On bad dogs and vampires: or, how hype influences your reading life

by DaniGirl on January 7, 2009 · 14 comments

in Books

How does hype affect how you approach a book? The last two books I’ve read have been ridiculously overexposed and analyzed half to death in the last month or so, probably not coincidentally because they were both made into movies that were released in December.

Just before Christmas, I read most of John Grogan’s Marley and Me, the sweet story of one family’s life with the world’s worst dog. My dad gave it to me, after a friend loaned it to him. He has personal experience with the world’s worst dog, which is really a post for another day, but let me say this: at least Marley never ate anybody’s dentures. Twice.

Anyway, the book: I read it, but I didn’t get sucked into it. It took me more than six weeks to get through it, because I kept picking it up and putting it down again. I felt like I had to read it, partly because my dad had given it to me and my dad has never recommended a book to me before, but partly because it’s a story about a big yeller dog and my heart has endless space in it for big yeller dogs, especially ones with a mischievous streak.

I laughed out loud a few times, especially in the parts that brought me back to the days of wrangling my own impossibly stubborn golden-shepherd mix pest (who, by the way, turned into the world’s best doggie), but I didn’t cry once. That may have been, though, because I saw where the book was going about two chapters from the end and decided to bail. When you have a 10 year old dog that you love beyond words in your life, you don’t need to read about the demise of other people’s dogs no matter what kind of happy ending they try to wrap it up in. In the end, it was a nice book and I enjoyed the stories, but I really didn’t see why everybody was so gaga over it. It just didn’t catch me, yanno?

By contrast, I have been righteously hooked by Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga. Oh my good lord, how I am hooked. I can barely stand to take these rare minutes of calm quiet nap time to write this out, when I could be reading to find out what happens next to Bella and Edward and the rest of them. I’m halfway through the third book now, and after racing through the books to this point, I find I’m trying to slow down, knowing there’s only one book after this one and then I’ll be done. Whatever will I do then?

I’d asked for the books for Christmas, after waiting nearly two months to move from 600th to 350th in the public library queue for the first book alone. I wasn’t even sure, to be honest, that I’d like the books, but I’d heard enough from those whose taste I truly admire to think that maybe I’d enjoy them. Besides, even if they were a little too teeny-bopper sacchariney, as I feared they might be, I’ve always been a fan of a good vampire tale. Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned are still among my favourite books of all time.

Now that I think of it, I think I’ll post my review of the Twilight books under a separate post. This one is long enough, methinks! But for now, I’m curious about the “Oprah effect” and how it affects your enjoyment of a book. I think I would have enjoyed Marley and Me a little bit more if I’d just stumbled randomly upon it, rather than having it saturated through popular culture. And yet, although the hype about the Twilight books is no less ubiquitous, I’m completely and utterly drawn in. I can’t even say that they’re more finely crafted. I expected to enjoy them, but I didn’t expect to want to put my life on hold until I finished them!

What do you think? Do you find that the “Oprah’s Book Club” stamp on a book is the thing that draws you in, or (like me) the thing that makes you say, “No thanks.” Do reviews and the recommendations of friends enhance or take away from your enjoyment of a book?


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 J. January 7, 2009 at 8:43 am

I don’t think that the ‘hype’ would influence me to pick up a certain book. I wanted and read Marley and Me because I love dogs. I really enjoyed the book, and I did have to put it down at somepoint because I was going to cry. It’s a nice story.

2 Wendy January 7, 2009 at 9:02 am

I am currently hooked on the Twilight series. Hook, line and sinker. I started reading them after the movie came out, and I soon enough realized what all the hype was about. I read the first three books, then found time to see the movie. That made me love the series even more, and it made me really love the fourth book even more, which I am halfway through. Have you seen the movie yet? I think in the case of Twilight, I wouldn’t have otherwise read the books if it hadn’t been for the hype and the movie. And I was skeptical about how good they would be. But now I’m in and I’m not leaving the Twilight world anytime soon! 🙂

3 suze January 7, 2009 at 9:36 am

I was talking to my co-Twilight obsessed friend again last night about our mutual obsession. I don’t understand why I like them so much — it’s not that they’re particularly well written, I guess it must be the story. I picked up the first one to tease a 13 year old that was reading it last June and I went out the next day to buy them.

I’ve tried the Oprah books, but found most of them too depressing (with the exception of ‘where the heart is’). I find that most books that come recommended fit into two categories. I either really like them or I don’t even get through them. It has a lot to do with the person recommending them — there are a few people who I depend on for most of my recommendations now and a few that I know to smile and say “oh thanks, I’ll have to get that from the library someday” and then forget about it.

I’ve also found a few authors that blog or give book suggestions sometimes and I’ll try reading their choices. Stephenie Meyer has suggested a few good ones on her website, but I didn’t like most of the ones that Jen Lancaster (Bitter is the New Black) recommended, even though I find her hilarious.

4 Virtually There January 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm

I seem to have the same approach as you do, generally. My first reaction to hype or an Oprah stamp is to steer clear of it (unless it was Harry Potter of course). However, if I get a recommendation from a friend who has similar tastes to me in books then I almost always pick up the book – which was how I got turned onto Harry Potter. I had steered clear due to the hype initially. I can’t even explain why the hype keeps me away. I don’t know the reason. I think I like to live outside the mainstream.

5 smothermother January 7, 2009 at 3:56 pm

I was lent Marley last year. The hype hadn’t started yet and I couldn’t get pass page 50. It just didn’t do anything for me. I finished the Twilight books this Fall. Loved. Loved. Loved them. Couldn’t put them down. Tried to make Max nap longer just so that I could read, stayed up very late into the night because I couldn’t fall asleep while reading (which is how I normally go to sleep at night). They were recomended to me. I think hype doesn’t have much affect on me, though I usually try and read what ever book is recommended on Canada Reads on CBC. That’s a type of hype isn’t it? The Oprah sticker doesn’t repell me so much. I tend to read what friends suggest or lend. Sometimes they work out (like Twilight) sometimes I just can’t do it (like Marley).

6 kate January 7, 2009 at 4:52 pm

I live overseas and hadn’t even heard of this series (Twilight) until the last one came out and was heavily blogged about (though apparently it was popular here as well, because I did see signs counting down to the arrival of that book– in Spanish– to the stores here.) I just saw the movie on Saturday, talked to some friends who love the books as much as you do, and now I am dying to read them myself. I will order the from Amazon, high shipping costs be damned, but am holding off for the moment, because I will be coming up on a very busy couple of months, and staying up until all hours of the night to read will not be a very wise course of action in many respects. (Last night I was up until 1am reading the excerpt of Midnight Sun on Stephanie Myers’ website– not good! The staying up, I mean, because the reading was addictive!)

7 liz January 7, 2009 at 5:22 pm

After you’re done reading the Twilight series, you can read Meyer’s new book The Host. And then, if you haven’t read it yet, you can read Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. Then, if you haven’t read them yet, you can read Charlaine Harris’s books.

8 Shan January 7, 2009 at 5:54 pm

I wasn’t planning on reading Twilight because of all the hype, but in the end it sucked me right in. I loved the whole series and could honestly see reading it again. When it comes to picking books there is no rhyme or reason to it. They kind of have to speak to me. I’ve read a lot of Oprah selections and I’ve enjoyed quite a few of them, not necessarily to an Oprah level of love though. I read books on recommendations of friends. My mother in law is my book soul mate. We always read what the other one has read. I read books the jump off the shelf at the book store at me. I pour over the clearance section online at Chapters looking for dirt cheap gems with interesting summaries. I read books on the recommendation of my brother who is way more of a book snob than I. Although he would deny that, but he did turn me on to Douglas Coupland and Nick Hornby so I can’t bust his chops too much.

9 suze January 7, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Wait, what? there’s another suze who uses lowercase only for her name? That can’t be right…

Fair warning: I loved the twilight books until the fourth book. I hated the fourth book. I finished it, but not because I couldn’t get enough of Bella and Edward, but because I kept hoping it would redeem itself. It did not…

10 Renee January 8, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Anna has been trying to get me to read the Twilight series for a while now and I want to, but I never seem to have the time. I have a feeling, I’d also be drawn in.

11 colleen January 8, 2009 at 5:46 pm

I am not into the vampire gothic stuff…may it is an age thing. I love Canadian authors for some strange reason. The ones I read are interesting , diverse and literate. I read the book reviews in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Ottawa Citizen. Also read a lot of books recommended by my daughter. Having said that, I do not read a lot of books recommended by said daughter. Really I am only commenting today beause I saw you Dani, at Kerry’s thing. Just wanted to say again that you look terrific…glowing and happy.

12 Dal January 8, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Just wanted to say that it was GREAT to see you today, you look awesome!!!
🙂

13 Mad January 8, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Well, as you may know, I read the first Twilight book and found it so dreadful that I could scarcely finish it. So I guess that pop culture didn’t catch me in its tide.

14 Belinda January 10, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Thanks to your niece, I too am a devoted fan of the Twilight series! It is absolutly amazing how these books actually drew me into my own little world as I read them. My pulse raced and at some moments I think I actually broke out into a sweat! Stephenie Meyer is an amazing author, I’m hoping she changes her mind about releasing Midnight Sun. It was a shame someone was mindless enough to release most of the book on the internet, thus making her think twice about releasing it. I have read the first three books twice and Breaking Dawn once and I stood in line for two hours with many over excited teenagers to watch the movie. Did I mention I bought the tickets three week in advance too! If that is not dedication or addiction what is. I’m looking forward to New Moon coming out, I just hope it is not as fast moving as Twilight was. If you didn’t read the book then the movie would be very confusing I think.

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