Saturday, April 16, 2011

Drowning in the (anti-)Hype

Photo by quine_63
Yesterday I stumbled upon this little sarcastic gem, and I was reminded of a question posed on someone's blog some weeks back that I never got around to discussing:

How does hype or status affect your (my) reading choices?

Honest answer: I really try not to let it influence me too negatively, but it's very difficult to fight the contrarian in me when someone, or even worse, multiple people, or even worse, multiple articles or blogs tell me I just have to read this or that. How do you separate the hype from your interest in the stories from your respect of the source of the recommendation?

You can't, not fully. For example, there's a certain hipstery poser subset that very much wants to give the appearance of being the sort that can read and appreciate Infinite Jest. Occasionally overlapping this group are those that actually have read and really did enjoy and appreciate IJ. The coconspirator falls in the latter category, and swears this is the best book he's ever read and thinks no one should be deprived of such an experience. Now that's some pressure to enjoy the book, no? Why would I want to read such a complicated work only to say, eh? It's that fear that that's a remote possibility that almost keeps me from finally picking it up and reading it.

I will get over myself, eventually, and read it, especially since I have a copy on my kindle and it's not nearly so cumbersome or obnoxious to carry it around, but may have to pare down my book goals for the year if I'm to do it this year. Or read a whole lot of YA books as some front-end number-padding.

What I have come to realize, though, is that choosing not to read a book based on all the hype is just as bad, if not possibly worse, than choosing to read your books based solely on hype. The author of the funny tumblr may be depriving himself of a certain good reading experience simply to keep up appearances (or anti-appearances, in this case, which essentially amounts to the same thing). Yes, disappointment is certainly a possibility, but that's the case with almost anything new.

Both the Hunger Games and Room received quite a bit of hype, and I'm really glad I did not let that prevent me from reading those novels. They were books that pushed me to experience, through carefully crafted storytelling, things I wouldn't otherwise have experienced. These are the books from which you come away with a slightly different lens through which to view your world, and I'd never want to give up the possibility of ever-so-slight view-changing lenses.


  1. For me, it's definitely hard to not be negatively influenced by really hyped books. I guess I've been burned to many times with novels that were supposed to be "amazing," but left me wishing I hadn't wasted my time. Many times it does depend on who is hyping the book, as well. If it's a trusted source, or I'm just genuinely interested in the story description, then I'm more likely to give it a shot, because you're right about the potential to miss out on some wonderful books.

  2. I agree with Jenna. I have a hard time enjoying super-hyped books because the expectations are always far too high to live up to and I end up disappointed. I kind of managed to avoid it with Room. I knew a lot of people read it but avoided reading what people actually thought of it until after I read it myself. I think hype may have destroyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for me. I had no desire to read the second book after finishing the first.

  3. Maybe I react in the opposite way to hype? I think I go into hyped books, if I decide I'm legitimately interested in reading them, with a high degree of skepticism instead of ultra-heightened expectations. The Millenium trilogy is an excellent example. I thought the story was interesting (and the first one was the best, by far), but they could have benefitted from a ruthless editor - especially the last one. I did enjoy them for what they were, though, once I got past the tiresome 50 page intro, even if what they were was not nearly as spectacular as the hype might have suggested. I know we're all swayed by outside influences the color the filters through which we read, so that we can't approach anything with truly clear eyes. I just try to quiet the pesky voices in my head while reading, and it does wonders.


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