Monday, April 25, 2011

Am I right? Or just opionated?

You may have heard HBO has a new series based on A Game of Thrones, the first novel in George R. R. Martin's fantasy series. Lots of the bloggers and Twitterers I follow are thrilled with the news.

I'm not. It's one of a string of books made into movies recently that I didn't like and now can't avoid. I'm such a curmudgeon.

I read A Game of Thrones years ago. It was on a camping trip, and I didn't have another book with me, so my husband (then boyfriend) listened to me complain about it for days. I wasn't interested in any of the characters, and parts felt like a middle-aged man's sex fantasy. I honestly don't even remember if I finished the book.

My friend who had recommended it was horrified (as will be many of you, I'm sure. Sorry!). For years since she's been telling me it's the best fantasy series ever and I have to give it another try. Most everyone seems to agree with her. It has almost 29,000 reviews on Goodreads and an average review of 4.42 stars (out of 5).

Perhaps my expectations were too high when I started it (hype can certainly ruin a book). Perhaps I wasn't in the right mindset. I know I can misjudge books (I struggled with the beginning of Little Women the first time I read it). This blog isn't called Critically Yours for nothing!

But with so many other good books out there waiting to be discovered, I can't muster up the energy to re-read Martin. Instead, I'm inclined to believe it's just not an Anne book.

Do you ever give books a second chance? Have you ever changed your mind?


  1. It doesn't happen often, but yes, if I know enough people personlly who love a book, I'll give it another try.

    With one of the books in question, I took it on a flight to Japan and all my other books were in my checked-in suitcase, so I had no choice but to keep reading! And once I got passed where I'd put it down previously, I loved it. The series is now one of my favourites.

    I'm actually going to try again this week with a book many of my co-workers loved, and I just couldn't get into it. I have three days off this week because of the bank holiday, so I'm going to try again.

    If I still can't manage it, though, I'm putting it down. I don't finish every book anymore as I just have too many. Life's too short. :)

  2. I've had that experience, too, where a book others had raved about just wasn't my thing. I feel the same way: there are so many great books out there that maybe it's not worth forcing yourself to read something you don't enjoy. But then again, tastes can change over time, some books might be worth revisiting.

  3. Helen: You sound like such a lovely, open-minded person! =) I think it's certainly true that there's always specific passages that bother us, but perhaps if we push on through we can see what others love, too. I think it says a lot about your co-workers that you're willing to try a book again.

    Anna: I think it's almost worse when everyone LOVES a book you didn't like you. Such a lonely feeling! I know I definitely appreciate different things as time passes, but I wonder if my tastes change so completely. I guess it comes down to whether or not I can imagine a specific book (or movie or whatever) as worth revisiting.

  4. I used to hate to give up on a book, but don't feel that way anymore. I'll close it and walk away without a tinge of regret. Like you said, maybe it's just not an Anne (or in my case, Andrea) book. I think readers have to get to this point and accept that we're just not going to like everything we read. Nor should we. I don't like every piece of music I hear. There are paintings that move me and others that fall flat. So why should books be different?

    I do agree that hype can certainly ruin a book, and I often dread recommendations. Books are so personal it's next to impossible to think that because you like something, someone else will, too--or worse, should.

    Having said all that, I do sometimes go back and give a book another try, to make sure the fault wasn't mine (wrong mindset, etc.). A lot of time has to go by between tries, though.

  5. There are some books I keep trying because people I know and usually agree with keep raving about them - most notable example is A Wrinkle in Time, which I just think I read at the wrong time the first time around. It's grown on me a little but I still don't adore it.

    This made me think though of the social parts about reading - many of my closest friendships came about because of a love of a shared book/series/type of book. So maybe it's not so much about having to like what everyone else does but finding the people who agree with you.

  6. Andrea: You have such a healthy attitude about giving up on a book! How interesting to hear you say you dread recommendations! I've almost gotten to that point, too! I'd much rather hear about a book online than have a close, dear friend share a book that she absolutely loves. Too much pressure! But I like this idea of re-reading books years later to see if my opinion has changed--almost like a psychology experiment!

    Alicia: Funny, your comment contradicts what I just wrote to Andrea above. Recommendations can be difficult when you don't like a friend's book, but when you do, it can be such an amazing connection between two people. Speaking of good friends, too, I so owe you an email. =)

    I think things people grow up with can be especially treasured, in ways they might not be if they're encountered as an adult. Wrinkle in Time (which I do love!) is probably one of those things. Good of you to give it another try, though!

  7. If you really disliked the book the first time you read it (and were an adult at the time, as you were) I doubt a reread would make any difference. Everyone has different tastes. Life's too short to waste time reading stuff you don't like, when there are so many great books out there.

  8. I've had just the same experience. I try to give every book 100 pages to draw me in and if it doesn't work for me after that, I feel life is too short to persist. I think I feel less guilty if the book has lots of wonderful reviews though - as though I'm less likely to hurt its feelings :)

    I've also had the same experience in reverse, with books that struck me as all meaningful and profound when I was a broody adolescent and now seem a bit pretentious and labored and tiresome!

  9. GF: That's definitely true! I think the trick is just to decide how much I trust my first opinions. Life is too short to keep rereading books, especially ones I don't like! Maybe I'll just watch the movie and see how that goes. =)

    Anna: That's funny that you feel better if the book has numerous good reviews! I think I'm the opposite--I worry I'm missing something!

    Hah! I'm doing that RIGHT NOW, re-reading a book I loved as a teenager and wondering if it gets better or if I just had more pretentious tastes when I was younger! =)

  10. I used to try and make a book work but I've realized that writing is SO subjective so I no longer even try to finish a book I don't connect with anymore.

    It's actually been very freeing. Totally agree with others --- too many other books that speak to me that I could be reading instead.

  11. There are very few books that I'm willing to give a re-read (if I didn't like it), or pick back up again if I DNF'd it. But I've heard so so so many awesome things about The DUFF after I DNF'd it, it makes me want to go back and pick it up again. My TBR list is heinous, tho, so not sure if I'll be doing it any time soon. We'll see. =)

  12. Karen: I wonder if I'm too caught up in my guilt over not liking certain books! Maybe I should just let it go and be free! =)

    Cover Girl: Thanks for weighing in! I'm so with you; it's those books that everyone likes that make me wonder what I missed! I can see why you'd feel that way about The DUFF (though I haven't read it, so can't tell you if I think you're crazy or not! =) ).

  13. When I lived in countries where it was hard to get books in English, I read books I'd normally never have read and tried to reread books I didn't like on the first reading. I'm glad I did that; it made me a more critical reader, and I found some great books that way (including natural history books by Rachel Carson, which I would never have read if I hadn't been forced to). It's taken me a long time to break the habit, but there are just too many books out there that I DO want to read.

    I'm reading a book now by an author I love, who wrote one of my favorite books. It's AWFUL. I can't get over how she could do this: full of telling instead of showing, dozens of characters, superficially described, with loads of head-hopping, and a plot that is just too complex. You ought to see the rave reviews this has on Amazon, and in all the good newspapers. I feel like I'm the only guy who can see the emperor is naked.

  14. Thanks for sharing that, Mary, such an interesting perspective. We're so privileged, most of us, at how easily and cheaply we can access tons of books. It changes reading habits, doesn't it?

    That is one thing I've loved about being part of book groups. They've also had me read numerous things I would've never picked up, but have really enjoyed.

    So disappointing to have your favorite author let you down! And everyone else to be such a lemming about it! I think we suffer book disappointment more keenly than many disappointments--it feels so personal!


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