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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reading Resolutions: Give a Popular Book a Chance

I have a bad habit, and it's time for me to confess. When it comes to popular books, I can be a bit judgy.

Oh, don't make that face. We've all done it whether we admit it or not. You might judge books by their cover, publisher, author or any other arbitrary criteria you can come up with. For me, it's very specific. I judge books by their fandom.

Hang on! Before you scrutinize that statement and start thinking I assess every book that reaches some level of popularity solely based on the group of people who like it and the hype they create, I'm going to stop you. It's not like that. 

Explaining it is tough, but this phenomena seems to only occur with established contemporary authors. The authors everyone I knew in late high school and college absolutely adored and gushed about incessantly. Who you might ask? Well, you probably love them too, so try not to hate me. I'm talking about Sarah Dessen, Meg Cabot, Deb Caletti, Susane Colasanti and others authors in the same vein. 

Yes... The conclusion you've just leapt to is completely accurate. I'll spell it out for you if you promise not to close the browser and write me off forever. 

I have never read a book by any of those authors. Not a single one.

But that's the point of this post! The point is I'm changing my ways. I'm going to make a concerted effort this year to read a handful of books by those authors and judge them on their own merits. 

I heard amazing things about these authors years ago and continue to hear them today. I even own books by all of these authors. However, every time I pick them up and read the jacket copy I can't help but think two things: 

1)"People evangelize for these books like they are the second coming, and I hear it so much that encouraging me to read them feels like you're pushing me to buy a timeshare."

2) "This book description stirs me about as much as the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary, and I can't help but feel they will be the literary equivalent of Applebee's. Adequate, but wholly unsatisfying." 

To be clear, none of this is a reflection on the authors. Having never read their work, I can't pass judgment on them or their writing or the readers behind their immense fandoms, but only on book marketing and the fan pitches I've personally been on the receiving end of in the past. Actually, I've met a few of these ladies, and they seem nothing short of amazing.

That being said the somewhat unfortunate truth is that their books just aren't my speed. I tend to be a darker reader, whether it's contemporary, paranormal or dystopian, and reading about situations I see or hear about in my daily life just isn't the escape that fiction has always promised me. 

My feelings about the way I read very closely align with a Stephen King quote that I love. 

"People want to know why I do this, why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them I have the heart of a small boy... and I keep it in a jar on my desk."

Despite those darker reading inclinations, I plan to rotate some of the aforementioned authors into my TBR this year. I make no promises that I'll come out of this a changed reader, but hopefully I'll find a few I can relate to and maybe even like. If nothing else, I'll gain a new perspective on why these books are beloved by so many. 

      Wish me luck. 

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