Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Do Good Books Ruin Your Enjoyment of Bad Books?

I’ve seen a good many books recently rise to or debut on the NY Times Bestseller list that have not received good reviews. I’ve also read multiple news articles on how the flop of these “bestsellers” is affecting the publishing industry. For example, the last Harry Potter book sold 8.3 million copies on just 24 hours. One of the biggest titles released these past few months sold a mere 1.2 million copies in one week.

Is the reason these books sales are tanking too much advance hype? Or are people looking for something different in literature these days?

I recently finished what I consider to be a masterpiece of literature (I don’t mind naming it—The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Peel Society). In contrast, I also finished a book by a NY Times Bestselling author. The difference in how I felt as I read these books was marked. The Guernsey book had well-developed, fascinating and enjoyable characters. The authors were able to approach the delicate topic of Nazi occupation during WWII with, oddly enough, hope and humanity. My book club read this book, no one ranking it below a 9 out of 10 (and we are tough critics, believe me). The book I picked up next was supposedly young adult, but contained so many adult themes that I wondered there wasn’t a parental advisory sticker on the cover. How have books such as these risen to NY Times Bestselling status when the gems of literature don’t get enough marketing dollars?

Perhaps editors are pushing authors to produce the next bestseller too quickly, or perhaps they are backing the wrong horse. Or perhaps we as readers want more out of literature, having been spoiled by the true works of art.

Tiffany Dominguez

Freelance Writer, Young Adult Fiction


Yamile said...

I agree with you 100%. I was hesitant to read this book because I had never heard of it. What a treat I could have missed! I've also read several YA books that had been widely acclaimed before being published, and after reading them I was left unsatisfied and thinking, "Is this it?"

Scott said...

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Peel Society

If that book is anywhere near as great as the title, it'll be a classic. Thanks for the tip.

Oh, and my answer to your question is yes. It took me a long time after majoring in English to be able to read a popular best seller just for fun. Even now, because I tend to read classics, I have a hard time enjoying books that are just plain entertaining. I'm getting better at it, though. I kind of envy people who are easier to please, because there are so many books that can bring them joy that leave me empty, and joy is never a bad thing.