This is your reminder that you are allowed to like whatever you want, and you should never be ashamed of the books you love. It’s also a reminder to stop and think before you judge someone else’s favorite books.
It’s more complicated than you may assume.
I know the idea that you are allowed to enjoy the books you enjoy seems like a no-brainer when you say it out loud, but at the moment, it’s very easy to forget. Peer pressure within your own friend groups, or even within the larger book review world, can be hard to navigate when the majority don’t like or understand the books that you like. Now, add the rest of the Internet giving their mostly anonymous opinions across all your social media feeds, and it’s easy to feel outnumbered and alone. No one should ever feel bad about liking something that makes them happy. Ever. Hard stop.
Your taste is your own.
There are more than Fifty Shades of Grey when it comes to taste. Ba dum tss.
But seriously, everyone walks through life at a different pace, and that means what they’re experiencing happens to be uniquely their own, regardless of what they are exhibiting on the outside. Books, like all media, are incredibly personal, so what feels profound and meaningful to you, may seem like just a jumble of words to someone else. Life is full of nuance, and so are the types of media we consume. It’s good to remember this from both sides of caring, and not caring, about a book.
Books are like tattoos.
Tattoos are personal. They’re moments in time, paradigm-shifting ideas, treasured memories, profound influences, and personal identity all rolled into permanent body art. It wouldn’t be right to mock a friend’s tattoo, because it’s meaningful to that friend (and also isn’t easily removed).
Books can have similar meanings for many people. The words move and shape readers: forming bonds, memories, ideas, emotions, and millions of other tiny bricks used to build the person you know. Making fun of a book that someone loves is similar to making fun of someone’s tattoo. But, like with tattoos, the more you ask about why someone’s favorite book is meaningful to them, the more you’ll learn about how they see the world. You don’t know what was happening in their life when they fell in love with that book, those characters, their world. And even if there is no deeper emotional connection—respect the fact that it made them happy.
It’s okay to not like a book.
All this being said we have all read books that we didn’t like, and that’s very much okay. You are, of course, allowed to dislike a book, but remember: just because you don’t like a book, doesn’t mean it’s right to judge someone who does. Your tastes don’t make you a better or worse person, they just make you, you.
Discussing is different than judging.
“Anyone who likes this book is stupid.” That sentence right there, that’s not discussing a book in any meaningful way, it’s judging people based on personal tastes. Discussing a book you don’t like with someone who loves it doesn’t have to end in hurt feelings when you consider that the other person just doesn’t see the world the way you do.
Everyone’s tastes change.
What you like now may not be what you like a year from now, or even a month from now. You’re a collection of ever-changing ideas and viewpoints. The more you interact with life, the more you change. What you think is the coolest thing in the world today may be something you don’t think about by next summer. If you don’t like something anymore, though, that doesn’t mean that someone else won’t.
I realize it seems like I wrote this for two different people: the people who judge and the people being judged, but if you’re anything like I was, and even still can be (when I forget my own advice), it’s that you can very much be both at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive.
And finally, remember to have fun.
If you’re having fun with a book, that’s all that matters. Whether it’s an audiobook, graphic novel, YA epic, or classic lit, all that matters is that you’re enjoying yourself. So remember, it’s okay to like the books you like.