Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Just finished reading this post on people who prefer to wait to read books until the hype dies down. It got me to thinking of my own preferences--you know I'm bound to have them after all. Does a book's hype--buzz, whatever you want it--lead me to dislike it? To judge it more critically perhaps? To not see what everyone else sees? To not see what everyone wants me to see? Does it say more about me wanting to stand apart from the crowd or join in and follow? Can any book--no matter how well written--live up to the hype it generates?

I prefer to read books before the hype happens. I realize that not everyone has this luxury. And even if you have access to a book a month or so before publication, doesn't mean that you'll read the book before it becomes "the book" with a halo and faint glow about it. Sometimes a book's praises begin before publication. Sometimes they don't begin until several months after publication. And sometimes, a book can have a good start in smaller circles--listservs of librarians and booksellers for example--but not within larger ones. Sometimes a book doesn't hit it big until after awards and best lists have been announced. Or until movie deals are signed and announced.

I was fortunate to read The Lightning Thief, Twilight, Looking for Alaska, and Uglies before (or in one case very slightly after) they were published. The Lightning Thief had nothing to recommend itself--no awesome cover, no hype, no promise of sequels that I'd heard about anyway--just a plain and simple ARC. Nothing in the cover said read me necessarily. While Riordan was previously published, this was his first children's book. Yet something about it intrigued me. And I loved it. Read it several times loved it. Passed it on to my best friend loved it. She then passed it on--read it aloud I believe--to her two nephews who loved it. All before the book became established or popular.

With Twilight, I read it several weeks--I believe--before it was published. But the enthusiasm for this one wasn't immediate if I recollect. It grew week by week by week as people read it and recommended it to their friends. Those friends recommended it to their friends. And so on. And so on. And so on. But it didn't become a phenomenon just yet. By the time the sequels started releasing it was absolutely HUGE. Beyond anyone's expectations. I'm so very thankful I read it before all that. I'm not sure I would have picked it up otherwise. I read it because a trusted friend (and classmate) said you MUST read this book. No excuses of "I don't like vampires" would do. I stayed up with it into the wee hours--not able to put it down. And of course, I had to recommend it to all my friends. And write about it here, there, and everywhere.

And Looking for Alaska. I remember reading that before it was published. I remember waiting for my Amazon review to finally show up--it wouldn't be "up" until the release date. If other people had been telling me that I must read and love and adore this book, would I have been so enthusiastic about it? If I'd waited until after it won the big award, would I have overanalyzed it to see if I could find weaknesses. Would I find things to nitpick about just because? If I'd gone into it with any preconceived notions, would it have mattered?

That's the question...and it's one with no easy answers. Why do my reading experiences change? How can I hate Octavian Nothing the first time through and love it the second? How can I go from disliking The True Meaning of Smek Day one week, and then a mere two weeks later reread it and absolutely adore it? How can I love Looking for Alaska the first time through, and be all cooled off about it the second time? And don't get me going on The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I absolutely loved it the first time, three months later, it was a pain to sludge through? Yet there are books that I can reread over and over and over and over again and still love, adore, and lavish heaps of praise on? Why do some books have to grow on me? Does that mean it's possible for me to one day pick up Great Expectations, Silas Marner, or Jude the Obscure and actually like them? (I wouldn't hold my breath!!) Am I that fickle? How much does my mood play into my reading? That is just one reason why I review a book each and every time I read it (if it's a novel.) Every reading is DIFFERENT. Every reading is subjective.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anonymous,  5:01 PM  

I was dead set against reading harry potter years ago, generally I'm not a big fan of hype. My mom made me, and I enjoyed it of course. Now I tend to ignore hype, and read anything and everything I think loves interesting. Of course, the whole point is that there are way to many books allready for anyone to read all of them, with new ones coming out all the time, it's hard to pick and choose very well, and mostly just turns into whatever we stumble across. Hype is a neccessary evil to help spread the word.

Speaking of which, have you heard of my books? I'm a cartoonist, I've written 'A Cheese Related Mishap" (one of ALA's top ten graphic novels of the year for kids!" 'YARG!' 'Another Dirt Sandwich' and the forthcoming 'Cupcakes of DOOM!' they're very silly and adventurey, penguins and pirates and other silly things. Very much reccommended for kids and kids-at-heart! Read a free preview at my site, Please forgive the shameless self promotion! And spread the word! But not too thin, or else you won't be able to taste it.

Anonymous,  5:01 PM  

--Ray Friesen

Anonymous,  7:37 PM  

When our book club chose Twilight as their selection, I had never heard of it before, although I think the second one was out already. I refused to read Harry Potter for years before I realize what a mistake that was. I like reading books during the hype. It gives me something to talk about and feel like you're a part of something. I don't like to be in the dark.

Annette Laing 3:06 AM  

Interesting post. I've become more resistant to hype after wasting far too many dollars on far too many lame books: The way that big booksellers operate means that much of what's available in stores is there because of good marketing, which doesn't necessarily equate with quality. I've also become aware that any brick-and-mortar bookstore carries but a fraction of the books available. I tend to base my buys these days on recommendations from friends and trusted reviewers, although I'm still a sucker for a good blurb. :-)

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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