Book Opinions

I’ve been thinking.

You all know I have intense opinions on books. I am not afraid to call out my likes and dislikes from the rooftops. Nor am I afraid to go against the popular opinion of the minute. For example, I happily bashed Villette in a recent blog post, griping about all sorts of things about it.

Then I saw someone else do the same thing. Not about Villette, but about a book I love. She said she hated it. No reason why, other than a few quotes by Mark Twain which I did not find illuminating. I was not left in awe of her intellect, or of her brave opinions. I like this author/instagrammer, and to have her unabashedly hate one of my loved books felt more like betrayal.

It made me realize something, something I should have already known, but had forgotten, or perhaps didn’t want to look at.

My opinion has nothing to do with how good a book is.

I am not a literary critic. I can’t see things they do, or be able to express them. I recently read a biography where the author of the biography critiqued the novels he was writing about. I was in awe of what this man could see in the books that I myself had read. I had not picked up on any of that, besides some vague feelings that something was off in the book. Such as pacing, variances of style, and a rambling plot. The point is, my opinion on a book is just that, my opinion. It doesn’t mean a book is well written or not.

I may love a book that is objectively not great. Or I may dislike a book that is so beautifully written it brings others to tears.

Back to Villette, this book is a classic and for good reason. How the author describes the setting is phenomenal. How she gets across how the character is holding back feelings without actually telling us she is? I am still not sure how she did it. Villette was just not for me. But it might be for someone else. I know other people adore it.

The point is twofold. First, I want to learn how to objectively rate a book. How to say it was well written and why. How to judge whether the pacing was effective or defunct. I want to learn more about story craft so I know a good book when I see it. Second, I want to pull my opinions away from how good a book is. I have certain likes and dislikes that have nothing to do with how good the book is, and everything to do with how they make me feel. Just because I don’t like a book doesn’t mean it was the worst of all time. Just because I like a book doesn’t mean it is the most glorious book of all time.

I should be able to dislike a book without defaming it to the stars. That is not to say I will never discuss a book I don’t like again. I am not giving up on my opinions. I am seasoning them with grace. Perhaps the author is doing something I don’t understand, or perhaps that particular trope just is not my favorite.

So there you go, my thoughts in a (big) nutshell.

Shaina Merrick