Getting Wordy: Myth of the Blank Slate

How fair is it to say that the best way to read a book (or watch a movie, listen to a song or consume anything, really) is to go in with a blank slate? Let me talk about books in specific. I’ve often found myself writing off being disappointed by a book due to unrealistic expectations or some kind of fault on my part for having too many opinions about it prior to even picking it up. Lately, though, I couldn’t help but reflect on this (due to certain books not being quite what I expected, of course) and I’ve come to realize that you can’t just turn off impressions you’ve accumulated about something over time just because it may not be fair on the subject or creator (or rather, the book or author) in question.

While it is true that the very reason some books get written may well turn out to be the reason why they are not seen in the correct perspective, asking readers to not blame the book because it failed to fulfill the unrealistic expectations they had for it is rather unfair. People buy books because they have expectations. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t go for them! Think about it- we’re bombarded with various inputs about a book from the very day it is announced…at times even before the title is revealed! Along with the title announcement you’d find yourself speculating on the book. The very title could sometimes be indicative of the genre of a book. And then we get the very helpful tidbits- why it was written, whether it is ownvoices or not, and in particularly hyped books, even what exactly to expect of it and what not to. And then it is the cover reveal, release date announcement etc, and lo and behold, it is the street team or marketing campaign kicking in. While this may not be true of all books, it certainly is very much so with hyped ones. This industry (and any industry, for that matter) thrives on creating hype around things. Is it, then, the consumers fault if they are disappointed when their expectations aren’t met?

Look, I get it, people tend to go overboard at times and expectations skyrocket without even having reasonable grounds for them to sometimes. In a world like the current one where people are constantly on the lookout for the next cool thing to obsess about, it is easy for expectations to grow multifold and it might even prove to be detrimental to the book–I’m not saying that it is not possible. However, blaming the reader for it is certainly not the way to go about it. It is impossible to view a book with no expectations whatsoever when it is talked about since the day it is announced. It is valid that one may expect a book to be mindblowingly awesome or not really worth one’s attention based on information they accumulate about it over time.

Readers could maybe take things with a pinch of salt to make things easier for both parties, but in conclusion I’d say, don’t feel bad about or apologize if you have opinions getting into a book. Going into something with a blank slate is pretty much impossible in this day and age where information is readily available, literally at the tips of one’s fingers. Be aware of what you’re setting yourself up for when you let yourself be excited about books, yes, but don’t worry about having unrealistic expectations for them. The blank slate is but a myth, at least in this case!

Have you been unduly disappointed by any book you were super hyped for? Do you think it was your expectations that were to blame? Let’s talk in the comments below!

6 thoughts on “Getting Wordy: Myth of the Blank Slate

  1. Very interesting post, Ruzaika! I don’t think I ever go into a book with a blank slate. This might be because I decide what to read by how hyped it is and what the reviews are like. I have bedmate disappointed by some, the most recent being Children of Blood and Bone. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. But, I had gone in thinking I was gonna love it.


  2. I think it’s tough to go into almost any book without expectations or pre-conceived notions. As book lovers we tend to stay on top of book buzz and/or actively seek out information about books and read advance reviews. I think it’s the rare individual who doesn’t allow that to even subconsciously color their thoughts and opinions before starting a book. Not saying it’s a necessarily bad thing, but I know I almost always have some kind of expectations about most books before I ever open the cover.


  3. I’ve never actually thought of it (probably because I very rarely read super-hyped books), but I realise now that it’s, indeed, impossible not to have any kind of expectations about, well, anything. Even when I pick one of my under-hyped books, I make assumptions about them. Then again, I never chalk it up to expectations when a book fails me – I usually tell myself I read the wrong reviews LOL.


  4. I love this post! I’m cautious about hyped books. There have been several over the past years that were talked about til kingdom come, it felt like. I got caught in the hype for these books and then when I read them I was massively disappointed. It even led to the creation of my Goodreads “I Don’t Understand the Hype Shelf.” Now I try to go in with neutral expectations, but I still am excited for certain books. That won’t go away, I think.


  5. I very much agree with you. It is impossible to go into a book without expectations of some kind unless you literally know nothing about it, but then, why would you pick it up to begin with? I do wonder if some of our expectations wouldn’t feel so devastating if we had more time to spend with books. I always feel like we are constantly picking up a new book, maybe slowing down a bit would help us appreciate what we read more. Just a theory. Lovely discussion!


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