Anticipation and Winnie-the-Pooh

A lot of the blogs I read take part in “Waiting On” Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

Like I said, it’s weekly. I wish it were daily.

It’s the anticipation. Pooh put it best:

“‘What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?’

‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best-‘ and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.[…]” – A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

Every unread book has the potential to be the best book and I’m a terrible optimist when it comes to a book’s potential. Which isn’t to say I end up disappointed by the quality of the books I anticipate. No, that would mean I actually manage to read those books.

I’m just like Winnie-the-Pooh, if he spent all day thinking about what delicious new variety of honey he’ll eat—maybe some tasty blueberry honey, maybe some of that sage honey everyone’s talking about, maybe some avocado honey, he’s never had any—only to eat some old clover honey he’s had since last year. So, really, not like Winnie-the-Pooh at all.

But we’re both connoisseurs of anticipation, if not of honey, and we’re not the only ones. Anticipation is a subject of scientific research. Most of that research is unrelated to Pooh’s view of anticipation, but some isn’t.

A 2014 paper in Psychological Science, marvellously titled, wait for it, “Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases” is all about the pleasure found in anticipation. The paper compares experiential purchases (e.g. concert tickets) to material purchases (e.g. things, stuff). Waiting to go to a concert is more pleasurable than waiting for a dress.

But what about books? Are books material or experiential purchases? Both?

I want to think my unread books are different than unused stuff. They’re even more than potential vacations. They’re potential adventures and very few true adventures are available for purchase. Is it any wonder then that waiting for a book brings so much enjoyment?

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