Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Year in Books - November: Reading 'Best Sellers'



My October read was this Booker Prize nominated novel, We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.  I noticed yesterday that it is number 3 in the best selling paperback list published in 'The Times'.  In fact quite a few of my recent reads are on there (The Chimp Paradox, The Goldfinch) as well as my November choice Us by David Nicholls.  This has lead me to consider how much I am influenced by marketing in my choice of reading: the book promotions and displays in Chester's only bookshop, Waterstones; the reviews in the papers; the radio interviews; and even the appearances at literary festivals: all of this is marketing.  And even though I know this, I am still easily influenced. It makes me a bit uncomfortable: how will any new writers get on the shelves if booksellers fill them up with these heavily promoted books, often written by those who have already had a best seller? So I am going to make a deliberate effort to avoid such books in the future, basing more of my reading on recommendations like those on this link up The Year in Books by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees.

I quite enjoyed We Are Completely Beside Ourselves which I chose initially because of the intriguing title, though possibly also because of its position in the Waterstone's display.  (I didn't actually buy it from Waterstone's but did my usual library order.  It's usually either that or a Kindle purchase for me so I am guilty, I suppose, of contributing to the demise of independent bookshops and their support of new writers.)  It was another book which was really promising in the first few third, but then lost pace later on.  It's in the first person again, like many books I have read recently, and tells the story of a young woman who is the daughter of psycholgist parents and how the family breaks down because the father chooses to experiment with his own family. There's a major twist which I won't give away, but after that is revealed, I think, the book goes downhill and I felt sometimes that the writer's research was a bit intrusive - more scientific detail than I wanted. Perhaps others like this: I noticed it had a rave review in The Guardian. (Don't read this if you want to discover the twist yourself).

I have started Us, by David Nicholls.  It's about the marriage of a couple in their fifties whose son is about to go off to university and so interests me as I'm not so far from that stage.  But so far it seems depressingly similar to One Day: the main character is a kind of older version of Dexter,  Anyway - will reserve judgement until I read some more.  I have also tracked down the book I referred to in my last post and I have ordered it from the library.  It is 'Happiness by Design' by Paul Dolan.  I'll be reading this too.  And now I am off to rake up leaves in the garden, an activity which makes me happy.







12 comments:

  1. You have a point Doris, the endless marketing that accompanies some books just gets into your head, doesn't it? I do like the Year in Books as the contributors are just ordinary folk discussing what they've read and airing their views. I'm planning on doing some leaf raking myself later, it's bright and sunny here. Enjoy your Sunday.

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  2. I am also reading 'Us', and enjoying it so far, as I did the Karen Joy Fowler book. I am not at all influenced by marketing when it comes to my choice of reading matter. A lot of time it's down to recommendation from friends, or Laura's 'Year in Books' posts. Sometimes it impulsive from the supermarket, a cover usually attracts me first. Favourite authors I follow and buy when they have anything new out, though of late I have begun to wonder about this as several have disappointed me, seeming to have 'gone off the boil' a bit. New Books magazine is a good place to find new books, as are the book pages in newspapers, magazines etc. And sometimes, just a good browse through the latest releases on Amazon or Waterstones sites - all these options, so no wonder I have about fifty odd books to read!!!!

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  3. I totally get what you are saying about the hyped and 'chosen' authors and sometimes as they are so insidiously marketed we fall into the trap. By the same token some of them are either great or interesting reads but it does feel uncomfortable following the herd. I realised this as I tend not to buy so many paper books now as I balance them with audiobooks, I love using Laura's followers posts to get views on books I might fancy. It is especially good getting them from bloggers that I follow as I have a sense of what that person is like and how much I identify with them.

    Our communal work kitchen has a spontaneous bookshelf with a 'help yourself' sign and my GP's has a charity donation shelf. This has lead to some interesting finds that don't appear on any promoted booklist. There is no risk in buying something you might not like, you can review it over your lunch/while waiting and best of all no clutter as you simply pop it back after you've read it for another one. This makes me feel like less of a corporate follower.

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  4. I would like books to have no quotes from famous authors on the cover, or from newspaper reviewers, these spoil my joy of discovering the story in my own way. I often rush through the library and pick up books that are displayed at the entrance, usually those that are heavily promoted.... but I am less biased when I choose an audiobook. The audiobook covers are less in your face. Happy reading Doris! x

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  5. Such a good point Doris. I am actually reading the Karen Joy Fowler this month (as you know), but in my defence it was the choice of my non- virtual book group, do not entirely of my choosing. However I was already aware of the book and intrigued by its title so would probably have read it at some point anyway. X

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    1. Will be interested to see what you thought. I seem to be alone in not loving it.

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  6. Just remember, that if no one borrows books from libraries that is contributing to their demise too, so nothing wrong with using your local library!! xx

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    1. I think writers do get some royalties for library loans too so not so bad. I love libraries and it disturbs me how many branches are closing.

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  7. It's amazing - quite scary really - how much we are influenced by advertising and skillful marketing.

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  8. Nice post, Doris. Unfortunately, I am easily influenced by marketing too. Though quite often reading a book after a raving review has left me disappointed. Coincidentally I am going to a bookclub meeting this evening where we'll be discussing a delightful book by a Dutch writer about his trip on bike to Rome. We will probably be reading Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth next.

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    1. I read Swwet Tooth last year. No t my favourite Ian McEwan but a good read.

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  9. I loved this post, thank you for sharing!
    I often try to avoid best sellers and what critics tell me I should read and instead search out the newer writers and the more un usual books, I read on a kindle too and i feel that this does support new writers as they can self publish where publishing houses will not support them.
    I thank you for your review on this book as it is one that I have picked up and considered but really not too sure about! I have given up on my read this month as it was so dull!
    Thanks for sharing.

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