Spilling the Tea: bookish questions I literally never want to see again

Alright, folks, time for another round of hot takes on the book community. Today’s focus: annoying, repetitive questions. See, I’m in a lot of bookish Facebook groups, and in those groups, there are certain questions that just get asked over and over and over. They aren’t original, nor are they questions whose answers will change over time, and all they end up doing is cluttering everyone’s newsfeed. Like…have you people never heard of using the search bar? Or Google?

For the convenience of all parties, today I am going to list (and answer) a couple of these oft-repeated questions. Please, for the love of all that is sacred, don’t ask them again–to me or to anyone else.

“Has anybody read this book? Is it good?” [Insert picture of popular title such as A Court of Thorns and Roses, Six of Crows, or Harry Potter]

Well, friend, if you have read literally five posts in this (or any) group, you would know that yes, lots of people here have read these books, and most are kind of (or more than kind of) obsessed with them. If you want people’s opinions on a book that isn’t mentioned as frequently in this group…well, probably isn’t as widely read, and it might be a good idea to check Goodreads or another large website for some reviews. I guess it’s probably okay to ask if you haven’t seen much about it, but I swear to god if anyone else asks about ACOTAR I will SCREAM. Internally, of course.

If you’re looking for my thoughts on the aforementioned books, they are, in order: aggressively mediocre, grossly overrated, and full of unhealthy relationships and a lot of unnecessary sex; an absolute gem that is one of my favorites ever; and a childhood classic that is beloved by so many, with good reason.

“Which is better, ebooks or physical books?”

They’re both good for different things.

Ebooks are lighter and easier to take on the go, and features in e-readers make it easy to adjust things like brightness and font size to improve visibility. Plus, a lot of ARCs are largely only available digitally, and ebooks are easier to highlight things in and then locate later. And you can look up words in them with just a tap of your finger! No more turning to a dictionary app every couple pages!

But a physical book has the nice heft and texture and smell that we all associate with books. It is usually easier to write in the margins, if you’re into annotating. They look way prettier on your shelf, if you have the space, and they tend to have better artwork and formatting because it is tricky to make some of that work in an ebook (for example, poetry reads far better on paper than on a Kindle). Also, maybe it’s just me, but it is way more gratifying to see the thick stack of pages I’ve finished than it is to just see a percentage in the bottom of my Kindle screen.

Basically, it is up to you, and which one is best depends on your wants and needs as a reader.

“Do audiobooks count toward my Goodreads Challenge?”

They do if you want them to. I always count them for mine, because I did consume the content of the book.

This answer goes for other book-variants: yes, I count graphic novels, and yes, I count rereads. I don’t count podcasts, even scripted ones, though I was strongly tempted to count my listening to Welcome to Night Vale this year, since I listened to the equivalent of all four of their script collections…but the show I listened to didn’t include all the extras that are in those collections. So, not quite the same thing.

“Can I read Six of Crows without reading the Grisha trilogy first?”

Short answer: yes. Thats what I did, and it was totally fine; Six of Crows became one of my all-time favorites. If I had read the Grisha trilogy first, I probably wouldn’t have gone on to read the Six of Crows duology. The trilogy was good but not great, and the ending annoyed me. If you think the duology sounds way more interesting, by all means, read it first.

Long answer: not if you want to understand every detail. The trilogy does a more in-depth explanation of the world as a whole, especially the magic system, while Six of Crows kind of throws you right in. Plus, some side characters from the trilogy have cameos in Crooked Kingdom (the second Six of Crows book), and one of those is a tiny spoiler for the trilogy. Basically, you might appreciate certain elements of Six of Crows more if you have read the trilogy first, and if you are sensitive about spoilers, then starting with the trilogy may be right for you.

Final note, though: regardless of which of those two you choose to read first, you need to have read both series before you move on to King of Scars, which is a continuation of both of them. It’s pretty great, so I would very much recommend it.

[Insert meme/quote about the phrase “I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding”]

It was funny the first couple times people pointed it out, but now it is way overdone and is more annoying than humorous. If you find a particularly funny iteration of it, or a line that kind of mocks the concept, that is totally okay, though.

Yes, I am aware that that’s not a question, but it still ought to be left in 2019.

“Which one comes first, Throne of Glass or A Court of Thorns and Roses?”

The two are literally not related at all. It makes zero difference. I say this having read only part of the former and all of the latter, but I have seen it confirmed many times over by rabid SJM fans.

“Can you recommend some YA LGBTQIA+ fiction?”

Dude, just Google it. There are SO many lists and blogs out there dedicated specifically to this question. I get that the list may change over time, but again: you can Google it. Plenty of Goodreads shelves and tags exist for books with queer rep, and many of those can even go into specific identities (books with QPOC, trans characters, sapphic characters, ace rep, etc). If you want a few suggestions from me specifically, here are some that I like and/or love, with stars by my favorites for representation (not necessarily favorite books, but ones that I think have the strongest rep):

Contemporary or Historical

  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
  • ☆ The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (honestly the best ace rep I’ve read so far)
  • ☆ Like a Love Story
  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda
  • ☆ I Wish You All the Best
  • The Exact Opposite of Okay (not the main character, but it is a major side plot)
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  • If My Body Could Speak (contemporary poetry, and the author is 22 and wrote a lot of these pieces in high school or early college, so I count them)

Fantasy/Sci-fi

  • We Set the Dark on Fire
  • ☆ Six of Crows
  • The Raven Cycle
  • ☆ On a Sunbeam (graphic novel)
  • Shadow of the Fox (queer rep starts in the second book)
  • Every Heart a Doorway
  • Carry On
  • ☆ Crier’s War
  • Pet

If you’re cool with non-YA, I would also add:

  • ☆ Red, White & Royal Blue
  • Nevernight
  • Foundryside
  • Priory of the Orange Tree

Of course, there are plenty more; these are just a few to get you started. And there are lots that I’m sure are good but I haven’t read yet, too, and I don’t want to vouch for rep that isn’t good, so I didn’t include those. But let me reiterate once more: JUST GOOGLE IT.

“What are some good books with ~steamy~ scenes?”

Tbh I’m not the right person to ask that question to, because that is not my kind of book. (See my favorite tag group, “I’m too ace for this shit.”) Also, don’t go asking this question in groups specifically for YA, like YA Fantasy Fanatics; if you want sex scenes, ask a more general book group, or an older one, because typically those steamier scenes will push a book from YA to NA.

“I haven’t read many classics but want to try one. What do I start with?”

There are three types of classic I would suggest as good introductions to the genre:

1. Short classics – they are quicker to get through and can make you feel accomplished even if it takes you a little longer to read because the language is less familiar. It’s a nice way to get your feet wet without facing something daunting like Anna Karenina or Ulysses. Good options include (both actual short stories and shorter novels):

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Animal Farm
  • Of Mice and Men
  • Any of the Jeeves and Wooster books by P.G. Wodehouse
  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Gift of the Magi (or any other short stories by O. Henry)

2. Classics geared toward a younger audience – the language will generally be a bit more accessible and the themes will be more relatable even if you aren’t an old man worried about the American Dream. Some good examples of this are:

  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • The Complete Grimm’s Fairytales

3. Classics that a lot of people love and/or that are cultural touchstones – it is generally easier to read and love a book if other people also love it. Plus, if it is something that is frequently referenced in pop culture, it is nice to be able to finally get the references. Great examples of this include, in addition time some of the ones I listed above:

  • Pride and Prejudice
  • 1984
  • Jane Eyre
  • Flowers for Algernon
  • The Bell Jar

If something else strikes your fancy but seems like it might be hard, that is an appropriate time to ask the group for opinions, because often these are books that people have read for school (and probably haven’t reviewed on Goodreads). I would generally say to not start with Dickens (other than A Christmas Carol) but definitely read him later because he is a lot of fun once you get used to the language and the complex narratives. James Joyce is one of my favorite authors, but his work is really tricky, so do it when you’re in the right mindset and possibly with a reading guide. And don’t start with The Scarlet Letter, which I think is both hard-to-read and pretty boring.

“Where can I read books online for free?”

First off, I want to remind everyone that pirating books is illegal and it also really hurts the authors who literally make a living off of selling their work to readers like you. That said, there are places to get free books online in specific, totally legal contexts:

1. From your local library. Many libraries have online catalogs affiliated with sites/apps such as Libby, Hoopla, Overdrive, or Axis360, to name a few. All of these sites let you check out ebooks or audiobooks; some of them also let you send those books to your Kindle! It is treated like any other library loan, where you get it for a set number of weeks and then it automatically returns.

2. Classics are in the public domain. You can find most classics online, on sites such as Project Gutenberg, and in lots of free book-reading apps.

3. NetGalley, Edelweiss, etc. Most of yall probably are very familiar with this site since, you know, many of you are book bloggers, but sites like NetGalley let you read advance copies of books for free, in exchange for an honest review.

4. Riveted by Simon Teen. Each month, Simon Teen makes a couple of their titles free to read online for the whole month. Typically they have extended excerpts from brand-new releases, as well as the full books for some less-recent titles.

So, what did I miss?

Any other questions you would really like the bookworms of the internet to just stop asking already? Did you agree or disagree with any of my answers? I’m always down to chat, so leave a comment and let me know!

P.S. Sorry for three days without posting. It’s been a busy weekend, with multiple choir performances and some assorted family commitments, so I haven’t had much downtime. Expect more regular content in the next few days!

6 thoughts on “Spilling the Tea: bookish questions I literally never want to see again

  1. Rachael December 9, 2019 / 2:54 pm

    Whenever someone asks me if a book is “good,” I cringe. What does “good” mean to them? But also my good is different than someone else’s. Etc. Etc. I also agree that people need to do their research more often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathryn Speckels December 9, 2019 / 2:59 pm

      That’s so true–what people think of as “good” varies a lot from reader to reader, especially when you consider things like quality of writing vs how much you actually enjoyed the work. That also makes it really hard when people (especially friends who aren’t obsessive book nerds) ask for a book recommendation with zero context or parameters. Like…how am I supposed to suggest something when I have no idea what you want? Do you want to learn something? Laugh? Feel sophisticated? Cry? So many options…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rachael December 9, 2019 / 3:26 pm

        Exactly! They’ve gotta give us something to work with. I also think of Alice with the Cheshire cat too.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. dinipandareads December 11, 2019 / 4:51 am

    WE GOT THE TEA! Haha I loved reading this and it definitely made me crack up because yeah, I see a lot of these questions especially for the recommendations and “have you ever read this book” when literally a million people have asked the same question in the same group and I mean, really 🤦🏻‍♀️ It sometimes makes me wonder what posts people see or read in these Facebook groups because it’s so repetitive! But honestly, I Google everything and I still find it hard to believe that other people don’t do the same. I understand wanting to get opinions from people you follow or other book lovers but if it were me I’d never ask before Googling first 🤣 Ah, definitely agree with all your answers, Kathryn. Haha this is a great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathryn Speckels December 12, 2019 / 1:51 pm

      Haha thanks, Dini! Glad you enjoyed it–I’m growing quite fond of these Spilling the Tea posts 😂

      Liked by 1 person

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