Over-Hyped Books

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  • Scott Cruickshanks 1 year ago

    I have just filmed a video which is coming out later today about the most-overhyped books currently on Bookaxe. I thought I would be great to start a chat where we discuss the books that don't deserve the amount of hype they have received.

    I will start by saying that the most over-hyped book I have read in the past year or so is A Brief History of Time by the late Stephen Hawking. He was a brilliant scientist but in my opinion this book should have stayed in academia and not sold to a mass market audience.

  • Mary Connell 1 year ago

    Hi Scott, I enjoyed your video on over-hyped books but take issue with your interpretation of why books get placed on lower shelves. I shelve my books based on several criteria: top shelf is not primarily because I enjoyed a book, but also by how I perceive its value in message, story and style. Some of the books I enjoyed the most therefore are on the lowest shelf only because they are personally enjoyable but not necessarily important to readers at large.

    Maybe I’m an anomaly in the book-shelving world; in some respects I know I am as I don’t enjoy reading the ever-popular fantasy, sci-fi and dystopian genres. Also, I’m older than most Bookaxe participants, at age 70. Finally, I’m a political activist with a liberal agenda working to save our democracy which is threatened by Donald Trump and his minions.

    i’d love to hear if other Bookaxe participants shelve using the criteria I do. 


    Mary Connell

    North Carolina, USA


  • Scott Cruickshanks 1 year ago


    Hi Mary, 

    Thank you so much for taking the time to both watch my video (which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zD-GWP3rABs) and leave a comment.

    It is insightful to hear your approach to shelving books and having thought about it I follow a similar process myself where if I enjoyed two books equally in terms of plot, pacing, characters etc I would put the book with the message that I want to promote the most higher up the bookcase. Where you are forced to place half of all books on the bottom shelf (we did this to stop the malicious 1-star reviews prevalent on other review sites) this will inevitably result in some of the books I enjoyed a reasonable amount being place there. As a result, I would say the books higher up the shelves are the ones I personally want other people to read the most opposed to the bottom shelf being full of books I didn’t enjoy - I hope that makes sense. 

    Having said that I still feel that the conclusions I drew about the type of book appearing on the over-hyped chart are valid because so few people are actively promoting and in my opinion why read a book that no one other than the publisher is championing when there are millions of others to choose from. 

    I am also super intrigued to see what rationale others use when placing books on the various shelfs.



  • Lucy Cruickshanks 1 year ago

    Hi Mary. I actually agree with you too, to an extent. There are plenty of books on my bottom shelf that I haven't hated. Some I've found really entertaining. But there's a certain type of book that entertains me when I'm reading it but then I read the last page, shut it, and it's forgotten. For me, these books that are a fun read but leave no lasting impression whatsoever will never be anything other than bottom shelf books. That value that lifts them could be about message or style or whatever, but there has to be something substantial that remains with me after I've read the book. I think lots of people probably shelve in the same way as us, based on intrinsic value as much or more than pure 'enjoyment'. However, I'd argue that the books that are getting hyped by the publishers should have something more substantial to them that bumps them off those bottom shelves for people, and if a book is consistently being put on people's bottom shelves, as with the books in Scott's video, it doesn't deserve the hype it gets. It's not about snubbing 'easy reads' or certain types of literature, either - quite the opposite in fact, as there are plenty of books that wouldn't be considered high-brow literary classics that are consistently performing better than we'd expect on bookcases (maybe that's another video, the unexpected big hits!). It's all about just trying to cut through the hype. It's so interesting to hear your thoughts. Thank you for sharing them.

  • Lucy Cruickshanks 1 year ago

    (Afterthough! I'd LOVE to know other peoples' shelving rationale too... please do share with us!)

  • Ra 1 year ago

    My take on it is that a bookshelf is an expression of self. The books on our shelves (physical or virtual) say something about who we are, through the kinds of books that have attracted us (whether or not they lived up to our expectations) or otherwise made their way into our lives. If someone looks at my shelves (or I theirs), we are getting to know something about each other -- so, I sort my books with that in mind. The higher a book is on my shelves, the better I feel it reflects me.

    That said, I'm new to Bookaxe and not entirely clear on the intended use. For what it's worth, I see this site primarily as a way to be social around books, because... well, why else would people put out the information of what we've read and liked or not, if it weren't for other people to engage with it somehow?

  • Ra 1 year ago

    (Hopefully it's clear that my above remark was specifically replying to Lucy's afterthought!)

    Concerning overhyped recent books: for me it's Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. I didn't think it was terrible -- it even had some moments I would call brilliant -- but overall I found it disjointed in tone, not quite able to settle between fairytale-like otherness or hard-hitting realism. I get that people were excited for another novel from Roy, but this was just not on the level of The God of Small Things.

  • Lucy Cruickshanks 1 year ago

    Hey @Ra... I really like your take on the shelves. I think it's impossible to give any opinion a book without projecting your personal feelings and experiences onto it too, and it totally tells others more about you as a person than just what books you've enjoyed by where you put them on your shelves. I think there's a whole lot of flexibility around our 'intended' use for the shelves. It's up to our users to do whatever they feel best suits them, so you're nailing it.

    The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is the absolute definition of a hyped book. You're so right! It was everywhere, and the world had been waiting so long for Roy to write another novel. I'm sorry to hear it didn't live up to your expectations.

  • Alastair Leeuwangh 9 months ago

    I guess I’m gonna cause a bit of a stink in here by saying that I really feel that Girl on a Train was overhyped. Okay, yes people did seem to like it. I on the other hand I thought that it was quite predictable. there was some small amount of intrigue just not enough for me to think that it was a good book. Sorry to those who enjoyed it. I’m happy that you did :)

  • Lucy Cruickshanks 9 months ago

    I don't think you can't be the only one who thinks that, Alastair! I think when books get as much hype as Girl on the Train it's inevitable that some people will be disappointed... and that book was HUGE! Crime and thrillers are especially hard, I think. Sometimes the twist just leaps out at you.

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