Have you ever read a book by an author and disliked it, but considered giving another book of theirs a try? How do you decide whether or not it’s a chance worth taking? What pushes you to give that author a second chance?
I’m no stranger to this phenomenon, so this is something I’ve been considering for a while. And I kept coming up with reasons we’ll read any book, not just second-chance books. So, what makes us decide to pick up a book?
If a lot of people are praising a book, we often feel more pressure to read that book. It’s FOMO for nerds. We want to be involved in the fandom and discourse. We want to see why others love it so much. We often read books to feel included, even if we previously thought we’d skip them. Hype encourages us to try and see what others do in their favorite writers.
When people compare a story to one we already like, it’s much easier to believe we make like this new story as well. It’s the “If you like that, try this” principle. If we see a book compared to another well-loved book, we’re far more likely to pick up that book. It instills an inherent bias in us that tells us this book will be good.
Plot summaries can make or break any book. They won’t draw everyone in. But it’s the ones that do draw us in that get us excited. Summaries tell us if this is a book for us or not. When we find a summary that gets our blood pumping, we know it’s one we need on our TBR.
Ratings and reviews are the bread and butter of the book community. How do you know if a book is worth reading? What are others saying? The more positive reviews and high ratings a book has, the more likely we are to pick up that book. Reviews also tell us if stories us tropes and such that we enjoy. It’s an incredibly effective way of deciding which books to take a chance on.
Most of us who are active in the book community have friends or acquaintances that are familiar enough with our preferences that they know which books we’ll like. We also find bloggers and BookTubers with similar tastes to our own to find out what books they’ve enjoyed. It automatically gives books a vote of confidence they may not have otherwise had.
Let’s be honest: sometimes we choose to read books because we like the cover. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a cliché that applies to people more than books. Okay, so it also applies to books. But that won’t stop us from choosing to read a book because the cover is pretty.
But if these are reasons we’ll read any book, why do we really give authors second chances? It all boils down to one thing: empathy. Deep down we just don’t like hating books. Sure, it’s fun to rant, but we’d all vastly prefer to like something than not. We want to believe the problem is with us and our compatibility than a fault of the writer. We want to believe things will be better this time.
Readers are by and large optimists when it comes to books. Though we may be pessimists or realists in regards to everything else, we always hope for the best in books. After all, unless we’re hate-reading something or reading something “low brow” as a joke, we read things we expect to love.
Now, we aren’t always glad we gave an author a second chance. I hated The Illuminae Files and vowed to never read anything by Amie Kaufman or Jay Kristoff again. However, because of the hype, reviews, and summary, I caved and read Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. It turned out to be a great decision because I loved it.
Unfortunately, when I gave Susan Dennard a second chance after DNF-ing Truthwitch, I was only let down once again. I was convinced I’d love Something Strange and Deadly because of the comparisons to The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. Alas, I did not.
Still, even when I haven’t liked the book, I never regret giving an author a second chance. If anything, it shows me that some authors are just not for me. And that’s okay, even if it is a little bittersweet.
Ultimately, I think it’s almost always a better idea to give an author a second chance than to write them off after one book. Even our favorite authors sometimes write books we aren’t crazy about. Imagine if we’d read those books before the ones we love and decided to never read said writer’s books again. We’d miss out on something great.
Though you can never guarantee giving an author a second chance will work out, it’s usually worth taking that risk anyway. And maybe, just maybe, we give the second chances we hope will someday be given to us.
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