Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Resistant Reading

I am one of those people who has a hard time doing something if I’ve heard too many things about it. Instead of rushing out to read The Girl with the Pearl Earring, for example, because everyone was raving about it, I took five years from its publication to finally read it. And I did love it too. It’s hard, though; if everyone loves something your expectations become awfully high and it becomes difficult to meet those expectations.

The same holds true for movies. I’ll admit I’m not much of a moviegoer anyway, but if I hear over and over that I must see a move it’s likely I will never see that movie. Is it a stubborn streak? Maybe, but I think it’s mostly fear. Fear that I won’t love it as much or that my expectations are too high.

A prime example of this in the book world is a book I’m resisting right now, Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve owned the book for more than six months and I really do want to read it, but I think I’m afraid. What if it doesn’t meet my expectations, what if I don’t love it as much as everyone else? When you hear so much about a book it starts to take out some of the surprise and joy of the book, at least for me.

What about you? Is there a book out there that you’ve heard so much about, that everyone keeps telling you to read, but you just haven’t been able to get yourself to read yet?

Let’s make a pact. Let’s all read those books next. Put them on our list, and when I’m done with Eat, Pray, Love I’ll do a post on whether or not the hype ruined it for me and you can all talk about how the hype effected that book you’ve been resisting.



Rissromance: said...

This is my first comment for your blog, and straight up, I want you to know I'm SO hooked! Love it!

I know exactly what you mean. Not so much in books, as I'm hard to impress when it comes to my fave type of romance, but definitely have the 'high expectation' problem with movies.

I actually find I enjoy movies so much better when I go into the showing thinking, 'this is probably going to be dumb'. Like when I was given free tickets to see Transformers. I thought for sure it would be a flop. Guess what? I thought it was great.

Okay, so maybe it was my surprise doing a lot of the talking, but, hey, I enjoyed the movie.

Marissa Agar

Anonymous said...

I resisted reading Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon for a long time, mostly because everyone talked about how unique the take on dragons was, and I was afraid that I wouldn't find it unique at all. But I just read it a week or two ago, finally, after reading a review about the book. The review mentioned other things besides the dragons, and that was why I finally took the bait. The hype about the book had been based around the dragons, but once I found another element that wasn't hyped, I was more interested in reading.

Loren Eaton said...

I try to resist most everything until it's been out a while. But that's usually because I'm irrevocably cheap.

Julie Weathers said...

George R.R. Martin. I kept resisting his books and just started reading GAME OF THRONES. It is so fantastic I just kept wishing I could be like him.

My writing, fortunately or unfortunately, is still firmly Juliesque, but I do think I might be growing a mustache. Going to work on my wish a bit.

Marina said...

I can SO relate to this, Jessica. I do this constantly, then later beat myself up for not being on "top of" the latest novels. The more I hear about it (whatever the latest IT may be), and the more popular it is--the less I'm interested.

Which books? How about every single one that's popular? I still haven't read Eat, Pray, Love; Twilight; Time Traverler's Wife; okay... even The Nanny Diaries.

I think this affliction could be because you are independent, probably more so than most people. I'm starting to conclude that this must be the reason I do this as well. I love to explore and find my own books to read, thankuverramuch. Even kind-hearted recommendations bug me. It must go back to childhood. That's my excuse, anyway.

Anonymous said...

this is a great topic, but do yourself a favor and continue to resist eat, pray, love. unless you have time to waste or enjoy self-indulgent, plotless "stories" and mediocre writing you will be totally disappointed.

sorry, not usually a hater, hence the anon post!

Anonymous said...

I resisted The Shack, and ended up buying three copies and giving them away.

Mark Terry said...

I think high expectations can be a real problem for actually enjoying things. I was thinking about this as I skimmed through today's issue of Shelf Awareness, when one of the books they were advertising had a blurb that went something like:

"...a stunning, moving novel that is an instant masterpiece..."

Or, you know, words to that effect. And my brain sort of automatically turned off and I thought, "Yeah right, a book is just a book. Gimme a break."

It may be good, it may be great, and even on rare occasions a book can change your life, but for those of us who read 50 to 70 books a year, most of them are just, well, books.

Angie Fox said...

I'm that way right now with Lover Enshrined by JR Ward. I've heard so many great things about it on my paranormal readers loops that I just can't start it. It's like I feel like I have to set aside a weekend to enjoy it and that's just not going to happen. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Invested in books as we are -- professionally, as writers, agents, editors, what-have-you, and simply as avid readers -- it's hard to surrender the idea that all books must be satisfying (or better). When there are so many good books to be read, the idea that you might "waste" hours reading a BAD one is kind of off-putting.

Which may be the reason we tend to read, repeatedly, in our comfort zones: favorite genres, favorite authors, favorite series. I've long had this theory that we're all snobs about something -- to the extent that we resist even sampling alternatives. We "know" what we like.

For someone in the business of books, it's got to be particularly tricky to read something recommended by a lot of people. There's a weight of expectations: if you hate it, or just go ho-hum, well then Mr. or Ms. So-Called Expert, perhaps your judgment isn't so astute after all, hmm?

Personally, I've resisted Prince of Tides -- but this was because I actually tried it and, well, flat-out didn't care for it. So many people are so nuts about it that I question my own judgment, y'know? (Not entirely a bad thing.)

Unknown said...

Harry Potter. Love the movies. Haven't read the books. And EVERYONE loves them. So what's stopping me?

Anonymous said...

I resist the most popular because I hate when a book has a great hook but doesn't deliver. Examples: "The Memory Keeper's Daughter," "The Notebook," Both had great potential but lousy, disappointing executions.

Vicki said...

angie fox - LEn is just as fab as everyone says, however, there is tons of info in this book. IMVHO, JR is setting up for the next however many books she'll have. That said, it's still a great book, but one you may want to read more than once not miss anything. Lot's of ? revealed and new ?'s to wait on.

As far as waiting to read books that everyone raves about, yep, I do. Other than a few authors, I'll buy them right away (I want the authors to have the sale) but they'll go into the TBR pile. More often than not, when I do read the book or see the movie, I'm in agreement with everyone else. But still...there's just that little nagging what if.

Anonymous said...

The Lord of the Rings & Hobbit books. I was in college back in the sixties (dating myself). The brother of one of my friends was a fanatic on the books. Had Middle Earth posters in his room, a t-shirt that proclaimed 'Frodo Lives',etc. I made the mistake of asking about the posters and t-shirt and he launched into a detailed review. Suffice to say he was a fanboy par excellance. I enjoyed sci-fi, burroughs, and R.E. Howard's Conan books but this fairy stuff and his slavering enthusiasm turned me off. Another friend a year or so later who wasn't into reading, period, raved about the books and lent them to me during the summer break. Didn't go home that summer but stayed for summer school. Things were slow so I took up the first book and the rest was history. But, yeah, I resisted reading them because of that first over the top enthusiasm of the brother who, I must admit, I labeled as a super geek. Actually, he was, and that probably colored my initial resistence to picking up the Tolkien books. I still re-read them roughly every five years. I have the movies as well and when I need some escape I fire them up.

Natalie Whipple said...

I'm the same way. I do eventually break down on some of them though. They get so much attention that I finally just have to read them so I can join in and have my opinion. Heh.

Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter, Twilight, are the big ones I can think of that took me at least two years to pick up.

Didn't jump on the HP wagon until book 4 was out. Didn't read Twilight until 3 was out.

Good thing about those series is that I had plenty to read once I finally did break down.

Anonymous said...

Back in the day, I used to ride the NYC subways to work. You could always tell when a book was a hit -- you would see everyone reading it. If everyone was reading, I figured it would be mediocre/mass appeal. I resisted The Godfather for years because of this. When I finally picked it up, I read through the night, because it was so fabulous.
I came away from that experience thinking that if a book was so popular (and of course, this was before Oprah and other forms of hype), it had to have something to hit with so many people.
Now, of course, you can't tell if that "something" is manufactured or real, and waiting a while might be the way to go.

Anonymous said...

I didn't read Harry Potter until my Literary Criticism professor in college looked at our class, (we were in the middle of something high-brow like Proust) and said, "Have any of you read Harry Potter?" This was about the time the fourth book was being released.

We looked around at each other like, "Did our professor really just suggest that we all go out and read a kid's book?"

Then he said, "If you want an excellent example of great characterization, go read Harry Potter."

I went out that night and bought the first four books. It was the straw that broke the camel's back I guess. I read them straight through in one weekend because I could not stop reading, then I went into withdrawals and I had to read them again.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever bought a book and then put it away because I didn't want to read it....that would be waste of money....I don't pay attention to hype and just read what I want to....that being said, I thought DaVinci code was ok...but loved, Angels and Demons so much more....right now I can't wait to get my hands on Kennyons Acheron and Breaking Dawn

Anonymous said...

I'm actively resisting reading Harry Potter, even though all of my sisters and my husband love it and I enjoy the movies (AND we own like 4-6 of the books already AND my sister has the ones I don't, so it's not even the whole money issue).

I'm less actively resisting reading the Twilight series, which probably has more to do with the fact that I'm in denial about liking fantasy. Though the teen fangirls don't help.

I'm passionate about resisting the movie Titanic. I have never and will never see it. I don't care. It came out when I was a freshman in high school and my classmates' slavering (perfect word, Anon 9:31!) over the movie was enough to convince me that it wasn't worth my while then and isn't now.

SapphireSavvy said...

I didn't read "Chocolat" for the longest time, but when I did, I was so glad I took the time. It's one of my faves now.

My current issue is with Jodi Poucoult's "My Sister's Keeper." Everyone's talking about it. I've never read her work--it's not really up my alley--but now I am curious and yet uncertain.

I like your blog--very cute and clever!

Kate Douglas said...

EVERYONE told me I had to read Cold Mountain. Well, I did, and I absolutely hated it. The ending left me miserable and upset for a week, and I still get angry thinking about the book. (Can you tell I really, REALLY hate a book that doesn't end well?) On the other hand, I sat here with three of JR Ward's Dark Brotherhood series on my desk for months...when I finally broke down and read the first one, I ended up buying the others that were out and did nothing but read her series in five days straight. I think my husband was dying for a decent meal by the time I finished. I've got my own set of rules--if Oprah says it's good, I probably won't read the book. I'm just not wired to enjoy something with too much reality and angst. What I read for is pure escapism, not a heavy dose of misery and reality.

And Angie, Lover Enshrined is excellent, if you're into Ward's series. It works beautifully.

Elyssa Papa said...

Jessica, I've had that same book sitting on my shelf since it was an Oprah book club and have still not read it. Everyone's raved about it, but I still haven't read it. Same with The Kite Runner.

I didn't read the Twilight series for a long time, but when I did--I devoured them and am now an addict with those books.

Anonymous said...

Harry Potter. I've heard so much hype about it but have never read the books or seen the movies.

Robena Grant said...

I bought Flip the Switch, (a self-help book on fueling your metabolism) by Robert K. Cooper when it first came out in '05. A couple of days ago I picked it of my shelf.

I'm sure I barely glanced at the pages when I bought it as I remember nothing about it and it is in perfect condition.

Now back to full activity after knee surgery and needing a boost, the subject matter and the timing collided and suddenly this is THE book for me.

Karen Duvall said...

Okay, Jessica, you twisted my arm. I'll read Twilight by Stephanie Myers. Sigh. 8^) Seriously, though, I've read an excerpt and was really hooked.

Another I haven't read but hear so much hype about is JR Ward's vampire series, brotherhood something or other. I'm not a big vampire fan and I tried reading one of Christine Feehan's books and it was so boring that I'm scared to death to try Ward's. Someone please tell me they're different? Please? I want to read Ward's books!

Melanie Hooyenga said...

I have no desire to read Harry Potter, but I've seen maybe two of the movies (only because they were on tv).

I'm reading The Geographer's Library now and it has a quote on the back saying it's a "real reader's book," which turned me off but I picked it up anyway. I wish I'd left it on my mother's shelf.

I resisted Eat, Pray, Love, even though it was given to me as a gift. When I finally gave in it became my favorite book. Someone here listed why they didn't like it, but for me, it came at a time when I need some guidance. It's all in how you take it, I suppose.

Vicki said...


I'm not a huge Vampire reader either and I love the WARDen's books. Bored you will not be, that's for sure. You may you want to re-read them in case you missed something, but never bored. And you have the joy of reading all of them together. Having to wait for the next one is hard.

IMVHO, she is an amazing writer and if you check out her website you will quickly learn she knows these characters as if they are real life breathing people. (Sometimes you think they just might be).

I know there are some who do like the books and feel she hh's a bit, but for me, they move very fast and I love them.

Anonymous said...

Jessica, I can so relate to this. Thing is, my reason for hating it when a book gets raved about is an overdevoted fan base. Case in point: Joyce fans. I don't want to hear about ANY author as the Second Coming of Jesus(actually, given that Joyce didn't care for religion, that's kind of amusing). It's very similar to what people so often feel about music: there's something you're suspicious of about a band already- something in their sound- and then something in the people who listen to it really turns you off. Another of the main reasons I object to certain fan bases is the reason they get SO into that author. For Joyce, it can be pretension, elitism, and a keeping up with the Jones' of the literary world(wouldn't want anyone to know you dislike X). Somerset Maugham has a pithy quote about my feelings on this. OF HUMAN BONDAGE- "'Of course you speak Greek like a scholar; I speak it like a poet.' 'And is it so much more poetic when you don't quite know what it means?'"
Other fans that get to me are Jane Austen fans- who unfortunately have been steadily reducing her to modern chick lit when one of her greatest contributions to literature was a book about how to be alone- Mansfield Park. Also, I think they often think of her as a "happy endings" author- tasty, romantic obstacles, but in the end the girl gets the moneyed, respected, dashing gentleman. The best thing about Austen- when reading her oeuvre in entirety- was that she was quite against that idea.
I am finally reconciling myself with Joyce, as I feel that if I am going to hate the idea of something so much, I should probably take the time to read it. As for Austen, that's actually a harder question because I haven't been suspicious as long. I really don't want to read some of the works I haven't touched and find that- lo!- it really is a cheesetastic everyone-wins-in-the-end story. I mean, I know Victorians were big on moralistic and sensational fiction, but in that case give me Dickens- then at least tragedy is as great an option as triumph.
Last, suspecting books because of their fans isn't quite like suspecting music because of its fans- one doesn't sit around reading the same books and communing in the experience in the same way people participate in music together. So, less of a problem. Namely, I don't have to sit around with a bunch of Joyceheads when I finally flog myself through Ulysses. I'm free to love or hate it very far away from any of them, thank you very much.
Gracias para leyendo mi libro largo; adios!


Lauren said...

I finally got around to reading Twilight, but now I wish I had resisted it for much longer. Say, the rest of my life. It just wasn't compelling to me, and I disliked the style-less writing style. I read tons of YA, and that's one of the few YA novels I think I'd really have to be 15 years younger to enjoy.

I find that a lot of the hyped books are the ones that habitual non-readers pass around. Eat Pray Love is super popular among some of my work friends who aren't usually readers. They've all recommended it to me -- of course they've recommended it to me. It's the only book they've read since Christmas, so what else are they gonna recommend? I take those recommendations with a grain of salt. I've got plenty else on the TBR pile right now.

Books that are hyped by voracious readers? Hand 'em over, please! I'm all over anything my bookworm mom pleads for me to read.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I do this all the time. Took me years to read Harry Potter, only recently read Twilight...but I've held out on a lot of adult fiction, which I tend to vastly prefer over YA, for much longer. Thus, I have a huge backlist. Some of it is due to there not being enough time to read everything I want, but if someone really hypes something, I feel the same fear you do. I only recently read Snow Crash six years after an ex who wouldn't shut up about it, and the time allowed me to get the distance from it that I needed to really appreciate it.

Liana Brooks said...

I've resisted most the classics. I resist all mainstream literature. I've resisted most of the romance section, all of Harry Potter, and generally anything that gets a buzz.

It's not that I'm afraid of high expectations, it's that I know my tastes aren't the same as mainstream America. The books I love best are usually niche books. They're a little off-beat. The authors are known but not household names. The characters are quirky but will never have their own television show.

If the back of the book and the first page aren't enough for me to go home and read the book *now* it's probably not going to get read until I'm stuck in traffic and realize someone else left the book in my car. When desperate, I'll read anything. But I don't think that's the kind of review an author wants. :o)

Lorra said...

Like you, Jessica, I was late in reading what it seemed everyone was raving about a few years back, namely "The DaVinci Code." Finally, because of all the hype, I did.

My thought when I finished: "Huh?"

So now my motto is: once burned, twice shy. I haven't read a lot of the must-reads and I believe I'm enjoying my reading more than ever.

Christine Carey said...

I've been putting off reading "Twilight". I've heard it's amazing from so many different people, and I really enjoyed "The Host," but "Twilight" the movie is in the making, so I need to read it before that comes out.

Di Francis said...

Yeah, I have several of those. Jonathon Strange is one, and Vellum is another. I have had them awhile and I keep looking at them, and then not reading them.

Gail Dayton said...

I tend to put off reading books that people hype when the reasons they hype them are things I don't particularly like in books. I don't like tragedy, so I've never read a Nicholas Sparks book. I bought and read THE HOST, because the premise intrigued me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Now, I'm debating whether I want to try TWILIGHT. I'm not a big vampire fan (tho, like others, I enjoy the JR Ward books--didn't think the latest was so hot, but it was readable), so that's a big reason I'm resistant. I have a few books on my shelf I'm delaying the reading of, although I have earlier books in the series, because the books tend to be intense and I need a bit more of a break between them.

I don't pay a lot of attention to major media hype, because most of it is about books I don't usually like to read. I didn't hear about Harry Potter until book 3 had been released. I just heard about the TWILIGHT books when THE HOST was released. So maybe I'm just oblivious...

So, yeah, I resist things that get a lot of hype--but only if the hype tells me it's something I probably won't like. Well, and being oblivious to the hype has a lot to do with it too. What's Eat, Pray, Love about again???

Anonymous said...

Ha, I am right there with you ... and Eat, Pray, Love is at the top of my own list as well. (Also Seven Types of Ambiguity, which didn't have as much hype but is "supposed to be excellent.")

For me, it's 30% the expectations issue you mentioned, and 70% my contrarian nature. I like to forge my own path, and sometimes the more people tell me I should do something, the more I want to go the other way!

Spy Scribbler said...

Eat, Pray, Love is at the top of my list, too! And it took me forever to read Phillipa Gregory.

I went to see the Dark Night last night. I loved it, but it disappointed because of the hype. I expected too much.

And how sad is it to be disappointed at something you loved and enjoyed?

Anonymous said...

OK. I am going to get that book today and read it today. I was influenced by a friend who said she hated it, and didn't want to read it and find out I loved it.

I have another question on the used of marks for dialogue. The last four books I have read (Tim Winton, Debra Adelaide, Hanif Kureishi, Cormac McCarthy) had plenty of dialogue but no marks. Is this a trend or just a coincidence? All these books could be described as literary fiction, but usually what happens in one sphere flows thru into another.

Aimlesswriter said...

Ditto on Eat, Pray, Love. I'm afraid it won't live up to the raves. My writer's group is talking about this, my friends, work buddies...could it really be that good? I read a this really going to be any different from the other stuff?
I'll probably read it, but later.

PS-You were right about Karin Slaughter.You mentioned her so I picked up one of her books- OMG! What a writer!

Anonymous said...

I'm just like that, but I have to say - Eat Pray Love was fantastic. Yes, I liked the Eat part better than the Pray part better than the Love part, but she is one of the most charismatic, engaging writers I've ever read.

Anonymous said...

I'm the same way! The fourth Harry Potter book was slated to come out by the time I picked up the first one.

Recently I've been avoiding C. E. Murphy's The Queen's Bastard. I LOVE Catie's books, and when I bought it I told myself I would use the book as my reward; I wouldn't read it until I completely finished the current manuscript.

That manuscript's been on submission for a month now and I've read maybe the first page. I KNOW I'm just afraid I won't like it because it's so different from her other stuff, and also because of other things I've heard about what happens and because Elizabethan-era fantasy seems to be trendy right now, but I love her writing so I should just do it. :)

(cool - my confirmation has a real word in it! apple, a five-letter word no less.)

Anonymous said...

For anyone who has seen a Harry Potter movie, but not read the books, most movies aren't as good as the books, but the Harry Potter movies don't even begin to compare. They are entertaining and beautiful, but not nearly as intricate or involved as the books.

Cari said...

Currently resisting: EAT, PRAY, LOVE, THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER and the two Khaled Hosseini books. I just haven't been drawn to them. I lead a Ladies' Night Book Club (I'm a librarian) and we're doing MEMORY for next month, so I guess I'm going to be stuck with it. One book/movie I resisted was ATONEMENT, and I ended up loving it, so forcing ourselves can't be all bad.

Anonymous said...

Jurassic Park - and the books related to it.

Those are the only Michael Crichton books I've never read, and honestly, probably won't ever read. Odd, really, since I own every book he's ever published (including the JP stories) and I love all of them. Read numerous times and will read again.

Mariah Lowe

Sylvia said...

I couldn't finish Eat, Pray, Love. The self-absorbed voice of the author grated from the beginning and as I went on I found myself disliking her more and more. In the end, I just gave up.

But apparently that's just me. :)

I enjoyed Twilight in a fun-and-fast-romance sort of way. The series makes for easy reading - what I call flight fodder for killing time sitting on a plane. I didn't know about all the hype which probably helped: I didn't expect a lot and so I wasn't disappointed.

I've not read the Girl with the Pearl Earring, I'll have to take a look. And it'll be interesting to see what you think of Eat, Pray, Love once you have read it.