Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly discussion feature on my blog in which I discuss various bookish topics. Little heads-up, because there is miraculously five Sundays in the month of March this year, I am going to be skipping a week to keep this feature bimonthly. This means I won’t be posting a new discussion post until March 8th.
There’s a strange phenomenon that occurs before a book is released. Publishers pull all their resources together and begin a campaign to spread the word about an upcoming release. Before you know it, everyone in the bookish community is talking about it.
As a reader, your ears perk up, you stop to listen to the praise, you immediately log on to Goodreads to find out what the heck everyone is talking about. You read the synopsis, you maybe peek at an early review, you keep hearing everyone else’s excitement, you yourself get a little excited. You add it to your TBR list, maybe you even so much as pre-order it. After listing it as one of your most-anticipated reads of the year, you wait, you want, you spend a lot of time staring at the book cover on your computer. Then finally, the day comes when you get to read it. You open the book and…
We’ve all been there. We’ve all picked up a book because of the hype, because of a few glowing early reviews, because we can’t help but notice when 90% of the blogs we follow are talking about it. And I can bet that the majority of us have been disappointed at least once.
Book hype is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, book hype is an extremely effective way of spreading the word. As a reader, I love hearing about new books and it is because of book hype that I’ve discovered a lot of new reads. Even books I may have overlooked get a second glance if I hear about it enough. There are several books on my shelf that I treasure and never would have picked up if it were not for the hype.
Unfortunately, there is also the negative side to book hype. Naturally, when you hear about how great a book is, your own expectations are raised. You begin to expect something phenomenal and we all inevitably learn that hype does not mean great. Sometimes the reality of a book is a far cry from the praise we’ve heard and a lot of the time we end up calling a book “just okay.” Let me tell you, “just okay” for a book with high expectations can disappoint a lot more than”that was just awful” for one with no expectations.
Book hype isn’t limited to pre-releases. Much of the time, we hear a lot more about books that have already been published. The Fault in Our Stars, The Hunger Games, and Divergent have all experienced a post-release surge of book hype (mostly due to their movies). And though the hype brought more readers into the fold, it also ended up back-firing for many readers. I’ve read several reviews for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars that have mentioned that it wasn’t as good as all the hype. Now I love this book, but I also read it before it became extremely popular, so I can’t say with certainty that the hype wouldn’t have affected the way I read it.
This means that instead of coming to a book with fresh, unbiased eyes, book hype alters are perception before we even pick up a book. And if, for whatever reason, the book doesn’t meet these epic (and very embellished) expectations, we feel let down. This makes me wonder if it would be better for publishers to not push some books so aggressively. I’m less likely to pick up a book if I discover that the hype surrounding it is undeserved, that the “hype” is concealing the fact that it has very little substance.
My own disappointment has given way to cynicism. When I see everyone talking about a book or when I feel that a book is being overly praised or promoted, some part of my brain tells me to be careful. I may experience the same initial excitement as other readers, but the more time that passes, the more my enthusiasm gives way to apprehension. To put it simply, I don’t want to be let down or feel like I’ve been mislead if the book is not as good as all the hype.
If a fair amount of book hype surrounds a book, I make an effort to stop and ask myself several questions. Is the hype the only reason I want to read this? Would I still want to read it if there wasn’t so much hype surrounding it? Am I approaching this book as unbiased as possible? Do I need to lower my expectations in order to give the book a fair shot?
It’s impossible to tell if a book is good or bad based on the hype. This is especially true for books that haven’t been released yet, and I’ve learned it’s best to wait. Wait for ARC reviews, wait for the release itself and see how the book is received among readers. It’s easier said than done, but I’m hoping this new approach will save me from picking up books that will disappoint.
What is your opinion on book hype? Have you ever been disappointed by a book because of the hype? How much stock do you place in hype? Does book hype affect the way you approach a book? Share your own thoughts in the comments!