A Month of Favorites: Five 2016 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Five That Didn’t

December 2, 2016 Blogger Events 56

A Month of Favorites
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For the third year in a row, I’m participating in A Month of Favorites (hosted by Traveling with T, Estella’s Revenge, and GirlXOXO) throughout the month of December! I love “Top X” lists and that’s what this event is all about. Today, we’re talking about hyped books, which is one of my favorite lists to put together every year.

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? I landed on any and all of these for this post.

Sadly, when I was compiling the first draft of this list (which included well over five books for each category), I came up with considerably more books that didn’t deserve the hype than those that did. Based on how my reading has felt all year, this doesn’t surprise me. This isn’t to say I haven’t read some great books this year, just that they weren’t necessarily the ones I expected them to be. 

Five 2016 Books That Deserved the Hype

2016 Books That Deserved the Hype

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (review)

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (review)

The Girls by Emma Cline (review)

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (review)

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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

…and Five That Didn’t

2016 Books that didn't deserve the hype

American Housewife by Helen Ellis (review)

Books that are billed as “laugh out loud” rarely live up to the hype for me and that was the case with this short story collection. However, I suspect some others would put this one in the top half of this post.  

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon (review)
I’m not sure if this book was actually hyped or if I’d just hyped it in my own head because I loved Lawhon’s debut, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress (review), so much. Sadly, I was bored with this one and turned off by a focus on romance.

Some Possible Solutions by Helen Phillips (review)
I’m not sure this short story collection was overly hyped in the broader world, but the small corner of the book blogging Internet I hang out in was anxiously awaiting Phillips’ follow-up to The Beautiful Bureaucrat (review). Bureaucrat was completely bizarre, but I got the point and loved the weirdness; while most of the stories in Some Possible Solutions left me scratching my head.

The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang 
This debut novel was one of the most hyped books of Fall, but I was completely annoyed with the characters and their conversations. I bailed at 24%.

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota 
This British novel was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, but I felt like I was watching the story with a hazy view from high above, rather thank sinking into it. I bailed at 12%.

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

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56 Responses to “A Month of Favorites: Five 2016 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Five That Didn’t”

  1. Toady

    I loved When Breath Becomes Air. The rest of your recommended books are on my TBR. I had heard a lot of negatives about The Wangs vs. The World, but decided to read it anyway. Like you, I bailed out very early on.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I’ve heard some positives about Wangs, but pretty much all negatives from the other bloggers I really trust.

  2. Susie | Novel Visits

    Lucky for me that I didn’t even try any of the books on your list of those not deserving the hype. On the deserve the hype list, I read all except When Breath Becomes Air, and would probably put three of the other four on a similar list for me. The only one that I’d leave off is The Girls. I know I’m in the overwhelming minority, but that book just didn’t do it for me. Fun list!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I hear ya on The Girls (and know some others who felt the same)…it wasn’t so much about the murders (which I expected) and was slower than I expected as well. But, I really appreciated it for what it was and the writing was gorgeous.

  3. Amanda

    I’ve read quite a few books that were “hyped” up this year, but severely disappointed me. I’m starting to wonder if it’s because my taste in books is really changing lately. I’m reading lots more nonfiction than I used to, and most of my disappointments this year were fiction thrillers that were supposed to be amazing. I found them to be blah.

    Amanda @ A Bookshelf Monstrosity

    • Sarah Dickinson

      My reading taste changed dramatically a couple years ago…about when I started seriously blogging. And thrillers were the first books to go, so I totally understand 🙂 I feel like it’s really hard for thrillers to ride that line of a surprising ending, but one that doesn’t make you go “WTF.”

      • Amanda

        Yes, exactly! I feel like my reading identity is changing which I suppose is a little silly, but I’m also sad about it. Not to mention the fact that I now have all these dang books I don’t really want to read anymore haha.

        • Sarah Dickinson

          I don’t think it’s silly at all! For me, I became exposed to a ton of books and authors I never would have found without being involved in the blogging world, plus I started reading more and more critically…I became much clearer about what I liked and didn’t like in my reading.

        • DaNana

          Dear Amanda,
          Abt those unwanted books…hv u thot abt donating them to an assisted living or adult daycare org or a nursing home? Sum hospitals take used books for therapies such as comprehension recovery and the like.
          Give them a New Home, so u can bring ur New reading interests in to stay for a time
          Happy Reading!

      • Cherrie

        I have found the same thing!! My whole life I’ve loved Thrillers but in the last year I now want something more character driven. It’s too easy to figure out the twists after a while. Glad to know I’m not the only one!

        • Sarah Dickinson

          I agree…and if an author takes the twist too far, I end up rolling my eyes at the absurdity of it.

  4. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    A bunch of these are on my TBR list, so this post is very interesting to me. I’m glad The Girls lived up to the hype. That one is sitting on my shelf right now. I just bought American Housewife, so that’s disappointing. I hope I like it more than you did.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Some others loved Housewife, so definitely give it a shot. And there were a few stories in there that I liked, it just didn’t work for me overall.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I think a lot of people loved Wangs! And I know some others who were disappointed by The Girls too.

    • Rachael

      Check it out from your local library! I work for one and it has saved me almost as much as it has cost borrowing books and later deciding to buy them.

  5. nancys

    One of my favorites, although very difficult to read, was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. After I finished it, I went onto The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, which has gotten all the hype. While I thought Underground Railroad was well written and an interesting concept, Homegoing was so much better, IMHO….

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I haven’t read either, but have heard mixed things about Underground Railroad, despite all its awards. I’d like to try Homegoing at some point!

      • Nancy

        The Girls was a great book. I’m so glad I found you Sarah! I’ve read almost 70 books in 2016 and felt like a freak! I don’t know Anyone who reads like me. Until now! I’m so excited to be here! Funny, I’ve read all five of the best most hyped books and None of the ones that Didn’t deserve the hype! Glad to know I didn’t waste my time!

  6. Naomi

    I would add Homegoing to your list of books that deserved the hype. And Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien.
    I haven’t read any from your list yet, but want to read them all!

  7. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis

    Every one of your recommended books, except The Girls, is on my TBR list, and none of your over-hyped picks except The Wangs. I’ve been reading the mixed reviews of that but I think you just tipped the scale in favour of me taking off the list.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I’ve heard mixed things too, but a couple other bloggers I trust also had issues with it.

  8. Catherine

    You already know my answer on deserved hype: A Gentleman in Moscow. Going to be my #1 favorite book of the year. I don’t know if Swans got hyped, but if so it deserved it as did Tuesday Nights in 1980.

    Thankfully, we agree on the misses. The Wangs made me want to punch someone and I DNFed it was well. I think I finished Runaways, but did find it lackadaisical.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Haha! I know – and I almost put that one on my “didn’t deserve the hype” list. But, then I thought that wasn’t really fair b/c I did like it OK and could see why others liked it. I wanted to stick to books I truly didn’t like and didn’t understand the hype for.

      • Sarah Dickinson

        And by “that one,” I mean Gentleman. I didn’t feel like Swans got a lot of hype until later this year…well after we read it. I feel like you sort of started that one!

  9. Kate @ Parchment Girl

    I’m making my way through the “books that deserved the hype” from this list. I’m currently reading The Mothers and Hillbilly Elegy and plan to read Commonwealth before the end of the year. The Girls just didn’t do it for me. That would definitely go on my “didn’t deserve the hype” list. I was pretty bummed about The Wangs vs. the World too…it seemed like it had so much potential.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Yay – you’ve got some good ones coming! And I hear you about The Girls and know others who felt the same way.

  10. Karen Blue

    I just recently started reading Commonwealth and I am really enjoying it. I noticed some not so enthusiastic review on Goodreads, so that’s why I am a little late picking it up. I am glad to see it on the top list. I also have The Mother’s so I need to bump that one up on my TBR. Happy to say I don’t have anything on your bottom list. Thanks for the recs!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Glad you’re enjoying Commonwealth and will bump up The Mothers! I saw some of those reviews on GR and Amazon and was definitely perplexed. Different strokes for different folks I guess!

  11. Tanya Patrice

    Love this list! I couldn’t decide whether to read Commonwealth and The Girls, and now it looks like I’ll be putting them on my reading list for next year!

  12. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    Of these, I’ve only read Commonwealth and for me, it didn’t quite live up to the hype. And I’d really like to get to When Breath Becomes Air! I’ve found the hype around that one pretty convincing 🙂

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I’ve seen some not so positive reviews of Commonwealth on GR and Amazon…but the writing style just really worked for me.

      I was skeptical of When Breath Becomes Air, but there really is a reason everyone is talking about it.

  13. Megan -- booksandcarbs

    I was so excited for Wangs vs. the World, even after I knew you abandoned it, I was committed to reading it. I didn’t hate it, but it was definitely underwhelming.

    I agree that Commonwealth, Hillbilly Elegy, and When Breath Becomes Air lived up to the hype.

    The Girls … loved the writing, but it just dragged for me. I felt like I was reading forever (and it’s not long) and was rarely in the mood to pick it up again. I know it’s a good book, but I didn’t exactly enjoy reading it.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      You’re not alone in your thoughts about The Girls – have heard this from a lot of places!

      Sorry Wangs didn’t work out for you.

  14. Novels And Nonfiction

    Still need to read Commonwealth and The Girls but I have to be honest that I didn’t love When Breath Becomes Air. I felt really bad about it but it was just a bit trite to me. I’ve been wanting to read American Housewife and you review is making me wonder whether I should afterall 🙂 lol

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Can’t love ’em all! But, I know how you feel not loving something everyone else loves…start to wonder what you were missing.

    • Melissa

      It makes me sad that of all the negative words you might choose that “trite” is what you choose for When Death Becomes Air. you realize this is a non fiction memoir? I would love to understand What exactly is it that makes this “trite” for you. Just another guy gets sick, talks about it, then dies book? Cold. Okay, everyone gets to have an opinion. Just don’t agree with yours.

  15. Lisa

    For me two of the books that didn’t deserve the hype were The Nest (Meh. I’m tired of reading about jerky New Yorkers.) and Everyone Brave is Forgiven. With the later, I’m just sick to death of WWII books. Can we move on, already? Especially the hiding from the Nazis angle. Ugh. For those reasons I haven’t been able to get into The Book Thief and Everyone Brave is Forgiven.

    Another book I heard raves about was Before We Visit the Goddess. It was okay but I just didn’t see it as the most awesome book ever.

    I did really like Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers and Commonwealth. Those deserve the hype!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I thought The Nest was a decent beach read and included it on my Summer Reading List, but nothing more than that. However, I think there’s a large number of people in the market for a decent beach read, so it’s selling really well!

  16. Cherrie

    I know I’m in the minority but I thought all of Gillian Flynn books were a letdown. They seemed to be trying too hard to be different and surprising.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I loved Gone Girl, but didn’t like Dark Places at all. I also wonder if I loved Gone Girl b/c it was probably the first twisty thriller that got my attention. Then everything I read after felt like a copy.

  17. Nan Nan

    I don’t know if there was hype for “Born a Crime,” Trevor Noah’s memoir, but it is definitely top 5 books I’ve read this year, well listened to this year. I got the audiobook and he narrates it himself which makes it all the more awesome. There were many times it made laugh out loud, times when it made me cry, and times when I was crying and laughing at the same time. It’s not very political, so whether you’re left or right, it doesn’t matter.

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