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.

Reading, Blogging and Mental Health

Today’s post is a little different from my usual content and is a discussion post around the topic of mental health and how this impacts reading and blogging. I’ll be sharing my personal experiences of mental health and how this has impacted my reading, particularly over the last couple of months. If any of you are also struggling with mental health, know that you’re not alone and you can reach out to me any time. There will also be resources at the end of the post for more mental health information and support ❤️

I, like so many others around the world, have felt the impact of COVID-19. It wasn’t until recently that I recognised how much my mental health has taken a hit because of this second lockdown (which is finally coming to an end, hooray!). Ironically, the thing that helped me to recognise my poor mental health was my reading habits. Usually, I read every day, even if it’s only for half an hour and I average about 7 books a month. This month I’ve read only three books and have gone days and days on end without even picking up a book. This complete lack of motivation and ability to read really highlighted how much of a negative space I was in mentally and emotionally.

During the first lockdown last year, reading was my saviour. It gave me something to focus on and was a means of escapism; it’s what I turned to when I was feeling anxious or lonely. But recently, I’ve found the opposite happening and my low mood and poor mental health has turned me away from books. As much as I’ve wanted to read, whenever I’ve picked up a book I haven’t been able to focus and find myself reading the same lines over and over again but not comprehending or retaining anything I’ve read.

Because I consider myself a proud reader and books have become such a huge part of my life, I’ve constantly berated myself for my inability to read and my lack of inspiration or creativity to create content. But over the last week or so something clicked in my brain and every time I’d put myself down about not reading, I reminded myself that I’m not obligated to read and that I’m not failing as a reader or a book blogger by not reading every day. My mantra and belief is that reading is and should always be primarily about enjoyment. But unfortunately, I found that I’d fallen into the trap that so many other content creators do of feeling an obligation to always be reading and creating and hitting certain numbers.

Other bloggers and content creators have spoken openly about mental health and the impact it has on us as readers and creators, and I appreciate that so much because we need this type of transparency. We’re not machines, we’re human beings. Most of bloggers, like myself, create content for free in their spare time in addition to juggling other responsibilities like work, studying and caring for a family. It can be tough and we shouldn’t feel pressure or feel like a failure for taking a break or focusing on other areas of our lives.

The main purpose of this post is to say to all of my fellow book bloggers: I see you and you’re not alone. If you’re struggling with your mental health and are unable to read or create content for any reason, that is perfectly okay and you are still a valuable and loved part of the book community. Take some time for yourself and remember that sometimes when our mental health is low, reading and blogging becomes an impossible chore. Every single one of us has mental health just like we have physical health and it fluctuates and has its ups and downs. The most important thing is to take time to re-center at those times when our mental health is low and not put pressure on ourselves to read and/or create content. To get the most out of reading and blogging, we need to feel strong and healthy both mentally and emotionally.

I’m working towards improving my mental health with meditation, journaling and socialisation, and gradually I’m feeling the benefits. I’m already starting to want to read more and I’m feeling better in myself. But an important part of this process for me was letting go of reading for a while and understanding that although reading helped my mental health in the past, on this occassion it didn’t and that’s okay. Books will always be there for me to come back to but sometimes prioritising myself and other parts of my life is necessary.

I hope you are all safe and well ❤️

If you would like any more information about mental health support please check out these websites (UK):

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.