Presumptions, Assumptions & Hype

Book group this week has really got me thinking. You see when I started the latest choice ‘Water For Elephants’ my expectations for the novel were rather low, and so when I had finished it and really enjoyed it I was left pleasantly surprised. It showed me once again that you can’t simply judge a book by its blurb or latest cover, or rather than judging you simply can’t make assumptions or presumptions. I always get presumptions and assumptions mixed up which is slightly annoying as bookish presumptions and assumptions are what today’s post/ramble of mine is all about.

It interested me that out of the rest of the book group the people who knew nothing of it, bought it off the internet and started reading it pronto simply because it was the book group choice got a lot more out of it than those who had read the blurb, got quite excited about the premise and then read on. In fact people who had got really excited about it prior the meeting seemed to think they had been let down in some way. This could of course simply be sod’s law, or the fact that the book just wasn’t quite for them, but it brought up the question yet again of book hype and how it can affect a read for you.  

I brought up the fact that I had personally bought the book ages ago because there was a whirl of hype about it on its release in the US, I had then promptly not read it. I myself am prone to getting swept up in the excitement when a book seems to explode in the media by the tag ‘New York Times Bestseller’ (or any other newspaper) and endless review or of course all over the blogosphere. I would find myself vicariously buying several books in one shopping swoop because I had heard lots of good reviews, and then go off the idea of all of them (probably swept up by another set of rave reviews of another book) and hence end up with the rather large TBR that I now have – I will get through it one day. Yet last year when I put myself on a book buying ban for 12 months I was amazed that the books I heard lots about and instantly wanted would then fade from my mind a few weeks later. I think only four or five are still on my ‘most wanted’ list. I haven’t been out and binge bought those either.

So that showed me up for my ability to be completely bowled over by media which thankfully I think one other book group member agreed would make them consider reading a book too. The other hype that interests me though is the one we do ourselves. It could be because the blurb simply sounds ‘so you’, the fact you have loved the author before, the quotes on the cover, the cover itself (and in this case most people had a cover they actually said made them think ‘Water For Elephants’ wasn’t for them because it looked rather chick-lit like, they aren’t a snobby bunch, and then were again pleasantly surprised), the fact the premise just really appeals, the list can go on and on. Its something I find interesting and so thought would ask you all about it.

How can we stop ourselves from falling for the hype in newspapers and our favourite blogs? Why is it that we hype certain books up so much in our own heads and if we do it extensively can a book ever really live up to the impression we have made of it without even turning a page? Do you think its something we are just programmed to do? Have there been books you’ve been desperate to read, then not bought and eventually not been bothered about? Which books have you hyped up yourself and then been disappointed by and which ones have you had the reverse experience with? Any other thoughts? Oh and who can tell me the difference between assumptions and presumptions?

10 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts

10 responses to “Presumptions, Assumptions & Hype

  1. In answer to your questions about whether or not it was possible to avoid the hype of a certain book, then I think that it can’t be done. That is, unless you avoid tv, the internet or the high street. We get so bombarded by advertising, that somewhere along the line, we are going to be influenced into buying into a book’s hype.

    However, I do try and wait until the hype of a book has died down until I actually read it. Then it gives enough distance for me, to then make my own conclusions of a novel.

  2. I can get drawn in by some hype but always tend to have the books then sat on shelves for months ,all the best stu

  3. I think you are describing two reading phenomenons: the pleasure of being surprised by the book and the pleasure of anticipation.

    One is like finding money in an old pair of jeans: sudden and unexpected, so any amount of pleasure is quite exaggerated.

    The other is like Christmas morning: the build-up is almost, and in some cases more delicious than, whatever is under the three.

    Both are wonderful, but the Christmas morning variety does have the capacity to disappoint. On the other hand, months of anticipation followed by a satisfuing reading experience trumps the smaller pleasure of exceeding low or non-existent expectations, in my view.

  4. Interesting post. Hype often makes me less inclined to read a book. Though I don’t have a book blog anymore, I’m still paying more attention to the way book publishing and marketing works, and it’s made me more cynical about the bestsellers. It’s to the point where I avoid them like the plague unless there’s been a good review from an independent magazine that I trust or a trusted friend (whose recommendations have always hit home) suggests I read it.

    Incidentally, Water for Elephants may be my book club’s next pick. It’s currently tied in the poll with The Corrections. I haven’t read either, because both were hyped, and I’m still ambivalent about them, but I’m trying not to let too many assumptions (presumptions? It is confusing) crowd my brain for now.

  5. gaskella

    I rarely read a hugely hyped book while the hype is active, I tend to wait until it’s died down a bit. Mainly though, that is a function of having too many books and not enough time to read them in.

    Unless I’m one of the first to get to a book that is – before it becomes hyped – this is a rarity, but is a rare treat, and yes – ‘Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get’ 🙂

  6. It depends! Organic hype is good & sometimes it is good to be caught up in the buzz of a heavily-promoted book and then there are those that are over-exposed (Solar by Ian McEwan comes to mind).

    All publicity is supposed to be good publicity, or so the story goes, but I know full well that sometimes it can drastically backfire (however surely publishers would prefer deterring some people from over-publicising if it means that the book is out there being discussed?)

    Room and The Help were two books last year that lived up to the hype for me but I do also like going for less mainstream books, going against the grain and discovering a gem that has been kept relatively quiet. Best of both worlds.

  7. Therese

    Excellent question. I avoided A Fine Balance because it was an Oprah selection, read it years later, and realized I had missed a grand book. Something made me read Another Bullshit Night in Suck City in spite of fact I thought it might be one of those over-hyped post-modern experiments. It was my number three read of 2010. I stumbled upon The End of the World As We Know It by Robert Goolrick, had no pre-conceptions, and it emerged as my Number One read of 2010. Number Two? Just Kids. I read it when my local group hyped and it surpassed the hype. Then it won the National Book Award. Whoohoo! I think it’s both fun to be surprised and read to form my own opinion of the hype. When it works against me is when I believe the hype. That becomes a setup. I hate to admit it, but surprise is probably the best setup for reading a darn good book.

  8. Caroline S

    I agree with you about the hype around certain books and the books themselves turn out to be very disappointing. In an effort to avoid the hype I am rereading a lot of classic books and really enjoying myself.

    One of the things I hate most is when a review or the blurb on the back of the book gives away 80% of the storyline!Too much detail takes away from the enjoyment of following a story unfold. Some of my favourite reads have been books that I knew very little about before I started and only picked up on the recommendation of a friend. I have stopped listening to A Good Read on Radio 4 because too often the discussion gave away too much of the plot and on one occassion the important last line of a book.!

  9. I know what you mean, its hard to avoid certain books because of all the hype. Its like you get caught up in all the frenzy that you just have to read it ASAP. And then you find yourself disappointed and wondering why you fell for all the hoopla – this happened with me and Room. I hated that book and found it to be gimmicky and annoying and wished I hadn’t bought it. I think that is why I’m trying to be more critical of all of these rave reviews for certain books – I want to avoid buying and reading more duds.

  10. I don’t think I do get caught up in the hype, I just don’t ever feel that I must read any book “right now”. I don’t feel that just because people whose views I value like something then I’ll like it too (see my many comments on Cornflower where sometimes we diverge greatly). What interests me is why so many people apparently do feel that way (or alternatively why am I so strange!).

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