Do Hype, Book Buzz, and High Expectations Affect Your Reading Experience? #WhatsOnYourBookShelfChallenge #LetsDiscuss2021

September 17, 2021

 Do Hype, Book Buzz, and High Expectations Affect Your Reading Experience?

Do Hype, Book Buzz, and High Expectations Affect Your Reading Experience? (white text over a background picture of a tall stack hardback books on a blue painted table"

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***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I’m linking up today with Deb @ Deb’s World and SueDonna, and Jo for the September installment of #WhatsOnYourBookShelfChallenge ….

…and with the 2021 Discussion Challenge.

2021 discussion challenge graphic (a blue bird and red fox and wall clock and stack of books graphic)

My answer to this question is absolutely YES!

If you love reading, you’re likely to approach your next read with certain expectations. Or perhaps you try to minimize your expectations and go in “cold.” Some readers don’t like to read reviews or blurbs before they read. This post is written with the assumption that you might have some expectations about your current or next read.

I have learned through experience to approach highly buzzed and popular books with caution because high expectations have definitely affected my reading experience. Do you find this true in your reading life? Two recent books that did meet my high expectations were the audio version of Project Hail Mary (The audio was absolutely as good as I expected) and Hamnet.

Currently, I have the highest expectations for Fredrik Backman’s new release (Beartown #3) in 2022.

Sometimes publishers hype a book through social media campaigns and blog tours and the hype doesn’t develop organically from reviewers. At times I’ve read hyped books and thought “Really?” Then later, more authentic and honest reviews start rolling in and the hype is not sustainable.

I need to confess that I have a high level of FOMO (fear of missing out), so I am highly susceptible to buzzed and hyped and popular books. This doesn’t always serve me well. For example, I SHOULD have a review ready for you on the blog today! Truthfully, I need to report that I have been underwhelmed with a few highly anticipated books lately which has negatively affected my scheduled reviews and my reading mojo. This situation has caused me to think about the predicament of high expectations, so I’m opening it up for discussion today.

An author’s blurb (cover endorsement) can cause you to have high expectations for a book. That happened to me last year. I accepted an ARC for a book that was endorsed by one of my favorite authors and I ended up disliking it. So… proceed with caution (curb impulse buying!) when it comes to cover blurbs and check some reviews!

I realize that I may be guilty of raising your expectations for certain books I love and then they fall flat for you. If this has been your experience, I’m truly sorry. It simply shows that no two readers read the same book and that the reading experience is a personal one.

Do HYPE and book BUZZ and HIGH EXPECTATIONS affect YOUR reading experience or reading choices?

Do high expectations (book buzz and hype) work for you or against you in your reading life?

How many times have you turned the last page and thought “I wanted to love it more”?

There are a few courses of action a reader can take when your highly anticipated book disappoints you:

  1. throw that book across the room
  2. take the author off your auto buy list
  3. delete it from your Goodreads shelf and pretend you’ve never read it or wanted to read it
  4. write a negative review
  5. accept it as a lesson learned (once burned…) and vet the next book very carefully
  6. Give the author another chance
  7. no drama needed….not every book is for every reader….move on
  8. donate/give the book away
  9. set it aside to pick up again at a later date (maybe it wasn’t the right time)
  10. spiral into a reading slump
  11. stop buying or borrowing or requesting hyped books
  12. only read from a back list and avoid popular books
  13. throw it in the trash
  14. what have you done with a book you didn’t like?????

My history with disappointing reads: I read on a kindle so throwing it across the room is not a wise option….although I have been known to return digital books to Amazon! I don’t think I would discount a favorite author, but I’m certainly going to read many reviews and refrain from a publishing day purchase. I would probably throw away a book I disliked before I would donate it. If I felt it was just me and others might appreciate it, I would donate it. I rarely set a book aside to read at a later date. I know my reading tastes well and they are not likely to change that much over time. I have been known to delete books from my Goodreads shelf and pretend I haven’t read them. Most of the time, though, I just move them to my DNF shelf. Honestly, I don’t enjoy writing negative reviews and have written very few (usually I leave a one or two star rating and keep my opinions to myself).  Actually, most of the time my reaction is “it was not for me but it might be perfect for another reader” and move on. Life is too short to read bad books or books that don’t match my reading tastes. These days, I’m quick to abandon a book without much guilt. I think I’ve become pickier over the years and embrace the quote from Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; “Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”

A highly anticipated book that didn’t work out: One book which I set the highest expectations for was Bridge of Clay by Marcus Zusak, author of The Book Thief. Readers have waited thirteen years for a new book by this author and the anticipation was at a high level. Although others have loved it, I was underwhelmed and disappointed (mainly because it didn’t match my reading tastes). Although I don’t write many negative reviews, you can read my goodreads review here. I will certainly take a close look at his next book before jumping in.

A highly anticipated book that did work out after an initial scare: A recent book that made me nervous in the beginning was Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. It started out slow and I panicked and thought “Oh no! What if this isn’t a great reading experience for me?!” Then I remembered the author and decided to relax into the read and trust him; to acknowledge that he can take his time to build a story (Beartown); and to know that his message/themes are worth an investment of time. It ended up being a 4.5-5 Star read for me and you can see my review of Anxious People here.

If You’re Curious: Here’s a list of a few recent buzzed and hyped books that I highly anticipated and that underwhelmed me (for a variety of reasons). These are NOT bad books (others have loved them); they are just not to my taste. Brood, Braiding Sweet Grass, The Madness of Crowds, The Road Trip, Olympus Texas, Crying in H Mart. (of these, I abandoned Braiding Sweet Grass and Road Trip…I finished the others but they received 3 stars) The lesson here is that exploring and knowing your reading tastes will help you avoid disappointments. I knew that Crying in H Mart might not be the right read for me (too sad) but I’ve seen it on soooo many lists and I fell under the FOMO spell.

Move On: I think it’s important to realize that every book won’t match your reading tastes and that’s it’s absolutely OK to set it aside or mark it as DNF. In other words, just move on! I think that the more we read and the more we reflect on our reading experiences our knowledge will help us choose the next right book for an enjoyable reading experience!

Don’t feel bad if you’re an outlier. Often in my reviews, I need to confess that I’m an outlier (in the minority) with my opinions. I’m comfortable with that and I encourage you to also embrace this concept as a possible reaction to a book.

Not every book is for every reader: For every book that I do not enjoy, I read many raving reviews from others. Reading is a personal experience and not every book is for every reader. We each bring unique experiences and thoughts and triggers to the reading experience. Embrace what you enjoy and know that other readers will enjoy the books that are not right for you. I think one of the worst things to do is to force yourself to finish a book that doesn’t match your tastes.

I honestly believe that Hype, Book Buzz, and High Expectations do affect your reading experience. I’m not sure of the best way to avoid that except to read many reviews and to get to know your reading tastes. Often, I read the 2 Star reviews just to see what some major objections might be. If I notice themes or certain triggers, I know it’s a book I might want to skip. Deciding not to read a popular book is difficult, though, isn’t it? For example, I decided not to read a popular new release, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, because I knew I didn’t want to read something that depressing and sad (she has made me ugly cry before and I didn’t like it). But every time I see it on a list, I feel a twinge of regret and then I have to remind myself of why I made the decision.

If I’ve listed a book here that you’ve loved, I’m sorry. I usually avoid talking about books in a negative way. I think the topic of high expectations is worth exploring and it’s always helpful to provide examples. Your examples would be completely different from mine! Please leave your thoughts in comments.

Do you agree or disagree that high expectations can affect a reading experience?


Do you think your own high expectations has ever affected your reading experiences? Can you give an example?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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  1. Oh this a great discussion Carol and yes to your opening question. I often get caught out thinking I’m going to LOVE a book that others have loved but it just wasn’t for me. I often have to be in the right frame of mood to read a book and when I’m not it just doesn’t work for me, like Eat ,Pray, Love – nor City of Girls, which I enjoyed up until about the middle and then it just lost me. I too will read reviews to get a feel for why books haven’t resonated with others but although I will give a low star score i rarely write a negative review. I will stop reading a book if I don’t enjoy it, except if it’s for bookclub then I continue on so I can join the discussion with some knowledge of the book, and share my reasons for not enjoying it. I read Four Winds and did enjoy it but it was very depressing and I kept thinking – what more can happen for the characters??
    Thanks for joining us with your great discussion post.

    • Thanks Debbie! Eat Love Pray bored me and I felt like such an outlier! I decided against City of Girls after reading mixed reviews. I’m also a huge mood reader! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. I agree, hyped books do affect my reading experience, but in the past year or so I have noticed that when I get to know of some hyped book or some extremely popular new book I am starting assuming almost automatically that it can’t possibly be good and worth reading, so I either don’t touch it at all or wait for ages before I read it. That probably stems from my previous bad experience reading much talked about new releases.

    • Gotta be careful of the hype (learned the hard way)….but how to balance hype with FOMO?!?! I agree it’s wise to wait to see if the hype has staying power! thanks for commenting Diana!

  3. Love this discussion and I definitely agree that I don’t always agree with book hypes. The latest example for me was Klara and the Sun. I had read so many great reviews about this book and yet when I read it, I was distinctly underwhelmed. I didn’t not enjoy it to the point of not finishing it but it didn’t feel anywhere near as good as I expected it to be. I don’t think that I have ever got to the point of throwing a book across the room though. After all, there are plenty more books to read 😃

    • Do you think you would have liked it more if you hadn’t had high expectations? I’m wondering if expectations set you up for disappointment? Thanks for commenting!

  4. As an author, I held my breath reading your list – but appreciate number six! As a reader, I’ve sometimes suggested a novel for my reading group that I’ve loved but that others have not – but then that makes for a much more interesting discussion! I’m more likely to read a book that is recommended by a friend (that includes book bloggers) or family member than I am to chose a book with lots of hype.

  5. Hi, Carol – From this post alone, we have so much in common.
    Absolutely, yes, overly-hyped books influence my reading. I liked Becoming by Michelle Obama but somehow expected more (There, I said it, Can we still be friends?)
    Although I greatly respected Warmth of Other Suns (which I recently reviewed) because of the incredibly high praise of other friends, and because it had been on my TBR list for so long, I may have had unrealistic expectations for it. In short, I preferred Wilkerson’s next book, Caste.
    Sometimes, hype and expectations backfire on me. I was assuming that I All the Devils Are Here (Louise Penny) would not be for me (especially because I read it as a standalone) but I quite enjoyed it. Still, I didn’t go back and read others in this series (so many books, such limited time). 😀
    I agree that not every book is for every reader. That’s one of the things that makes discussing books so interesting.
    Thank you for joining us at WOYBS. We greatly appreciate it!

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Becoming certainly received a great deal of buzz! Those high expectations are bound to set us up for a bit of disappointment at times! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed All the Devils Are Here…it’s one of my favs of the series…mainly because of the heartfelt ending. Our different reading experiences greatly enhance book club discussions.

    • In my reading experience, very few books actually match the hype…..I’m just too picky I think! Or maybe too influenced by the hype.

  6. Great topic, Carol💜 Surprisingly, I’ve not been disappointed with too many of the hyped books, primarily because I pay more attention to those reviews by Goodreads friends whose reading tastes are more aligned with mine. I do get swept up in the fever but tend to wait until things have died down some.

  7. Oh yes, the FOMO is real 😱😂 I definitely believe that books can be overhyped. Even when you try to keep your expectations in check, all the buzz can give you unrealistic expectations and you end up feeling a bit meh about it, some books just don’t live up to the hype created by publishers and blog tours, and honestly, in some ways that hype does more bad than good. I often think I would have enjoyed a book better if I had gone in expecting less from it even though I always tell myself not to expect too much. Great post!

  8. My answer is yes, absolutely. I tend not to read a lot of hyped books – it’s like I tend not to watch movies that have won awards. Perhaps it’s a reverse snobbery thing? But I love it when the story lives up to the hype. The thing is, as you say, not every story and every style is for everybody. Thanks for linking up.

  9. Following book bloggers and listening to book podcasts is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I do enjoy learning about the latest and greatest books. I have read some really good ones that wouldn’t have been on my radar. On the other hand, books that are overhyped rarely meet expectations (a bit like blockbuster movies). I have learnt to figure out where the blogger and I have similar reading tastes and where we differ.

    Interesting that you mentioned Marcus Zusak. I had heard so many raves about “The Book Thief” that I couldn’t wait to read it. I must have started it about half-a-dozen times, but always put it down around the 20 page mark.

    I wasn’t a fan of “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett. It was too slow moving for me, and didn’t explore the bits I was interested in. “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah was indeed depressing. I had to read a couple of upbeat romance books after that!

    • Expectations can be tricky to manage! You might have had difficulty with Book Thief because of the narrator? It was a unique perspective for sure! I listened to an audio of Dutch House with Tom Hanks as narrator. That worked well, but I can see that I might not have enjoyed it as much in print. It was a bit depressing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Adrienne!

  10. Excellent post Carol. You have given this question a thorough discussion. I love your list by the way. I agree with your answer to this question, it definitely affects my reading experience. When a book is hyped by reviewers I trust and it doesn’t work for me, I am extremely disappointed. One such book was Daisy Jones and the Six, which was a DNF for me. I usually go in with lower expectations as I would prefer to be pleasantly surprised, rather than disappointed. I do feel bad if I have requested an ARC and do not like it, so usually send a message to the publisher stating it was not for me rather than giving a negative review if I don’t finish a book.

  11. I’ve had times where hype has made me more excited for a book and that worked in the book’s favor. And also times where it has led to disappointment. So I guess for me, it depends on the book. But I definitely have experienced what you have with being really excited for a book and then being let down.

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