Why You Shouldn’t Follow Me On Goodreads OR How the Questionnaire Works

August 1, 2013

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I have a wonderful, smart, delightful friend (let’s call her ‘G’) whose recommendations of restaurants – in my opinion – are superbly horrendous.

For example:

[PHONE RINGS AND BOOK DUMPLING PICKS UP]

ME: “Hello?”
FRIEND: “Hi!”
“Hi!”
“You need to try this new restaurant in [insert area]. It’s to die for.”
“Ya?” I’m already opening my notebook (yup, still write with a pen) to make a note-to-self to NEVER go to this joint. Ever.

It’s not that I don’t like trying new things. I really do. But some people’s tastes are so completely opposite of mine that I’ve given up on depending upon them for solid recommendations to my liking.

Taste is such a personal thing.

A dear family member of mine has the complete opposite taste in movies than I do: if she likes a film, I remember to never see it and – if she says it’s terrible, chances are that I’ll buy tickets that same day.

Same, of course, goes with books.

My shiny, beautiful, talented friend, Lauren W., for example, has very similar taste in books to me: I know that when she reads something and loves it, chances are, I will too.

All of this leads up to the latest $64,000 question: But, how does the Book Dumpling questionnaire work?

I’ll try and explain – despite the answer depending mostly on my ‘inner algorithm’ (which sounds super pretentious, I know).

Firstly – I spread my reading out so that I can gain access to a wide array of reading material for all of Book Dumpling’s readers.

This means reading everything from rock memoirs to literary fiction to juicy page-turners to scientific studies.

Somewhere along my development into a Book Dumpling, I was lucky enough to inherit an intuitive sense of who would enjoy the books that I did.

And who would throw them against a wall in frustration.

Today, if I don’t enjoy a book, I won’t let my personal taste get in the way of someone else’s great read: I still recommend books that I’ve (in my humble opinion) disliked, as other people may gain pleasure from reading them.

Too often, people assume that we all like the same things.

Sometimes we forget to listen to another person’s preferences, as we are busy pushing our own agendas.

This is why I don’t encourage people to follow me on Goodreads.

My personal taste has NOTHING to do with my recommendations. Sure: there are some readers out there who seem like my literary soul mates.

Mostly, however, this endeavour has introduced me to (and reminded me of) the gorgeous array of readers in existence.

This is why algorithms don’t work all of the time.

For example: I love Batman the movie but I don’t love reading comic books. But I loved reading Watchmen.

So it gets a little complicated.

If an online algorithm uses words like ‘drama’, ‘fiction’, ‘family’, ‘50s’ – you might get some great titles but, chances are, you’ll get a load of suggestions that just don’t appeal to you while you’re reading them.

This is okay.

And it’s good to know that people still need a personal, human touch to get to a book they love. Which is why we all have our favourite bookstore or library.

Ok, most of us.

This is not to say that I’m always right – rather, I do my best to try to listen to readers and see which book will work best for him/her.

I listen especially close if I’ve made a match that wasn’t ideal to find out where it went wrong.

Let’s look at two different reader questionnaires: both readers LOVE the same THREE books, and both DISLIKE the same TWO books.

However, the THIRD book in each person’s ‘would not recommend’ section is completely different from the other’s. This small detail completely changes my reading pick for each of them.

Just because you like ‘emo’ doesn’t mean you’re into indie authors. Even though you enjoy cooking, it doesn’t mean you’ll love The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

If you strongly dislike romantic comedies, you may love reading them.

There’s no rhyme or reason as to why we like to read what we read.

Some readers may have a job that requires a maximum level of intellectual engagement, leaving them yearning for something fluffy at the end of the day.

Another reader – in that same field – might take strong offense to fluff and opt for only high literary fiction.

That’s why the two questions: which books WOULD you recommend and which books WOULDN’T you recommend are essential.

In the next blog, I will be posting some of the greatest reasons readers have provided as to what motivates them to read, so stay tuned for that. It’s fascinating.

So, please don’t let my ratings on Goodreads influence you in any way (or anyone’s tastes that don’t match yours, for that matter) as we’re all entitled to our guilt-free taste in everything.

Except for loving Breaking Bad. That’s non-negotiable.

Anyhow, I did end up going to G’s restaurant recommendation last month as I was in a pinch and hungry and it was right around the corner.

The salmon was terrible.

But she doesn’t ever need to know that.

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