Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Expectation, Anticipation and Recommendation

I've been reflecting on my bookshelf project. I'm enjoying sharing books that I've grown to love over the years but I would enjoy the project even if no one read the blog posts. It has been great to pick up and consider each title, think about which to do next and why they are on my shelf. There is a kind of quiet pleasure in knowing that they are waiting to be read again, when I am ready.

However I am also uncomfortable with the 'recommendation' aspect of the bookshelf. Personally I dislike book or film reviews and recommendations. I know this is a little weird, but it comes from wanting to experience a book or film with fresh eyes. A great book or film can be diminished, not by spoilers, but by raised expectations. There is a fine balance between anticipation, that looking forward to something, expectation, the expected quantum of enjoyment, and the actual experience.

It is the experience that matters.

With the most recent series of Doctor Who we decided not to watch any trailers and to take a low key approach to the new episodes (not easy). This helped to moderate our unrealistic expectations but allowed a sense of anticipation.

When a new film comes out that I might be interested in watching I read enough of the reviews to decide it isn't a lemon and then I don't read another word more.

So a word of advice. If you decide that you might like to read something from my bookshelf then ignore anything I've said about it and expect that it might be okay and lower your expectation. You might just have a great experience.


  1. I've really been enjoying your bookshelf posts, Peter. I can imagine browsing through your bookshelves, but with the added bonus of your commentary about each book in the background.

    I know what you mean about raised expectations. Personally I never care to watch trailers or read too many reviews before watching/reading whatever it is. I can't bear it if they give away too much of the plot (and it often feels like movie trailers do).

    And as for recommendations, I am one of those people who is quite comfortable with making them, and then learning from the person what their experience was. If they didn't like it, I like to ask why, so I know for next time. I don't get offended if the person didn't like my recommendation.

    With people who recommend stuff to me, it depends who they are. If they know me quite well, or we have a reasonable history of shared reading, I am very comfortable accepting their recommendations. (And will be happy to tell them - gently of course - if I didn't enjoy a particular recommendation, and why not.) If it's someone I don't know all that well, I will still usually read their recommendation, and may try to get to know them better especially if I like the book. After all, if they recommend good stuff, they must be worth knowing...

    And of course, some genres are easier to recommend than others. I personally think SF/fantasy is a little tough to recommend. Crime is easier.

  2. Glad you are enjoying it. Caveat emptor sums up my post!