Think Aloud explores book-related discussions encompassing reading, writing, blogging, and perhaps newsworthy content. The focus is to push the boundaries, stretch the mind, and encourage dialogue within this community. Let’s all think out loud.
Hype, Negativity, and
Reading Books I Know I’ll Dislike
There’s a moral responsibility to contribute to the reading community regardless of being the black sheep or not.
Negativity, opinions, and the Internet: the perfect triangle of rage.
On reflection, the past few months of [my] ratings have seen multiple 0-3 star books. And that’s fucking terrible.
Am I just bad at choosing books to read? Maybe.
Am I being too critical? Possibly.
Am I buying into hype for the sake of understanding what the fuss is about? Absolutely.
This isn’t to say that I venture into popular fiction with the expectation that it’s going to be a terrible, rage inducing experience but rather I [at times] make the conscious decision to read a book I may not enjoy to a) gain perspective and b) stay updated. Now this behaviour might seem problematic to some–and I guess that depends on who you ask. It’s a divergence from the “read whatever the fuck you want” school of thought but I would argue that I am doing just that even if appears as though I’m thirsty to stir the pot, be the black sheep, and hate for the sake of hating.
(accurate depiction of my hesitance/‘wtfness’ to the things I read)
Because here’s the thing: though I’m just one voice in the community, I feel this undeniable moral responsibility to be educated on current trends, where reader’s interests lie, and to the best of my ability, be prepared for inquiry when prompted — all of which is to say that I have, in the past:
- recommended books I’ve read and enjoyed;
- recommended books I’ve read and not enjoyed; and,
- recommended books I only know of in passing;
Let me expand upon the last point with an example.
With the release of A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Mass, polarizing critiques popped up left-right-and-center. This is fine. Love it or hate it; that’s not for me to decide nor would I police how you ought to think. As a non-reader of anything Maas has written–call me Switzerland if you will–I devoured these comments to gain insight so that when the time comes, I can address these concerns in a roundabout (“general”) way to prospective readers.
But is it disingenuous to recommend books you haven’t read or books you simply did not enjoy?
In my view, everyone is an ambassador in this vibrant community. Some are more vocal than others (speaking to reach, legitimacy, and influence) but regardless of your status as a blogger, a literary connoisseur, or pride as a book sniffer, the fundamental goal [I would imagine] is to find interest and be interested in dialogues sparked by the written word.
And part of my blogging story involves keeping up-to-date with what’s being read and/or experimenting with books I might not enjoy; which to be fair, there’s an equal chance the story could surprise me as well. I might not be as passionate or enthusiastic as the next person but that doesn’t mean any book [that I hated or haven’t read] isn’t someone else’s next favourite thing to flail over.
So to all the hyped debuts that have–and will–fail(ed) me, the friendly recommendations I couldn’t get behind, and for all the negative reviews now and in the future, your combined experiences merit value even if that gain isn’t immediate — if not for me, then surely for someone else.
How often do you recommend books you didn’t enjoy/haven’t read to others?
What’s your longest streak of reading “meh” books?
If you’re willing to share: which book has disappointed you the most this year? How has hyped influenced the appeal and your resultant review (if you wrote one)?
As always, think aloud.
connect: afterthoughtAn // twitter | anotherafterthought // goodreads
I cannot help being a difficult reader (re “critical reviewer”). I need to be fully transparent because anything else wouldn’t feel right to me.
And there have been some of you who question why I’ve had long sprints of really bad reading months. This post hopefully addresses that even if I disliked something, I’d still gratuitously recommend it to someone (with caveats, of course).
35 thoughts on “[Think Aloud] – #33 – Hype, Negativity, and Reading Books I Know I’ll Dislike”
I completely understand your need to stay current on reader likes. I find myself reading books I know probably won’t be my thing to see what everyone’s talking about. I’ve found some amazing books, but also some duds. I think it all depends on the talent of the writer to engage readers outside their genre. Heck, there are books within my normal genres I think I’ll love but don’t. Writing negative reviews sucks, but hopefully it helps other readers make good decisions when picking books.
As for recommending books I didn’t enjoy, I sometimes do. I feel like reading as much as I do has made me a picky reader. It’s definitely changed how I rate books. There are so many amazing books to compare new ones to.
This is amazing… Hype can get a little out of hand we need critical readers/bloggers… So they sort of dilute the whole hype situation. I will try to read anything that sounds intriguing even if the reviewer has given it a low rating. Thank you so much, I enjoyed your post.
I definitely see where you coming from with this post. To start, it’s nice to see I’m not the only one who hasn’t jumped on the S. J. Maas bandwagon just yet haha.
As a reader I know what type of books appeal to me but I still actively go online and try to keep up with the latest hyped up releases. Take A Court of Mist and Fury. Based on what I know I don’t think I’d enjoy the book but I can understand why others would.
To me negative or more critical reviews of hyped books help keep the books and in a way the readers grounded. I have been disappointed by these overly hyped up books and while I can see why they’re such a hit it’s always nice to read a different perspective of the book. Having reviews that take these hyped books off their pedestal is needed.
Basically I know what I tend to like and I know what I won’t but that doesn’t mean I can’t be surprised at times.
Also, while I was typing this comment my tangerine fell into my cup of tea so I’m munching on a tea flavoured tangerine and I don’t know what to make of it. 😛
Really interesting post! I went a really long streak of reading meh books in the summer last year- but that was cos I had post uni burn out and didn’t feel like reading anything heavy. I decided to change that this year and read better books. I very, very rarely recommend a book I didn’t enjoy to others- and only if I think that it’s still a good book- like love in a time of cholera, which is objectively a good book but I didn’t connect with. But even then, I’m honest about it
This is an interesting discussion Joey! I do sometimes recommend books that I didn’t have the best time with, only because I know it wasn’t my thing but it wasn’t a bad book by any means. I mean everything is subjective right?
This is a really interesting discussion. I do agree that everyone is an ambassador in this community, and we should all be interested in engaging in discussions about the written word. I enjoy reading positive reviews of books I might not have liked, and I don’t mind reading negative reviews of books I love, as I’m happy to simply engage with readers. I think it’s important to remember that when you review books, your opinion is likely to persuade/dissuade someone to read/not even consider a book, but if you’re able to recommend books regardless, I don’t see anything wrong with that. I’ve definitely recommend books I hated in the past just in case it turns out to be someone else’s cup of tea.
I’ll admit that since I started blogging, I definitely read to gain perspective and keep updated, and in that sense I think it’s quite valuable to read books you know you won’t like. The most recent meh book I read was The Wrath and the Dawn. I knew I’d hate it, but I read it anyway. I’d probably be a little happier if I didn’t read it, but we have to read meh books every once in a while!
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The Wrath and the Dawn interested me at first because of all the great reviews it had in the beginning, and now it’s interesting me because of the handful or so negative reviews that have since come out of the woodwork about it! Now I really have to read it and now I’m not sure if I will like it or not, but I guess I will see when I finally pick it up.
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Definitely read it soon. 🙂 I’d love to know if you side with minority on this one.
I’m totally in a meh stretch right now. Rereading HP4 in the hopes that it’ll bust me out of it or at least give me the fortitude to go on.
I agree with you 100% Even when I write negative reviews, if someone mentions in my comments that they still want to pick it up, I always encourage them to do so. I’m always recommending books I haven’t read, (mainly if my closest friends, or ppl with opinions I trust loved it) so I’m definitely with you on that. I think it’s good to be the black sheep every once in a while. Do you realize how many ppl appreciate our differing opinions? I have readers tell me all of the time that they’re glad I write neg/DNF reviews because they’re afraid to step outside of their own comfort zones to do so. I enjoy being someone’s voice, the person that will tell you if a book is shit. (no sugar-coating over here, you know how we roll lol.) Anywho, I think our community needs both, otherwise, everyone will like the same books and it’d be incredibly BORING. What would they do without us, Joe? lol
I agree with this so much. As much as I know I won’t like some books, I still feel the need to read them so I can stay current on trends. It’s the equivalent of listening to the Top 40 songs to see what all the fuss is about – I know I’m going to want to gouge my eyes out, but I do it anyway so I can have well-informed conversations about it. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to still have a negative opinion about things. I still recommend books that I dislike because someone else may like them. I am super picky about some things (especially in fantasy and science fiction) but that doesn’t mean that someone else won’t enjoy it? I doubt everyone in the world will like and dislike the same books I do.
Thanks for writing this post!
I keep telling myself to be in the “read whatever I want” category, but at times I do feel the need to get into the hype for the sake of curiosity and even the thirst to be part of the crowd.
Sometimes, reading could feel like a labor to me, especially when I’m reading classics or books I have to read because I owe a review or whatever. Anyway, I usually try to balance thing by switching to safer ground (ie, SFF) to avoid reading slump.
As for recommending books I don’t like, I do it all the times especially if my reasons of not liking it is “it’s not the book, it’s me” but then again isn’t it alwayss? LOL.
I love this post, Joey, once again your endless ramblings are so good and making me think about my attitude as a book blogger, ahah. I have to say, I’m one of these people saying, “just read whatever you want to read”. However, I am SO curious about some books, and this whole hype, so I end up, a lot of the time, checking out those books everyone’s talking about. Maybe I’m an easy target though, because I wasn’t too disappointed so far – I might be rating more easier than you are, though. But everyone’s different and has different critical points when they are reading a book, after all 🙂
I also fall into the cycle of reading many “meh” books as well, but I do think there’s value in reading things that you don’t necessarily enjoy but are nevertheless educational, eye-opening, or thought-provoking. Also, being able to make it through books you don’t unconditionally LOVE is excellent training for reading assigned books in class 🙂 Great post!
The entire first few months of this year was one big reading slump for me. New lit fiction releases were just not hitting the spot.
I occasionally recommend books that I haven’t read to friends offline (if a trusted source has recommended them), but I don’t recommend books I haven’t read on my blog.
On the hyped debuts topic, I’ve gotta say that City on Fire takes the cake. I know that was last year, but that book actually made me angry by the end. Cop-out of an ending…readers deserve better after devoting 900 pages worth of reading time.
PS – I enjoy reading critical reviews and appreciate when bloggers are candid when sharing their thoughts. Too many bloggers make it a policy not to post negative reviews and, while that may benefit authors and publishers, does a disservice to average readers. So, thank you!
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Yes! This! I find myself actually being too hard on books, even ones that I like, so I can’t really understand how people can love every aspect of every book. Plus (as I wrote in a blog post) reviewers that love every book seem to be to be trying to be best friends with every publisher and author to get free books and in the end I end up distrusting their reviews because I can’t tell if the books is actually good or not.
I try to be honest without being brutal, even when a book disappoints me greatly. That said, I feel that it’s important to acknowledge what about a book didn’t work for you. Maybe those things will work for someone else (or be light enough for them to ignore) or maybe it will help someone decide not to read a book (which can be helpful when your TBR list is in the triple digits and you just don’t have enough time for everything).
For myself, when I see a book, I tend to go looking for 2-star reviews because they’re usually more truthful than 1- and 5-star reviews and often more helpful than 4-stars. Because if you finished a book and still didn’t like it (or had issues with it), you’ve usually got a lot to say about it and that can help people see if it’s something they want to read or not.
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I will often look at 2 and 3 star reviews myself (even on non-book things) because as you mentioned, they often have the most interesting, critical, and honest things to say. It’s not that I’m looking for reasons not to read the book as I often will still then pick up the book (since I was interested enough in it to look up reviews), its just I’m aware of what others really thought about the book and have decided for myself that I don’t think the will irritate me.
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I never ever recommend books i haven’t read. This is a very cool discussion post. Happy reading! 🙂
Sometimes I feel like I browse the blogosphere and read book reviews more than I actually do real reading (like from books). I’m not really ashamed by that though?? I have no idea why I want to read reviews for books I haven’t read yet (because it’s not like I do so to verify if I need to buy a book since it’s already a good chance that I already own that title anyway). (Omg, that sentence is sort of confusing.) Anyway, yeah, I have recommended books I didn’t like or haven’t read yet just because I have good intuition that it may suit someone’s taste solely based off of my knowledge from being a professional reader of book reviews. 😂
Great discussion, Joey! 😀
I have to say: sometimes, I’m thankful I can’t get in board the hype train. Because books take SO LONG to be released in my country, I’m always behind and hardly ever pick up new and fresh books – a.k.a, I’m never able to meet the hype. Sometimes, this sucks, because you get spoiled a lot and you kinda miss the chance of raving abot a fantastic book. Other times, you’re thankful you don’t end up as the lonely sheep, that didn’t like that novel as much as everyone else. So, I guess it’s okay that you’re not feeling positive towards all these new releases: sometimes, we kinda have to go back to the basics and pick up books despise the reviews (which is ABSOLUTELY HARD, being a book blogger and all).
And, honestly, I recommend books I haven’t read THE WHOLE TIME! If I like the author or if I read good reviews about it, why not?! The person may pick it up and love it, so I saved a life – and that’s awesome. At the end of the day, with the amount of books out there, our most hated novel is probably someone else’s most beloved one. So I’m 101% okay about recommending/getting recommendations of books I’ve never read or books I’ve disliked – it may not be perfect for me, but it definitely is for someone else.
Joey, sorry for the LONGEST. COMMENT. EVER (honestly, you don’t even have to read it if you don’t want to). But that was a really great discussion!
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I think I (accidentally) beat you on the long comment thing. On one hand I love my English and living in Canada privilege in that I get books quickly, on the other hand I wish I knew more than one language.
I have read a handful of books that I didn’t think I would like over the past year or so and almost half of the books I have read in that time were hyped up (and some in both categories). One of the books that I read that was hyped and I didn’t think I would like was Carry On by Rainbow Rowell and I read it because I was curious but I did end up not liking even though I pretty much knew I wouldn’t. Though I can get where people did like the book and I would recommend it to people looking for something like that in the future, I personally really did not like the book.
That being said, I very rarely recommend books that I didn’t like or that I have not read. It’s because I’m terrible for forming a really strong dislike for a book and thus would not really understand why someone would want to read it, a serious flaw that I have been trying to correct finding more positives in the books that I read and trying to understand why someone would like a book that I do not. WhenI write a review on a over-hyped book I don’t think the hype changes the way I review but there are likely unconscious things that creep in, however since I’m better at saying why I don’t like a book, I have no problem at saying I disliked a hyped book and more of an issue of balancing my review with positives about the book. THis is also the case for books I do like.
As for ‘meh’ streaks, I find if I’m hitting a bunch of meh books in a row its because I’m going into books I might not necessarily like (testing the waters) and when that happens I go to something I know I will like to get out of the meh.
Sometimes I get sucked into the hype of a book, but if I didn’t like it then I will say why. Of course it can be nerve wracking writing a review saying you wasn’t a fan of a book loved by many, because you’re afraid of what response you will get but so far any posts like this I have done have been met nicely. For example Fangirl, it’s loved by so many people but I didn’t really enjoy it. I think I gave it 3 stars?
I always recommend a book even if I don’t like it but I explain who I think would like it for example I say ‘If you like this genre or this book, then you might like this one?’
I think everyone should try a book themselves 🙂
I can’t think of much to add that hasn’t already been said, either by yourself or in the replies. Excellent post, and I agree with (or relate to) all of it.
You’re certainly better about stepping outside your comfort zone–or picking up books you suspect you’ll dislike–than I am, and I admire that quite a lot. Your conscientiousness is something I’d aspire to, if I wasn’t such an inherently selfish reader.
I feel that I accidentally read enough “meh” books already, and don’t want to go out of my way to try books that I strongly suspect I’ll dislike or not connect with. (This whole snark thing is a new experiment–and I wouldn’t snark a book in a genre or with a premise that I knew I might not enjoy even if it’d been well-written. So no contemporary snarks, no adult sci-fi snarks, etc.)
And apparently I had more to add than I’d thought. But yeah, excellent discussion topic, and thank you for being a conscientious reviewer. The book-reviewing community benefits from having you in it.
I definitely read hyped up books just to see what everyone’s talking about (unless it’s a genre I really don’t like). I recently read ACOTAR because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about (my feelings are mixed on that one actually), but I guess I never saw what all the drama was about because I didn’t read ACOMAF (and I probably won’t until 2018 let’s be honest haha).
I only recommend books I didn’t like to people I know, because I know what their reading tastes are. So even though I didn’t like the book, I can say “it has so and so and I know you like that kind of thing”. But when it comes to people I don’t know, it’s harder for me to recommend those books because I don’t know if they like the same things as me, or don’t like them.
It’s been so long!!!
It depends on the person or the book in particular. I don’t want to recommend someone a bad book in regards to representation if they’re looking for themselves in literature but if it’s the only one of its kind…well, what choice is there for them, really? Which is a tragedy. Usually, I feel like I will not. Unless, of course, I see some saving grace in it and I feel like the good points that I found in the book are strong enough that they are worth my recommendation.
I’m not sure of the exact time span. I think, maybe a month or a couple? As soon as I started studying for exams in March, I went through maybe a two month slump. It was hard for me to read because of personal circumstances, studying, blogging, etc as much as I had earlier on during the year. I kept picking up books and immediately putting them down. I only recently started reading through books again in mid to late May, to be honest with you.
I feel All American Boys by Jason Reynolds. But honestly that was during the slump. The beginning just bored me. I’m sure when I pick it up again, if I ever can after recent events, then it will get better. I adore his work.
Super interesting topic to discuss! I’ve been a reader for approximately four decades longer than I’ve been a blogger, so I’m definitely in the habit of reading what I want to read, whatever that may be. As a reading teacher, however, I do find myself recommending books to my students that I haven’t necessarily read–and sometimes I try to push myself to read books I think my students might like so I can do a better job at “selling” them to the right reader. I appreciate your point of trying to stay somewhat current and to be able to contribute to the discussion even if a book isn’t your cup of tea, but really, there are only so many hours in the day, and thousands of books I’d like to read, so I’m not going to read books I don’t enjoy very often.
This is really interesting – I never really thought about it, but I DO sometimes recommend series I haven’t read by saying something like, “Oh, I haven’t read that one yet, but everyone seems to love it.” It’s good sometimes to know what other people are loving, even if it’s not my thing or if I just haven’t gotten to it yet.
While I generally don’t recommend or not recommend books I haven’t read (except 50 shades of grey which I am 10000% opposed to for a variety of reasons), I have definitely been in the situation where I have read books I KNOW I’ll likely not like, but they’re so hyped and popular I do feel a weird pull or obligation to pick it up. I’ve been trying to avoid this lately and focusing more on reading what I want to read (especially backlist books) even if it means I’m not reviewing the most “current” releases.