriguing premise but the writing hasn’t quite stretched to meet them 3) They’re usually as miserable as sin. Need I go on? I’ve actually bought some of these on recommendation (tho at Amazon second hand prices) – how weak can I get – and now have them sitting on my shelves gathering dust and the battalions of mites to go with it. Hey ho, I’ll never learn.

    1. I can’t believe you’ve bought them. I am a firm holder of a library card for books like that. And yes, they are usually sci fi or some other specialized nonsense.

      1. We live in the middle of nowhere and remembering what was recommended by the time I go to a town is just too tall an order. I never spend more than 1penny GBP + a few pounds postage so it’s cheaper than the fuel to the nearest library. What can I say, life’s a bit odd sometimes. 😉

      2. Library card…or the first x percent provided as a free sample if there’s an eBook.

        Samples obviously aren’t enough to see if I’ll like the whole thing–assuming I liked the sample.
        But if the sample doesn’t interest me, it’s a pretty good bet I won’t care much for the book.
        Although the REALLY short samples, or the books with long introductions, like to screw up that formula.

      3. True enough.
        But the samples don’t cost a dime, either, and if I REALLY like the book, I tend to want to keep it. 😉
        It’s those “I think I like it, but can’t tell if it’s good enough from the sample” ones that cause problems.

        And, of course, the library card is necessary for anything that hasn’t been digitized.

  8. I am also known as “the reader” in my family, so I have books passed to me quite often. The problem with me is, once I start to read a book, I have to finish it no matter how unbearable it is because I just can’t stand to leave it unfinished.

    1. Oh, I used to be that way. But I decided that there are too many really GREAT books to read, that I wouldn’t spend another minute on a mediocre one. Don’t feel guilty. Just quit if you don’t like it after the first 50 pages or so. I’ve quit after a page. Let go…

      1. I don’t like quitting on a book once I’ve started….
        Matter of fact, most of the books I’ve ever really QUIT on were the ones with so many typoes, spelling errors, and other mistakes (don’t proofreaders look through them first?) that I couldn’t be sure what people were saying half the time without interrupting the flow to figure it out.
        I’ve encountered the odd typo here and there in good books, too, but as long as I can figure out what’s meant without that interruption, I can read without really noticing the mistake.

        But quitting on anything else?
        Um…does reading through the first chapter of Harry Potter 5, on three separate occasions, without finishing, count as “quitting”?
        But I believe that’s because the book was so long, and I had so many other things competing for attention, so maybe it doesn’t count.
        I’ve probably quit on other stuff, I just can’t think of anything.

  9. Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone to “lend” me books, but I guess if someone gave me a book I didn’t feel like reading, I’d take it home and check it out a bit anyways, then return it the next time I see them with a polite decline like “I’m sorry, but I just don’t feel like reading this,” or “I’m sorry but this is not my type of thing to read,” and if I actually read the thing and didn’t like it, I’ll say it to their face but without diminishing their taste because to each their own, I guess.

  10. For forty years I enthusiastically answered the question “What do you like to do?” with the answer “Read”. My hope was always to meet other readers who might offer interesting insights about books they liked. I have to confess, however, that since “Fifty Shades of Grey” hit bookstores I’ve changed my answer to “I like listening to jazz” because I am terrified that yet one more person will feel the need to fill me in on every “torturous” (I borrowed the adjective from A. January, but it is so apropos) detail of the chapter she read the night before. My co-worker suggested I buy it. I told her I already have a couple of books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet, so don’t plan to by any more. That will buy me some time, but I’m certain she’s going to offer me her copy when she’s done with it. I’m open to suggestions for how to graciously insist that she find someone who might actually want to read it.

    1. You sound like me: a people-pleaser. It is so hard to say no. I am not planning on reading Fifty Shades of Grey either. I love that you’ve changed your main interest to jazz. That’s one people can’t really question you on or make suggestions about. They probably don’t know anything about it!

  11. I tend to avoid them giving it to me in the first place. To be honest, I’ve read more books than most of my friends, so I don’t get offered them that often. Also, if people like a book they’ll recommend it, and I’ll go to the library to look at it. Therefore if I don’t like the blurb, I don’t borrow it, and no one ever knows.

    My general excuse to get out of being given things is, “Oh, I’m sorry, but my pile of books to read at the moment is enormous.” Or, “I’ve got too many exams at the moment, I’m so sorry.” Or, “I’ll get it from the library, you hang onto yours. Maybe you can find someone else to give it to?”

    I did have one book though that I kept for about three years. I’m still not sure if I’ve read it or not.

  12. Great post! I’ve been there, done that too, but I have clearly blocked those bad books out of my memory because I can’t call a single one to mind now.

    I almost always give books a go when they’re loaned to me. I think it’s worth struggling through a few dodgy books to experience the thrill of discovering a new favourite! I try to be honest with them once I’ve finished with it if I didn’t like it though – honest but diplomatic…

    I love recommending books to people, but I never do it unless someone is actually asking me for advice, or it’s a particularly bookish conversation (or unless anyone’s looking at my blog!) 🙂

    A recent unexpected gem of a recommendation has been “One Day” by David Nicholls. I resisted it for ages because I thought it was going to be a gushy love story. Someone bought it for me for my birthday, and I left it almost a whole year before picking it up… and I was so impressed with it – such a lovely story!

    1. Thank you! I really like Brooks, but for some reason I don’t remember that one. I may have to revisit it. I got to see her speak once. She’s very funny and amiable.

  13. I’ve done recommending and been recommended books. Nowadays, I know you should just offer, and don’t feel dejected when you get a no. Not everyone reads the same things, and a lot of people know what they do and don’t like to read.
    Hasn’t stopped me from trying to get people into anime and manga, though.

    1. Good advice. And, you’ve made me realize that I have recommended book that I’m sure people are wincing over. Come to think of it, some of those have been missing from my shelves for quite some time…

  14. Where to begin.
    I am an author junkie.
    I find an author who writes what I like and read EVERYTHING they have written or at least make a somewhat OCD attempt to do so.
    I try to stay eclectic, so when offered something I start in on it, along with the other 7 or 8 books I juggle at any given moment.
    My friend offered me a fantasy series by two authors. I tried, I really did. But plod would be more accurate than plot! Now I have misplaced them and he wants to reread them (I haven’t the slightest why).
    I keep hoping another fantasy friend will offer the same set and I can kite them back and forth like bad checks all the while never having read past chapter two!

    Must agree though that Hunger Games opened my eyes to YA Fiction as a source of plot I had overlooked. All thanks to a friend who says in every marriage there is a reader and a non-reader. Test that theory. Seems to hold true IMHO. 😉 ~Regards, Dan

    1. I am an author junkie too! The most memorable of these for me is Joyce Carol Oates. I love her work, although it’s dark and dense. And your theory holds true in my marriage. I’m the reader and my husband is not!

    2. “I am an author junkie.
      I find an author who writes what I like and read EVERYTHING they have written or at least make a somewhat OCD attempt to do so.”
      Kindred spirit! I have one series of roughly thirty novels that I’m now trying to get rid of…not because I’m no longer interested in them, but because I want to clear out some shelf space and switch to digital. (I fully intend to buy these as ebooks later….)

      I’ve noticed that when I have multiple books that I’m “currently” reading, I tend to read anthologies first (every single story in them, though), then “the latest book in insert-series-here” (if I’m already well into the series), then “book 1 of insert-series-here” (if I only possess one or two books of the series), and THEN whatever else is on my reading list.
      And I’ll interrupt reading one book in favor of a new possession if it fits that order (e.g., I’ll stop reading halfway through a novel if I’d just bought an anthology).
      Not always, of course, but that’s what I usually seem to do….

  15. Great Read. I’m glad to find I’m not the only one. Both my brother and father are avid readers and the amount of books they pass me is unbelievable. The problem I find though, is the amount of books people offer. It’s almost as they think you don’t do anything else and just read.

    However, I seem to just be moaning know, I really enjoyed the article and look forward to reading more in the future.

  16. Ugh, I know the feeling! ‘Here! Read this book about this werewolf but hes really a reincarnated human who’s in love with her, but she’s in love with somebody else, who is actually’…no. I can’t do the current YA stuff, because I just hate the paranormal crap they are pumping out lately, all with the hope of jumping on the bandwagon with a giant group of pre-teen/teenaged girls all in love with a fictional vampire/werewolf/angel/alien, etc.
    The on the list of ‘forced to read’ was The Last Song, and Dear John (I have trouble swallowing over-the-top romance novels), The Lovely Bones (hated it so much), The Night World Series (which is oddly close to Twilight…and was published way before it too…), and The Forest of Hands and Teeth (which was okay, but just not amazing, per say). I always hated giving the books back with them all happy and ‘oh, isn’t amazing?’
    I find that giving the books back after a while with the excuse of ‘I’ve been too busy to read it, maybe I’ll try it again another time,’ usually works. Unless they are unusually persistent.
    But books that I’ve been pleasantly surprised with have been the Inheritance series (Eragon, Eldest, y’know, the books with the dragons on them), Earth’s Children (definitely an adult’s book, and it takes a while to get through the series, but they;re really interesting), The Kommandant’s Girl, and Anne Frank and Me, among a couple others.
    Though I do love Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen, along with The Book Of Negroes, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, Poison Study, and a million others. I have Goodreads to keep track of all of that, haha.
    What type of editing do you do?

    1. I love Goodreads, and I’ve tried that “I’m too busy line.” Sometimes it works, and sometimes they say, “Oh, well keep it. I don’t need it back.” Argh!

      I don’t do editing anymore. I used to work for a non-profit in a security department editing a daily worldwide incident report and country reports for employees overseas. Now, I teach composition courses at a university and I will start work on my Ph.D. in the fall in editing and tech writing. Thanks for the good book suggestions!

  17. Hermann Hesse, something about a green door and a miserable guy who couldn’t discover himself if there was a big red X on his forehaed and a map in his hand. I suppose I was supposed to love it because I love the German language, schalger musik, the countryside and a LOT of their pastries. But I could not find anything remotely resonnant with the main character like my friend had. I think that Hesse might be for the manicly depressed and not really right for those of us with a chipper dispossition. And I suppose I was supposed to love it because the guy who gave it too me assumed anyone of his intellectual standards would find it not only fascinating for revelatory.
    Oh how I hate to disappoint. But he forgot that I enjoy the indulgence of a Star Trek novel for the sheer joy of meeting up with characters who have… well, character.

    Lesson learned. After being belittled and beleaguered for my intellectual shortcomings, knowing I will never get those hours back… and I couldda had a Trek novel instead…. I flat out tell people “Thanks. But that really isnt my thing.”

    Most peole do not take offense. Diplomacy doesn’t attack the book,the author or the person who loves it like they’d written it themselves.

    Now, I did enjoy same friend’s recommendation of Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe. But mostly because I envisioned John Boy Walton as the main character/narrator narrating in the voice of Earl Hamner. That made it much more readable to me.

    Just tell the truth.
    And don’t throw the book at them….

    1. Hermann Hesse is my second-favorite writer! The only book of his I didn’t absolutely love was The Glass Bead Game. I normally prefer very long books, but in Hesse’s case, short novels were the perfect length for his type of stories. Long just didn’t work for him. So many of his novels have changed my life and significantly influenced me, and I got into him all on my own, years after all the hippies were discovering him as part of some fad.

      1. And that might have been the problem with steppenwolf ( i looked it up). it was long. And honestly… I do not read appreciatively under duress. Of course… the fact that there was a faddy element to the suggestion may have also influenced my dislike for the book.

        So who is your first favorite author?

        1. Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn is my favorite writer. I’m still disappointed I never got around to writing him a fan letter before he passed away in 2008. He’s not only my favorite writer, but one of my heroes and a huge inspiration in my own Russian historical writing.

    2. Okay. I can do that. Tell the truth! And you are right that you’ll never get those hours back. That’s why I’ve given myself permission to stop reading a book if I don’t like it.

  18. This happens to me too! I just avoid reading it until they ask me about it and I say “I’m so sorry! I haven’t gotten to it. I have a long list of books on reserve at the library and I have to read them when they become available and get them back on time. I’ll give you your book back and ask you for it when I have some time.”

    This makes you look like a responsible citizen for getting your library books back on time and considerate for not wanting to hold onto their book if someone else could be enjoying it.

    Good luck!

  19. My family tried to get me to read The Hobbit Twice. The second time, in 1993, I got as far as the end of the second chapter before I gave up in boredom and never tried to read it again. Since I was bored enough by The Hobbit, I was even less interested when they tried several times to get me to read LOTR, though I did enjoy the films.

    The more people try to push overhyped fads like Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games, the more determined I am to never read them. I’d actually sooner attempt LOTR than try any of those modern books. At least I know they’ve stood the test of time and aren’t just a trend anymore.

    1. I have read The Hobbit, but I’m not a huge fan. My husband, not a “reader” has read LOTR and loved it. I am still trying to get the courage to do so.

  20. I’d say it’s perfectly fine to return it truthfully without having read it as long as you at least give it a try. There are few books I won’t even attempt attempt to read, like any young adult fiction (Hunger Games? Twilight? No thanks), if someone recommends them. I do feel guilty however, when I pick something up that is considered a classic and have to put it down without finishing. I’ve recently had to do this with Moby Dick and The Sound and the Fury. But that guilt is more towards the idea that millions of people seem to love these books and consider them mandatory reading and the authors put so much work into them, but I can’t even get halfway through.

    I can usually tell in the first 25-50 pages if I’ll finish the book, or if the story is good enough to actually try read it in its entirety even though it’s not my thing. So if someone recommended something that I probably wouldn’t like, I’d at least give it a couple chapters before returning it. Or tell them right off that it’s not my thing.

  21. The curse of being known as a reader!
    Like you said, everyone thinks that just because you like to read, you’ll absolutely love whatever book they tell you about. I’ve had people recommend books that I ordinarily wouldn’t touch with a ten foot poll, but like you, I also have a hard time telling friends and associates, ‘no’.
    On the other hand, there’s a few books that I treasure that I would’ve never known about had someone not forced them on me.
    My biggest problem is that I don’t have time to read the books that I want to read, let alone everything that someone else insists is good.
    Anyways, it’s nice to know that others have the same problem with being an avid reader.
    God Bless,

    1. Yes, it’s a blessing and a curse. I also have friends tell me they are afraid to write in front of my (i.e. Facebook) for fear that I’ll correct their grammar or spelling. I would never do that, but I know such grammar nerds do stalk the social networking sites!

  22. The worst is having a boyfriend who is as much, if not more, of an avid reader as myself. He has a bookshelf full of books and every time I finish one he says, “Now you should read this one!” Usually his recommendations are awesome – like Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44. But sometimes I just need something more lighthearted! Fortunately he doesn’t get his feelings hurt too easily 😉

    1. That does put a little extra pressure on the situation, with a boyfriend. I try to get my husband to read things, but he just gives me THAT look and I know it won’t happen.

      1. I got so excited recently when my Hubby said he wanted a book from the Library, because he doesn’t have a Library card I jumped at the chance to take him so he could borrow a book….
        … it was a World of Warcraft fan fiction graphic novel!!! *shame face*

  23. Hi Emily, I’ve just discovered your blog. Love it! I have a few books at the moment which friends have lent me. It’s not that I don’t want to read them, but I have so many others on my ‘to read’ pile. There is just not enough time to read them all. :-p I work in a library so I have found many amazing books I woudn’t have thought of looking for. so many books, so little time…

  24. Oh, I can so relate to that. It is so embarrassing to return a book unread. And yet so incredibly impossible to read a book that I hate.

    Equally bad are random books as presents. It takes me often hours to find a book I want to read in a bookstore, and if someone just buys me ‘a book’ I will hate it with a probability of 99.999%.

    The worst is if they even go to the bookstore to ask about recommendation based on some random books that they remember I liked. This never works out.
    Just because I liked one family story I am not into family sagas in general and just because I liked a Russian writer does not mean I know want to read thrillers about Russia now, and just I liked *any random book* does not mean I want to read Coelho.

  25. I know exactly where you are coming from – however over time I have learnt that the best thing all round is simply to say “Thanks, but no thanks” straight away if you know it’s not your kind of book. Reading is a pretty personal thing – what one person loves may mean nothing to another.
    Anyway, great blog!

  26. I have the same problem. I also buy my grandma the new mystery books she loves (and I’m not a huge fan of), but then after she finishes them she turns around and sends them back to me to read, which is sweet, but now I have a huge guilt complex for not reading the books my grandma re-gifted me with.

      1. She doesn’t do it to “re-gift” per se, but just gives them back because she thinks I want to read them, and I don’t have the heart to tell her, “Not really.”

  27. Yep, my human has this happen all the time. He normally gives them a try – say 25 pages – he likes it or he sets it aside. If a person tries to “loan” him book after he’s had one bad experience with the “loan-or”, he politely says he’s to busy writing. If that doesn’t work he tells the person trying give him the book, that part of my diet is books (as in the dog ate my homework) and he’s doubts that the book would survive. The “loan-or” goes away and I get a treat for growling at the appropriate time.

  28. My sister once loaned me “Esperanza’s Box of Saints.” A book I would never have found on my own. A book that lives on as one of my favorites. If you have not, you should read it ;).

  29. A lady from my church told me once that we like to read the same kinds of books and then a few months ago she brought over two books she thought I would like. I don’t know how she thinks THOSE are the types of books we have in common. They’re both “nonfiction” accounts of people who have allegedly died, gone to Heaven, and come back to life so they can torture people with their books. They’re still sitting on my desk while I decide what to do with them. I am not a book snob, but I simply cannot read a book unless I really think I can enjoy it. Otherwise my brain can’t do the task.

    Anyway, what really irks me about these kinds of recommendations is that I realize people don’t really understand me. So I guess what I SHOULD do is let her know where she went wrong, thus helping her to be more informed as to my tastes. But I know that won’t happen. What I will do is quietly give them back and thank her for thinking of me, then try to change the topic to her recently born grandchild so she won’t ask me if I liked them.

    Book recommendations are so much more difficult to deal with because the people usually take the book and force it into your hands. Why can’t they just ask if you want them to bring it to you; why is it so important to them that you read the thing? There are people whose movie recommendations are really the tool I use to decide which movies NOT to watch. And it’s easy, because they don’t bring the DVD over and put it in the DVD player, they just recommend it and I can simply thank them for the suggestion. Please, people, stop throwing books at your friends. Give them a choice!!

    1. This is hilarious. I am sorry you have to bear this burden. My favorite part of your comment? They died and came back so they could torture people with their books. Ha! And isn’t it funny how many of the commenters have likened their bad book experiences with torture? Looks like Guantanamo Bay should add this to their list of horrors.

      1. Emily, you’re right; people like us have a particularly strong reaction to books & so it really is like torture to read a bad book. We have a physical response.

  30. I cringe when someone recommends a book to me. Over the years I found myself recommending books to others and something I quit doing. Working with actors and artists over the years they took great interest in books I recommended. I started gushing to Tom Cruise about Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice in the summer of 1991. A few months later he gleefully told me he would be playing Lestat. My husband who likes to rummage around in sale bins and 2nd hand bookstores brought home The Persian Boy by Mary Renault about Alexander the Great from the viewpoint of a servant boy. It too found it’s way to the big screen in the form of “Alexander” after the writer’s family would not sell the rights. Others, such as The Other Boleyn Girl found it’s way to the big screen and The Pillars of the Earth made into a television series.
    I had a hand in much of the storyline working with the “spec” writers of the Harry Potter series and Twilight and The Hunger Games. The Twilight books are dedicated to my great grandmother Emily who Stephanie claims is her sister. These books were written with the full intention of being made into films so the actors and studios could control the “rights”.

  31. I am reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson right now and it is surely in top 10 list of best books I have ever read already, but I do have Poe and Lowecraft on my bookshelf (out of nostalgia 🙂

    As of Stephenson I also recommend The Baroque Cycle trilogy, and maybe even Snow Crash, but hardly his other stuff which is sad, since when he writes greatly, he writes the best, but when he is poor he is simply unsatisfying to no end.

    I know it is fiction all that that is NOT a classic literature, but what can I say? Iain M Baknks (the Culture series) is VERY GOOD too. If you read a lot, perhaps give them a try. If you don’t, I still think you should 🙂

    Good day to you!

  32. New to your blog and loved this post.
    When someone tries to kindly push a book onto me, I always say, “I working though a stack of books right now, but let me put it on my list for the future.” This way, if someone asks me again, I can say, “It is on my list!” (I got this idea from a family member whom I am pretty sure used this technique on me. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.)

  33. On the flip side –

    I treasure books that I’ve kept and when someone borrows one, please treat it like a borrowed treasure, because that’s what it is to me. I’ve loaned a brand new set of books out to an ex, note “ex”friend who lost one of them. I’ve loaned out books that come back stained and dog earred. I feel like one of my children have come back maimed. If you aren’t going to take care of it, please don’t ask to borrow my book(s) unless you don’t care about taking care of friendships either.

    1. I am with you on this one. My books are important to me. I don’t like them ruined. Sometimes I refuse to loan them to certain people because I know they won’t be careful.

  34. Ugh. Suffering through “The Unwanted” by Barnard. I couldn’t even find an online summary to lie myself out of reading it. A most timely post. Thank you.

      1. Might post one after I’m done, for posterity and for any future travelers of the unwanted but well intentioned road of literary impositions. In the meantime I’ll try to learn something out of it, after all, the guy did accomplish the first human heart transplant. Cheers.

  35. I stopped having trouble saying “no” a long time ago. Life is short! I don’t have enough time to do all the things and read all the books that are important to me, so why waste time trying to please someone else, especially in this particular way? However, I do often give book recommendations a chance and have found some great stuff that I wouldn’t have picked up myself. Occasionally, I’ll break down and read something that doesn’t appeal, just to see what all the fuss is about. I read the Hunger Games trilogy in 3 days (I was sick in bed anyway). Good plotting in the first two, less good in the third, and I got tired of Katniss thinking the world revolved around her (but that’s age appropriate!), e.g., not being grateful to Haymitch for saving them all from more bloodshed in the arena — but I’m glad to have read it because (A) it was fast and easy and (B) I now have a better idea of what kids are reading.

    Anyway, great post! You got a nice discussion going here!

    1. Thanks! And I do think it is valid to read just to see what the fuss is about. I did that with The Da Vinci Code and ended up liking it. I also broke down and read the first Twilight book, which has come in handy when dealing with teenagers and my comp students.

  36. I think the same can be said about movies too. I have had a few movies past on to me that sat on the player for weeks before I had to give them back and thank the person for hooking me up and hoping they don’t ask me to watch a sequel.

  37. I understand. A month ago my neighbor gave me a digital copy of a book he wrote and is attempting to get published. He wants my opinion. He offered me $20 to read the book. Its a long book and it figures out to about 4 cents a page. I read four pages and can’t find it in myself to continue. Should I ask for my 16 cents? This is the third time this has happened. The first book, written by another neighbor, was on Christianity and I’m Buddhist, the second was just plain bad. I never figured out what that book was about. Fortunately the author finally recognized that and gave up on it. Now I’m faced with telling another neighbor that the best thing he can do is reformat his hard drive. Maybe I will start walking the dog with a guide dog harness and carry a white tipped cane. Send me a copy when it comes out in Braille.

  38. Same thing happens to me all the time. Problem is 1) I’m a literary snob and 2) It takes me forever to finish books. The average is 4 to 5 monthes because I read a couple at a time and take breaks from certain books. So if I borrow it, there is a very small chance you are getting it back any time soon. Also, I have had several guys try to bond with me by lending books, and it’s so frustrating.

    1. It is hard to be a literary snob. Maybe we should try giving them copies of our heavy literary tomes as a way of deterring them from ever offering us a Jude Devereaux book again!

  39. Seems to me I remember less and less about books I’ve read from only 10 yrs., ago much less 30 yrs. ago. I did do my undergraduate degree in English literature but for the last decade or so, I’ve been reading non-fiction books. Travelogues, contemporary issues and biographies.

    I’ve only had a friend recommend to me 1 book over 25 yrs. ago. It was a self-help book. Indeed it was helpful –“The Dance of Anger”. by Harriet Lerner.

    Ironically I am a librarian also (my master’s degree) by training and also for a good part of my career. However I didn’t work in a public library. My librarian friends and I don’t even discuss books. Time is so precious amongst us, that we focus on what we’re each doing, our work (which is not reading books) and other stuff. 🙂

    You are a polite person to accept a loaned book even though it may be a title or author that you don’t care for at all.

      1. After university, I worked for 23 yrs. in health care (geriatric medicine, then spinal cord injuries), engineering and law libraries. I have never worked in a public library where fiction is covered. Of course, on the job I made recommendations to answer scientific and legal research questions that reflect the specialized libraries where I worked and the needs of the client base. It was part of my daily job. (Present job is different.)

        I do love books, and like commenters who might be responding here, had several hundred books at home of which I’ve read part of my collection. From that personal collection, occasionally I have recommended titles or given them away.

  40. I have a way to double the number of books I can get through. I read one and listen to another. I always have a Book on Tape in my car, and listen whether I’m going to the grocery store or to a job interview.

    Right now i’m reading “Room” and listening to ‘Politician,” the timely story of John Edwards.

      1. This has more than doubled what I am able to read through in a year, as I have a job that allows me to listen to material while working. It’s been wonderful!

        (Though, I do tend to listen to fiction and print read most non-fiction.)

  41. I do the “smile and nod” when people recommend a book. I’ll take careful notes on title and author and swear up and down that I’m going to reserve it at the library. I’m sure I will eventually. Before I die.

  42. I’ve been in this situation quite a few times. I started out just giving in and reading the book. I realized this to be painful, so I started pretending to have read it. Eventually, I decided to be upfront. When people recommend books to me, I ask them what it is about and tell them I prefer books along these and that lines. Or that I’m not into such genre.

    Personally, I rarely recommend. Often when asked for example if they should read Haruki Murakami, I ask them first what they like and how open they are to the weird. But I think when people learn you read (a lot) or that you even have a book blog they tend to throw every book they gushed over unto your lap. lol.

    enjoyed this post. Could relate to it.

  43. Really love this post, Emily. The issue hits at so many different level: the microcoms of reading, the macrocosm of social interaction defined by our culture.

    I find your dilemma interesting – your desire to be a people pleaser and to set healthy limits and boundaries for yourself.

    As an counseling astrologer (rather than a mundane, predictive one), I’d want to look at where your Venus is and how much Libra and or Pisces you have in your chart.

    As a psychotherapist, I find it more interesting that people shove books at you (us) expecting us to read them. That has everything to do with THEM, not us. There’s a kind of forced requirement (controlling relationship?) in handing a book to someone and expecting her to read it. Perhaps an unconscious need for ego (theirs) recognition? There is, most definitely, a boundary/merging issue at hand (i.e. “I like this so I want you to like it, too”) Personally, I find the demand quite obnoxious.

    I do read a great deal as well and, when excited about a book, I do talk about it and what it might mean to me. Literature (as all art does) expands our exploration of our world – and that is a thing to be sought after. However, after expounding on my own soliloquies of any book, I only then mention that I have it for loan if the other person is interested, but leave her the choice of whether she wants to take me up on the offer or not. If interested, she will ask. If not, we can both let it go at that. For me, it’s a matter of etiquette and I find, in our “share everything” world,” that is often a difficult thing to come by.

    I admire your work in setting boundaries and, when I am offered a book I do not want, I simply say, “Thank you for the offer. Right now, I have lots of reading at hand and, when and if I am ready, I’d be happy to borrow it from you. I do appreciate it.” This is always said with an accepting smile. This way, I can communicate that I am with them in their excitement, but also set a personal limit for myself. Both the other’s needs and my own then get met.

    A really wonderful post to think about how we navigate relationship, no matter how it presents itself in the material world.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I do struggle with setting boundaries, especially with certain members of my family. I am working on that and definitely teaching my daughter to learn how to do so at a young age, as I see a lot of my people pleasing traits in her.

  44. Just one more thing.

    No reason, if one does accept the proffered reading, in the end, to express our own feelings about the reading.

    If a more distant relationship, one can always say, “It just did not speak to me.”

    If within a more on-going and long-term relationship, the very real experience of the reading shared with another can deepen that relationship. We share more of ourselves with the other person and allow them access to our more intimate details of ourselves: what moves, inspires, interests us and what does not. And that leads to more depth in friendship and relating. It requires risk and honesty. But, really, that should be the basis for any lasting relationship.

    1. All great points. Risk and honesty. I need to work on that in some of my friendships. I had a traumatic experience with an ex best friend that makes me wary of that risk in any friendship. I guess sharing books is part of that risk in revealing who we are and what we really value.

      1. My thoughts are that, if a friendship cannot hold taking risks, it’s not really a true friendship. Just another avenue for having to edit ourselves and “being polite.”

  45. Hello! I’ve plowed through a number of books not worth reading, not worth remembering, haha, especially when I was in my 20s. True enough, some published works do not necessarily add to human knowledge but even subtract from them. Oh, well…

    This is a timely subject matter. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Cheers! 🙂

  46. Reblogged this on Drops Of Ink and commented:
    I have found myself in this position as a giver and a receiver. As a giver you want so much for the person to love your suggestion and report back accordingly. However, if you have friends as honest as mine that so often is not the case.

    1. Thank you! It is hard to accept that somebody may not like your suggestion, which is why I have such a hard time telling people that of their suggestions.

      1. But the truth shall set them free. Not to mention the good conversation you can now have about what didn’t light your book fire. It was like that with my friends and I and The Daughter of Smoke and Bone….two of us carried a hard torch for it and the other friend kinda smirked and shrug with a Seinfeld like “uuuhhh aaahhhh it was just okay.” Needless to say I stayed my hand (lol) and we had a good talk about what didn’t do it for her.

  47. Anything sci-fi is a struggle for me to read, which, for reasons I simply do not understand, my friends are obsessed with. I tend to give up after five pages. I do feel guilty about pretending to read them but I didn’t ask to borrow the books in the first place.

    These days, I’m more honest. I tell people outright that I don’t like book recommendations because they always sucked. I prefer to discover books on my own. Nor do I recommend stuff for people to read. Discovering books make them more “mine” and I’m not going to deprive anyone of the experience.

    1. I am not into sci fi either, but I just started Dune which is on the BBC Book list for this blog. I guess I HAVE to read it. But so far it isn’t too bad.

  48. This is a great topic. I’m a writer and while I love to read, I also have to read for my profession. Scripts, articles, books, short stories, you name it have stacked up by my chair and bedside. So when someone gushes over a book and hands it to me to “borrow,” I feel like he is giving me homework. Unless it’s an author I love and I’m getting a sneak peek at her next book, the “borrowed” book is suddenly transformed into work vs. enjoyment. I feel obligated to report back in the positive. My solution: I do a load of audiobooks. Nearly every book I buy for enjoyment is audio. If I really love a book, I’ll have print and audio versions. Now I just tell folks I’ll have to get whatever book they’re suggesting on audio. I can sample the first five minutes on audible.com and decide if I want to continue listening. If it’s interesting, I’ll get it and usually finish it — even if it’s not the greatest book. I have no excuse not to listen to a book while doing the dishes! That way I can get back to the kind book lover and find something positive to say about his suggestion.

  49. Tiger’s Wife, but to be fair, the friend who loaned it to me wasn’t sure what she thought of it myself and wanted to know what I thought about this book, so I wasn’t “expected” to love it.

    I long ago quit “loaning” people my books. I now give away my books. If I really loved a book, or it’s signed, it goes on my top shelf – never to be given away. I will recommend these books to people, but I do not care if they never read them.

    1. You are kind to give away books. I tend to annotate my books and therefore they become journals of my thoughts while reading. I wouldn’t give those away, kind of like your signed copies.

  50. I think you and I both belong to the same Guilt-Tripped Readers’ Club. In my case, the primary source of unwanted literary woes is my well-intentioned mother-in-law. As a similarly avid reader, she very “helpfully” has at least one or two books to recommend whenever we visit, which is often. Of course, some of them she hands over with the beaming assessment, “It was okay.” It takes every shred of self control in my being to hold back the reply, “If it was only okay, WHY ARE YOU GIVING IT TO ME?” She does the same to my husband, who being her son feels doubly compelled to read things in which he has no interest. Yet with so many awesome tomes sitting on our physical and mental to-be-read pile (that we actually -want- to read), and only a finite number of years upon the earth, we have devised a solution you may find helpful (if a bit deceptive): Allow the book to age for a reasonable period of time in a pile, read the Wikipedia article or cliff notes on it, and graciously return it with a couple remarks on plot elements/characters you found to be of note (courtesy of the Wiki). Technically, one never has to explicitly state that they read it, and one can just as readily have an opinion on some cliff notes as the book itself. (It’s worth noting that this is also the only morally acceptable use we have found for cliff notes.)

    1. Should we start our own book club and just read terrible recommendations from people we are afraid of disappointing? 🙂 I wonder what your mother-in-law would do if you said that. Why IS she giving them to you? And I love your comment about the morally acceptable reason to use cliff notes. Brilliant!

  51. That book you gave a caption for sounds really interesting… Maybe I’ll read it! I’ve also had many experiences with being recommended a book I didn’t want to read. One time, my aunt recommended a book she’d read a long time ago. She ranted and raved about it, so I ended up buying it. It took me 2 weeks to read- and this is coming from a girl who can read a good size book in a couple of hours. No matter how much I hated it, I continued to read it. Later on, my aunt re-read it and apologized because she had forgot how terrible it was…

  52. I simply explain that I have so many unread books already, and that I cannot take on any more at present.

  53. While I have had very few books loaned to me, I have been given a fair share of books that I can’t or won’t read. Recently it was a gift for Christmas, and while I thanked the person and explained that it wasn’t my style, I’ve yet to hear the end of it. Hence I would rather people people not lend me books. Of course I am guilty of wanting to share my books, though after not having some books returned and almost lost by people who I loaned to, I’m not so sure I will ever loan out books again. I’ll just mention a book in passing to someone I think might like it.

    1. You’ve got me wondering how many books I have given as gifts that have gone unread. I guess this is where my sisters and my dad can make some confessions to me!

  54. I just keep these books for a ‘polite’ week or so and return them saying I didn’t really understand the book, or I didn’t really have the time. With a few close friends, I just tell them it was crap! And they smile…coz they know I’m terribly snobbish about what I read! Ha ha

    1. I did this once with a book I wanted to read, but I was trying to break off contact with the person who owned it. The other people present were like: “That’s a really straightforward and easy book to read. I can’t believe you didn’t understand it!” Oops!

  55. Well, I’m a lone reader among my friends and family. Though once my sis recommended The Alchemist and I really adored it.
    I’m not given any book by anyone, either as a gift or a loan. So, I haven’t been ever in a situation like that of yours.

  56. Love your blog Emily, um, this happens to me quite regularly. The ‘people pleaser’ in me finds it very difficult to reject a recommendation or loan. I now say, I have so many books to get through, let me add it to my list. I still feel bad though. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

  57. The problem with borrowing books from people is that even if I want to read a book, I might not want to read it now, this instant, on a timetable that is convenient for them. Experience has also taught me that, still worse, once the borrowed book is at home, staring at me reproachfully from the end table where I have carefully laid it so as not to forget it because I must read it soon so that the book’s owner doesn’t get anxious or resentful or something, I generally find myself feeling repulsed by the demand on my time and wanting to read or do ANYTHING else. I know how anxious I get when my books leave my possession, especially since lent books are generally favorites, and I will probably want to read them again. Cue the guilt, which I have learned is far worse than any fears I have about insulting my friends. I suppose I’ve finally absorbed the lesson; nowadays I write down the name of the book and the author while telling my super-helpful, enthusiastic friend about the shelves full of books I own that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet and the gazillions of other things I have to do. “I’m so sorry, that sounds very interesting, and I’ll make a note, but I really don’t have the time right now and I’m not sure when I will.” That usually calms them down. Some continue to push, but I remember my guilt, the list of books I’ve felt compelled to read that I ground my way through with clenched teeth, and the select few books that, no matter how interesting, stayed the end table for weeks or months while my friend probably worried and wondered. I repeat myself, and then again if necessary. I can always check the book out of the library and return it, no questions asked, if I can’t find the time or desire, or if it turns out to be terrible. I currently have a book that a friend lent me a year and a half ago. I returned her other two books within a week, but this one I just never managed to get to. Now she has moved away, and the guilt is driving me mad. I think I’m going to have to pay to have it shipped, otherwise I’m going to feel like a thief (albeit it, an accidental one) every time I see or think of it. Book lenders beware: if someone doesn’t seem thrilled to borrow your book at the get go, perhaps you ought to take them at their word.

    1. I guess book lenders should be more socially aware and try to read the looks on people’s faces. I too have a book somebody gave me over twelve years ago, but we’ve lost contact. I don’t even remember her name, but I am keeping it just in case she comes knocking and wants it back!

  58. Excellent post.
    You have said what I want to say, my freinds alway loans me books that I don’t want to read. But I want to recommend a nice book to you….”Gone with the wind”…

  59. I have the same problem too .. I have tried to come up with solutions for that but in vain . Firstly, If I pretend to have read the book and they ask me some questions about the book, then I am in big trouble. If I lend my books ( I usually don’t because they never come back) to someone , I tend to discuss a few bits about the book with them . My friend gave me her old “Pride and Prejudice”and I gave her my “Little Women”. Frankly I liked the book but I wasn’t able to finish it and I was in no mood to finish it . My friend very well knows I couldn’t finish the book but she all like “You can have the book as long as you need”. Now I can’t get my “Little Women” back. One of the very few hazards of book lending !! Sorry for the rant 🙂

    Great Post 🙂 🙂

  60. You may enjoy Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

    “It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.”

    pretty killer opening line…hooked?

  61. I couldn’t even make it through it. It was a book made into a movie and once the movie became popular, my friend suddenly wanted me to read the book series VERY BADLY. I kept it for about a month. Trying to force myself to read it… I just gave up and told him that I couldn’t get into it. Still felt like crap though, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings! Luckily, we both like Edgar Allen Poe, so I was able to distract us both with that. The conversation actually went better than I’d been expecting.

  62. Now I know what other people feels when I loan them my books. ahaha. I should not do it again. LOL. thanks! 😀
    Me too, I’m a people-pleaser! So hard to be honest sometimes if you’re like that!

    Cheers from the philippines!
    -Gian Carlo

  63. Some great observations here Emily, And I’ve never considered a mini-book club reading for just two. That’s so cool an idea.
    The books that don’t move me I don’t finish or keep – they immediately go to someone who might enjoy them where I can’t seem to. It seems more humane then to keep them trapped on my shelves, unloved and ignored

    One of the things I love about online booksellers nowadays is the ‘Look inside’ feature some books are allowing. Letting folks read a page or sometimes even a full chapter helps a lot. – though I still get reviewers saying they gave my work a shot – but it wasn’t for them. If only every satisfied reader was a reviewer too. I’d have a happier time of things.
    With my Kindle I’m also glad of the feature for lending books electronically – I lose less of the best ones that way.

    I’d not be in good form to tout my own title – so instead, here’s the low-down on one I really liked.
    It might be your cuppa or not – but take a look at Sharp Teeth – by Toby Barlow – and don’t let the synopsis fool you, this is a hard to define but very well written tale of urban love and loss – His poetic prose, about love just out of reach, just knocked me while out reading this Blank Verse-wonder. I actually bought a copy just to use for deconstructing to see how he’d managed to do this so well.

    Do a Google search on “Sharp Teeth Quotes, Toby Barlow, Goodreads” Amazing.

    1. Thank you for the recommendation. And mini book clubs are so fun. My two sisters and I ended up having one for a while, but I killed it by choosing The Woman In White, which I wrote about on this blog. Thanks for stopping by!

  64. Hi. Just found your blog. Great article!
    While I was reading it, I had to think about a book store in my home town. One of the owner knows me and my reading habits pretty well. So she always reccomands books to me and I can even borrow books from her. I never bought a book which I did not like.
    I think, this is the key. If the person who knows you well tells you about a book, it is usually a good tip. People who know you less will reccomand books which you sometimes don’t like.

    I also found out, that you need good friends and book stores who tell you about new books. No computer can do it. I worked for Amazon and always was dissapointed by the selection the sistem offered me. Now i live in Saudi Arabia, far away from friends, and find it pretty though to find good books. So I have to use Amazon again.
    I buy books which after some pages I don’t like. But I read them anyway (not much else to do) and sometimes you find some real gems. So maybe we should put more effort into reccomandations of friends? I will def. try this when I am back home and someone tells me to read the new Ken Follet…Maybe it is worth reading…

  65. My mother insisted I read Smilla’s Sense of Snow, which I loved. but when I worked in an office, I had a co-worker who was always pushing Harlequin Romances on me. I am about the least romantic person on the planet and even if I did like that sort of thing, Harlequins are the literary equivalent of Spam. But I tried one because she insisted. It was about a pirate who kidnaps and raps a young girl and holds her prisoner. Then she falls in love with him. The ship’s cook is disappointed that she wasn’t strong enough to resist the pirate. That was enough for me. Never again. My taste is pretty obscure and I like it that way.

  66. The Twilight series! I hated it..! Somebody gave it to me for a present lol..!! I made an attempt to read it but couldn’t get past more than a chapter!

  67. Thankfully I haven’t been forced to read a book till date. That would be really bad. But I did almost kill myself in the process of reading a book called A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.
    A very cool book blog. You have a new follower in me!

  68. THIS hasn’t happen to me, but my situation is the opposite from yours. I am the one giving books to the person that doesn’t read it. But I find myself annoying to people I give books to, but they don’t want to.

  69. A woman that works with my husband found out that I “read” (because it’s so rare these days…) and she lent me all her favorite books: three by Nicholas Sparks and a Nora Roberts trilogy. So. Not. My. Bag.

    I read every single one of them, wasted an entire month of my reading life, and now avoid her at all costs, lest she lend me more. It’s one thing to tell a good friend, “Yeah, I’m not really into that kind of book…” it’s quite another to say it to someone you hardly know and who is trying to be nice. (And I’m a pushover.)

  70. My friend recommended “The Magic Room” for book club. I bought the book and was literally in pain reading it. I did not finish it. I love reading and I was not enjoying myself… At. All. So, I stopped that book and started another. Great post. Thanks for sharing!

    1. … I was told (by my 11 year old daughter) that one should read at least 3 chapters of a book before giving up. I think her teacher gave her that advice… Just thought I’d share it. 🙂

  71. I stumbled across your blog tonight and I’ve enjoyed the moment. I can sympathise with many of your bloggers, and the only recommendation I take seriously, these days, are the ones on the back of the dust cover. However, I have unconsciously, until now, developed a few rules no particular order, to avoid wasting time looking for a great book. So far they haven’t let me down.
    \\ Newspaper critics need to have written the review, no writer acquaintances
    \\ There has to be more than 3 reviews, good ones mostly
    \\ Shortlisting for literary prizes counts
    \\ The dustcover must be attractive more times than not. It will become a part of my library, and share my house, and life.
    \\ The blurb needs to capture my interest in the first one or two paragraphs; flexible on topics
    \\ Always on the look out for authors I haven’t heard of
    \\ On average, books I buy would be 350 pages or less
    \\ Price is not relevant on most occasions
    These are a few. There most likely more but I would need to think longer about this. I’d be interested to hear about other people’s reasons for choosing a book to read. It has to be personnel.

    1. I tend to be attracted to books by their covers. I like your criteria of being on a list for a literary prize. That usually means it is good, although I disliked Olive Kittredge, which won the Pulitzer.

  72. Oh my! I too, read the Twilight books at a friend’s request. Sadly, I’m such a “book whore” that I finished them too. To date, there are only two or three books unfinished on my shelves.
    Crime and Punishment – I love it but it is taking me forever to finish.
    Inkheart- A children’s book that is well written…again, I just can’t seem to finish.

    I felt the Twilight books completely ripped off another vampire series I read in highschool. (The Vampire Diaries- now a television series..ugh)

    The book I have discovered people either love or hate is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I loved it by the way.

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I have felt the same way but most of the time, I read it out of boredom or guilt. However, a book I would never suggest is Prayer for Owen Meany.

      1. I just couldn’t enjoy it. It’s strange because I’m usually not too harsh on any author I read. I just love reading. Well, if we all liked the same things…it would be a dull world. I’m glad you liked it though.

  73. I must have good friends, or those that just recommend books to my particular “taste.” Here is my favorite that I normally recommend to those who like science-fiction philosophic books

    Just a Couple of Days – Tony Vigorito
    Didn’t even know what this books was going to be, but when the beginning starts off with the question “Why aren’t apples called reds?” It is about what exists beyond language and illusion.

  74. Such a great topic! I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds herself in these predicaments! My most recent experience with this was when a friend/co-worker lent me all of the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) books. I actually listened to them all (thank goodness for audio books!) and tried my best to make it worthwhile by brainstorming topics to write about on my blog, but I really just couldn’t come up with anything! I know they’re highly acclaimed and, because of the show, much abuzz right now, but they’re just really not my cup of tea. That, and I still have a huge stack of unread comic books a friend loaned me about 2 years ago. I’ve been trying to get them back to him, but I’m afraid he’ll ask me detailed questions about them! I’ll need a long wikipedia session before that day comes 🙂

  75. Just found your blog and really enjoyed this post. I read a lot of sci-fi, young adult fiction, fantasy, westerns, and tons of murder mysteries. I’ve read pretty much everything from Issac Azimov, Agatha Christie, Donna Adams, and Louis L-Amour.

    However, rarely do my friends lend me their books – probably because we mostly get our books from our local libraries. When I do find a book I really like, then I buy it. As far as how young adult fiction goes these days, I liked the Twilight series, though not as much as my daughter who was the age it was written for, but don’t like the movies at all. Both of my teen daughters love The Hunger Games which I can’t stand, but not for the reasons most people don’t – I just don’t like stories written in first person present tense. Drives me nuts. I liked the Percy Jackson series and am currently awaiting the next installment of that series as well as the Kane Chronicles by the same author.

    When people recommend a book, I just write down the title and tell them I’ll check it out at the library. I usually read the first two or three chapters standing at the book shelves to see if I like the book. If so, then I check it out. (used to do that in bookstores too – drove them nuts!). And I rarely, if ever, loan any of my books out. Again, I’m more of a library person and I don’t want to get fined for someone else not returning the book soon enough!

  76. Just tell them the truth. “I tried, but I couldn’t get into it. Maybe if they make a movie…” You can read the first paragraph and return it to them whenever you want and it won’t technically be a lie.

  77. Reblogged this on Catskye's Blog and commented:
    I think I may simply send this blog to the next person who asks me to read what is, obviously, a version of a Harlequin Romance.

  78. Where to begin…

    I really disliked Saramago and Iris Murdoch, Nobel-prize winners and all, I just couldn’t enjoy their work. They were highly recommended by two people I really trust: my best friend and my mother, respectively. D-I-S-A-P-P-O-I-N-T-E-D.

    Then came Jumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer-prize winner, recommended again by virtually everyone. Couldn’t enoy her writing either, and I gave her two chances: The Space Between Us and The Namesake.

    I will read anything penned by Philippa Gregory, J.K. Rowling (now that she has a new book coming out later this year), Stephen King or Dan Brown. Same with the classics: Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Poe, Tolkien, etc. (and since most are for free on kindle it makes reading them even more pleasurable). Shame Stieg Larsson died though, because his Millenium saga was superb and I would’ve read anything he wrote after that.

    The one (or three) books I’m pretty sure I won’t be reading is Fifty Shades of Grey. Who wants to read a book that is basically about being in an abusive relation? I wrote a little about it (not really about the book, as I haven’t read it, but about the heroine) in my last blog if you want to check it out.

  79. I must be lots meaner than you. I totally refuse to take the book. I say that I am already reading something, or even two somethings at the time. It is usually true, and I just don’t have time. Nod and say that’s nice, I’m just too busy now. I didn’t always do that, but I just am too old with too little time left to read what I want. No time for something I don’t want. Thanks for the post.

  80. Great post!

    I read a couple of pages of anything recommended to me. This has led to some interesting random discoveries, which may not have happened in my own reading pattern. In cases where the book doesn’t hold my attention, I put it aside and say as much when I run into the person who recommended it. This is a big improvement from the days when I felt compelled to finish every book I started – I did not understand then that certain books are not meant for certain people. It’s me, not your book, reasoning works pretty well.:-)

    I also saw your comment about judging books by their covers – given that my last post was about this, I look forward to seeing what you have to say!

  81. Have you ever been on the other side of that situation? I had a friend come over, and she was looking at my little library, and asked if a specific book was any good. I told her I loved it, and if she wanted to she could borrow it. So she did.
    I know she hasn’t read it, and I know she’s probably not going to read it… but now I’m too nice to actually ask her to return it because I know it’s just getting dusty somewhere in her home….

    1. Yes, all the time! I just wait and wait. A friend actually brought one back the other day. She said she’d been going through things and did not even realize that she still had it. So it might be worth saying something in case they have forgotten.

  82. wow, the e-book you recommended sounds fascinating! and i’m not just saying that, even though i too am people pleaser…
    but, as a reader and aspiring writer, i deal with this problem too. and still have not found a good solution. usually i just make excuses about time until they give up asking about it. but that’s becoming too passive-aggressive for me. let me know if you figure anything out!

  83. I’ve almost stopped loaning books because people never return them and I always feel awkward asking for it back. But I’m getting better at that.

    Congrats on the Freshly Pressed!

    1. Thanks, Robert. I am a big fan of your blog. My husband was so fascinated by all the response from Freshly Pressed, and I just told him how this is nothing compared to how awesome your blog is!

      1. Ha! You’ve got a great blog! My first big traffic day was when I got freshly pressed the first time. It’s fun to watch the stats go crazy.

  84. Loved the post! I can relate to this well!

    I’m often given religious books that someone has loved and wants me to read, along with inevitably requesting that I also write a blog post about it. Ugh. I love to read, and I love to blog, but I hate being given “assignments”. Lately my approach is to thank them profusely for thinking of me and wanting to share something they love, but explaining that I am so busy right and have such a long list of topics I am currently exploring I would not be able to give this “the time and care that this truly deserves” (all true). Then, I tell them I’l let them know “once I have the time” (i.e. probably never).

    As for books – the good and bad, I read a LOT of them, and most are not memorable! The more I read, the more I believe there are only a few true “life changing” masterpieces out there. (Am I morphing into a book snob?) The world’s bookshelves are filled with astonishingly poorly written books that for some reason a publishing house thought worthwhile – or, potentially sell enough to cover the paper and ink. I have to just shake my head at most current pop-culture lit hits making millions. (haven’t we exhausted vampires by now?!)

    Just finished: “Juliet” by Ann Fortier given to me by my 21 yr. old daughter who was so eager to have me read it, how could I possibly say no? It’s a non-taxing “chick-lit” piece. None of the characters were developed well enough for me to care about them. It includes some interesting facts about the origins of Romeo & Juliet, the history of Sienna, and the Black Plague of the 1300.

    Fave fiction this year: “A Prayer For Owen Meany” by John Irving which is a truly exquisite read. Stunningly epic. The characters are so well developed and became so real it is still hard to believe they only exist on paper.

    Most inspirational non-fiction this year: “Heaven Is Here” – by Stephanie Neilson, a young mother and popular blogger, who survived an airplane crash and lived through severe burns and cope with permanent disfigurement.

    Congrats on being Fresh Pressed! 🙂

  85. I recently tried to suffer through The Snowfly, a magical realist novel about fly-fishing. Why the recommender thought I would like it, I do not know, but it was too awkward to get out of it. I work at a library and this person just had them check it out to my account and handed it over.

  86. This is why I love being brutally honest sometimes. I will flat-up tell people I will not read the book that they recommended to me. Book snob until the day I die.

    I wonder how this will all change though once everything converts mostly to digital.

    1. Good question. Maybe digital will make it easier because we can avoid having to return the book and therefore never ever have to fake a conversation about it!

  87. Oy. For me, it’s TV shows — “You MUST watch this!” “I hate TV.” “No, but this is GOOD!” “I hate TV.” I can get out of it by just … not owning a TV. 🙂

    Books I get out of more easily since most people who know me know I hate fiction. If you bring a copy of Florian Coulmas’s “Writing Systems of the World” with you to the coffee house, most people won’t try to foist fiction off on you. Opening the front cover of any novel at this point for me is a bit like trying to swallow a bug.

  88. When I used to go to the library, I would get books based on the “pretty-ness” of the cover. Then I would start reading it and realize… wow this sucks. But I still read through it! One day I realized, WHY waste my time “Swallowing” a bad book (I had to do enough of that in school!) So now I don’t do it.
    But if someone offers a book I know I won’t like, I just say, “Oh I’m not really into that genre, but thanks anyway!” Honesty is best

  89. There is a counter-side to this dilemma. I have no problem refusing books I know I could not be polite about, or face reading ( although its getting more difficult via the blogger-sphere, because if books are all that bond you to someone else, you cannot soften the blow…) but what about being the lender of a book you adore and forgetting to whom it was lent, and never getting it back? Reminds me of that line in ‘Out of Africa’ when Robert Redford was complaining about someone who had failed to return a book and Michael Kitchen asked ‘Would you lose a friend for the sake of a book?. To which he replied ‘No, but he would!’

    I feel like that about certain books. ‘The Discovery of Heaven’ is one people have to deserve and if I think they do I buy it for them, because my hardback version is now unobtainable. I suspect its one of those books people don’t like admitting they never finished so they just forget it. I have given away about 12!

    Perhaps that is a pointer to other comments on this topic. Interesting.

  90. I used to moderate a small online fanfiction “library” with the responsibility of proofing and then approving new chapters. While some of the authors there were leaps and bounds ahead of most published fantasy writers, there were many others in their early teens or younger, so… anyways, I like to think of myself as a tolerant reader. 😉 If it met the site’s PG rating and I could tell they were at least trying to apply what they knew, up it went.

    But I never could get through the first Shannara book, even after picking at it for two years, and that was after a friend had raved about how good it was. And I read maybe three pages of Twilight before backing off with a shudder. There are some things in the world that are much, much worse than first grade dabblings in fanfic.

  91. I can so relate-but now I am going to be careful when I lend a book out and tell the person I like it, but give then them a way to get off the hook if they do not find it interesting–I will say something like–I liked this, give a short reason why, but tell them I would understand if they do not like it too–life is too short to read something you do not love–there is just too much good stuff out there to waste your time on stuff that does not interest you ( I reread this and it seems very stream of unconsciousness–hope you get my drift anyway)

  92. I usually just tell the truth. “It sounds really good, but sappy love triangles about vampires, werewolves, and humans isn’t my cup of tea.” I’m a reformed people-pleaser, so I understand the agony of saying no. However, the more you practice, the easier it gets!

  93. I never managed to finish a book by David Mitchell although he’s highly praised and I start enthusiastically I never seem to be able to finish the books. So I suppose some ‘friendships’ just don’t work. You start of enjoying each other’s company but then you drift apart and break up.

  94. Interesting sociological question. I can’t give you a list right now, but I will tell you I think a good percentage of these book lenders are people just trying to get rid of unsavoury literature. Next time that happens try to find out if they’re in the process of uncluttering their shelves at home. 😉
    Also good for a change another freshly pressed post that’s not a bunch of holiday photos plus a quick summary of likes and dislikes.

  95. Oh, hell, I hate it when I have books pushed upon me. I already have too many books that I want to read, and I hardly have enough time for those. Usually, I take the unwanted time-killer with a smile, then allow enough time to pass that the giver forgets the transaction. Then I trade it in for something I want.

  96. Love this! I am in a book club with some friends, and we are always throwing our books at each other and recommending this and that and the other. It’s a great lot of fun, but when someone doesn’t like something, we tend to take it personally, LOL! Then we get over it and have some wine. 😉

    1. It is hard not to take it personally since reading is so personal. I recently told my book club that I hated our last pick, but I quickly told the hostess (who picked the book) that I still love her. 🙂

  97. I typically try to avoid book recommendations for exactly that reason. I don’t recommend books or movies without giving consideration to the person’s taste and I’m baffled when people just assume that if it’s their taste, it must be mine. And what if it’s their favorite book and I have to come back and say I hated it passionately? Okay, maybe I’m something of a people pleaser too.

    I will say that at some point when I was looking for something to read my mother, who I share very little taste in common with these days, handed me The Chosen and, as an afterthought, My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. She really loved The Chosen and thought the other was “weird” but if I was bored, it might be worth reading. I found The Chosen to be mainly forgettable but My Name is Asher Lev is probably one of my top ten favorite books. So sometimes nice things happen. 😛


      1. It also helps when they’re short. 😛 I’m likely to get a lot more resentful if I have to push my way through a long book.

        I have people I really trust who I know understand my taste and they’re the ones I’ll usually look to for recommendations. 🙂

  98. Great topic! I have had similar experiences but thankfully the books that have been borrowed to me have been good. I know when I get excited about books I always try to get other people to read them haha, I try not to be pushy. Oh on your list of books you have read but don’t remember I saw you had “The Perks of being a Wallflower” on there, you should definitely re-read it’s just an absolutely innocently beautiful story. Happy reading 🙂

  99. Love your post, and yes, I totally remember A Boy’s Life, loved that book!

    Ironically, I had the same dilemma too as someone went on and on how this such and such book would help me to heal from my divorce. A part of me wanted to punch her proposition because in reality, she’s happily married, and I really didn’t need someone throwing a suggestion about something they have no clue about it. So when I begrudgingly received it, it sat for weeks untouched. The worse is when she followed up about it and I smiled saying I haven’t had time (as if I would make any). I think at times, books are well-intentioned, but definitely can come across as presumptious (depending on the giver). In this case, her ‘gift’ felt more like a barge into my personal life that I really didn’t ask her to steam into. Alas, when she asked for it, I returned it, smiled, and dashed out of conversation. Perhaps it was my resentment, but I’ve had this happen too when individuals want to convert me into their religion without me asking even ONCE about their beliefs. Argh.

    It’s definitely about the ones who give, and how we receive that makes or breaks new chapters in our lives.

    Thank you for sharing! 😀


    1. Thank you! Wow. That is really insensitive of your friend to force a book on you in the midst of everything. That is probably the wrong time. We definitely need to be careful about how we give. You can’t force people! But now I am having a guilty memory of giving a recent widow in my neighborhood a copy of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. She still has it and is probably wondering how to tell me that it is way too soon for her to be reading about another widow’s grief. Oops.

      1. LOLOL.. it’s all about intentions I think and personality. I can’t imagine anyone being offended by your gift, but yes, if she hasn’t read it, it is more likely that she needs more time, or the right moment. A friend of mine gifted me “Women Who Love Too Much” by Robin Norwood, and it took me two years to get the courage to open it, only to realize it was the best gift ever. So really, it’s the heartfelt intention that counts. 😀


  100. I have also read (and forgotten most of) The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It was okay, but awfully pretentious. Such are the depths of my people-pleasing that I read the entire Twilight series to appease a friend. Now I can mock it without feeling like a hypocrite, and I got to write three scathing reviews. I just couldn’t be botherered with Breaking Dawn, even the fans could see how awful it was.

    Recommendations I have enjoyed…A Wrinkle in Time, The Hobbit, and To Kill A Mockingbird were all recommended by family and well-loved by me long before we got to them in school. Maggie Stiefvater’s Lament was recommended by a friend

    1. The whole Twilight series to please a friend? I am so sorry. I think you are more people pleasing than I am. And I am glad to know that you forgot the Wallflower book, too. Makes me feel better.

  101. Loved your post! I totally empathize. My dear friends’ usually only loan good books. On the suggestion of one, however, I joined a book group. They seemd to limit themselves to books off Oprah’s list. She and I do not share likes. The worst of all, was “The Hours”***. Why they bothered to make a movie based on a book that was based on a story by Virginia Wollf…as dreary and depressing as anything she’s ever done. Life is too short for bad reading experiences!
    ***Okay- technically it was the worst of the books I actually finished. Once I got their measure, I stopped bothering past the first chapter of anything that wasn’t a pleasure.

    1. Oh, I liked The Hours and Mrs. Dalloway, but that’s because I like depressing books. I am infamous for that at my book club, which is why nobody ever likes my picks!

      1. Oh my! You’d have hated the books I suggested then. I believe I can blame this on pregnancy brain, but I had them all reading the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters! No- couldn’t have been pregnancy. I’m craving a good Peabody visit now, and surely all my eggs are hard boiled by now!

  102. fun topic!
    I will usually try to read it (not necessarily from the beginning but a few random pages or a chapter) and then either continue or give the person who recommended it some constructive feedback on why I coulnd’t go on (and I don’t take recommendations from just anyone).
    Just before I set on this South American adventure a friend told me to read Ernesto Sabato’s Tunnel. I read it but hated all of it except one part and told him, quoting the segment.. He said that was precisely the part that made him think I’d like it, but for the rest we agreed to disagree (:

  103. Oh gosh, this was too perfect. As a bookworm, people often think I’m the sort who will read anything, when in reality I’m extremely picky. Usually, I’ll at least give things a try, though. Although there was one time when I pretended to read an entire book series because a close friend of mine loved it and wanted me to love it. I disliked it so much that I loaned the books to another friend who was kind enough to summarize them for me so that it sounded like I’d read the books. I don’t know why I do these things…

  104. For me it was two very different kinds of books.
    1- Twilight. Returned it to the store for a refund after the first hundred pages. My inner tween reserves ran out.
    2- When China Rules the World. Managed to finish this one actually. Could have done without the first half.

  105. I luck out in that its rare that I have someone offering me a book to read cold. I think part of that is due to the fact that I usually have three to five books on me at any time (even more with my Nook), so people accept it when I politely decline, saying I already have a reading backlog.

  106. Ah this was just simply awesome 🙂 :)… Its like you have given words to my thoughts. I just want to put a ditti ditto especially the line I’m known for being the “reader,” so I should be able to digest anything, right? Well, unfortunately the fact that I read a lot has also refined my tastes

    1. Thank you, and even though we have refined tastes, I am still finding that those tastes are very different for everyone. It is so hard to recommend well.

  107. A superb post! I’ve been in thi situation a few times and generally I have taken the return it having pretended to read it. Then when asked about what I liked try and change the subject reasonably quickly. But with hindsight it’s better to be open and honest isn’t it?

  108. I’m not sure how fortunat I am that most of my friends aren;t readers…still worse than an unwated loan – when you make a loan and it is not returned. Hmm…maybe I should be a librarian.

  109. I readmost books but a few really satnd out for e: Jonathan Coe “The House of Sleep for one” and ones I have forgotten, don’t really do that eventually always remeber 🙂

  110. Oh geez- I did this myself the other day. I lent a friend ‘Bossypants’ (the Tiny Fey autobiography) because for some reason I assumed that she knew who she was. She doesn’t. Then I felt like a right douche. I just stammered ‘oh, it’s ok. You don’t have to read it! I just thought it was really funny and I read it in like a day…nevermind!’ Surely I’m not going to Hell because of that?!

    On ‘Twilight’; I have never read, nor intend to read any of it. In my mind it would be a load of rubbish that I wouldn’t enjoy, so what would be the point. But then I can’t knock them when I haven’t tried them. I thought it was something to do with the fad for adults reading ‘teen/child fiction’ (a la Harry Potter) that put me off, but I’m currently reading ‘Northern Lights’ (Philip Pullman) and thoroughly enjoying it. On the other hand there’s a lot of ‘adult fiction’ out there written with a ludicrously low reading age that I don’t find engrossing at all! Guess I’m no closer to ‘solving’ my ‘problem’ then…!

  111. There are so many books I want to read – and you have just lengthened that list. Life is too short to read bad books! Thanks for the inspiration and for the permission to just say no! 🙂

  112. Great post! I admit I’ve let borrowed books sit on my shelf for months because I couldn’t bring myself to read them. Over time I’ve come to be brutally honest with generous lenders by letting them know “this doesn’t sound like something I’d ever be interested in”. Once in a while I’ll give a recommended read a try and like you, have found some amazing books, and incredible authors.

    The fail safe that I’ve found works for book lenders is to ask point-blank, “what’s the book about?” which usually gives me a chance to bow out or go ahead and try it.

    Funny thing is, if I don’t enjoy the book, I still find myself apologzing for the difference in opinions.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  113. This happened to me too, it’s a little awkward when you return the book and your friend is super enthusiast to know if you liked it and you really really don’t! But I also found some really amazing book with recommendations! Thank you for sharing,
    Artphalt (http://artphalt.wordpress.com)

  114. Loved it! I’ve found myself on that path sometimes. And I’ve found a lot of pearls on the way, some of them are actually ones that I see as some of the pilars of my reader personality.

    Amongst others, I can recall these titles:
    – “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, J. R. R. Tolkien;
    – “The Name of the Rose”, Umberto Eco;
    – “The Clan of the Cave Bear”, “The Valley of Horses”, “The Mammoth Hunters”, “The Plains of Passage”, Jean M. Auel;
    – “The Mists of Avalon”, Marion Zimmer Bradley;
    – “Comme un roman”, Daniel Pennac;

    “What books have you suffered through for a friend or family member?” Normally, none. When I can’t read it, I really can’t. And if I can actually do it, I rapidly erase this torment from my memory. So it remains your first question “how do you return a book you don’t really want to read?” I don’t know! I’m still trying to find the right answer, because it so hard, especially if the book was borrowed by a friend or family.

  115. Honestly? I don’t think there is a single recommendation that I have not enjoyed. It might be because I am only 23, or maybe I am just too easy to please. That does not mean that I have not read books I didn’t enjoy, it only means that I picked them up myself.

    On the other hand though, I might also be that friend that forces her recommendations on other people (BIG RED CHEEK BLUSH).

    I do like your idea of of keeping a list of everything you read. I am starting one up right now.

  116. I wish I knew the answer to the question ‘how do you return a book you don’t want to read?’. I always beat myself up about it and in the end I think well how do I know I don’t want to read it without trying and by the time I have got half way through I think I may as well finish (for my friend’s sake!). Also I’m always scared that if I don’t read it and just return it, pretending that I have, said friend will ask me very specific questions about certain parts and my lie will spiral out of control 😉 x

  117. Hi Emily

    I’m a newbie to WordPress. Firstly, I have to express how professional your site looks! You’ve inspired me to ‘tidy’ my site up as best as one can who is using the free version of WordPress.

    Secondly, I’ve had relatives buy me books for Christmas that at times I find excruciating to read. One was a Jodi Picoult book. I enjoyed the innitial story but felt the plot was dragged out. The other was a young adult book, I’m in my mid thirties and while my taste in litetature is eclectic, this new book inspired by ‘Twilight’ did not tickle my fancy.

    I just completed my Masters in Arts and Media with class IIA Honours. I produced a creative piece and a dissertation(I blogged the latter in two parts on my site). I’m hoping to be a published author while still being a substitute teacher.

    Okay, just discovered I write as much as I talk! Thank you again for such an inspirational blog site!

    1. Welcome to WordPress, and I am glad my site has something to offer! It sounds like we have a lot in common with academia, teaching, and reading, of course. Which Jodi Picoult book was it? I have read a few of hers, but not all of them are exactly gripping. I am glad you found me!

      1. Hi Emily,

        The Jodi Piccoult book was ‘ The Pact.’ I felt it had a weak introduction in regards to some structural elements. While I enjoyed the story I thought Jodi could have definitely gotten to the point sooner. Then again, she is a famous published author, so she must be doing something right.

        Have you read “The Pact” and if so, what did you think of it?

        1. I have not read The Pact. I read My Sister’s Keeper, which I thought was excellent. I also read another about a haunted house, which wasn’t as good. I think I read another one about a kidnapping, but I can’t remember those titles.

  118. Hi Emily – love this post. I have The Hunger Games sitting beside me right now that I’ve had for like 3 months, borrowed from somebody I only met once; I also have a JG Ballard book that I’ve had for over a year, borrowed from my best friend in exchange for American Gods (which I’d definitely recommend) – but more than anything else, this reminds me of all the books I made myself buy while I was studying English and now, almost a year and a half after graduating, I still haven’t read them. Also Atonement, which I bought for a book club, then had it spoiled for me before I was even five chapters in and decided I was probably happier not finishing it …

  119. awesome list of books dear…I would not call myself an avid reader but while travelling I get more time to read and love it so might try something from this list…have a lovely day..nice blog 🙂

  120. Well, just recently, I was lent “A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. I was pretty sure that it would be a waste of time to read. I hid it and will return it soon, saying I loved it. End of story (I hope). Hahahahaha.

  121. Coudln’t finish The Fountainhead and never got the brouhaha about Ayn Rand (atleast among the readers my age then!) Found Roark a bit too dry and thought Keating was more human!

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