Jan 21

 The 2014 Tournament of Books contenders have been announced! Disliking a book that everyone else loves. Recommendations for Kids These Days and The Scar Boys.

The Rooster is Back!ToB-2013

Every year it seems that we talk about the Tournament of Books sometime late in March just as it’s ending. Not this year! The full list of titles has been announced, and we know that some of you are hoping to read along. We discussed several of the titles, so be sure the click the above link to see them all.

Who’s your favorite horse in this race?

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (07:21)

train dragon How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, narrated by the David Tennant, is Michael’s pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to Audiobooks.com for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand.

Audiobooks.com allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook


When You’re the Only One (09:41)

An email from Sarah asked if there were ever times when we disliked a book that everyone else loved, and have we ever been judged to be an uncaring person for not liking a book everyone else loved. To the first part of that question, yes, of course. We’ve always said that we would only talk about books we loved here on the podcast, but, for the first time we each admit to a book we didn’t like and didn’t finish. For Ann, it was Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, and for me, it was The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.

Moving on the second part of Sarah’s question, Ann admits to not having liked The Bridges of Madison County, a book that swept the nation in the 90’s, and was loved by many for its romantic story. But she was never judged to be uncaring because of that (that she knows of). Sarah’s questioned stemmed from several people judging her for not liking the writing of Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, even though she thought the book covered an important message. Honestly, judging someone’s character based on what books the like or dislike is just not right.

This brings to mind a recent announcement from the new editor of Buzzfeed Books, who said they would not be running negative reviews. It caused a bit of controversy. In our opinion, it all comes down to a simple question: are you running book reviews, or book recommendations? For us, it’s the later. Because honestly, when’s the last time you asked a librarian or bookseller to tell you about the books they hated?

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (19:56)

kids these days     scar boys

Over the winter break, Ann read Kids These Days by Drew Perry, a book she describes as a cross between Jonathan Tropper and Carl Hiaasen. It’s the story of Walter and Alice (who have a baby on the way), who are forced to relocate to Florida for a free place to live, and a new, shady, job for Walter.

I wholeheartedly recommend The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos, a coming of age story starring Harbinger “Harry” Jones. Set in the 80s, The Scar Boys follows Harry’s life from a bullying incident at age 8 that leaves his face badly scarred, and him addicted to painkillers, through his last year in high school when he and his band-mates embark on a hastily-thrown-together tour that tests their loyalties to each other.

  • Melissa

    Such a timely topic…can’t wait to listen later. I have been feeling so guilty for not loving The Goldfinch, so I have basically been just telling people I enjoyed it. Thank you for assuaging my guilt, Michael!

  • Dog Eared Copy/Tanya

    In general, I tend to like book reviews over book recommendations for a couple of reasons: When I read reviews, I tend to take the reviewer into consideration along with the actual content of the book; So a negative review is not necessarily a “do-not-read” flag for me. The second reason is that many times, recommendations start to sound like marketing blurbs. In the case of BOTNS, your recommendations are balanced out by the goodreads group comments and reviews. 🙂

    I personally loved Life After Life (by Kate Atkinson) but I certainly wouldn’t consider you a lesser person for not liking it! The only time I would raise a critical eyebrow is if you had said that you hadn’t read it/tried to read it and then said you didn’t like it! I will admit though that there are certain books that when they come up in conversation, If I truly adored it and the other person dismissed it, the conversation pretty much stops!

    On the flip side, I have a hard time garnering enthusiasm for certain books that seem over-rated. I tend to agree with Sarah: I *liked* Wonder but it wasn’t anywhere near a top ten read for me! I feel that way about many best sellers and Oprah picks so it may be a pre-read prejudice. Anyway, in such cases, I usually keep quiet and listen to see if what that other person loved about the book might shed a new light of appreciation for me. So, even though I am not an Ian McEwan fan, someone in another group mentioned that they had heard McEwan read an excerpt of On Chesil Beach with a comedic tone; and that it was lot more enjoyable *not* to read McEwan’s books so seriously, but rather with humor. Solar seems like a title more pre-disposed to being interpreted as being humorous, so I’m giving it a shot! ANd so far? Not so bad! 🙂

  • Pamela Lear

    I really appreciated your honesty on this episode. I too am reticent to criticize the books that garner so much positive attention. I prefer to laud the books that I think are such gems. That said, I did not like “Life After Life” by Atkinson at all, and I participated in a book group discussion of women who didn’t like it much either; however, I can find much about it that is worthwhile – – it just wasn’t written in a style that impressed me. I am trying to read “The Goldfinch” right now, and I am finding the writing style to be too verbose; so much of it seems to need an editor as I feel there is a lot of excess verbiage that serves no purpose. Tartt loves making long lists of things, and seems to include massive amounts of irrelevant detail; I find that irritating. It may be a good story, but I can’t seem to get past the writing style.

    In analyzing literature, I have found that my most important criteria are:
    (1) Was the writing “brilliant”? In other words, did it cause me to re-read sentences for their structure and clever use of language?
    (2) Did I learn something? I have little patience with stories that offer no insight, new information, or innovative ideas.
    (3) Was it a well-done plot/storyline?

    In being critical of literature, I like to provide caveats for what “didn’t work for me” rather than bashing and criticizing the entire book in general; I feel there are too many unnecessarily harsh book reviews online these days. Most of the people who write the book reviews couldn’t begin to write a good novel themselves, which makes their criticism painful to read. Then again, I really wonder sometimes about the books that do get a lot of attention as I’m sure much of it is due to the marketing machine behind the scenes that decides a particular book needs to be the next big seller. That’s the way much of our consumer market works.

    BTW, the two best books I read last year were “A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon” by Anthony Marra (glad I agree with Michael on that one), and also Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things”, which is nothing like her Eat/Pray/Love memoir. I don’t think I’ve heard you discuss the Gilbert book. I know too many people who won’t read it because they didn’t like Eat, Pray, Love, which is such a shame. It’s a remarkable piece of true literature!

    Thanks for sharing some things you didn’t like, in a gentle and meaningful way.

  • I feel bad about not loving certain books as much as others do (The End of Your Life Book Club, Stoner, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats to name a few), but if we all liked the same things life would be rather boring. I think the best book group discussions come about when there are a mix of people who like/dislike the book and can talk about their opinions without insulting each other.

  • Emma

    Everyone looks at me like I’m a heartless freak when I say I didn’t like The Book Thief. Read it years ago and was judged then. Am now being judged again since the movie’s out. The style of it made me so mad, I almost couldn’t finish it! Through the encouragement of this podcast I am trying to work on my “unable to abandon books” problem and I put one down successfully last week! It was tough, and I debated it for awhile, but it’s very freeing to know I won’t waste time on it. Instead moved onto Me Before You and am LOVING it!

  • Traci

    I also felt bad for not liking Life after Life when everyone was raving about how wonderful it was. I really tried to get into it, but finally gave up. I may try again later with another format (possibly the audio version), but right now I have no desire to – I found it rather depressing!

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