Liking the books I don’t like

I’ve heard a lot about that Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society book, but I never paid close attention to what I heard because I thought the title was awful. I don’t like self-consciously cute titles, or self-consciously cute anything, for that matter. But bloggers I like and respect were writing nice things about it and recommending it to me, so I felt I shouldn’t ignore it entirely, and then I happened to see it in my library’s audiobook collection. I wavered a bit deciding what audiobook to get — did I really want to listen to that book with the awful title? But audiobooks are where I take risks now and then; I’m willing to listen to something I might not want to spent time actually reading, since I’m only devoting commuting time to it.

So I checked it out and began listening to it, and now I’m finding I like it. It is a little too self-consciously cute at times, and who knows what I would think if I were reading it in the usual way, as I’m pickier then, but it’s winning me over anyway. There are multiple readers, which works well, as the novel is epistolary, with a number of different writers. All of the readers have been good, and they capture the characters well. And then the book is about books and reading, much in the vein of 84 Charing Cross Road and The Uncommon Reader, two books I really like. It also tells about what happened on the island of Guernsey during the German occupation in World War II, a history I knew nothing about and which is really interesting.

I prefer it when my suspicions are confirmed, my preconceptions are right, and I can continue to look down my nose at books that seem silly to me. But it’s also fun when I’m wrong and I find something new to like.

16 Comments

Filed under Books, Fiction

16 responses to “Liking the books I don’t like

  1. Glad to hear that after all that wavering you ended up enjoying it! I liked it as well; I like epistolary form and the story wasn’t too twee. But I agree about the title – argh. At our library we refer to it as “The Guernsey Book”.

  2. I’m very happy to know this about The Guernsey Book, which I’ve also avoided, for much the same reason. And what a smart way to use your commute time.

  3. You’re right – the title is awful. I call it “that potato peel book”. This is one of those books I’ve deliberately avoided, so much about it just screams it’s been over-hyped. I did pick it up in a bookshop on Sunday and flicked through it – then put it back. Maybe I’ll borrow it from the library.

  4. I do own a copy of this, but I read on a blog somewhere that one of the main characters is ‘too good to be true’ and I must say that sort of put me off. I’m waiting for the right moment to pick it up… Listening to it as an audio book is a really good idea.

  5. In my head I merge it together with that other pie book to get ‘The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Guernesey Literary and Potato Peel Pie’.
    And I can’t face either of them.

  6. I totally agree with the sentiment: “I prefer it when my suspicions are confirmed, my preconceptions are right, and I can continue to look down my nose at books that seem silly to me. But it’s also fun when I’m wrong and I find something new to like.” I’ve had that happen multiple times this year. It sort of ruins the whole fun of being a snob about reading!

  7. I’ve been avoiding the book for the same reasons as you, not even knowing what it was about! Well, maybe I will try it on audio sometime. The public library is sure to have it. But this also reminds me of a number of years ago when a book group I was in chose the Ya-Ya Sisterhood to read. Surely a wildly popular book with “Ya-Ya” in the title would be horrible. As much as I hate to admit is, I ended up enjoying it. :)

  8. I know not everyone liked this one, but I thought it was a nice light entertaining read, though I do agree the title is a bit of a mess! I think it would be fun to listen to it on audio–and it’s a quickie, too.

  9. zhiv

    Interesting. I read this book and forgot to write about it, being out of the habit a bit. It’s a good book, imaginative and well-crafted. It’s soft and trying to tap into a more recent (WW2) version of the Jane Austen/Mr. Knightley world, which is a tricky target, but it hits the mark rather solidly and that’s why it’s a big bestseller. It’s extremely readable and engaging, and it’s an interesting follow up for you after Charing Cross Road. I do wonder about the audio approach. It’s gonna be a good movie too. Quite painless, and the quirky title has no effect. Sad story behind the authorship too.

  10. Agree with Danielle. It is a light and charming read. A bit precious. Definitely predictable. But just makes you feel good on a level difficult to accomplish with a book that satisfies the intellect at a higher level. Kind of like me watching Love Actually repeatedly this time of year. And BTW, I loved The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie too. Don’t pass judgement on that one until you meet Flavia.

  11. I’ll be interested in what you think when you’re done. I also listened to this on audio and was charmed by the first half but thought it fell off a bit in the second half. I do suspect that the audio enhanced the experience. Really lovely characterization, and the readers were excellent.

    And I do know what you mean about the perverse desire to have your suspicions confirmed. I just got a copy of The Help, which looks like exactly the sort of book I’ll hate (Southern fiction with a main character named Skeeter. Skeeter!!!!) But so many bloggers with good taste have liked it that when someone in my book club wanted to read it, I figured I would go along with it and get the book. (Oddly enough, the book club disbanded a day after I got the book, but I’ll probably read the book anyway, eventually.)

  12. I suspect I’m the only person who actually likes self-consciously cute titles but rarely lets that lure me into purchasing them… I was (at some point) curious about this book because it mentioned Guernsey (a strange occurrence in itself…), but then I realized this probably wasn’t my type of book. Which apparently doesn’t mean much when it comes to good books, but I haven’t heard enough overwhelming praise to convince me that I should back down from my “Oh yes, that amusing title! But the story’s not my cup of tea…” angle…

  13. The title very much follows a publishing trend for cute ‘this is not a threatening book’ titles. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it and how interesting that the audiobook has different readers for different characters, more like a radio play.

  14. Good compromise with the audio book. And I’m glad you’re willing to give those preconceptions another try. Maybe the cutesy title aims at the book club market but it is off-putting.

  15. I listened to this one on audio as well and surprised myself by how much I liked it. Like you, I felt that hearing the letters read by different voices that captured the different characters so well enhanced the experience considerably. Another recent happy audio book experience for me was Neil Gaiman’s “Anansi Boys” read by Lenny Henry. You know you’ve got a winner when you find yourself looking forward to your commute!

  16. Melanie — I’m very close to the end now, and very tempted to stay in my car to listen to the rest! Yes, it is enjoyable, and I’m glad I got past my prejudice long enough to check the audiobook out of the library.

    Bloglily — well, it’s worth getting past your reluctance if you feel inspired to try something like that. They’ve probably attracted as many readers as they’ve repelled with that title — quite a risk, isn’t it?

    Booksplease — the potato peel stuff isn’t really even that important — they could just have called it The Guernsey Literary Society, but then maybe marketing might not have been as easy, I don’t know. But anyway, it’s definitely worth checking out of the library.

    Litlove — I suppose perhaps there may be a character or two who is too good to be true, but I find myself won over anyway as I listen. As long as the goodness isn’t irritating, I generally don’t mind that too much. Maybe I’m used to it from the 18C novels I read, where all the heroines are angelic :)

    Becky — oh, yes, the sweetness book is just too much — although watch me find it at the library and check it out just to see, and then falling in love with it. But seriously, no book should have the word “sweet” in the title, unless it’s a kids book.

    Rhapsody — it IS fun being a literary snob, right? But it’s also fun to unexpectedly like a book. I’m not sure which I like more :)

    Stefanie — my guess is that you would like this book. It’s a celebration of reading, after all, and that’s hard to resist. It’s definitely worth a try on audio. I’d be resistant to read the Ya-Ya book too, but it’s cool that you enjoyed it!

    Danielle — it really is worth getting over the title. It is, as you say, a nice, entertaining light read, and those are easy to take for granted.

    Zhiv — I know nothing about the authorship, and will have to look into it. You’re right that it’s a very interesting follow-up to 84CCR, and also The Uncommon Reader. And yes, you are right that it is well done. Since you mentioned the Austen connection, I’ve noticed it more in the book (which may have annoyed me more if I’d known about it ahead of time! I mean, I love Austen, but Austen re-dos are everywhere).

    Frances — oh, you are going to make me read or listen to that Sweetness book, aren’t you? Arg. :) You are right that it is a feel-good book, and that’s an experience too easy to look down on and fairly difficult to create.

    Teresa — I’m near the end (the last disk), and so far I’ve enjoyed it all the way through. I’ve liked watching what happens when she gets to Guernsey and meets everyone. How funny about The Help — I hope you do like it when you get around to it eventually! Sorry your book group disbanded (unless that’s something you wanted …)

    Biblibio — there must be lots of people who like cute titles, or they wouldn’t publish them, so I guess you’ve got plenty of good company! If you are interested in Guernsey, this definitely is a book for you because it says a whole lot about its history in WW2.

    Jodie — the different readers work very well. I haven’t liked multiple readers with other books, but in this case, with the various letters, it works. And really, as long as the readers are good, I don’t care how many there are.

    Pete — yeah, it must have been a marketing decision (or perhaps the authors just liked it!), but it does seem risky. The title might get you attention, but plenty of people won’t like it. And yes, getting over preconceptions is a good thing in this case!

    Kate — that’s definitely true about commuting, and I’ve been looking forward to my drive, so a very good sign! I’ll have to look around my library and see if they have the Gaiman book.

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