Book Expectations: A Problem with TBR’s

There’s certainly no way to avoid having a TBR if you’re a voracious reader. And honestly, even if you’re not a voracious reader, I still think everyone has a TBR, even if they don’t call it that (I’ve mentioned the fact that my mother never reads books on this blog before…yet even she has a list of a few that she always says she’s going to get around to).

One problem that I’ve encountered with having a TBR, however, is that I tend to get really excited about what I’m going to read next, even when I’m still finishing another book. And while that in and of itself isn’t a problem, it’s the fact that I start imagining what that next book is going to be like before I even get to it. I’ll read the general plot summary on Goodreads or the back of the book, and then I start thinking about what the main character must be like or what kinds of adventures he/she will end up on. It’s like I start telling myself the story before I’ve even gotten to it.

I’ve been having this problem lately with the book Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon. I added it to my TBR about a month ago after a guy from one of my classes recommended it to me, and I plan on reading it this summer, because the synopsis sounds really inherent viceinteresting. And while it’s probably still going to be a few weeks before I have a chance to get around to it, I think about the plot sometimes and what I’m expecting of it. It’s set in the 60’s in LA, and is supposed to have a noir-esque feel to it, so I’ve been imagining all sorts of plots and characterization for different characters in the novel based on what I know about the 60’s in LA and the type of mood that noir films had. And while all this thought is making me more excited to read the book, I can’t help but feel like I’m going to be disappointed when I finally sit down to read it, because there’s a good chance that the book is nothing like my imagination has made it out to be.

I don’t know if any of this has to do with the fact that I’m a writer, so when I hear a general description of a story, I start to piece a plot together in my mind, but this could also be a universal problem that other people have. I’m just one person, so I wouldn’t know. I don’t quite know how to stop doing it either, although I’m not sure if I’d want to, even if I knew how. Like I’ve said, imagining what a book is going to be like before I read it hypes me up even more to read it and it’s fun to think about. It’s the disappointment that comes when I actually read the book that drives me crazy.

Anyway, that’s all that’s really been on my mind today. Has anyone else ever experienced this, and how to you deal with the disappointment when a book you’ve had on your TBR forever doesn’t live up to the story or the characters you’ve built up in your head?

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10 thoughts on “Book Expectations: A Problem with TBR’s

  1. I don’t really imagine what the story is going to be but I always raise my expectations of the book so high, that the book disappoints, especially when I’m reading a super popular book. I’ve had that a couple of times now and it makes me less eager to read popular books. Also because you’re kind of expected to love them. I’ve been putting off reading a few books because they are highly popular and I think I’m going to love them but I just don’t know? Great discussion!

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    • That’s definitely always an issue with popular books. I think the hype surrounding them raises my expectations of them, but like you said, there’s also just that fear that I’m not going to like it even if I don’t have high expectations. No one wants to be that one person who hates a super popular book that everyone else can’t stop talking about.

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  3. When a book doesn’t live up to my expectations? That’s a tough one. As I get older (I’m the ripe old age of 36) I find I’m much more likely to stop reading a book I’m not enjoying. And I don’t mean stopping for a bit of a break and going back later. Just not ever going back. It’s lead me to have my own reading motto: Life’s to short to read bad books.

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    • That’s a motto I need to adopt. I feel bad about abandoning books, even if I don’t like them, but then it takes me a really long time to finish books I’m not into because I keep putting them off. I’d probably read a lot faster if I just stopped when I realized I’m not into them.

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      • That motto came to me when I was reading a book that I really couldn’t get into. The synopsis pulled me in, but it just never bit. I didn’t care about anything going on, but I kept reading thinking to myself, “It’s going to get good. There’s going to be a payoff. I can’t stop.”

        I didn’t stop. I read the whole thing and still hated it. I was SO mad. This was before self-publishing was common so I wondered how this book ended up in a book store. Turned out, the author owned a printing company. So, it was basically my first run in with self-published work…

        P.S. I have nothing against self-published work. I’ve found a lot of SP books I’ve really, really liked.

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  4. I agree! Sometimes when I read a vague description of the plot I immediately begin to think of something and then the book is like NOPE and I’m sitting there confused like “WHAT?”
    I particularly hate when a sequel is really bad compared to the first book and then I’m sad because all of my expectations have been spoiled!

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    • It’s so strange to be surprised by how a book turns out, especially when you’re so convinced of your expectations. I’m convinced I could probably write books of my own based on vague plot descriptions that end up nothing like the originals.

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