February 5, 2014

Is Anticipation the New Gratification?

Brown background. Black and white drawing of a man with an umbrella. The card says "I can't wait for whatever season it isn't right now"
Source: Someecards

I’m slowly reading Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. I first heard of it last week after it won the Printz award, although so far I can’t tell what makes it Young Adult. It’s been an interesting experience. I hit the buy button without even reading the whole blurb, and proceeded to be thoroughly freaked out by the first few pages. The ambiance of the book is dark and filled with foreboding and dread. It’s a weird but oddly compelling and well done book, and I’m not surprised that it's getting praise and awards.

The reason why I’m telling you this is because everything about the book is surprising and makes me feel like I’m discovering something new and secret. The complete lack of expectations enriches the reading experience. It’s a feeling I haven’t had in a while, because ever since I started blogging, I’m hyper aware of new books, old books and, especially, of upcoming books.

December and January are all about the “Best of” lists, but there are also many posts highlighting anticipated and must-have future releases. If you’re easily distracted like me, then those lists feel like they are out to ensure your “To Be Read” pile never gets read. I mean, how am I supposed to read all these books I have right here when I’m so busy thinking about all the future books I want to read? And when you add social media, popular authors, and marketing to the mix, the new books become even more appealing.

But is the satisfaction we find in the public act of waiting replacing the satisfaction found in the private act of reading?

One of the most anticipated books of 2013 was Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh. Even if you don’t follow the series, I’m sure you were made aware of it by the constant hype. First, the author was secretive, going as far as to refuse to announce who the next main couple would be (although her refusal probably wasn't entirely hers). Then, the publisher made twitter parties to celebrate the releases of the cover and blurb. Characters took over twitter, and we wrote posts speculating about their identity. When people received early copies and posted spoilers, we were angry and outraged. The anticipation was so intense that we could almost feel the weight of the book in our hands. And then we got the book and to some it was everything they wanted, but to others, like me, it was anticlimactic and not up to this mythical book we had created in all those months of endless wait. Looking back at it, I realize that I enjoyed waiting for the book more than reading it, but it was an exhausting and slightly manipulative experience that I never want to repeat.

It’s funny because the reason why I created this blog was to share my experiences with others and to become an active member of the Romance community. But maybe we’re oversharing. Sometimes it feels like we’re too much into the hype game and we forget what we’re here for. I buy a lot of books, but I also review a lot of ARCs. I hate early reviews, but posting them on release day only guarantees that those who wish to read the book can do it, yet it still limits the conversation to those questions and ideas that can be discussed without having read the book first. In that regard, release-week reviews are no different than early reviews.

There’s also the question of to which degree the anticipation helps and /or hurts the books and the readers. Books can be victims of too many expectations, but is it possible that the hype can blind us to some of their faults? And is that one of the reasons why some publishers capitalize on our anticipation?

This is a continuation of the conversation we started a year ago, but I don’t feel as gracious as I did back then. Anticipation and excitement are not bad things, but there should be a balance, and perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at the reasons why we have become so invested in books that haven’t been published yet, and to examine how our shifting attention has changed the way we read and experience books.


  1. I agree with this so strongly. What I love about the online book community is that it adds a public dimension to the private act of reading--anticipation and discussion links private spaces together into a proto-public space, particularly insofar as the discussion spaces are themselves virtual.

    But I don't want to displace the private act of reading with a new reading culture that is all about the public, anticipation, and hype. And since so much of the anticipatory stuff seems fueled by promotional machines and commerce, I worry.

    Yet I do love reading the book that everyone seems to be reading and being able to talk about it with others. For so much of my reading life, it was just me in the corner with my book feeling weird. That reading could be communal is awesome!

    So it seems like a question of how to have both.

    1. Yes, I have issues when the hype is promoted by something other than genuine excitement, or when the promo machine takes advantage of the excitement. And it can get really loud, which gets annoying fast. It's about striking the right balance, although who decided what's the right balance? That's another issue.

  2. Since Liz's blog post, I've found it easier than I expected to step away from this and not get excited without a legitimate reason. (A legitimate reason being, I loved the last book by this author.) Of course, I don't have a blog readership to maintain, so that gives me more freedom to ignore. I've turned off RTs from authors, which cuts the hype down considerably, and remind myself that I'm just not into certain authors and genres right now and it's perfectly okay for me to ignore them.

    What most bothers me, actually, is that I think the relative ease of this comes from the fact that real discussions are fairly rare and usually planned. I'm giving up very little by ignoring most new books.

    1. "What most bothers me, actually, is that I think the relative ease of this comes from the fact that real discussions are fairly rare and usually planned. I'm giving up very little by ignoring most new books."

      Do you mean discussions about new books or discussions in general? Because discussions are funny unpredictable things. Even if it's an opinion post or a thoughtful review on a big blog, it's hard to tell when people will comment.

  3. What a great post! I have drastically reduced my exposure to hype lately, which has made me feel less negative about the genre. But I still feel pretty allergic to new books. At the same time, I feel I'm missing out on conversations because I haven't read whatever it is "everyone" is talking about.

    I agree with both you and Willaful about those conversations, though. "Everyone" reviewing the same book does not equal a conversation. People who have read and reviewed it often just comment "I loved it too!" on others' reviews or figure their review is their comment on the book--many people don't even read other reviews, especially before writing their own (I do! I'm curious). And everyone who hasn't read it by release day says "sounds great!" and seldom do they come back to comment/join in after reading, because the blogs have moved on. So "the newest" is often more a topic of squee than discussion. But what can actually provoke a great discussion is really unpredictable. I'm not sure we can do anything about that.

  4. I am benefitted by the timezone differences here because most of the hype happens when I'm asleep, for the US audience I think. So I miss most of it.

    I have anticipated books but they are usually because I've read the author before or it's a continuation of a series (eg Night Broken which I wanted to read as soon as I finished Frost Burned, and I see that Jo Beverley has a new Company of Rogues book out in April so that might tempt me back to reading historicals again). But I have so many books on my TBR that I have little time to anticipate books - I'm too busy reading the books I have now. Maybe I'm unusual in this.

    I also tend to forget blurbs etc so I often go in blind when I open a book or turn on the iPod to listen to an audiobook. It's all a surprise discovery for me when this happens - I have no expectations because I can't remember what the book's about other than that it will have an HEA if it knows what's good for it.

    Sometimes being oblivious is a good thing apparently! :D


Blogger likes to eat comments, so I suggest copying it before hitting "publish" just in case it doesn't go through the first time. This is a pain, I know, but it's the only solution/prevision I can think of, and it will save you the frustration of losing a comment. Also, thanks for visiting!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

FTC Disclaimer

The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.