The Importance of Knowing Your Own Taste: Ways to Avoid the HYPE and HATE Train

There are lots and lots of reasons to be clear about what you want in life and reading. For starters, there’s considerably less pain and more to gain. It’s a great way to find more joy, meaning and happiness. And it’s a strong way to avoid following the crowd off a cliff and into a great big steaming pile of cow dung (which you could’ve smelt from the top of that cliff if you’d only listened to your nose).

Cos yeah, we’ve all been there (figuratively speaking). We’ve all picked up that book we damn well knew we didn’t want to read; we’ve all taken someone else’s word to avoid something we later enjoyed. Then we’ve kicked ourselves for time wasted. We’ve all thought why did I listen/not listen to the hype just then. And of course, no one is fully immune to the nebulous methods of marketing gurus, but being clear on what you do actually want is a good way not to get swayed in either direction. It’s a good way to know whether to hop on that bandwagon… and it’s also a good way to steer clear of the cancellation fanatics too. Knowing your own taste is about being comfortable in your own skin (so that hopefully you don’t go all Buffalo Bill on your enemies).

The great thing about knowing your own taste is you don’t have to avoid different points of view… not that it would work anyway. Amazingly, you can’t socially distance yourself from every single differing opinion (much as some people would like to try) which is why it’s probably healthier to just take it in small doses 😉 And luckily, there’s this tried and tested method of just listening to people with different views/perspectives/tastes. I often read and watch reviews from people who don’t have the same opinions to me- and you know what? Doesn’t hurt a bit! Sometimes I learn something, sometimes I find something new to read… and sometimes nothing happens at all and I go on my merry way.

Because part of being a sentient human/primate is knowing not to take every word other people say as gospel. It’s only if we know ourselves that we can understand another point of view. That’s why if you know your own taste, you won’t have any trouble identifying where opinions overlap and where they diverge. It really is that simple.  

Plus, there’s the added bonus that it might just make you a better reviewer. I know we all like to pretend that our word is final, but taste is subjective! And that means knowing where other people might not agree with us. I, for one, have always been pretty clear that I like prose on the more flowery side (or as I like to put it, I’m firmly on the Fitzgerald side of the Hemmingway-Fitzgerald Divide). I also care less about world building than some other fantasy fans. Etcetera etcetera. Point is: it’s good to know when not to trust reviewers.

So, don’t just listen to me! Go with your gut. Pick up that book no one but you seems interested in. Read whatever *you* want to read (and then put it down again if it turns out it wasn’t for you 😉).  

Oh and just by chance, as I was finishing writing this post, this helpful video popped up in my subs:

Just some food for thought! What do you think? Do you think knowing your own taste helps you avoid the hype/hate train? Let me know in the comments!

Sorry, no you don’t get to dictate taste…

thoughts orangutan

That’s quite the accusatory title, isn’t it? But of course, I don’t mean *you* per se- just the *you* who tells people what they can and can’t like- this is turning into a “not you, you” moment…

na na na na naAnyhoo, the subject of taste was abuzz on the blogosphere a while back (sorry I forgot to bookmark posts!) and I wasn’t initially going to respond since I’ve touched on the topic a few times before. But then, I noticed a trend of comments on my “favourites” posts, both new and old, and it started to play on my mind again. Because apparently, saying you like/dislike something is controversial. We’re back to the primary school level of argumentation with your opinion doesn’t match mine, therefore you’re wrong, so there!

tasteLet’s start by clearing something up once and for all: you can’t be wrong about your own personal taste. I cannot tell you how ridiculous I find the “you’re wrong” comments whenever I talk about my favourites. I mean, they’re my favourites. Now, I usually attribute this to unfortunate wording- but I’ve also encountered plenty of people irl who seem to have no qualms telling me that I’m wrong about my own personal taste– somehow these *ahem* charming people know me better than I know myself- so that’s cool 😉 In all seriousness, an opinion is subjective and whether or not a person likes something isn’t really up for debate. Art speaks to the soul– and we cannot be held accountable for what we do and do not like.

There are of course plenty of things to contend with when it comes to books- and I do hold that some books are objectively better than others. People are of course entitled to say what they want, but yeah, it’s a bit daft to say “Shakespeare is crap”, even if you don’t like his work (surprisingly people do say that and my response is pahahaha I should be so crap). That said, whether something is more technically good or bad does not always affect taste. hallelujahI’ve disliked plenty of well written books- books I’ve gone out of my way to say “I understand why other people like it”- and that’s not a platitude, I genuinely mean the book has literary merit, even if I didn’t connect with it. And at the other end of the spectrum, I’ve enjoyed plenty-a trashy book. Nothing wrong with that. Books can be entertaining, lovely and make you exuberantly happy without being the next Middlemarch. I won’t pretend it’s on a literary par with a classic if it isn’t, yet I’ll happily sing its merits till my throat’s hoarse if there’s something, anything about it that catches my fancy- and I can’t say fairer than that.

obviousNor does it matter if a book is obscure or popular. I think we’ve all had the moment where we’ve been in love with a hidden gem and not understood why it’s not got *all the acclaim*. And I know a lot of you feel me when it comes to those dreaded overhyped books. Then there are the world famous hits it’s trendy not to like (I can’t tell you how many times I was told at uni that it was too obvious to like the Beatles- whatever that means 😉 ). The point is, we will ultimately form our own opinions- and that’s okay. Which brings me onto my most important point…

I don’t care if you like what I like or hate what I hate. Everyone’s entitled to hate what I love or love what I hate, as I stated in my “I don’t care, I didn’t write it” piece eons ago- I’m not going to take it personally. But I’d actually like to take it further than I did there: even if I did write it, it doesn’t matter. There will always be people to love and hate your work- that’s not only a part of life, it’s a necessary part of life. dc marvelThe world is a richer, more interesting place thanks to diverse thought and ideas. Talking to each other is how we learn; discussing even our greatest differences is how we grow and is the path to reaching common ground. Realising that other people like different things is all part of getting along like adults and it’s not worth tearing each other apart for things outside our control. Especially when it comes to whether or not we prefer DC to Marvel (I’ve probably started a comment war haven’t I…). And I think that’s a message we could all do with learning.

So what do you think? Is taste debatable? Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!