Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Reading 'Trendy' Books

I’ve always been hesitant to read ‘trending’ books. In high school and college, it was because I was on a constant classic literature kick and thought the only things worth reading were listed on a syllabus somewhere.

As a sophomore in college, I thought Harry Potter was for children. But then, while stuck at my British aunt’s house for a couple weeks in between semesters, I happened upon the first three books and figured ‘why not?’

As you can imagine, I devoured them in days and faithfully read and watched every book and movie of the series.

I thought Twilight was a L.J. Smith cop-off and would never be as good as the original Vampire Diaries Trilogy I read in my early teens. But then my mother read the first book on a plane-ride over to visit me here in France and left the book behind with the recommendation that I give it a try. 


I’ll be honest. I wasn’t impressed. I thought the writing was clunky and the plot was first. But that didn’t change the fact I couldn’t put it down. And, as you may have guessed, I went on to read and watch every book and movie of the series.

Then comes The Hunger Games.  I really really didn’t want to read the series, mostly because I was on a ‘happy, upbeat romantic comedy’ kick and wasn’t at all in the mood for what the violent premise had to offer. I read the first chapter and hated it. It was too dark and dreary. 

But then I picked it up a couple months later when I was left with nothing else to read and made myself get through the first three chapters. And again, I found I couldn’t put it down and went on to read every book and watch the movie.

My husband brought home Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, about six months ago. A client at the hotel had left it behind and he likes to bring home books in English for me whenever this happens (cause he’s awesome like that). However, when I saw the title, I grimaced and placed it promptly on my bookshelf, holding it by the rim like it was some kind of writhing snake and knowing that I’d probably never crack the cover.  

Oh hell no! 

You see, I was hell bent on never EVER reading Fifty Shades of Grey. The reviews from fellow writer friends had been terrible. Even my mother, who read every book, told me ‘They’re not good books. There’s really no value to be gained. But once you start, you can’t seem to stop.” 

But then, my kindle broke.

 And I finished all the hardcovers in my to-be-read pile. 

And I received the first book of Fifty Shades of Grey for Christmas. While I put it off, eventually, well, I ran out of books to read.

Which is how I now find myself in the middle of the second book. And I’ll probably break down and read the third, too. *sigh*

My mother was absolutely right. She often is.

Now, with books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, it’s easy to see why they became trending best sellers. You can find everything you want in those books- good writing, characters, themes, plots, etc... 

But with books like Twilight and Fifty Shades, the draw is something completely different. Both good and bad things can be said. I think it’s hard to put your finger on, but when push comes to shove, I think there’s something highly addictive in losing yourself in someone else’s less-than-mundane life, even if their personality isn’t particularly unique or interesting. 

Why do you think some books achieve trending status? Is it different for every book? Or is there one steady must-have principle that keeps people coming back for more? Do you find yourself automatically reading trending books out of curiosity? Never read them? Or dig your heels but eventually read them anyway?


Karen Baldwin said...

Word of mouth is the best and most effective advertising there matter if the product (book) is good or bad. I also read Fifty Shades to see what all the fuss was about. Eh, is all I have to say.

Stina said...

I wasn't interested in either Twilight or The Hunger Games when they came out, but eventually read them out of curiosity. I didn't know about the Twilight hype at the time. It was in Walmart and it was a bestselling novel (according to the cover) and I figured I would study it to see what makes a best selling novel. Before I was finished it, I had ordered the next two books, both only available in hardback. I devoured them over Christmas. Heck, I started reading New Moon before Christmas and wrapped it at the last second to put under the tree from my kids. :)

I read Harry Potter out of curiosity. That was before becoming a writer. Or a parent. I heard about the hype and decided to read it because one day I would be having kids. I figured I should read what they would be reading (only one of my three kids has read the book. The others cheated and just watched the movies).

Since I have no shortage of books on my bookshelf, there's no need to read 50 Shades. I know if I do, it will have a negative effect on my writing. I'll pass, thanks. :)

I've been trying to avoid "trending" books, but more so the book given a lot of pre-launch hype. But that's because they often don't meet my expectations.

Louise said...

I started reading Harry Potter when one of my friends was bad-mouthing the series without ever having read it. That made me so furious I swore I would read them all and come back and give this friend and INFORMED decision. I read Book 4 (the newest at the time) first, then went back and read 1-3, read the rest as they came out. I thought it was a great series, though the latter three books were a disappointment to me.

Hunger Games - I read the first book, enjoyed it well enough, but didn't care enough about any of the characters to read the other two. Still haven't read the Twilight books or the Fifty Shades books. And no intentions of either! Not because I'm anti-trend, but because neither of them are anything I find interesting.

I think bad writing becomes popular more easily than good writing, honestly. That's not to say all popular writing is bad! Just that it is often easier for a book with bad writing to latch onto the public mind than one with beautiful prose. I don't know why, exactly, but there it is.

Hannah said...

I read Harry Potter out of interest. There was a book 3 coming out so I thought, what the heck. And I read every book after right when they came out. Never resisted.

I actually read an advanced reader of Twilight. (Bookseller 12 years) I stopped halfway through. Then when it came out in hardcover, I picked it up again so I could hand sell if needed. Still didnt like it. Read two very slow, I hated it and hated the rest of the series. I watched the first HORRIBLE movie. I have no interest in seeing more.

I used to run the romance department so Fifty Shades was nothing new. I hadn't read a romance in a long time so I plowed through the first two. They are poorly written and insulting, but it was like junk food. I know I shouldn't eat an entire bag of cheese puffs, but that doesn't stop the occasional binge. I have no interest in reading the third book, but I'll probably watch the movie.

I had an advanced reader of the Hunger Games as well. I enjoyed the series. I wasn't in love, but I definitely see the appeal.

Most trends I'll read as they start or right when hype starts to build. If I somehow miss it, I'll just ask someone to ruin it for me and/or see the movie. Like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Missed that one. Saw the movies. Love the movies. Will now probably read the books.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't read the obscure or the trending. (And I have never read any of those books.) Not sure what it is that grabs. Some people are drawn to train wrecks. Maybe that's it.

Meredith said...

I was the same way about Twilight. I knew they were not well written and had some troubling messages about what girls should want in a relationship, but I COULD NOT put it down. :)

mshatch said...

It took me a long while before I read The Hunger Games but I have to say I ripped right through them once I started, especially the last two. Have not read Shades of Grey and am determined not to!

Slamdunk said...

WIth my time being short these days, I have an excuse to skip the trendy stuff and focus on crime titles that I can use for work. I am sure I miss some good reading, but not too many.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

The secret is voo-doo magic.
Just kidding.
I think sometimes we focus so much on the writing skills we forget novels must first be good stories. With characters we can root for.

Anne Gallagher said...

My mother got me Eat,Pray,Love five years ago. Still haven't read it. Same with Marley and Me. I don't read trending books. Never did. I just wait for the movie to come out.

Unknown said...

I'm a sucker to read the books that seem to stick out in public. More or less because when my Goodreads pile seems overwhelming the one book sitting in the grocery store makes the decision for me on what to read next!

I drink the kool-aid all right.

I just started reading Beautiful Creatures because the movie is to be released in February and I was intrigued enough that I wanted to know what it was all about before I took the time to see it!!

Eat, Pray, Love... Harry Potter, Twilight, Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game, etc... I devour and conquer.

However, Fifty Shades is one of those not on my list. I dare say there are some books that I will never fancy... that's one of them. There are a lot of fans and no matter what I'm happy to see people reading!

Unknown said...

PS If i had the ability to like a comment I'd like Alex Cavanaughs... I do love a good train wreck.

Carrie-Anne said...

I studiously avoid the fad books like Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games, partly because I've never much been into modern books, and partly because I hate all the rabid fanboys and fangirls who act like you kill kittens if you say you've never read their beloved trend books and have no desire to do so ever. I've also long avoided LOTR for similar reasons, but I may finally crack and attempt those books. At least they've stuck around for decades and proved they're not just a flavor of the month everyone is squeeing all over like it's the best thing since sliced bread.

Anonymous said...

Carrie-Anne, you are missing out on a real treat by avoiding those series'. LotR, Potter and The Hunger Games are wonderful books to escape into.

I agree with those that say word of mouth is an author's best promotional tool. I was around at the beginning of the Potter phenomena and saw it all first hand. It was actually quite exciting to be a part of. I also notice a real spike in sales of my own books when there have been reviews on social media that get retweeted. It's all word of mouth these days with so many bookstores closing.

DL Hammons said...

I guess I'm inoculated against trends. I haven't read Twilight, read only the first book of both the Hunger Games and Harry Potter series, and have no interest at all in Fifty Shades. Oh well.

Unknown said...

I avoided all of the above books like the plague for months and months, until a friend forced me to read Twilight. I found it to be boring and poorly written, yet I read the entire series. The Hunger Games was recommended to me by a different friend. I DEVOURED the entire series, and loved it. And then there was Fifty Shades of Grey...heh. One friend swore the books were made of awesome and I simply MUST read them. Another insisted that I read them and suffer along with her (a friend was forcing her to read them). And so I caved. And instantly regretted it. The first book was so very bad. I didn't mind the second one so much. I've got the third, but I don't feel it's necessary and so I don't want to read it.

It's really hit or miss, whether I enjoy the trending books or not. As a rule, I tend to stick with my favorite authors and brand new authors instead of handing over my money to the authors already rolling in dough, ya know?

Beth said...

I loved Twilight and The Hunger Games (although I didn't pick either of them up b/c they were trending). But I'll never read 50 Shades of Grey. The only adult romance I read is labeled "clean" so there is no chance I'll spend time or money on erotica and I don't like the idea of fan fic being published. It seems unfair to the original author.

LTM said...

I haven't read 50 SHADES! :D But I'm sure they're highly addictive. I mean, everybody's reading them! Plus they're rill sexy, so you know that'll fly.

I don't know. I was hesitant to read The Hunger Games, but I readily picked up Twilight to read... back in 2007. I LOVED that cover! And I'm a vampire fan from way back.

I guess what makes books go crazy is part the story's really good, but also the sort of *need to talk about it* to others. It's fun to gab books. It's why I miss my book club. So when everybody's read a book like that, everybody can sit down and break it apart and have fun discussing it. Even when it's TERRIBLE!!! :D


Matthew MacNish said...

I rarely read trending books. I did read the Hunger Games. And I read those Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books, but other than those too, I tend to stick to things more of my own taste.

Mark Murata said...

I don't tend to read trending books. I suppose I should, to make my writing more like a bestseller's. But keep in mind that by the time an author becomes a bestseller, they can do things that beginner writers can't get away with. It's best to look at their first novels to get hints about breaking in.

Unknown said...

I give you a lot of credit for reading what's good and what's trending, too. At least you can speak with authority when someone asks you about them. I haven't read any of the series you mentioned, although Hunger Games is on my TBR list. My tastes just aren't the norm - probably why I'll never be a published novelist.

D.G. Hudson said...

I don't read trending books most of the time, unless they are in the genres I like (scifi or mystery). I resisted Harry Potter, but liked it in the end, but that was movies. Didn't read the books, yet.

I just read Tender is the Night (Fitzgerald) and it reminded me why I still like classics. A mix is good.

Vicki Rocho said...

I've got 50 Shades in the drawer beside my bed, but I haven't cracked it open yet. I'm hiding it from my 11 year old is a little too curious for her own good. LOL.

I have an aversion to trending books. I've been proven wrong before, but I feel like such a sheep for reading something just because everyone else is. ESPECIALLY when so many people openly admit the book sucks.

I hope my kindle doesn't break...but it might just take something that drastic to push me over the edge. :)

jaybird said...

Soooo not sure what makes books trend. I had 50 Shades handed to me by all kinds of people, telling me it was the greatest book ever. I couldn't even get through the first one. I was promised the second and third got better. I couldn't bring myself to try...with that series, I just don't get what all the hype is about!


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