Eight 2018 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Five That Didn’t

It’s hard to define what makes a book “hyped.” Does this mean a book was nominated for or won awards? Was being breathlessly chattered about in the book blogging world? Was getting big marketing dollars or a huge advance from its publisher? Was on many “most anticipated books of X” lists? Had glowing early reviews? Based on an author’s previous work? Everyone in your real life was reading and loving it? My 2018 Books that Deserved the Hype list is a mixed bag of all these ways to garner hype.

I’m so happy about the spread of this year’s post…I actually had trouble coming up with a decent list of books that didn’t deserve the hype! This is a welcome turnaround from last year, when I had six books that deserved the hype and eight that didn’t. Could it be that tracking my recommendation sources (using my Rock Your Reading Tracker) and trying to pick books that have been read by at least one of them did the trick?!

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Eight 2018 Books That Deserved the Hype

2018 Books That Deserved the Hype


A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (my review)
Follow-up to one of the most beloved books of last year (The Heart’s Invisible Furies), Book of the Month pick, good book blogger buzz

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
Oprah Book Club pick, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018Library Reads, O MagazineTime Magazine, Bustle, and Southern Living Best Book of 2018Book of the Month pick, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou (my review)
Amazon Best Book of 2018, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

I’ll Be Gone in the Darkby Michelle McNamara (my review)
Tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz…and, obviously the publicity from arresting a suspect months after the book was published!

The Book of Essie by Meghan McLean Weir (my review)
Book of the Month selection, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

The Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Beloved author, massive publisher marketing dollars, Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2018New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018, tons of book blogger buzz

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (my review)
Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2018New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018, New York Times 10 Best Books of 2018, tons of book blogger buzz

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (my review)
Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, Southern Living Best Book of 2018, tons of book blogger and regular reader buzz

You’ll be hearing more about most of these books later, so no commentary just yet!

…and Five That Didn’t

2018 Books That Deserved the Hype


A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Accolades: Massive pre-publication hype (first release from actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s Hogarth imprint), Washington Post Best Book of 2018, tons of book blogger buzz
My Take: I DNF’d at 29% because nothing was happening…and it was far too long a book for nothing to happen and the writing to be mediocre.

Circe by Madeline Miller (my review)
Accolades: Good book blogger buzz; Book of the Month selection; Library Reads, Bustle, and Time Magazine Best Book of 2018

My Take: A total slog…too many characters, too many tangential stories, and I felt like I was reading a high school mythology guide.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (my review)
Accolades: Publisher hype, Bustle Best Book of 2018, good book blogger hype
My Take: I felt really distant from the story and kept zoning out while reading it.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Accolades: Beloved author (The Nightingale), Book of the Month selection, massive pre-publication hype, Amazon and Library Reads Best Book of 2018, tons of book blogger and regular reader hype
My Take: I DNF’d at 37% because I was bored and I couldn’t take anymore of the main character’s spinelessness.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Accolades: Massive pre-publication hype, NYT bestseller, Book of the Month selection, massive book blogger and regular reader buzz
My Take: I DND’d at 32% because it seemed like just another run-of-the-mill thriller.

What books do you think deserved their hype this year? Which ones do you think didn’t?

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  1. I think I’m one of the few who wasn’t crazy about The Female Persuasion. I listened to it, though, and wondered if that affected my opinion.

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
    • Wendy wrote:

      I didn’t like it either.

      Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  2. We share four on the did deserve the hype list and none on the didn’t. I only did books I’d finished, otherwise i would have had A Place for Us as one that didn’t deserve the hype. I almost included The Great Alone there, too. One book I have on the opposite list as you. I bet you can guess which one!

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  3. sarah wrote:

    SO AGREED!!!! A place for us – I couldn’t even finish nor The Great Alone. Sigh…

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  4. I liked The Great Alone. Sadly, I think the main character’s spinelessness is common in domestic abuse cases. But, ai love that you are willing to speak out honest opinions on books!

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  5. Really excellent observation. I always feel bad sounding too negative because to each his (or her!) own and I am not a critic, I am a reviewer, but you hit it right on the nose!

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  6. Sonia Reppe wrote:

    I found Educated (memoir) to be worth the hype, although my favorite memoir of the year was The Girl Who Smiled Beads.

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  7. Angela wrote:

    I still need to read The Book of Essie. Although I like Kristin Hannah, I haven’t read The Great Alone. The subject matter doesn’t really interest me. And The Wife Between Us was super-hyped, but I am so burned out on thrillers right now!

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  8. Vicki wrote:

    I loved Where The Crawdads Sing and The Wife Between Us.

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  9. Kate Elkins wrote:

    I loved Circe! Maybe that’s because I was enchanted with the movie Jason and the Argonauts as a child, ha. But the tantalizing idea of gods and goddesses has stayed with me. Probably also Thanks to the amazing Dr. Clarke, my Latin 90 teacher at LSU in the 70’s, who brought mythology figures to life in a spellbinding way. I enjoyed Essie, but it wasn’t my favorite. I also liked The Great Alone- it got progressively more interesting. I’m reading A Ladder to the Sky now. Delicious.

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  10. Diane D wrote:

    I liked The Great Alone and The Wide Between Us as well as, When the Crawdads Sing.

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  11. Amanda Counts wrote:

    Ugh, agreed on The Great Alone! I really didn’t like that book. I’m really bummed it won a Goodreads Award for historical fiction.

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  12. Madeline wrote:

    Good list with ample room for discussion!

    I hated An American Marriage. The whole thing read so false, I didn’t buy any of the story line. (Like, why was there no mention of DNA in a RAPE trial … and that’s just the beginning.) The blogosphere loves it, but none of my (liberal CA) friends did.

    Loved (!) Bad Blood and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.

    I loved The Great Alone … but that’s one that people go one way or another on — not many neutral opinions. Perhaps our personal beliefs/experiences with domestic abuse colors our opinions of the characters and story.

    Book of Essie was, eh, OK. I wouldn’t be putting on my best of the year list. Read rather YA to me.

    The Wife Between Us had a surprise twist that would take getting past a third. I love psychological thrillers and this was a good one. (Not great, but good … I gave it a 4.)

    Somehow I have a mental block against Meg Wolitzer. I’ll have to give up the hating and try one of her books. Any suggestions which should be the first?

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  13. I’ve been wanting to read The Great Alone, but I might bump it way down in my list! Good to know it didn’t live up to the hype

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  14. Tina wrote:

    Nooooo you’re making a mistake! 🙂 The main character eventually redeems herself in The Great Alone. It does get old in the beginning but it gets so good. I also really liked The Wife Between Us, but I read that last September before all of the hype. I really think too much hype can ruin things, especially for thrillers.

    Posted 12.4.18 Reply
  15. I loved The Great Alone, but perhaps because I lived in a village in rural Alaska for five years and her description of life in Alaska is SO spot on!

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
  16. I’m completely on the fence about reading The Great Alone because I keep hearing such mixed reviews… I might just reread The Nightingale since I loved that so much : )

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Haha – yes, I heard so many mixed things too. You can always try a library copy and just DNF it if you don’t like it!

      Posted 12.15.18 Reply
  17. Jan wrote:

    haha, this post is getting lots of differing opinions, which is fun

    We differ on a few:

    4 of your ‘didn’t deserve the hype books’ would be on my ‘deserved the hype list’, ha! I loved Circe and A Place For Us, and thought The Wife Between Us was very clever. I also liked The Great Alone. The ending was a tad too pat but getting there was fun. I enjoyed the setting and the character’s growth.

    At the top of my list of books that didn’t deserve the hype would be Where the Crawdads Sing: too much descriptive nature writing and the rest read like a poorly written YA novel, one where I couldn’t suspend the disbelief and eye rolls. I felt my 2 stars was too generous.

    # 2 on my list of books that didn’t deserve the hype was An American Marriage. I read it for my book club and only one of us liked it. The rest of us thought it average at best.

    I haven’t read The Great Believers, The Female Persuasion, or Fruit of the Drunken Tree. Bad Blood is on my radar.

    Fun post!

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
    • renee wrote:

      Jan I completely agree with you on The Great Alone, it was the ending that bothered me so much and took off a star rating for me. I also didn’t enjoy An American Marriage all that much!

      Posted 12.6.18 Reply
      • Jan wrote:

        Yes, the author wrapped it up a little too neatly. It deserved to be knocked down a star. Too bad because up to that point it was fabulous read.

        I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who didn’t love An American Marriage!

        Posted 12.8.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Haha – you’re not the only one that disagreed with those! That’s why this is such a fun post!

      Posted 12.15.18 Reply
  18. Natashajk wrote:

    Oh, I forgot about I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. I LOVED that book. I also really enjoyed The Book of Essie. I didn’t know what it was about (I’d just seen other people in my reading world with it) and it sucked me completely.

    I just put Bad Blood on hold because it sounds super interesting.

    I actually really liked The Wife Between Us and The Great Alone. And I just read Circe and I agree it was a slog but about page 150 it got really interesting and, again, sucked me in.

    And I was so sad I didn’t like A Place For Us because some readers I really trust raved about it but I thought it was “meh.”

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I agree on A Place for Us…so many people I usually agree with liked it. Apparently the end is better, but I
      ‘m not willing to suffer for 400 pages just for a good ending.

      Posted 12.15.18 Reply
  19. Oh my….I haven’t read any of the ones you have in your worth-the-hype collage. I do have WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, though.

    I agree about THE WIFE BETWEEN US….I don’t think it was that great, and it was very confusing for me. Their newest is REALLY good, and much better.

    I didn’t read any of the others in not-worth-the-hype collage.

    Thanks for sharing. Wonderful post.

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Glad to hear that about Anonymous Girl – I’m planning to read it!

      Posted 12.15.18 Reply
  20. Akilah wrote:

    I liked An American Marriage, too. I mean, the characters infuriated me, but I was completely engaged, so there you go.

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
  21. I’ve heard of most of them, but haven’t read any of them. Which one would you say that I have to read?

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
  22. I’ve heard such good things about The Great Alone, but the blurbs never caught my interest.

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
  23. Hahhahah, I’m so relieved someone else besides me finds Madeline Miller lackluster. I read her first book which everyone adooooored, and it really did nothing for me. It was fine! It did not engender in me a desire to read more books by her (and I’ve given Circe a miss).

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
  24. Melissa F. wrote:

    Completely agree with you on THE GREAT BELIEVERS, which I also had as Worth the Hype.

    And it’s funny — I created a category of Books Deserving of More Hype and included A LADDER TO THE SKY. I must have missed all the book blogger buzz somehow!

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Well, the only reason I put Ladder in the “deserves hype” list (rather than my subsequent “underrated gems” post) is that it was totally hyped in my own head because I loved Heart’s Invisible Furies so much!

      Posted 12.15.18 Reply
  25. I really liked Circe, but I think it was also speaking to me at a particular moment. Totally agree on Bad Blood, one of my favorites of the year!

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
  26. Interesting question at the beginning about what constitutes “hype”! Really got me thinking. For me, I think I judge hype by social media (primarily Pinterest and Instagram) – if it’s one of those books I’m seeing over, and over, and over again, in multiple feeds, I feel like it’s hyped. I guess I consider that separately from more traditional publicity outlets – reviews, awards, etc. – because it seems more organic to me… hmmm, lots to think about!

    As for the books: I’ve actually not read a single new release this year!! I’ve been 100% focused on working my way through my back-list/classic TBR. I *nearly* broke to read I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, though – I’m very sure I’m going to LOVE it, and you’ve just reinforced that with your recommendation 😉 I’m also really looking forward to An American Marriage – I’ve heard Jones in a lot of writers festival interviews and so forth, and she’s so engaging! Hopefully soon I’ll be all caught up (probably just in time for your best of 2019 post hahaha).

    Posted 12.5.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Both of those are worth breaking your rules for!
      And – I agree – 2 totally different kinds of hype that usually results in different books (but some do overlap), but I consider both to be types of hype. Bookstagram can be more organic, but also sometimes it’s not. Lots of people post galleys they get in the mail, but haven’t read yet!

      Posted 12.15.18 Reply
  27. renee wrote:

    This is such a fun post! I think I’ll throw together my own this weekend. We share I’ll Be gone In the Dark and Where the Crawdads Sing for worthy hype but none for the ones that didn’t. I really liked The Great Alone up to my issues with the last 1/3. I couldn’t get into A Place for Us so that was a DNF but I’d probably agree with you on that one if I had finished.

    One on your deserved the hype will definitely be on my didn’t list:) Love all the discussion this post is generating!

    Posted 12.6.18 Reply
  28. I’m so glad to read so many differing opinions – and interested that enough readers liked The Great Alone that it won the GoodReads Readers’ Award in the Historical Fiction category.

    Of the 13 you’ve listed, I’ve read only The Book of Essie which did read like YA, but that was okay. I thought the ending a little pat but otherwise I I liked it a lot.

    Posted 12.6.18 Reply
  29. Beth F wrote:

    I really loved the Great Alone! I also liked Fruit of the Drunken Tree, but maybe because I lived/did research in Peru for a summer when I was in grad school.

    Posted 12.7.18 Reply
  30. Heather wrote:

    I definitely second I’ll Be Gone in the Dark! I have Circe and The Great Alone waiting for me on my Kindle. Bummer that they didn’t pan out for you.

    Posted 12.7.18 Reply
  31. Anne Simonot wrote:

    I gave up on The Great Alone at about the stage you did. I couldn’t take 300 more pages of Ernt and Cora’s toxic, twisted “love”. “She’s like my heroin”… ugh, excuse me while I throw up. I power-skimmed to the end and discovered giving up was the right option: 300 more pages of misery, tragedy, and melodrama. Moving on…

    I’ll Be Gone in the Dark & Educated were fantastic!

    Posted 12.9.18 Reply

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