Have You Ever Championed a Book That Your Book Club Disliked? I Have.

I always get a big kick out of any mention of me or my work in the press, on TV, wherever.

So it was very fun to be included in Erin Geiger Smith’s Wall Street Journal piece, “When You Bomb at the Book Club.

I’m in four book clubs (one regular, three for children’s literature), so I’ve made my share of recommendations that other people didn’t like.

The piece is behind a paywall, but I get mentioned here:

Author Gretchen Rubin is a prolific reader and a member of four New York City-based book clubs. She suggests monthly reads for 65,000 subscribers to her online “book club.” But the selection of Sylvia Engdahl’s futuristic 1970s novel “This Star Shall Abide” for her personal children’s literature book club baffled fellow members. “They didn’t like the writing, they didn’t like the twist,” Ms. Rubin says.

She also recalled a lot of pushback for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s book “The Secret Garden,” which she calls “a towering classic of world literature.” She expected an enthusiastic discussion. Instead, multiple members expressed their opinion the first half felt disconnected from the rest, and that they just didn’t like it in general. For some, “If you don’t like their choice, it really upsets them, whereas me, I’m like, ‘If you don’t like “The Secret Garden,” there’s something wrong with you,’ ” Ms. Rubin says, somewhat jokingly.

I mean, who doesn’t love The Secret Garden? I’m still baffled by that.

Have you ever suggested a book that your book club didn’t like?

In other spottings around town, my podcast Happier gets a fleeting but definite mention in….Taxi TV!

For all of you non-New-Yorkers, New York City taxis have little screens in the back that show clips of TV shows, news updates, and ads. In an ad for New York City as a center of podcasting, Happier gets a mention. Fun!

I tried to take a photo, but I’m too slow on the draw.

  • theshubox

    I just have to say that I can’t see how anyone would dislike The Secret Garden, either! (Though I loved A Little Princess more . . .)

    • Jean Marie

      I remember enjoying The Secret Garden, buy A Little Princess was the one I kept rereading.

      (Although oddly I have loved film or tv movie adaptations of The Secret Garden whereas every adaptation of A Little Princess annoys me with its wrongness.)

  • gametime2210

    I have a copy of Little Women that I got at my 10th bday party. It has my name scrawled in the front and has been on my shelf many, many years. I finally handed it down to my daughter (who also loves to read). She could barely get through it and kept telling me over and over how much she disliked it. LOL She’s more the action-adventure type, but I still couldn’t believe anyone could hate Little Women.

    • ConstanceEve

      Kids are much more impatient than they used to be, I think. In our book club, we try hard to be pretty tactful when we don’t like a book.

      • gametime2210

        I don’t think it’s impatience. It just wasn’t her thing, and I respect that though it did surprise me. Differentiation.

  • My book club didn’t love A Discovery of Witches like I did. I was surprised, but considering club members came for the wine and not the books, I didn’t feel terribly wounded. (Their loss!)

  • I so want to be part of a book club! But, I think the things I read are too varied for any one group at this time.

  • diana

    I am in 3 bookclubs. Just Kids by Patti Smith was a unanimous favorite in the first 2 groups so I picked it for the third. About half the group rally didn’t like it. I was baffled! The same people also didn’t like Elena Ferrante. Also baffled.

    • gametime2210

      I read Just Kids last year. While I appreciate the writing, I did not like it and only finished it to see what all the fuss was about. So many details about people and places… it was just one anecdote after another to me (but I can respect why people like it too). To each her own.

  • Jo Burr

    OMG who would admit they did not like The Secret Garden! The sweetness and sense of adventure is mesmerizing! I have a daughter named Frances, partly inspired by Frances Hodgsen Burnett. Wow…just wow!

    • gretchenrubin


  • Ruth Carter

    I read The Secret Garden as a child and it left me cold. I wasn’t very good at liking children’s books as a child.

  • Daphne Budding

    My book club didn’t like The Great Gatsby. I was devastated. To me it is like saying ‘I don’t like sunshine.’

  • Marjory Morford

    This is the 30th year of my bookclub and I have suggested several books that the group didn’t like over the years. Last year, I recommended the History of the Rain and could tell there was some resistance to it when we got to it in the list for the year. I started reading it again and thought,”this isn’t that great after all.” So, given my reaction and the fact that few could attend that month, I cancelled it and we never discussed it. I decided not to take it personally although I can’t say that I have always had that approach. I agree that it is difficult when you really like a book and others don’t. But I also know that books can sometimes strike a chord and other times it falls flat. Sometimes you just have to be in the mood.

  • Momof3misses

    I have been in a number of book clubs as well but none for adults focusing on children’s literature. There was one time a book was selected (though not be me) and everyone and I mean EVERYONE hated the book except for me. The book was The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (http://www.davidwroblewski.com/reviews.html). On another occassion I kept trying to get one of my book clubs to read Still Alice by Lisa Genova. There was a lot of negativity because one woman’s grandmother had alzheimer and she made a big fuss over it. My mother also had the disease and I chose the book but that’s another story. Everyone who read it loved it but the kicker was the woman so against it came and tried to manipulate the conversation.

  • Judy

    I still read The Secret Garden about every ten years and I am 67! So sweet.
    One of my friends in my old book club said that if I liked a book, she was sure she wouldn’t. I guess I was helping her weed out her “duds”. I’m in another club now.

  • Sue Z

    I completely bombed at my book club; it seemed all my picks were met with lukewarm acceptance (some of which included The Night Circus, Water for Elephants and Eat, Pray Love). I disliked so many of the books the other women picked (The Glass Castle, Fall on Your Knees and Room). We’ve disbanded now, maybe I should try to find a Sci-Fi group.