Think Aloud explores book-related discussions encompassing reading, writing, blogging, and perhaps newsworthy content. The focus is to push the boundaries, stretch the mind, and encourage dialogue within this community. Let’s all think out loud.
Negative Reading Experiences
and Second Chances
People forgive but they never forget. Does a jaded reading experience (and ultimately a “poorly rated” book) warrant the forgoing of an author’s other written work?
As readers, we all have our own niches of enjoyment and certain standards of writing we hope to see in a novel (i.e. literary tropes), and I don’t believe that all readers are against books catching them by surprise with quirk and differentiation. After all, that’s what makes most books unique from each other. But sometimes it doesn’t always work out…and that’s when we begin to question whether or not the read should be continued. There are many reasons as to why a book may be put down. Perhaps you’re distracted with another book. Maybe you’re just bored out of your mind or angry at how contrived or trite the story has become. In many cases, it’s simply about not enjoying the novel as much as you hoped you would—so you put it down, unfinished. Fine, that’s okay—you read what you like knowing there’s no one-size-fits-all book. Even if you do complete the novel, it could have been an unworthy struggle. So you give it a low quantitative rating and post a review explaining why this book didn’t work for you. But does this one negative experience taint and detract you from reading other novels written by this particular author, or are you able to go into each novel with a blank slate?
I’m not claiming to be an expert at knowing what’s bad and what’s good in writing to say otherwise but with the sheer number of authors in the community/industry, it is my belief that creating (and maintaining) a voice for themselves is a key driver of success. Sure, the love of the craft is important but one cannot deny the euphoric hit of positive feels when a readers’ brain picks at an authors written thoughts. (I mean, hey, I appreciate you still chomping down these rambling thoughts—you’re pretty cool for reading this!). Fact is: regardless of positive or negative dialogue being garnered from a piece of written work, as long as it’s being thought of and passed along—should it matter? This becomes a double-edged sword. With opinionated readers (basically everyone) being one of the many gatekeepers to a book/authors further success (through exposure of storytelling), a single muck-up with a book can translate to critical analyses that not only deters a reader’s motivation for ever picking the book back up (let alone future novels) but also affects those who take criticism and thoughts with more than a grain of salt.
A reader only has the experience of a first time once and with first impressions being everything, re-reads are never the same. So what does a negative reading experience mean? While it may be tied to minimal enjoyment, there’s no sure-fire answer because we’re all too different for there to be a universal reason (helpful, right?). A negative experience carries the weight that once is often enough; but while readers can forgive…they can never forget. The choice of writing (whatever that may entail) is often part of the creative voice of an author and it is that which sets the tone and expectation of the style typically rehashed in later publications. But how true is this in action, and how similar (or different) are two different standalones from the same author?
From personal experience, I haven’t had the greatest time with debut authors (and their respective ARCs). Perhaps I’m simply difficult to please or maybe it’s just in my mind that I’ve set immaterial standards unbeknownst to the author that need to be met—seriously, how unfair is that? By accepting the idea that future publications hold some merits of its predecessor can readers easily lump apples-and-oranges together into a category of negative reads. And once that step is taken, apprehension and doubt protect readers from enduring another unworthy time investment. I’m not here to hark on how readers should choose to read what they like. I’m just saying that we need to remember that an author’s penmanship is something that develops over time; and by limiting future reads based on a single case of unsuccessful storytelling are we ultimately limiting the diversity of stories we live. Redemption is the name of the game and it’s not always how things start but rather how it ends–so will you give an author a second chance?
Bam: nonsense complete.
Hope things made sense though! But before you go ham and chirp out my flawed arguments (which I do absolutely encourage), here are some food-for-thought prompts to get your brain churning:
1) Assuming the genres of two books are equal, how encouraged are you to pick-up another work by the same author if you’ve just endured a negative reading experience? (or, how much does the writing in one book affect your outlook on future publications?)
2) If you’re willing, what are some of your peeves that immediately turn you off from a book (potentially causing you to drop the read)?
3) What are some reasons why you might enjoy a re-read of a book you’ve previously dropped?
4) Are there other factors in play not related to the content of a book that you feel taints an author (i.e. authors behaving poorly, writing scandals)?
4 thoughts on “[Think Aloud] – #4 – Negative Reading Experiences and Second Chances”
This is a really interesting topic and as I think about it, I’m finding the answers differ for me by situation and author. For example, I read a series that I loved, and then the author’s next book came out and was a huge disappointment to me. I follow her on social media and really adore her and her personality. Just because I hated her last book, I have every intention of reading her next book in hopes that I have a better experience.
I’ve also had experiences where I tried a book by a certain author and ended up DNFing it. Then a few years later I’ve tried another book by the same author and ended up loving it. I really feel like, for me, it’s all about the reading mood I’m in at the time. My tastes change so much that, when a book may not work for me right now, it doesn’t mean later down the road, I won’t try again and love it. Or try the author again and wonder what the hell my problem was before because they are fantastic. Case and point – Outlander. Yes, I’m reading it for the third flippin time right now, but I’m enjoying it. Even though it’s taking me forever to get through. But seriously – it’s like the longest book ever. But the first couple of times I read it, I just couldn’t get into it, despite the love all over the world for this series. Just wasn’t the right time for me.
It also helps that my memory is total crap. So, if I didn’t like an author or book at one time, chances are I’ll have forgiven and forgotten a few years later. It’s like it never happened.
I don’t re-read books, which is a shame and I hope to rectify that some day. I have so many ‘favorite’ books, but my fear is that the experience the second time around won’t be as good and then will it change my opinion of the book? Will I still consider it a favorite? I tend to read books I love really fast and then don’t remember all the details later – so I would love to start re-reading books. I just have this issue with all the new shiny books always distracting me. Not enough time to read everything I want to read.
Like how I wrote you a book? You got me thinking – it was fun!
First off, I’d like to apologize for going MIA and not having read this until now!
I feel like it’s radically easier to forgive prospective books from auto-buy authors as we already have books we adored from them. But I think the major concern I have is for debut authors just trying to garner exposure. With standalone novels in particular, I feel like if I read through said novel and didn’t enjoy it (or DNF’d it)…I immediately create this stigma that this one particular read becomes their magnum opus and anything that follows probably won’t be that great either. But then I try to rationalize that the loss of one author in a sea of thousands of others makes it okay, right? Yes, this is kind of a shallow thought, and one that is extremely debatable because now I carry the weight of that negative experience and through word of mouth could influence others to not even consider it (although, I don’t think I’d ever tell someone not to read something they want.) It’s really the indie and/or newly published authors that I feel for (despite my own reservations on keeping up with prospective writing.)
Ahhh, confusing stuff!
Mood reading is certainly a consideration that sometimes goes over people’s head without realization. I think the whole idea of mood reading ties back to how we’re constantly redefining our reading tastes. Personally, if I earnestly tried a book once, I don’t find myself going back to it at a later time (unless I own it–then there’s that feeling of obligation haha).
Also, Outlander sounds so beastly! I’ll probably just default to the television adaptation because I’m lazy like that but I do hope you’re able to get through it.
I seldom reread books based on exactly as you suggest: second time reads aren’t as riveting as you’ve already been through it. (This kind of discounts novel analyses though, I think.) Which is interesting considering that film adaptations is something that I’d be totally down for–and that’s kind of like a re-read. So this makes me wonder whether or not I’d be able to have a different kind of experience if I listen to the audiobook instead! Though my attention span in listening while doing other things is real bad.
I completely agree with this limited thing called time–not even daylight savings will doing enough to assist the plethora of stories out there!
I love essay responses–thank you for taking the time to construct your thoughts! And again, I do apologize for taking so long to reply haha.
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This is a really great topic that I’d only thought about a bit before this. I usually try to give an author a second chance if I didn’t like the first book I read by them. This has happened before, and I ended up really liking the next book I read by that author (which was also from a different series). The situation has also been reversed, where I’ll read several books by one author and love them, but then he or she will write one book that just didn’t work for me. I think by that point, though, because I already know I liked the majority of the books I’ve read by them, reading a bad book by that author only causes a bit of disappointment for me.
I usually don’t re-read a book that I DNF, though I try to convince myself I will… someday xD I feel like once a book has made a (bad) impression, I’m not likely to go back and give it another chance. I’d give the *author* another chance, but not that particular book.
Glad I picked at your brain a little!
I’m speculating that for me, personally, if I read a debut novel and didn’t end up enjoying it…I seldom return to that author willingly unless they’re brought to my attention through Goodreads or another person’s review showing up etc.
But you’re definitely right, with authors whom you normally read several books from, it’s so much easier to just dismiss one novel that you didn’t enjoy and just carry on with their other works. Perhaps it may be because they reached that ‘auto-buy’ status!