When Friends Don’t Like Your Favorite Books

Josie Leavitt - April 4, 2016

I have a new friend and we were having lunch Saturday. The conversation turned from her cheese-making venture (if you want delicious cheese try Fairy Tale Farms cheeses, they’re amazing) to favorite books. I often get this question and usually my mind goes blank almost immediately. But I did manage to pull a list together after I was flooded with favorite book covers. It’s always hard to talk to adults about favorite books because so many of mine of are young adult novels. I presented my list and Lisa’s face dropped with the mention of one title.
One of my all-time favorite books is The Book Thief. I absolutely adore this book.bookthief From death as the narrator to the character of Papa who still warms my heart as one of the best parental figures in books. My friend’s face started falling as I waxed rhapsodic about the book. I asked what was wrong and she said, “I really don’t like that book.” This was the first time anyone has said that about this book. I asked why she didn’t like it. And she told me in very clear terms that she felt emotionally manipulated by it. I was surprised to hear that, but could see it. Lisa gave great examples and I was totally impressed and left wondering if I had been reading the book all wrong.
We then had a rich conversation about what makes a great book. She suggested I read City of Thieves which I’ve ordered and will start reading when it comes in. Lisa said it was better than The Book Thief, which honestly, I’m having a hard time believing. But, when someone whose opinion I respect suggests a book I will do my darnedest to read it.
Thankfully, we did agree on picture books. Toot and Puddle  is one of my favorite books for so many reasons: best friend pigs, stunning art and a gentleness that is just lovely. Lisa was a fan of the story and art as well. I shared my favorite young adult novel, Wintergirls, and while she hadn’t heard of it, she was intrigued to read it.
I left her farm after bottle-feeding two-day-old lambs and was scratching my head about her reaction to The Book Thief. This highlights the beauty of reading. It’s such a personal act with each reader having very individual reactions to books that it’s really fun to discuss. But when someone has such a visceral reaction to one of my favorites, I’m intrigued. I will happily read her suggested book so we can discuss it next time we get together.
So readers, how do you respond when someone really doesn’t like one of your favorite books?

3 thoughts on “When Friends Don’t Like Your Favorite Books

  1. Eleanor (Ellie) Miller

    Fortunately for me, my women friends and I tend to share a wide background of literary tastes, so when the talk turns to books we like, it’s usually either an enthusiastic “Oh, yes!” OR an expression of interest, openness to suggestion and wanting to know more (your “City of Thieves” illustration case in point) response. Unfortunately I’ve had less luck with my own family which (after some further attempts at hand-sell) left me saddened and disappointed. This was especially true when I’d sent a copy of the book in question. Hardest to swallow? I sent my at the time 16 year old grand-nephew who claimed to “love” SF a carefully selected BOX (maybe a dozen in all) of solid-gold choices only to learn a year or so later that they were still gathering dust unread in his room. I’ve yet to get my dear niece to open two much-cherished sharings: Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and L. M. Montgomery’s “The Blue Castle”. TWICE once to a stepdaughter and once to my grand-niece (both girls 15 at the time) I’ve sent what I believe arguably is the best coming-of-age novel ever penned for verisimilitude, Ruth Doan MacDougall’s “The Cheerleader” to no avail. So I gave up and now only send books when they are specifically requested.

  2. Jennifer G

    Don’t give up Ellie! I just read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” at 37. One day your nieces and nephews will be glad to have those books on their shelves, dust and all!
    I love disagreeing about books as much as I love agreeing about books because it all means we’re talking about books!


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