Discussion: the Pressure of Liking Popular Books

Hi everyone,

Today’s post is going to talk through something I recently experience when reading The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

I had heard a lot of great reviews about this book and so, naturally, I wanted to read it. It is also a Russian classic which is something that I had never read before. This book is iconic and has a lot of hardcore fans so I was really looking forward to reading such a popular book, as well as delving into a new culture and a style of writing.

However, I didn’t enjoy it. If you’ve read my February wrap-up post then you’ll know my thoughts on it but, in a nutshell, I didn’t enjoy the book at the time of reading it; it was too crazy, too “out-there” for me, I found the writing to be quite average and a bit confusing if I’m honest. However, in retrospect and after doing a lot of research on the story and the socio-historical context, I begun to see the appeal and why so many people loved it however I still felt like it wasn’t for me and (controversial opinion) is slightly overrated.

Despite this, whilst begrudgingly making my way through the book I searched online for other people that might have experienced the same as me but I couldn’t find anyone. All I found was people raving about the book, talking about how good and life-changing it was. This definitely made me feel a bit alone in my thoughts. I thought that I was stupid for not understanding it or maybe that I was being too harsh; how can everyone else love the book but I feel the complete opposite?

This got me thinking about the pressure we have to like books that are very popular and how, sometimes, we can feel stupid or like outsiders for not agreeing with the masses. I couldn’t think of any other examples of times when I had experienced this but I would love to hear from you in the comments if this is also something you have experienced?

I feel like we place a lot of pressure on ourselves to like books that other people love and rave about. I feel like sometimes, particularly with classic books, we can get tied up in liking certain books because it’s seen as “clever” or “intelligent” and we feel a sense of superiority when we like the book or can understand it. When I experienced this, I found it really helpful to try and re-discover the connection I have with reading; the reason why I read is not because I want to appear smart, but because I want to be transported to different worlds, to meet new characters, to have new adventures, to relax, to learn more about new cultures and peoples, and as a form of escapism. You need to remove any internal and external pressures that you might put on yourself when reading a book because reading is not supposed to feel like a chore. And if it does then you’re doing it wrong.

I don’t judge anyone for not liking a book that I loved. I’m interested to hear their reasons why because it’s great to listen to other viewpoints. Ultimately, I just accept the fact that we have different tastes and what we look for in a book is different. So why do I put so much pressure on myself and berate myself when I don’t like a popular book?

Have you experienced this before? Let me know!

Thanks for reading.

Love, Zoรซ x

14 thoughts on “Discussion: the Pressure of Liking Popular Books

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  1. I’ve definitely experienced this feeling! Not so much with recent releases – for example, I was not a fan of “Children of Blood and Bone” at all, even though everyone seemed to love it, but didn’t have a problem voicing my opinions for all the world to hear ๐Ÿ˜‚ But I have experienced this with classics! In a university setting, when everyone is talking about the greatness of a certain novel and how it changed the literary landscape forever, it can be quite hard to say you thought it was absolutely terrible… It’s almost like you’re inviting people to come at you and start insulting your intelligence ๐Ÿ˜… Still, I do try to be honest about what I thought of the books – even though I might not go on a full-on rant in a university context and phrase my opinions more diplomatically ๐Ÿ˜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I need to be more honest with my opinions, particularly with classics. It’s definitely harder to voice your opinions on classic novels because everyone holds them in such high regard and if you don’t like it, you immediately feel a bit stupid. Especially when people are like “oh well if you didn’t like it, then you obviously didn’t understand it” as if there’s no way anyone could possibly dislike the book haha

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! It can be so daunting! But then again, I usually don’t trust people who say they loved every single classic they read, either – the chances of that happening are extraordinarily slim – so I guess I’ll just keep that in mind when dishing out my own opinions. After all, giving everything glowing reviews doesn’t really make people view you as a critical and honest reader either, so logically, that should make others question your intellectual abilities even more ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ˜

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  2. I frequently find classics overrated and agree that often people feel pressured – that somehow it’s their fault for not liking it, they must be missing the point, etc. But when I post a negative review, suddenly I get inundated with comments from people who felt the same way! Lolita is one example – I thought it was a revolting book, badly written, boring, and I developed an intense dislike for the pretentiousness of the author. And when I said so, nearly everyone who commented agreed! And yet to read professional reviews, you’d think it was wonderful. Goodreads is great because there are so many real reader reviews. If I hate a book that it seems I should love I go to Goodreads and read the one-star reviews and usually find a significant minority of people share my opinion…

    I haven’t read The Master and Margarita yet, but it’s on my TBR. I did love his The White Guard, but TMAM sounds very different.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess posting a negative review on a populae book makes people feel more confident to voice their opinions too! We obviously love finding like-minded people haha
      I looked on Goodreads for TMAM and had a look at the one-star reviews and only 1% of reviews were one-star! But at least I did find some people that felt the same way as me.
      I haven’t read Lolita yet but have heard a lot of conflicting opinions about it so could definitely see why people might dislike it. I hope you enjoy TMAM ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great post, and one to consider especially in blogging I think, where you may find common likes and dislikes donโ€™t align with yours.

    The idea of liking and disliking classics, though, is interesting. Although I have definitely enjoyed reading some before, I also find I can like a book because of the way its written and what it attempts from a literary standpoint, rather than the story or characters. I do think thatโ€™s an important distinction to make!

    I havenโ€™t read the book that prompted this post of yours, so it was interesting to hear about your reading journey!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great to hear your thoughts! Yes, you’re right that is definitely an important distinction to make. In the case of The Master and Margarita, I didn’t really enjoy the storyline but could appreciate how people could love it. It just made me feel slightly weird when I didn’t like a book that everyone raves about ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get that. It happened to me a lot with YA books before I figured out which ones I enjoyed โ€” wondering if I was reading something completely different! ๐Ÿ˜…

        Liked by 1 person

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