What’s the most polite way to return a book to someone who loved it, and lent it to you because they were sure that you would also love it — but it’s so far from your literary taste that you’re actually kind of horrified that someone would think you would like it? I recently made a new friend at work and we really hit it off, and I would love to hang out with her and be real friends, not just work friends. She insisted that I read a certain book she’d just finished and couldn’t stop going on and on about how amazing it was. I read the book, and I really hate it. It sucked. Do you have any ideas for polite ways to break up with the book but not the person?
There’s a moment in the life of every woman between the ages of, let’s say, 18 and 45, when she makes a new friend, they have a few glasses of wine and a nice conversation, maybe they go shoe shopping or for a long walk together, and then the new friend says, “Have you read ‘Eat, Pray, Love?'”
It’s a real turning point. There’s a decision to be made. Do you mumble something about appreciating the writer’s honesty, do you gush about how it changed your life and made you see everything from a totally different perspective, or do you confess that halfway through it you threw the book at the wall and screamed, “GET SOME REAL PROBLEMS, YOU NAVEL-GAZING TWIT!!!!!”?
After our book club read that book, there was an awkward silence at the beginning of the next meeting. Some people were already doing downward dog and warrior pose in order to open up their bodies and minds to the conversation, while others were chugging Chardonnay straight from the bottle and beating their heads against the wall, weeping, “Please, make her go away. Please make Elizabeth Gilbert go away.” And then we started to talk. And it really was the best book club meeting we ever had, I think, because people were passionate about the book, whether they loved it or hated it. It was an excellent discussion, even though a lot of people were disagreeing with each other.
So I think you should be honest with your new friend about the book she lent you. Don’t be all like, “You must think I’m a real douchebag if you think I’d like that shitty book,” but certainly, when you return it, say, “That was really interesting. I haven’t read much skateboarding vampire fiction; how did you get into it?” Have an honest discussion. That’s what friends do.