Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Do High Expectations Lead To Disappointment?

I could do a whole post about this and how it applies to life, but since this is mostly a book blog, and I don't want to depress you with my "life theories", I'll stick to bookish relevance....You're welcome. ;)

We've all been there, waiting for that book that sounds so amazing. Eagerly reading reviews that are raving about said book. Everyone seems to be talking about it, and, at long last, we get our hands on it and begin to read; our expectations high enough to raise the roof.

Here's where we run into trouble. If we're lucky we love the book as much as we wanted to; as much as everyone else, but sometimes, lets face it, we're left wondering, what the hell?!

The question that's bouncing around my head is this: Is it those high expectations that are ruining the book for us? Had we gone into it with less feverish expectancy would we have enjoyed it more? And if so, does that mean we should be eternal pessimistic readers?

I've gone into plenty of books with high expectations that everyone said I'd love that I did, in fact, end up loving (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games) but it usually seems that if my expectations are too high I end up being disappointed.  However, I've also had absolutely NO expectation about a book and ended up hating it as well. So, DO our expectations effect our feelings about books?

What say you? And if it is high expectations ruining books for us how on earth do we lower those expectations without being a depressing pessimistic?


  1. Good question! I have no idea what the answer is! I don't usually have high expectations, and I don't feel like a pessimist book-wise... but I don't know what I do differently. I just expect to be happily entertained by a book, which is what usually happens. But I do understand that expecting more out of a book than what you feel it delivers can ruin your idea of that book for sure.

  2. I am the worst possible kind of pessimist on the plants. Whenever I come across a book that gets what seems like only glowing reviews, I jump on goodreads or amazon and I scope out the one star ratings. Just to lower my expectations a little so I don't end up being that one lonely person who hates a book everyone else loves. I don't know when I got so critical. Maybe it's my age showing. Then again, when a book you expect to be crappy turns out not to be, it's a good surprise.

  3. After reading about ten or more 5 star reviews of a book...I'll admit...my expectations tend to get raised quite a bit. I try to stay neutral going into reading though and try to tell myself that I'm probably not going to enjoy it as much as I think I will. I find this sometimes works to lower my expectations a bit, but there are still those moments where I can't help but feel let down. That's why I love reading bad reviews about books, especially ones that seem to be popular. If I have a good idea of what people hated about the book going in I find I'm not as nit picky myself. I also tend to wait about a month after a book comes out before I buy it (if its one I'm actually interested in buying) because I find the star ratings often drop drastically. A lot of the ARC reviewers give books that actually deserve 3 stars (at least in my opinion) 5 stars because of the whole pressure to make the publisher happy since you got a free book syndrome, which is something I try to avoid myself in my reviews. Did that make any sense at all? Great discussion topic though!

  4. Great question. I think in some cases, those expectations do put us in danger of hating a book. But, I also think that it could be the book itself, our mood at the time, our stage in life, and many other factors. So, I wouldn't blame it completely on expectations because like you said, there are some books you had no expectations about and still hated it. But, it is a contributing factor, I'm sure of it.

  5. That is a really good question. If I read one good review from a book blogger or friend that I trust I will pick the book up but I try to avoid reading any other reviews until I have read the book. I try to avoid having anyone else's opinions affect my own.

    Heck sometimes I even avoid reading the back cover because I want to discover things for myself. Maybe that is why I enjoy so many of the books I read.

  6. I check out the synopsis of a lot of books when the buzz begins. If I like what I see, I add it. Usually all the hype ever does for me is make me want to read a book MORE than I already did. And if it's a book I didn't want to read, I get more irritated with it being splattered all over the blogosphere.

    I can't help but recall that part on TBBT where Sheldon freaks out when Stuart tells him a comic is mind blowing... "You told me it's mind blowing, so my mind is going into it pre-blown. Once a mind is pre-blown, it cannot be re-blown."

  7. Suey, I am a bit, just a bit, pessimistic, so how I let my expectations get so high in the first place I'll never know. I wish I could be as amiable a reader as you. Seriously.

    Lan, I love when a book I think is going to be stupid surprises me too! Is it an age thing? Cause I've always been pessimistic. ;)

    Natalie, Yep, it made sense. I try to lower my expectations because I know I let them get to high and that it ruins books for me but, apparently, I'm not so good at it.

    Jenni, Exactly! And I'm definitely in a mood lately. ;)

    Ang, I should start doing what you do or just stop reading popular books. ;)

    Jessica, LOL! I love Sheldon! I definitely feel like those are words of wisdom. Maybe I should stop listening to the hype before I read a book.

  8. I try to go into reading a book with neutral feelings towards it but sometimes that can be pretty hard! When I hear people raving all over the blogosphere about how great a book is it does raise my expectations a bit. Then sometimes I find myself avoiding that book because I don't want to be disappointed! Although I'm pretty sure that isn't the best way to deal with the situation :)

  9. Short response? Yes. When my expectations are too high, I am easily disappointed (this is also true in life, but as you say, that is a whole 'nother post :) I've definitely learned not to let a bunch of rave reviews influence me too much, but when certain bloggers say certain things (and, ok, starred reviews from professional magazines) I then start to think positively. But not every book is the opposite of what I expect. I'm just saying for some books with huge hype, I might be disappointed.

    I'm pretty sure I don't have the answer to keeping expectations from being too high vs. being pessimistic toward everything. Do let me know when you figure it out!

  10. Absolutely. I try to go in with no expectations, despite the reviews. In fact, the books I thought I wouldn't like are the ones I sometimes end up loving the most like Divergent and The Hunger Games. Whereas books I expected to love (Possess, Shatter Me) actually ended up being fairly mediocre. Maybe if I'd gone in expecting less I would've rated them higher.

    The Cait Files

  11. Chrissie, It's very hard! I try every time not to let those expectations go high but it's soooo hard!

    Melissa, I don't have the answer either. I try and try not to let my expectations high, I'll avoid reviews but just from word of mouth I hear all these great things and then my expectations shoot up. Sigh.

    Cait, I'm thinking I really need to master this neutral thing. I just don't know how!

  12. My level of pessimism when reading a bit is often proportionate to the amount of hype around it. If everyone and their mother is fawning over it, I know to be a little cautious in my pre-reading excitement.

    Most of the bloggers I follow have similar tastes in reading similar to my own; I know that if so-and-so didn't like the book, I probably won't either.

    Mostly, though, I'm happiest when I find a book I think is interesting that I have not seen a review of. That way I go in with no expectations, and can feel about the book however I darn well please! :)

    Pessimism definitely affects my book-buying decisions. I'm on a tight budget, so I don't buy a book unless I know I'll love it. Instead I make use of the nearby libraries (one in my county and the other in the next county over, which is larger) to find most of what I read. That way if I end up not liking something, all I spent was a few bucks on gas.

  13. couchpotatocritic, I tend to go into books with a lot of hype very skeptically yet hoping I like them. I should just give into the pessimism. ;)