An Ode to the Unexpected

Neil’s post about ODD books got me thinking.  How often have you gone into a book group meeting fearing the worst, that everyone will just hate the book? 

I never expect the entire group to love a book.  In fact, better discussions arise when there are real differences of opinion.  It can be quite boring if everyone swoons over a book, like groupies backstage.  It can just as tedious if no one has at least taken the time to see a book’s possible merits.

But what I like to remember with each meeting with my group is, that no matter how well I get to know them, I can never truly predict how a book will be received.

English Passengers CoverTrue History of the Kelly Gang Cover

Two good examples of this were in the case of two books I thought they’d hate.

One was Matthew Kneale’s English PassengersThe other was True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey.  English Passengers is a dense, historical novel told by mutliple narrators about a crew of rum smugglers sailing to Tasmania.  Carey’s novel about legendary Australian outlaw Ned Kelly is told in a vernacular that mirrors his famous Jerilderie Letter.  Both novels are challenging and idiosyncratic.  And in each case I prepared myself for an onslaught of “why did you choose this book?” from my group.  But in both instances the opposite was the case.  The group more or less really enjoyed or at the very least appreciated these books.

So I try not to predict which books will be a hit or a miss.  Besides that, it is so satisfying to work with a group that is up for a challenge.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

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