Saturday, July 7, 2012

Reading with No Expectations

First of all, why do I get ideas to write a post when I’m about to fall asleep and have nowhere to write? I wrote pretty much this whole post last night and now I only remember bits and pieces… GAH!

Second of all, I should be working instead of writing this. But if I do, I’d have forgotten even more of what I wanted to say. So… PROCRASTINATION ON! *whirring sound*

I’ve been reading a book recently called Wild Cards, an anthology edited by George R.R. Martin. The idea sounded interesting, with ordinary people gaining super powers. The editor is famous and supposedly a REALLY good writer. (Confession time – I have never read anything by Mr. Martin... Now I feel dirty...) Yes, I recognized the names of some of the authors in the anthology, such as George R.R. Martin, Roger Zelazny, so on and so forth. So it should have been an enjoyable experience, right?

Wrong! It wasn’t the book’s, the editor’s, or authors’ fault, but my own.

I’ve made a habit of not reading blurbs, reviews, plots, summaries, etc. so as to not let myself be biased by other’s opinions or even my own preconceptions of what the story will be like. I don’t need much to choose a book to read. Does it have magic? Fantasy? Spaceships? Lasers? Explosions? Monsters? Zombies? Then count me in!

But this time, I let myself get trapped by the things I saw, but didn’t truly see. I didn’t read blurbs or reviews, but I let myself get drawn by the names of the editor and authors and the allure of superpowers. So I went in expecting a superhero story. Full of flying, super villains, saving the day, getting the girl, you know. Superhero stuff. What I got instead was a human story – characters with failings, feelings, mistakes, and the darker side of human nature. There was flying, super human strength, time stopping and everything. But there was also alcoholism, murder, betrayal, weakness. The characters were human, and it caught me off-guard. I went in expecting something based on my own silly preconceptions and got the story as was written, not what I thought it was going to be.

And so I made the mistake of judging the book by its “cover”. I realized this halfway through, and it took me three quarters of it to shake the feeling and look back on the story to see it as it was meant to be seen. My experience with this book led me to wonder, how many other books have I made this mistake on – the books I didn’t like because they weren’t what I thought they were going to be. Don’t get me wrong, some I really haven’t liked. But maybe not every single one, if I had read them with no expectations.

So I ask you, has this ever happened to you? Did that book really suck, or were you let down by your own expectations?


  1. I am always afraid to read the "next hot book" for this very reason. By the time it is talked up, I am inevitably disappointed. I like George R.R. Martin, but I am not sure of him as an editor. I think his entire Song of Ice and Fire series suffers from a dearth of editing!

  2. My best ideas always occur to me right before bed too...I miss out on a lot of great posts because of that...or sleep because I pull myself out of bed to go write them before I forget them.

    As for your actual post topic, I do that a lot myself...and its always because of my own expectations. I like the idea of reading without them but sometimes it just doesn't seem possible, whether I like it or not I go in expecting something and then find myself disappointed if it doesn't match up. :/

  3. Expectations can seriously mess with the enjoyment of reading. I can't think of any good personal examples right now for one where I thought the book was about one thing and it wasn't and that ruined everything. However, I know that happened to some people with Something Strange and Deadly, because they heard it was about zombies and there are barely zombies. I am now prepared for when I read it. *armed*

    I know that I often dislike books more when I had high expectations. For example, I read Divergent recently, after all of the Insurgent hullabaloo and having been told it was the best dystopia EVAR. End result: I thought it was mediocre and definitely not worth the hype.

    Is this fair to the books? Eh. Maybe not, but that's part of what it is to be a reader.

  4. Shauna - That's why I was tempted to read Song of Ice and Fire, but managed to steer myself away from it. My thoughts on the subject weren't as clear as they are now, but I saw the trap (calling Admiral Ackbar) of the hype and evaded it.

    I will read it, but on my own terms. I will not let Sean Bean's awesomeness lure me. I won't! *determined*

    Ash - For me it's pretty much always when I'm away from anything writable. I end up having to rely on my memory, and that's justSQUIRREL! ;P

    That's why I try not to read summaries, reviews, comments or pretty much anything about it before I actually read the book. Kind of silly considering I'm writing reviews now. But what can I say, I'm weird like that. That, and many other ways. But let's not get into that now. :)

    Christina - It happened to me with World War Z. Good book after I was done, but I expected ZOMBIE WORLD WAR! Nope. A collection of stories recounted by said WWZ survivors. Totally mislead myself. Also, it was on audiobbok and the reader seems to have been conceived by a valium mom and a horse tranquilizer dad. Ugh.

    Not really fair to books, or authors for that matter. But you're right, it's part of reading. Hopefully, we get lucky and hit more than we miss. :)


You are going to put words in my box?! *squeezes you* Now I shall stalk YOUR blog!