Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Book Hype - To Read or Not to Read?

The Sunday Salon.comWe see it all the time: books that come seemingly from out of nowhere to find their way on practically everyone's shelves and become bestsellers almost overnight. I've often wondered how others react to this phenomenon. Do you immediately run out to grab your copy and devour it? Do you wait awhile until some of the hype dies down (or until you get a positive review from a trusted source) to give the book a try? Or do you write it off altogether because of the hype?

I'd say that I fall pretty consistently into the middle category. It is rare that I will run out to get a copy of a book the moment it starts appearing everywhere I look. I didn't start reading the Harry Potter series until the fourth book was out.  In fact, I distinctly remember holding my nose up at the books, eyeing them with disdain. Ha! What did I know? The turning point for me was seeing an interview with J. K. Rowling and I had to admit, I was tempted... those books sounded like they would be right up my alley. So, I swallowed my pride, went way out on a limb, jumped in with both feet, however you want to call it,  bought all four books, and promptly devoured them within a week's time.

Most recently, I stuck to my "wait and see policy" with The Hunger Games, which I mentioned in my "musings on a re-read" post a few days ago. Not surprisingly, I was very skeptical when I kept seeing that book appear on blog after blog. All I could think at the time was: is everyone getting this book from the author/publisher and feeling obligated to tout it as the best book they'd ever read? Seriously, I couldn't go to a book blog without seeing some kind of post about this book -- it was in someone's mailbox, teasered on Tuesdays, given 5 out of 5 stars, and on and on. It took me awhile to give in -- I think after breaking down and buying a copy it still sat on my shelf for quite some time, mocking me. Of course, wouldn't you know by the time I gave it a chance I loved it? And gave it my own freakin' 5 star review? And so I promptly found myself with everyone else, anxiously waiting for the remaining two books to be published.

I swear, if I was smart, I'd just wait to start reading a series once all of the books have been published and do away with this whole "waiting impatiently for the next book" business. But if I haven't learned my lesson yet, I doubt I ever will...

In general, I have to admit that I have ended up enjoying most of the hyped-up books I have eventually come to read. Probably the most notable exception are the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris.  I tried to like them, I really did. I gave the series three books, dammit. The whole experience probably should have ended with a DNF on the first book. It's like I thought there must be something wrong with me for not liking these books.  Well, the third time wasn't the charm, so I threw in the towel and just admitted what I probably knew in my heart after the first book: these books are just not for me. I'm sure there are other hyped-up books that fell flat for me, but it's late and right now I'm coming up with a whole lot of nothing.

I suppose what got me pondering this topic to the point of writing about it here is the recent craze over the Shades of Grey books by E. L. James. For awhile, I waffled back and forth over whether or not I'd ever read these. This time, I don't see myself buying into the hype, though. Oh, I've read my fair share of romance novels, so it's not like I haven't been exposed to sex scenes, but somehow the way these books are portrayed, they just seem so unappealing to me. It doesn't sound like romance to me and if I'm going to read about sex, there has to be a good romance behind it for me to enjoy it. I'm not even going to get into the whole topic of the books originally being written as Twilight fan fiction. (Yes, I gave into the Twilight hype and I confess I did enjoy reading those books for the story that was told, but let's all be honest here, we aren't talking about books that are going to win any major literary awards, am I right?)  OK, I guess I lied and did get into the Twilight fan fiction subject a little bit, but that's it, I promise. I've seen enough reviews of Shades of Grey that bemoan the writing and other niggling points, so I really don't think that all the gushing reviews about the story and the sex will weaken my resolve not to read these books at this point. (Of course, if that changes, feel free to call me out and remind me about this post, I would totally deserve it.)

What about you? How do you react to these books that explode in popularity?


  1. I actually don't like most hyped books, since many of the ones I'm seeing are books about vampires, werewolves, etc. And I'm just not into those, at least not the way they're told now.

    I did love Dark Shadows, back in the day, and look forward to the movie.

    I was tempted by Shades of Grey UNTIL I realized they were Twilight fan fiction. Not my cup of tea! I glanced through one of the Twilight books...not appealing to me. And saw one of the movies with my grandson (and nodded off).

    But if a hyped book is from an author I have enjoyed...then I'm there.

    Thanks for sharing....


  2. I fall in the same category as you - but quite often, the hype is warranted. There have a been a few instances, though, where I think all the hype set my expectations way too high. As for Shades of Grey - no, I won't be reading that one. Just not my cup of tea at all. Have you seen the YouTube video where Ellen Degeneres spoofs recording the audiobook? It's hysterical!

    I see you're reading Fear - I'm reading that one right now, too. :) Have a great Sunday!

  3. I'm usually in the middle when it comes to buzz but there has been a few times that I've bought a book because of the hype and didn't love it at all. Now I'm pretty cautious about what I believe. ;-)

  4. Ah... hype is like a wave, I think. It's a fun ride if ya jump on at the right time, but that's all... a ride. I sift thru reviews like crazy, finding stuff I like and don't. I love finding a book or series that I'm almost certain I'll love just based on reviews and tuckin' it away for when I hit a readin' slump. I love reviews. What's interesting is getting on the inside scoop of a building hype - checking into the book before it's a hot topic and trying to figure out if it's a good one or not. I think it's interesting. I totally missed the Faction thing for Insurgent's release and I'm kinda glad... the participating blogs were super-busy posting requests to click things. Lol.

    Fun question!! I love promoting authors and books. I spend most of my blogging energy trying to do something creative along those lines. To specifically answer your question - I don't get books based on Hype, but I do based on intelligent reviews.

  5. It's interesting to hear everyone's takes on hype, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Laurel ~ I didn't even realize Dark Shadows was a book, haha! And I agree -- it's easier to go with the hype if you're already familiar with the author and like their previous books!

    Carrie ~ I think I had heard something about Ellen's spoof, I will have to check it out. I'm always up for a good laugh.

    Vasilly ~ Yes, I've been burned by hype before, too -- that's how I feel about Sookie Stackhouse :-)

    Laura ~ Really great point about the wave and I totally agree, I keep an eye out for thoughtful reviews. There are some bloggers who always seem to be on my wavelength, so I usually check their reviews out first and then see what else is out there.

  6. I have a similar reaction to hype. I started reading the Harry Potter books about the same time that you did and went wild for them. I now own them all and listen to the audiobooks almost constantly when I clean (and then sob at the end of the last book each time). I'm totally pathetic, but oh well.

    As for the 50 Shades book I have no intention of reading it because I don't think it's anything more than someone using sex to sell a book, and I don't read harlequin romances for the same reason. It's not that I don't read books with sex in them (the Outlander series for one example), but a book has to have a lot more to offer than that.

  7. For me it really depends if I am interested in the book.

  8. I absolutely agree. I think that is why I prefer to read books that are diamonds in the ruff and books that have already passed the hype. I read Hunger Games this year, but it was after my son suggested them to me and he's never suggested anything to me before. I read them as a way to connect with him and give us great book conversation and I absolutely loved them.

    There are books that seem to get glowing reviews and I read the synopsis and it's just not something that interests me, so I don't follow the flow. I've not read the Sookiehouse books...quite honestly, Twilight was enough.

    The best part about being a blogger is being able to read books that aren't necessarily being mainstream and bringing awareness to upcoming authors and great books.

    Thanks for a wonderful post :D

  9. I posted about this topic a while ago (though, I focused more on the publishers' hyping a book) and discovered that many people will only pick up a book AFTER someone they trust gives it a good, honest review. Hype used to suck me in so easily, but I've been burned and I'm more wary. (I was totally a HP avoider, until book 4 too - then I got over it.) I was, however, one of those earlier HG readers who raved and gave it 5 stars. Eh. It all depends, I guess.

  10. I tend to fall in the middle category - wait until the hype dies down. But I also find that if a book is hyped that doesn't sound like it's up my street it really fervently turns me off it and I have to try hard not to make assumptions about it.

  11. I have to admit that unless I succeed in reading a book *before* the hype gets too bad, I will take forever to read it. I managed it with The Hunger Games and The Night Circus, for example, and really enjoyed both books. If I had waited I probably would have been curious, but they would have sat unread for ages. I only finally gave in and read The Help last year because I wanted to see the movie. I still have not read books like The Book Thief, though, and the hype for that has quieted down a lot. It remains sitting on my shelves, though. And, um, well... Still never read beyond book 1 in Harry Potter, so...


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