Living Up To Bookish Expectations

Last week I wrote a post about a book that I really enjoyed and how I was glad that I hadn’t let previous negative experience reading this author’s work, prevent me from reading her follow up effort. The author shared the post on her Facebook page whereby I was called out by a fan for being crass for having expectations of this book and then not liking the book because it hadn’t lived up to my expectations. (Full disclosure: being called crass was a particularly effective way of riling me up. I am a lady thankyouverymuch.)

Aside from the fact that I was delighted to cause such a strong reaction in someone reading my words, it did get me thinking:

The idea that one should start reading a book without any expectations is insane.


OK fine, you probably don’t want to go into reading all books thinking they should all measure up to your idea of that one perfect book (which is obviously Pride & Prejudice right?), because then you’re going to be disappointed. Again and again and again. And then probably again.

But we all have some expectations of the books we read. They are not one size fits all expectations across the board. But you wouldn’t pick up a book to read in the first place if you had no expectations for it.

You might want it to make you laugh or cry. Maybe you’re in the mood to take a break from this world and spend some time at Hogwarts, in Middle Earth, or Panem. Maybe you want to read something comforting and familiar or you want to read something uplifting.

Maybe the book you’re reading is supposed to teach you something new or challenge a belief system. Maybe it’s supposed to inspire you or spark a discussion. Maybe everyone has been talking about this one book and you want to know what the fuss is about. Maybe it’s being turned into a movie and the movie trailer made you want to read the book.

All of these are expectations, good or bad. The idea that I’m not allowed to say that I was disappointed by a book because it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be is, again, insane. That’s not saying that an author is not a good writer or the story is garbage and no one should read it. I’m saying that I thought it was going to be a certain way and when it wasn’t, I was disappointed. That’s totally allowed.

There are times when a book wasn’t what I was expecting but it was so much better than what I was expecting. Outlander, The Fault in Our Stars, The Hunger Games, and anything by Maeve Binchy were all not what I expected (at all) but I still went in with expectations.

If you’re not going into reading with any expectations, I’m not sure you’re reading properly.

20 thoughts on “Living Up To Bookish Expectations

  1. I agree. I have expectations when I start a book. These arrive from jacket blurbs, reviews, suggestions. Why else would I select a book if I didn’t have some sort of expectation? If I order off a menu I have a reasonable assurance my tuna sandwich will not be a corned beef. I pick my books the same way–reasonable assurances I know or have an inkling of what I’m getting into. A long way of saying just keep on with your expectations.

  2. Wow, I can’t believe someone would even consider the word crass for that situation! I’m sure, as a fan, they have rather high expectations for that author’s work or at least get excited for it! I totally agree with you…unless you go into every book completely blind, it’s nearly impossible not to have some kind of expectations for a book.

    • I’m glad you’re with me on ‘crass’! I don’t see how you go into any book completely blind – maybe in school when you don’t have a choice and have to read the books as they are assigned. If you love an author, your expectations are going to be high and it sucks when you don’t feel like your expectations have been met. Obviously this is a real thing or so many people wouldn’t have lost their sh*t when JK Rowling dared to write The Casual Vacancy.

  3. I’m surprised anyone could have any objection to that post you wrote. You made a lot of people want to read that book. I totally agree with you about expectations, good or bad, realized or not. And, I think you should be able to give us your opinion, good or bad, without being called names. It’s good to see that you took the experience and turned it into a great post!
    P.S. I love Beaker.

    • That’s what I thought too! Practically all the feedback on the post was that they now wanted to read one or even both books! I just have just posted “it’s my blog, I can say what I want, too bad for you!”
      I think it goes without saying that Beaker is the best.

  4. Whether we like it or not, we all go into books with expectations. Remember, don’t judge a book by its cover? And we judge people based on how they look etc, etc, etc. It doesn’t make it right, but it is reality. And so long as our expectations aren’t set in stone, i think it’s ok. You can have expectations and still be open-minded (kind of).

    • Exactly. It might not be FAIR to have expectations, but they exist. It might take me a while but usually eventually I will break down and read/watch something that I was convinced I wouldn’t like. I think as long as we’re open to having our minds changed we’re probably good.

  5. That person was in denial. Try not having expectations about anything! It’s kinda human nature and it’s particularly the reason we pick up books at all, as you’ve stated above. That person probably just loved the author and all of her stuff and was too busy being stupidly offended.

  6. Well argued, Eva! I totally agree with you. It’s disappointing when a book doesn’t live up to your expectations, but it’s so great when the book is BETTER than what you expected. Life in general without expectations would be pretty uneventful.

    • The whole point of the original post was to wave a white flag and say I was wrong! I’m back onside! I will read more of her work! I think if you tell yourself you don’t have expectations of the books you read (or, as you say, anything in life) , you’re lying to yourself.

  7. I’m trying to write a response that doesn’t sound crass- because that is an appropriate use of that word. How do you not have an expectation when you start a book?

  8. Holy cow, I can’t believe that guy! What a brave gentleman to hide behind the anonymity of the internet … not! Did the author respond? If she shared you post, she must appreciate your honesty and that you didn’t let your first experience stop you from exploring her work. I completely agree that you can’t start a book without some kind of expectation of what you are about to read.

  9. He really used the word “crass”?! Like having zero expectations of a thing is the height of sophistication?

    How is it even possible to read a book without any expectations, short of picking up a book at random without ever looking at the title, cover, or synopsis.

  10. Pingback: The Woman Who Stole My Life | The Paperback Princess

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