Ask a Literary Lady: How Do You Agree to Disagree About Books?

Ginni at B&NDear Literary Lady,

My friend and I both love to read, but we never agree about books. She hates many of the books I love, and I hate many of the books she loves. Should I just give up trying to talk books with her?

D.F., Sacramento, CA

Dear D.F.,

No, absolutely not! Your friend who disagrees with you might be your most valuable literary friend yet. She’s the Justice Scalia to your Justice Ginsburg, a friend whose dissent makes your opinion stronger and makes you a better reader overall.

If anything, you should keep talking to your friend about books because you disagree so much. It makes for much more interesting, thought-provoking conversation. Sure, it’s more difficult to converse with someone who disagrees with you than with someone who agrees with you, but it’s ultimately more rewarding.

Admit it, when you talk to someone about a book you both like, the conversation tends to go like this,

You: Did you read Such and Such book?
Them: Yes, I loved it!
You: I loved it too!
Them: It’s so great.
You: Yes, it’s so great.
Them: Yeah.
You: Yeah.

It’s a pleasant enough conversation, but it’s not the intellectually riveting debate you could be having with someone who disagrees with you. When you have to defend your love for a certain book, you’re forced to think critically about your own opinions, you analyze your favorite aspects of the novel, and you learn more about your own literary tastes.

When it’s your turn to hate the book that your friend loves, you’ll get more out of that argument than you would out of shared dislike. Listening to my friend rave about a book that I disliked makes me question why I couldn’t get into it. Sometimes I’m able to articulate the parts of the novel that didn’t ring true to me. Other times, I realize that I don’t have a leg to stand on because I only read three chapters and gave up. More often than not, my friend convinces me to go back and give the book another shot.

My most valued conversations about books have been with people who disagreed with my opinion, so I urge you to seek out those conversations with your friend. Your talks will take some fascinating turns, and you’ll find yourself reading new books with future conversations in mind.

Love and paperbacks,
Literary Lady

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