On the necessity of reading bestsellers

Posted: February 17, 2011 in Popular/bestsellers, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

As a public librarian, I’m expected to have at least some familiarity with what’s on The New York Times bestseller lists, some knowledge of the writers who regularly appear in the top ten or fifteen. And rightly so, considering how many readers follow popular writers religiously. 

There are also readers who need to fill time with similar reads, while waiting for their favorite authors to publish their next book, or in an effort to expand their list of favorites based on what they already enjoy reading. Someone has to be there to guide them through those long, dark, lonely nights, and that someone is, traditionally, (wait for it!) a LIBRARIAN.

Because of that, I’m faced with a dilemma of sorts. My interweb friends, I am forced to admit I’m a reading snob, a holder of a B.A in English literature – a degree roughly as useful as an 8-track tape player in today’s society. Yet, I’m thrown into the position of needing to know who these popular writers are, as well as a bit about their work, so I can connect readers with books they’re likely to enjoy.

How do I overcome that? By being non-judgmental, I suppose, judging these books by the author’s intention rather than their literary quality. Just as I recognize my own reading is high-middle brow, there are those above me who are even higher brow. They wouldn’t  condescend to read much of what I read, and I can’t even understand the writing they love. 

Being caught in the middle allows me to see the situation from both sides. Is it so different from the comparison between my reading and a college professor’s. Or, say, a scientist or other person who uses the side of their brain containing spatial logic (which I totally lack)? Not really all that different, if you think about it – which I obiously have.

But where do I start? There’s mystery, suspense, horror, crime novels, etc., enough for a lifetime. But how do I go about putting a toe in the water, giving some of my precious reading time to popular fiction?

I squeeze it in somehow, that’s how. Like everything else I do.

To help me keep track of what I’ve read, and my thoughts about it, I’m going to post my adventures here. I’ll be interested to see how these books compare to my usual fare, keeping in mind these authors’ intents are different from that of those I usually read, judging them on their own merit and not as they compare to “literary fiction.” Ideally, that is.

What may be interesting is comparing/contrasting these popular fiction works with their equivalent in literary fiction, when I can find books to compare.


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