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What to Do When You Hate Your Own Book Club Pick

P.N. Hinton

Contributing Editor

Born into a family of readers, P.N. gained a love reading as a sort of herd mentality. This love of reading has remained a life long passion, resulting in an English Degree from The University of Houston in Houston, Texas. She normally reads three to four books at any given time, in the futile Sisyphean hope of whittling down her ever growing to be read pile of no specific genre.

Imagine. 

It’s your turn to pick a book for your book club and you have the perfect one. It’s been on your TBR pile but you’ve held off on it because you wanted to enjoy it with your book besties. And, to your everlasting joy, they all agree to your pick to discuss for the next time y’all meet up. 

You’re over the moon and soon as life settles down enough you set aside a good chunk of time to read the book that you so held off on reading solo because you wanted to enjoy it with your club. 

And you hate it. 

This can be a very conflicting feeling. It’s one thing to have hyped up a book in your own mind and be disappointed in it when you read solo. That happens more often than most people want to admit to. However, it’s a different kind of feeling when it’s one that you have nominated for your club to read together.

You shouldn’t worry too much about this though. It happens to the best of us. Hell, it’s happened to me at least three times in my own book club. But it’s still a bitter sting. I won’t be sharing the books in question, because I genuinely try not to actively bash books. What I will be doing is giving you some advice on what you should or shouldn’t do if you find yourself in this boat.

Don’t DNF

Given how often I DNF books, I know this sounds completely contradictory because I make no bones about how I will not hesitate to put a book down forever. As is often said, life’s too short to force yourself to read a book that you don’t love and isn’t assigned reading. So, if it’s a book I am reading on my own or another book club pick that I can’t stomach (sorry y’all), I will not hesitate to quit it.

It’s a different beast when it’s a book I’ve nominated for my book club. Since it’s my own pick, I feel I have to see it all the way through because that is part of the responsibility of being the one who picks the book for the month. As with everything, there are exceptions to this rule, but overall, if you choose it, you should see it all the way through.

Do Give an Honest Opinion

That said, don’t feel just because you picked it, you have to claim to have loved it. We’ve all picked up a book we were hyped to read on our own that ended up falling way short of the mark, and aren’t our book club recommendations really just picks from our own TBR that we recommend because we feel they’d be a good match? If so, then it stands to reason there will always be some misses.

You should always be honest when you don’t like a book, regardless of whether or not it’s your own pick. Ideally, no one will get their feelings hurt because it’s not a commentary on the person at all. The book just wasn’t for you. And you never know if others will share your distaste or end up loving it. That happened to me with one of my picks, so I know it’s possible. 

Don’t *Not* Recommend Books Ever Again

We all have the ability to be drama llamas, and I’m including myself in that group. It’s very easy to have the mindset to never recommend a book again because of how bad one turned out. But I strongly caution against that for a couple of reasons. 

One is that if everyone did that, then there is the very real possibility that no one would recommend anything ever again, and then that’s the end of the book club. *sad trombone* Another is that it’s the bookish version of cutting off your nose to spite your face. After all, you wouldn’t stop reading completely if you picked bad books on your own, right? At best, you may take a break (hello, reading slump), but that’s about it. 

Seriously, don’t take this stance. It’s not a healthy one to have at all. Take the following one instead. 

Do Be More Mindful with Nominations

When I reflect on the books that I recommended and ended up hating, one thing they all have in common is that they were well outside the realm of my go-to genres. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to read outside your comfort zone. Comfort reading is great, but it is still a good idea to push those boundaries a bit. It isn’t something you always have to do, though, and you should be mindful of your own deal breakers.

Even when pushing those boundaries though, remember that they’re called boundaries for a reason. Try not to be overly ambitious with your recommendations, especially if recommending a new-to-you author. Try reading something else by them first or the first few chapters of the book in question. This will give you an idea of how they write and if it’s something you would like yourself and, by extension, want to recommend. Don’t get dragged into hype trains, and do careful research before you put any book up.

Remember to Have Fun

And there you have it, friend. These are just a few recommendations for what to do when you find yourself in this specific position. Book clubs are supposed to be a fun way to share the love of reading with friends, and part of that fun can be laughing along with your friends if the book you pick is just terrible. After all, as I said above, it happens to everyone at least once.

And if you do pick a bad one and you get anything other than good-natured ribbing for it? Maybe that’s a sign to find a less rigid book club and one that remembers that reading is, and always should be, fun.