There are books that keep you up at night, and then there are books that make you want to drive a power drill through your skull.
I loved Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Every page of it. Both times I read it.
But Toku hated the book. He hated it so much that every time I was reading it (the second time) in bed, I couldn’t turn the page without hearing some wisecrack from him.
This book has it’s moments, the parts during the Napoleonic Wars, Arabella’s enchantment by the Man With The Thistle-Down Hair. But I can honestly see why people think it’s boring. Parts of it are very dry and really only written for people who appreciate a good 19th century English parlor.
For Toku’s part, he really enjoyed Gone Girl. And me? The writing style was so irritating that I read the first five pages and knew I couldn’t make it the next 550 pages.
After seeing the movie, I get why people love it. At first when you don’t know what happened to Amy Dunne, the story is pretty compelling. Then after you find out what happens to her, it gets even more compelling. But when I heard lines from the movie that sounded as if they were derived from the book, I wanted somebody to hand me a power drill.
There are some tastes we have in common. This summer we’ve both been reading Jeff Vandemeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. Toku’s actually way ahead of me on this one, because he read all three books earlier this summer. I’m driving him crazy, while I take a break to re-read To Kill A Mockingbird alongside Go Set A Watchman.
Would I recommend Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell? It depends. Does the person enjoy both Harry Potter AND Jane Austen and her stuffy English parlors? Then yes, I would.
Would I recommend the Southern Reach Trilogy? That also depends. I tell people it’s like the show Lost but better written. Based on readers reviews, some people had a really hard time with the first book. They were frustrated by the lack of answers around the mysterious devastation of Area X. I argue that a frustrating lack of answers is kind of the point. We’re not meant to understand it, so if you can get past needing answers and you love sci-fi, then this is a must-read.
I’ve learned to filter book recommendations. I’ve (sort of) learned to distinguish books that people think I will like from books that I will actually like. Recommending books is a skill. People sometimes make the mistake of recommending a book that they loved without considering whether person will like it. It’s not about what you would love; it’s about what they would love.
I recently finished reading Write. Publish. Repeat. by the successful Indie authors Johnny Truant and Sean Platt. These guys work on a team co-writing books. Besides being notable Indie authors and podcasters, they’re also known for breaking a cardinal rule in writing: writing across genres.
They explained that it’s not something authors normally do, because traditionally in bookstores you want readers to find you in one section rather than five. But online you don’t have to worry about that. Besides the fact that they enjoy writing across genres, they also know that many readers read across genres.
Those who call themselves writers and have really stick it out invariably get on the WHO IN THE HELL WILL READ THIS? roller coaster, a manic ride filled with joy and terror.
Megalomaniac highs – THIS STORY IS AMAZING!!! ALL WILL MARVEL IN AWE AT MY PROFOUND GENIUS THAT WILL ENDURE FOR AGES!!!
The most dreadful and despairing lows – HOW DID I COME UP WITH THIS GARBAGE? HOW MANY PAGES HAVE I WRITTEN? OH GOD, TWO HUNDRED?!? THEY’RE ALL GOING TO LAUGH AT ME! I’LL BE BURIED IN A COFFIN MADE OF MY SHAME AND FAILURE!
Yet I think about all those mixed Goodreads and Amazon reviews and I think about my predilection for English parlors and how to avoid power drills, and I hop on the WHO IN THE HELL WILL READ THIS? it’s a little less manic joy and terror ride and a little more like Dumbo The Flying Elephant.
Your work is not for everybody, but it is for somebody. My work is not for everybody, but it is for somebody. Somebody will read your book and recommend it to every literate person they know. Somebody will read my book and may start looking for a power drill. But nobody will know until we write it.