When Book Recommendations Go Bad

good_omensI rarely read books recommended by others. It’s not that I’m a snob (all right, maybe a little), but a writer’s book diet is pretty important. Early in my writing career I disregarded reading all together. I thought reading was a sacrifice of writing time I couldn’t afford.

What an idiot I was.

Every book read is a lesson. I usually create a reading list depending on what kind of book I’m currently working on. When I was writing Dystopia, I read every dystopian work I could get my hands on (1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale and a dozen others). The only problem is that when you’re reading novels as part of your writing, there really isn’t much room for pleasure reading.

So when I have the chance to read something for pleasure, I usually have a pretty long waiting list. Recently I made the mistake of listening to a recommendation by someone who knew what I was into fairly well. The recommendation was Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It sounds like it should be right up my alley. It’s an absurdist comedy about the end of he world – hilarious. The book has a huge cult following and both Gaiman and Pratchett are celebrated authors.

There was only one problem: I hated it. It just wasn’t very good. The humor was too British for my taste. It was convoluted and bloated. It seemed like a novel written by two different people…which makes sense because it totally was. I really, really wanted to like it and I really, really didn’t. Gaiman and Pratchett are both authors I’ve attempted to enjoy in the past, but I honestly can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed any of their work. Not to say they’re not great writers (they obviously are), but their work just has never spoken to me as it has for others.

It’s strange what speaks to us as readers of literature. I certainly don’t blame the person who recommended Good Omens. With what the book is about and its style there was no reason for me not to enjoy the book. But I didn’t. Sometimes we’re not ready for certain books; sometimes we’re too distracted to appreciate a certain book; and sometimes a reader just can’t connect with a writer no matter how hard he tries (I’m looking at you, James Joyce).

I think that’s an important lesson for a writer. You’re never going to reach every reader out there. I think that’s why it’s so important to stay true to what you’re all about – whatever that may be. Your readers are out there. It’s just a matter of getting your work into their hands.


~ by themoderntranscendentalist on November 17, 2013.

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