Book Hype: is it ever worth it?

It’s been a while since I’ve done a discussion post (read my previous discussion post ‘Reading, Blogging and Mental Health’ here) and there’s a topic that has been on my mind recently that I wanted to chat about: book hype in the book community. As someone that came back to reading only a couple of years ago, I was thrust into the bizarre world of Booktube and engaged in various online bookish communities. Prior to this, my reading consisted of searching the library and browsing bookstores and picking up whatever took my fancy. But in this digital world, I, like most readers, now take the majority of recommendations from online spaces. What I quickly noticed when I joined these online spaces is that certain books would suddenly erupt with popularity and gain traction because creators across all platforms would create content about the books. Books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, The Song of Achilles, The Poppy War, Six of Crows, Throne of Glass, A Little Life have all been subject to this hype (and still are) and almost every reader will have heard of them regardless of whether they have read them or not. But the question is, are these books ever truly worth the hype they receive and what impact does book hype have on readers?

The answer to that question is: yes and no. I’ve read a lot of books based on hype that I’ve enjoyed and others that were a colossal disappointment. Sometimes I dislike a hyped book precisely because it was hyped. When a book is widely popular and praised, it means that I go into that book with high expectations and therefore increasing the likelihood that it will fail to meet my expectations. Generally though, books that receive hype are hyped for a reason and have genuine merit. Inevitably, that doesn’t mean that they will suit everybody’s tastes because reading is subjective and a lot of the hype surrounding a book often stems from FOMO.

When we see others reading and talking about how incredible a book is, we want to become part of the conversation regardless of whether we like the book or not. Also, when a book explodes with popularity it’s fun to see the varying thoughts and opinions of a large audience of readers which we don’t necessarily get with other less popular books. It’s exciting to be part of the buzz in the community when a book is the talk of the town, but it also creates an unfortunate side effect in the community: echo chambers.

If multiple readers and creators are talking about the same books, those books continue to be recommended and reinforced in all bookish communities at the potential exclusion of other books. Since readers are increasingly likely to take recommendations from online spaces, this also means that the pool of books that people are reading is likely to become more narrow and discussions in the community less diverse.

Personally, I will always take recommendations from others in the community, because I value and trust their opinions and have found some of my favourite books of all time because of those recommendations. However, I do think it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of books that are continously promoted online are often hyped due to external factors (e.g. marketing, algorithms). From a creators POV, the bottom line is that content about popular books will always draw engagement across all platforms and this influences the books that many creators discuss on their platforms. This means that not every popular book is deserving of its hype, instead, certain books gain traction because content creators make content for those books to ensure their content is current and in-keeping with what is going on in the community.

Overall, book hype is like a double edged sword. On the one hand, it helps readers discover lots of new wonderful books and engages lots of readers into exciting discussions. But on the other hand, it creates echo chambers, limiting the breadth and diversity of books being read and recommended in the book community. As a reader and blogger, I’d like to make more of a conscious effort to reach for and explore books that are perhaps lesser known in the bookish world and broaden my horizons.

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

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