Do you read books you expect to be mediocre?

25/06/2019 Discussions, Reading 24

Something that’s truly crazy, but also magical about being a bookworm is that every book you pick up has the potential to be a favourite. It could even end up being life-changing: a story or set of characters that sticks with you for the rest of your life.

I mean, it’s weird to think that there was a time in my life before I had ever picked up a Harry Potter book, and fallen in love with the Wizarding World. Or that only a few years ago I had never read Six of Crows and had Kaz Brekker and his crew burnt into my heart, or that I’d never experienced the magic of a Juliet Marillier book or visited the incredible world of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive books.

As recently as a couple of weeks ago I discovered a new favourite book: Nicholas Eames Kings of the Wyld, which was hands-down the funniest book I’ve ever read, but also one of the most heart-warming.

Literally, every book you pick up is packed full of potential, and no matter how many reviews you’ve read, you never truly know what you’re going to feel about it until you read it. But you know something weird that I realised the other day? I don’t necessarily want to be absolutely wowed by every book I read.

In fact, I often find myself choosing to read books I fully expect to be mediocre. Perhaps the reviews are all middle-of-the-road, or I read another book in the series and thought it was merely OK, but I’m more than happy to approach a book expecting to enjoy it, but not find it overly memorable. And there’s two vital reasons why:

I’m not always in the mood for an emotional rollercoaster.

One of the main things that all my favourite books have in common, is that they’ve made me feel intense feelings. Every last one has made me care about the characters and their fate, and drawn me deep into the world of the story so that I almost feel as if I’m a part of it.

That’s an incredible experience, but it can also be kind of exhausting to be taken on that kind of an emotional rollercoaster. It’s also what I think results in ‘book hangovers’, where you feel totally exhausted and wrung out afterwards as you start to really miss the characters, and no other book seems to compare.

Sometimes I just want a reading experience that is enjoyable but not mentally or emotionally taxing…and that means I want to read a mediocre book that I don’t find myself getting overly invested in. Something I can read, enjoy, and then forget.

If every book was amazing, none of them would be special.

And the main reason I don’t want to be blown away by every book? Because if I was, then there would be no special books.

A vast majority of the books I’ve read in my life have been mediocre (to me, obviously! To other people they might have been favourites!), and it’s because of this that the ones that I’ve truly connected with have such a big place in my heart. They stick in my mind and heart, and when I stumble across another one that I just know is going to be a lifelong favourite, then it’s a truly incredible experience.

If this happened with every book, then it would no longer be special, it would just be the norm, and no one book would mean more to me than another. And that would be a terrible shame because one of the best things about being a reader is having those particular stories that mean so much to you, and that feel incredibly personal.

So I’d love to know if you also read books that you expect to be mediocre, or if you approach every book hoping to be wowed! What makes a book extra special to you?

24 Responses to “Do you read books you expect to be mediocre?”

  1. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Well, this is an interesting question. My first response would be “no,” but reading your answer I realize that I also don’t necessarily always want such an incredible reading experience. It can be exhausting! I also may read a book that is mediocre in some ways but interesting to me in others — e.g. it explores an unusual subject, or it’s not to my personal taste but I want to see why other people have enjoyed it. It’s true that not every book can be a favorite, or the standouts wouldn’t actually be so enjoyable.

    • Laura

      I definitely do that too where I’ll read something that isn’t to my taste that other people have loved just to see what they liked so much about it. It can definitely be an interesting experiment! 🙂

  2. E Merwin

    I admire you being open to the unexpected.

    Out of curiosity, I attended a workshop w. agents who played a gong game. One would read the first page of a ms. aloud and they would hit the gong at the moment they would have stopped reading. The gong banging was fast and furious, and their reasons somewhat vague. I thought how easily they might overlook something weirdly, wonderfully unexpected. So, yes, glad there are still readers willing to wander into a text to see what you might find!

    • Laura

      Wow, the gong game sounds kind of brutal! I don’t often stop reading books once I’ve started them, I like to stick it out in case they surprise me. And even if it doesn’t end up being the most amazing experience, it was still an experience! 🙂

  3. Malka @ Paper Procrastinators

    I love this discussion so much! Because I do this ALL THE TIME! Sometimes I’m tired, and I can’t handle a book that’s intricate and detailed, with flowery writing, so I reach for books that I know are more simple and easy to read. I never pick up a book I don’t think I’ll enjoy, but I pick up a book that I think will get a 3 star rating from me. A book that is cute and enjoyable, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others. These kinds of books are so important to me though, and I’m not sure how my reading life would look with out them!

    Great post!

    • Laura

      I’m glad to know it isn’t just me that does this! Sometimes cute and enjoyable is just what I’m looking for, even if it isn’t a book that’s going to stick with me long after reading it, or that I would recommend to others. I don’t know how my reading life would look without these types of books either 🙂

  4. Angela

    I often go into really hyped books expecting them to be mediocre, weirdly! I don’t like to have super high expectations for anything, I would rather be pleasantly surprised.

    • Laura

      Going into hyped books without high expectations is probably a good idea, then you aren’t disappointed if they end up being mediocre. It’s always nice when you end up being pleasantly surprised! 🙂

    • Laura

      I think sometimes going in with low expectations is the best idea. Then you can avoid disappointment! 🙂

  5. Eileen

    Yes, and as writers’ we’re all evolving. Wondering if you’d be interesting in reading a novella about an Italian greyhound artist who leaves his native Venice to seek his father– as well as his own fame and fortune as an artist in NYC?

    Would be honored to send a pre-publication review copy of MY PICCOLO, the first in a series the Tales of Piccolo.

  6. Gayathri

    I pick a book with pretty much no expectations and I avoid hyped books like a plague, at least until the hype dies down. I am totally ok with reading books with less than four stars.

  7. Cam @ Camillea Reads

    I don’t pick up books based on Goodreads reviews. It all depends on the blurb for me. Honestly, I also don’t expect every book to wow though I do expect it to move me in a small way. I like books that either get me thinking or fall in love with the characters. This is a great question and one I’ll need to ponder about a while longe 🙂

    • Laura

      Blurbs definitely are a big thing for me too when choosing a book. I generally read the blurb and then if it interests me, I check the Goodreads reviews. I like books that get me thinking too, even if they don’t entirely wow me 🙂

  8. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer

    I really loved this!! I don’t read expecting to get mediocre but I’m well aware when I set up my reading lineup that some books I take risks on could very well be mediocre. I really liked how you mentioned that not every book can be special… I agree and actually mediocre books do make me away when I feel that special buzz that says… this is really good!

    • Laura

      There are definitely books I’ve taken risks on where I’ve known they could end up being mediocre too. I find that if it’s something where I’ve read a lot of similar books I feel like it’s more likely it could end up being mediocre if that makes sense? Because I may have read another book like it that was really, really good.
      And I love that special buzz too when a book is really good! 🙂

  9. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I agree with you that if every read was amazing then we would lose that special feeling when a book truly is brilliant. I have a habit of rating books quite highly which kind of makes it seem like I’m blown away by every book I read but in fact, I just rate a book highly based on how much I enjoyed it. I mean, a book can be a bit meh and still be so enjoyable, you get sucked in and speed through reading, and then when you finish the memory of that book will soon fade and be replaced by another book.

    I don’t want every book to be spectacular and my absolute fave… I do want to enjoy every book I read, though.

    • Laura

      I’m exactly the same in that I tend to rate books quite highly, so it seems like I’m blown away by everything, even though that isn’t the case. As you say, sometimes you can enjoy a book that ends up being really mediocre and forgettable.

  10. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I definitely don’t always pick up books that I expect to be utterly amazing, but I don’t aim for mediocre either. Sometimes I do want something light and fluffy that I don’t expect to blow me away—I think I’m usually aiming for that 4-star book in these cases.

    • Laura

      Aiming for four stars seems like a good idea. I think some books you can just tell are definitely not going to be five stars, but you know they’ll probably be enjoyable, so I expect to give them three stars, hopefully four. And occasionally I’m surprised and am blown away by something I didn’t expect, and that’s always nice when that happens! 🙂

  1. June Wrap Up

    […] Laura @ Boats Against the Current asks whether or not you choose to read  mediocre books. […]

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