Thursday, September 29, 2011

Goldilocks and the Three Books

Imagine Goldilocks rumbling through the Three Bears' house. She's bored and in need of something to read. She flips through the family-shared Kindle (because bears are too poor to afford multiple e-readers):

1) Finds a Stephen King book: "This is too scary!"
2) Opens a Nicholas Sparks book: "This is too mushy!"
3) Discovers Carl Sagan's Cosmos buried in a collection: "Now this is just right!"

After filling her tummy with Mueslix (hey, they may be poor bears, but they're health-conscious), and sipping some chamomile tea while trying out the different recliners, she finds herself getting nappy and looks for a place to sack out. Shortly after which the bears walk in and---

(Okay, that story needed to be brought into the 21 century, but I digress...)


After a long night flopping around on my bed because the springs were digging into my bones and waking up more tired than when I went to sleep, I figured it was time for a new mattress. I've been contemplating one of those squishy memory foam ones. The Tempurpedic commercials have infiltrated my brain, you see. So of course I posed the question to my buddies on Facebook (because, next to Google and Wikipedia, that's the best place to gather collective wisdom).

Opinions ranged wildly. From "Love mine!" to "I felt like I was being swallowed by a marshmallow." After having my neck readjusted because I ended up sleeping with my head craned at an impossible angle towards my left shoulder one night, my osteopath said mattresses are an entirely individual matter. Just go with what's comfortable to you.

This made all too much sense. Heck, my husband thinks the firm support of the floor provides a restful night's sleep. Yeah, and I used to think it'd be a blast to be on Survivor until I realized that after sleeping on a bamboo mat on the ground for a few days I'd probably be so sleep-deprived that I'd go postal. Then after getting voted off because I couldn't cooperate with the resident Svengali, I'd watch the show and see myself muttering unintelligibly and wonder who that person who was wearing my face and clothes and using my name.

I'm still undecided on the mattress issue, but it made me think of how individual a lot of choices are. What's perfect to one person is anathema to another. And books, because they often provoke strong emotions, are a prime example of why we can all have distinct reactions to the same thing.

Recently I read a book that stirred some very poignant emotions in me and made me stop and think about life a little more deeply. I loved the dry humor the author used in telling the story, the little snippets of events that played into the bigger picture and the journey of self-discovery the main character traveled. So when I went to leave a review, I was surprised to see how some readers had a very different reaction - as in, they 'just didn't get it'. Had they been sitting in the same room, I would've been tempted to turn around, give them that creased brow look with a slight sneer and say, "How can you not 'get it'? This book is subtle genius, deeply philosophical and emotive. Were you expecting pyrotechnics, car chases and super models?"

But I'd never do something like that. Ever. Because what I do get is that we all have different needs in what suits us - whether it's books, movies or beds. What's right, brilliant and memorable to me will be the opposite for someone else. Everything's relative. The person who loved a book/mattress was right. So was the person who hated it. Offer me a Pepsi and I'll tell you I'd rather go thirsty (no offense, Pepsi fans). I'm a Coke girl. It's my elixir of youth.

This is why when I'm browsing for books, I skim reviews and while I may find them helpful, I never depend on them 100% for picking out my next read. I look through them for specific points that may appeal to me or repel me. If one reviewer goes on and on about how they hated the battle scenes, that's an automatic sample for me - because I LURV battle scenes. If one reviewer gushes about how much they loved the intricate detail - well, that may not be an automatic delete for me, but I'll keep it in mind, because I find too much detail a snooze. I want action, emotions, and characters that grab me by the throat and make me pay attention.

As for picking out books, mostly I rely on the blurb and sample. If I'm still sucked in at the end of the sample, then I buy.

So, Goldilocks had it right. She tried things out herself and came to her own conclusions. I do think the bears would've appreciated it if she had asked permission first, though. ;-) Meanwhile, I'm going to drift over to the furniture store, try to dodge the commissioned salespeople by avoiding eye contact and moving quickly, and test out some mattresses.

Happy reading,


Anita Davison said...

A very insightful post, Gemi, I enjoyed it. You are right, listening to others' opinions cannot be compared to making up your own mind about something - especially books. Just because a novel has good reviews, doesn't mean I am bound to like it too. Hopefully that applies to my novels as well!

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Everyone's truth is different, isn't it? How boring it would be if we all liked/hated the same things.

Sarah Woodbury said...

Have a look at Bed in a Box. We bought one of their tempurpedic beds (but not with the tempurpedic price) and love it. Hard enough for my hub, soft enough for me. My parents tried it and bought one too.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Thanks, Sarah. I'm definitely looking at the off-brands. Still need to put those kids through college. ;-)

Sophie Perinot said...

"This is why when I'm browsing for books, I skim reviews and while I may find them helpful, I never depend on them 100% for picking out my next read. I look through them for specific points that may appeal to me or repel me"

That's the most sane view of reviews I've read in a good long while.

Not so many (okay quite a few but am no youngster) the "reviews" available were pretty limited (newspapers) and the books they reviewed were pretty limited too. One of the great thing about the internet from a "readers perspective" is all the review sources it has added (from book bloggers to Amazon reviews). BUT with so many opinions there is also a danger -- one that you've highlighted -- letting ourselves get overwhelmed by the opinions of others rather than making up our own minds.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Overwhelming is right. The reviews of mattresses I've been looking at have numbered in the hundreds, even thousands, and on the same item one reviewer would call a mattress 'too soft' while another claimed it was 'too firm'. You get polar opinions on books, too. Since we don't know the reviewers personally, it's hard to assign weight to their opinions.