The Perils of Book Recs

I have officially hit that point of the afternoon where I’m struggling to keep my eyes open.  I should SO live in a country that believes in siestas!

I got back from lunch to an email from a coworker recommending a book.  “I just finished this.  I think you’ll like it!”  So I toddle over to Amazon, look it up, read the description.  Confirm the “dude, you have no clue what I actually like” I already suspected.

I find book recommendations (both making and receiving) to be an area that is either supremely awesome and fun or fraught with awkwardness.   I am a hard core romance lover.  Probably 95% of what I read is some subgenre of romance because I want to read about relationships and I want a happy ending.  There’s enough negativity and crap in the world IRL without my seeking it out in my fiction.  Which is not to say I don’t enjoy being twisted into knots (C.J. Redwine and Laini Taylor, I’m looking at you) over the course of the story–but I want the pay off of a happy ending.  You can’t count on that outside of romance.

When I find other readers who, if not as hard core into romance as I am, are at least willing to try it, I LOVE digging through their preferences and winnowing down until I can come up with the perfect Gateway Book (you know, the book that’s going to show them that ROMANCE IS AWESOME and turn them into a convert).  I also love glomming over favorite couples and stories with other romance fanatics.

Where I run into trouble is talking books with…everybody else.

Because romance is such a…I was going to say polarized, but maybe instead, an oft denigrated and misunderstood genre, people who don’t read it often make it…uncomfortable to talk about for those of us who do.   My coworker, for example, has been recommending these TOMES.  Big, doorstopper thick historical fiction (sorry, none of that is going to hold my attention for 800 pages) that probably has a literary bent.  I don’t think I’ve actually heard of ANYTHING she’s mentioned (being not romance and not YA, none of it is on my radar at all) except for the ineffable Neil Gaimon.  It’s largely “intelligent” fiction, the kind of thing I imagine she could discuss at cocktail parties with other university faculty and whether they read it or not, nobody would think any less of her for it.

I hate that I don’t feel comfortable as happily spewing “I just finished this great lumberjack romance by Inez Kelley (The Place I Belong, Country Roads #2, for those who are wondering).  It was AWESOME!” like I would (and have) online.  A little of it is that I work in academia, where there’s a prevailing snobbery and intelligentsia bent.  But more of it is that socialization of these reading preferences being somehow not good enough, of being afraid of being looked down on for loving something that not everybody loves.   And now that I’m realizing that, it pisses me off that I’ve let it stop me from being loud and proud about the books I love with people who aren’t guaranteed going to be receptive.

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5 comments

  1. Yea, it’s hard enough telling people you write romance and then hearing all the ‘heaving bosom’ comments. I rarely read books that people recommend to me. They either keep talking about the same old fluff or think I’ll enjoy something just because it’s supposedly literary, when, really, most of those books (especially the newer ones) bore me to tears.
    You shouldn’t have to feel like you can’t discuss your reads! I can’t stand book snobbery.

  2. I need that nap, too. On the clock, preferably. LOL

    Most of the people I know want to read Christian romances, although I think they would read “sweet” romances if there was no sex. LOL. Honestly, my cover artist, Anya, is the only person I can discuss books with except for my online friends. A lot of my friends “don’t have time” to read.

    I love all kinds of books…romance, mystery, horror. But I’m usually bored by anything literary. Sometimes the literary stuff (the older stuff, I haven’t read any modern literary books that I know of) has such good stories but such stuffy writing.

    I agree that you can only depend on romances to have happy endings. There are a few authors who write in other genres and usually do happy endings, but not many. You should never be ashamed of reading romance because we all need that optimism we get from it.

  3. In the pre-Twitter days when I first started writing, I never admitted I read Romance. See, I was out there trying to network with other writers of my genre (Fantasy only in those days) and that meant I was talking to a lot of dudes. And a big part of me was scared to admit I read “this stuff” and I’d lose “writer cred” because of it.

    Once Twitter “widened” my world, and I saw other people and their varied reading… Stuff outside their genre and so on… Then, I felt more comfortable in admitting I read Romance publicly. I’ve only been admitting it for a couple of years now, though.

    1. I definitely need that nap. Years ago, there was a sign hanging in our neighborhood butcher shop that said, “Be sure to work eight hours and sleep eight hours, but not the same eight hours.” LOL.
      Great post, and for every “everyone else” out there, there’s always a different opinion. Last week after a co-worker suggested that my characters have more interesting jobs, I asked two other co-workers if they’d rather read about people who had it all–great job, money, friends, etc., or average Joes or Janes who had problems and find that love conquers all and got two different answers.

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