Monday, November 8, 2010

Do We Love Specific Books Partially Because of the Hype?

Davin is gone this week to D.C. so I'll be filling in for his days. Hope you have fun, Davin!

There are a lot of popular stories out there. I've read several of them - Harry Potter, Twilight, The Secret Life of Bees, Romeo & Juliet...

My question today is something I've wondered for a very long time. When you pick up a book that you know has received a lot of hype, can you possibly read it without any preconceived notions? I think one of my biggest pet peeves is someone fawning over something to the point of ridiculousness. Mac products are the absolute best products on the planet. You just HAVE to see Inception because it was the best movie EVER made. EvvvErrr.

Yeah, okay.

First of all I don't think there is a best movie ever made or a best book ever written or a best product out there. When something gets too much hype, I tend to get really annoyed and tune it out and sometimes refuse to take part in it at all. For instance, I still haven't seen Inception. I probably won't watch it for three years. I might not ever watch it

This means I'll pick up a popular book with a relatively clean slate. I will try not to bring to the table every wonderful amazing thing (or sometimes it's negative hype, which is still good hype for marketing) I have heard about it. I like to form my own opinions. Most of the time the popular opinion isn't something I agree with.


I happen to think classic literary pieces like Macbeth and The Great Gatsby are simply wonderful. They are hyped up in my world, but is it because I love them or because I love that millions of other people have loved them before me and I was socially conditioned in a way to think they are high quality masterpieces? Talk about eating my own words above! I get annoyed by current hype, but call it a classic 20 years old or older and I'm all over it. Sometimes I wonder if we can separate ourselves at all from what (for today) I'm calling hype. Sometimes I wonder how many other masterpieces are out there that I'll never read because they didn't catch any hype so I never heard about them. Sand through the cracks...

What do you think?


  1. I've never read the Twilight series and have no plans.

    I did read Harry Potter (the first book) because of the hype. The rest - because they were good books.

    My personal opinion about hype: 8 times out of 10, I don't understand the hype. Then again, everything is subjective, so . . .

    More often than not, I'm going to read what I read based on personal choices, i.e.,. what I like to read, versus hype . . . thus the reason I haven't read the Twilight series. I'm not interested in reading about angsty teen vamps. Just not my thing . . . no matter how good the series allegedly is based on the hype!

    Great post!


  2. I can't deny that I'm more likely to try a book because of the hype, unless it's a genre I never read, but I certainly form my own opinion. I speak from experience.

    This year alone, I've read ... or tried to read ... several books with rave reviews and either slogged through to the end or gave up midway wondering what others saw in them.

    But I don't always give the hype a chance. I have read and loved the Potter series. I have not read the Twilight series.

  3. Out of the three books I recently read or tried to read because of the hype, only one exceeded my expectations, and that was The Help. It was also the third one, so I was not looking forward to reading it, but it was my bookclubs selection.

    Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was just...stupid. I hated it. I hated everything about it, the idea, the writing and even the cover, and yet I was the only one in my bookclub that didn't love it.

    I don't care for hype, and yet, I can't help hyping the tv show Friday Night Lights because so few people watchh it, and I just can't understand why its ignored by the vast majority of viewers. I probably turn some people off with the hype, but then again, most weren't ever going to watch it anyway, so it probably doesn't matter.

  4. The word hype carries a lot of negative baggage with it. It is very bandwagony. I avoid that kind of hype as much as I can.

    I haven't seen Top Gun. I haven't read Harry Potter, Twilight, or anything by Dan Brown. I don't listen to Top 40 radio.

    Logically, this is silly. Something's being liked by a lot of people definitely does not mean it's necessarily bad. That said, it's a gut reaction.

    But if you throw out the word hype and use another word like, "buzz," or "word-of-mouth," or "water-cooler conversation," or something else it's suddenly more appealing and more valuable.

    After all, if no one is talking about a book, no one is going to hear about it, and so no one is going to read it.

    You have to have buzz. As you say, there are probably a lot of great books that go unread because there's no hype and so we just don't know they exist.

    As for preconceptions, when I do finally cave into hype, I usually expect the exact inverse of the hype to be true, so preconceptions are definitely an issue for me, but in the opposite way you mean. hahaha

  5. Looks like we mostly all form our own opinions here. I may be more inclined to give a book the benefit of the doubt and read on when I want to stop if a lot of people like it hoping that eventually I'll find what they love or that it will get better. I read a book like that recently, and it did get better. So that was good, and I'm glad I read the book.

    The same goes for classics. Generally though if a book has passed the test of time there is something extra in it that has made it last and gives it a little extra clout.

  6. I hadn't read a book because of the hype until Soulless by Gail Carriger. I will not give my opinion here.

    I still have Eat,Pray,Love in my TBR pile (2 years now) as well as a few others.

    I have not, nor will I, read the books about the shiny, sparkly vampires.

    Some hype is good, some, not so much. Because the business is so subjective, I think we're all entitled to what we like and what we don't, without the hype.

  7. I think it's hard to be completely impartial when you are force-fed hype before taking on a new read.

    It could be as huge as the publicity surrounding TWILIGHT and HARRY POTTER, or as simple as the little circle stating a book is the Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

    Hype usually works as reverse psychology for me. Rave reviews? I go into it thinking it's overblown. Panned as awful? I look for the silver lining.

    Of course, I'm often wrong, but I can't help it. It's an annoying defense mechanism I have yet to learn to disable.

  8. Watch Inception; the ending is pathetic, but the rest of it is thrilling. Your stubbornness has not gone unnoticed!

  9. I think a book that's still getting good reviews after 50 or 400 years isn't relying on hype! The classics are classics for a reason.

    Over the last year, I've bought and read about half a dozen books that had a lot of visability in the press. None of them made me happy. I read the Harry Potter books just to understand what my friends were all talking about, but honestly I can't remember almost anything about them, except for the first book, which I thought was the best of them. But I read almost nothing that hits the best seller lists anyway, so hype is pretty much happening in a world far away from mine. My favorite books tend to be ones that I've stumbled across by mistake, or that friends have put into my hands telling me they can't believe I never read it.

  10. I know there are a handful of readers (my mother and a few good friends) whose love for a book will translate into my own love, guaranteed.

    Otherwise, hype might interest me but certainly doesn't sell me on something.

    There are certain titles I can't help but gush about, like THE HELP. I think when it stems from a place of authenticity, the word of mouth works like magic.

  11. Your comment makes me more likely to read classics, dearest uncle; nevertheless, your infatuation with credit cards weakens your stance.

  12. Justus: I can't resist those 16-digit numbers. It's not my fault.

  13. Hype usually makes me less likely to read something. Like several others, I haven't read Twilight.

    I haven't even read Harry Potter, even though my husband and my sisters all have. My best friend (who has never led me wrong in books and loves the series more than life itself) gave me HP1 for my birthday 18 months ago; haven't gotten past page 7.

    I have adverse reactions to hype—but I think it might be genre-related. I've read (and enjoyed on some level) The Secret Life of Bees, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, among others.

  14. I read what I read and do what I do because I like it, not because it's popular, though I like getting peoples' opinions on what to read next.

    And Inception was pretty much the best movie ever. Seriously.

  15. Scott: You aren't interested in angsty teen vamps? Why not??? Haha. I actually enjoyed TWILIGHT for a few reasons, but there is much I don't like about it as well and that largely has to do with the hype.

    Linda: I just read a Pulitzer winner and didn't care for it much. Subjective, subjective... :)

    Mary: That Abraham Lincoln book probably has the poor man turning in his grave. Ugh. I doubt I'd make it through that, hah. I might be surprised, who knows! I don't watch much TV. If I did I'd try your show!

    Nevets: Very good points about wordage here. It sounds like I'm not the only one here who has opposite reactions to the popular hype.

    Lois: Yes, that's an excellent point about the classics withstanding the test of time. That's not really hype for the most part. :)

    Anne: Eat, Pray, Love is an interesting one for me. I'd like to read it, but then they made the movie and it got even more hype and now I'm just turned off. I might pick it up eventually.

    Rick: Yeah, join the club. I'd like to disable mine, too. Hah.

    Justus: My husband wants to see it. That means eventually I'll have to watch it.

    Scott: Yeah, you're right, like Lois. My favorite books are usually ones other people can't stand, like "Crime and Punishment" and "The Violent Bear It Away" and "Of Mice and Men"

    Caroline: That's interesting that you bring into this the hype of our loved ones. That kind of hype seems to have a much greater impact on me.

    Justus: Where is this credit card thing coming from? Did I miss something?

    Jordan: That's interesting you haven't gotten into Harry Potter. I loved it. That doesn't mean you should, though, and there's my point. :)

    Aimee: I'll ignore the Inception comment *wink*

    Yeah, when something gets too popular I get very skeptical.

  16. The more a book is hyped usually the less likely I am to want to read it/like it if I do read it.

    There's one very famous book by a very well known writer (whose books have been turned into many movies by this point too) that I put down and said "I want back the hours of eyesight I wasted on that thing." I meant it. I still mean it.

    People still rave about it. I just don't get it.

    I guess when it comes to books, like most things in life, it really is all just a matter of taste and opinion.


  17. I tend to avoid the over-hyped stuff because it usually winds up being a book highly recommended to me by a friend who reads only 1 or 2 books a year and has little to compare it to.

    My big problem is actually people who read stuff when they were growing up and have excessively fond memories of it -- both Narnia and Tolkien come to mind. Never read either as a youth, had friends scream at me that they were the Best Thing EVER, read them, did not like them. Turned out my friends had, by and large, never read them as adults. I think the age at which you first become enamored of a book can make a difference.

    As for Harry Potter, I avoided them expressly because of the hype, until I saw a trailer for the third film, and thought, "Gee, that looks kinda dark. What have I been missing?" Enjoyed those books on the whole.

    But if anyone tries to get me to read "Twilight", I will throw them (AND the books) across the room.

  18. My further $0.02 says that calling a book a classic and saying that it's stood the test of time is just hype with its nose in the air. :)

    I'm not saying that's bad thing, either.

  19. Bru: It is a matter of taste and opinion, but what's interesting is when things go "viral" and that taste and opinion seems to catch on like wildfire. It's things like that which get me scratching my head about it all.

    Mizmak: Hahaha! I love the end of your comment. Strong feelings there... :)

    Great point about people hyping things up because of sentimentality.

    Nevets: You're probably right on some level.

  20. Nevets: No, you're wrong. Books that have stood the test of time *are* classics. It's not hype; it's a definition of terms. We remember Shakespeare 410 years after his plays were written not because Shakespeare Inc. keeps the brand out there, but because the plays are some of the greatest writing in history, which is exactly why they've stood the test of time and why they are classics. That's not hype.

  21. Scott, I know we'll never see eye to eye on this one, and I don't think it's important that we do.

    So I'll admit that I spoke glibly, and that, while I do believe that "classic" is a label that draws readership in and of itself, independent of the quality of the work, and that it is not a self-correcting classification, it is not the same thing as commercial blitz-attack press.

    But N. B.

    I state this to clarify my own position, not to try and convince anyone.

  22. Nevets: The thing is, people tend to not realize that the "canon of classic literature" does in fact change over time, and is--using your phrase--self-correcting. "The classics" are not held in an unchanging list that's the property of some English department somewhere. The causal relationship goes the other way around. Classics have endured.

    I'd also opine that "classic is a label that draws readership" is a statement that ignores the fact that most people refuse to read things that have that label. "Ick!" they say. "It's got the stench of literature and nobody reads that except for classes in school!"

  23. Most of the time I am like you: I avoid hype (good or bad) so that I can decide for myself.

    I can't think of an example where I really liked something because of overwhelming popularity. Though it has worked against me on occasion where if I had read reviews more carefully I would have known beforehand how much I was going to hate it.

  24. Scott and Nevets: This is exactly why the Literary Lab exists. It's our attempt, however little it may be, at dispelling that stupid attitude. And Scott, I just love your term "endured" because that's exactly what they do. It's what art is to me - something that endures.

    Alicia: I'd love to see a list of books you truly dislike. :)

  25. I have to admit that one of my goals in life is to read as many books from the literary canon as possible. Like you, I didn't set that goal because millions of people have loved these books before me, but because through classic literature, I can escape the tawdriness of modern art that has become so ubiquitous.

    With that being said, I cannot bring myself to fall into the hype of modern works, but by the same token I don't want to join the similarly fanatical counterculture that hates anything that is popular. I simply accept the culture for what it is, and realize that by accepting it I am not necessarily part of it.

  26. I will ATTEMPT reading a book because of the hype, but put it down immediately if it doesn't keep me interested.

  27. Hype makes me avoid books. Much like movies, my taste doesn't run to mainstream. Bestselling novels rarely make my list of best-reads.

    Twilight? High School romance, with glitter, not interested.

    Harry Potter? Tried, he whines, end of interest.

    Great Gatsby? Didn't even pick it up.

    R&J? Hilarious because the characters are stupid as stones, and I could argue that Shakespeare intended them to come across as self-centered prats.

    The hype I listen to is friends. If I have several friends who have given me good recommendations before all recommending a title, I'll pick it up. I usually love those books.

    How do other people react to hype? I think many people are willing to go with the crowd, but hype is more than that. The book is plastered everywhere, it's for sale everywhere, it's easy to find. I'm an addicted reader. I read cereal boxes to stave off boredom. If the hyped book was all I could find, I'd pick it up. I'd probably finish it. I think most people are that way, they just don't know where the good books are hiding.

  28. Scott, I don't disagree with you quite as much as I probably sound like I do, or at least in the way it probably seems like I do. At any rate, I'll flag this topic for a time when I feel like I have the mental energy for a nuanced but lively debate. :)

    In summary:

    Boo hype for other people's books.

    Yay hype for my own books.

    Yay classic literature.

  29. Nevets: I see we're in complete agreement!

  30. The problem with hype is that even if the book or film or whatever is good, nothing can ever live up to its hype. All hype can ever do is cause you to be disappointed. Hype is like those trailers than contain every memorable bit in a film distilled into three minutes making the other 87 minutes feel like a disappointment. Hype is not interested in foreplay of cuddling afterwards. I don’t trust it, not for a minute.

  31. Une: What an excellent way to view it! Than you for sharing this. I think it can be a tough balance to keep.

    Anjali: That's a great way not to waste time, that's for sure!

    Liana: I can't talk to you anymore because you won't pick up Great Gatsby. Hehe, just kidding. I do agree that MANY of the good books are actually hiding!

    Jim: You know, I think you touched on why I don't like hype - it always leaves me disappointed.


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