I recently read a blog by Johann Thorsson “Why do we pick the books we do? http://bit.ly/16wFX1b In it he came up with a number of reasons, more than one of which resonated with me.
1) Reviews from sources I trust – makes sense
2) The writer’s previous work – yeah! I’m not the only one to go out and buy an author’s entire back catalogue after falling in love with one book
3) The fear of missing out…
With this last reason, I know exactly the point he is making. Everyone is reading it, everywhere you look on the tube you’re faced with the front cover, whether it’s in the hands of the person whose arm pit you’re stuck in, or on advertisement boards. With certain books there becomes this need to be part of the group who can say “Oh I’ve read that”.
And yet I find myself recoiling from this. I avoid the bests selling fiction list in the Times on a Saturday, I put blinkers on when in Waterstones* avoiding looking at the neatly ordered chart of books to read. For some reason I don’t want to be one of the masses. I want to read a book because I’m in the right place for that story, for the character’s journey, for the world I’m about to disappear into, not because if I don’t read it I’ll be missing out.
This desire to be alone with a book leads me down two paths…
1) I have to be somehow ahead of the game, reading books before they become the bible of the commuter. How it’s done, what magic is used to pick a book before it becomes a best seller I really don’t know; but I have from time to time found myself capable of it.
If you stick with this blog you’ll realise I am in no way sophisticated with my reading, I do not discriminate, I’ll try most things. It is this open mindedness which led to me having read all three 50 shades of Grey books before the middle England housewife had got out of bed and recommended it for next month’s book club. It also took me to the dark world of Harry Hole long before it became cool and trendy to be into Scandinavian literature.
But as I said I’ve no idea how that selection happens, maybe I am the trend setter, maybe I wield a power to make a book a best seller…..ermmmmm maybe not.
The second of the paths, is probably the more obvious and more often frequented.
2) I read a book long after Richard and Judy have recommended it. I normally find these books in the charity shop, once loved and cherished by one of the masses; it’s now been donated to make room on the shelf for the next must read.
So that is how I came to find myself reading The Help four years after it was first published and two years after it was made in to a major motion picture. Motion picture, I love that phrase so much more emotive and inspiring than film.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, I can understand why a movie mogul made it into a motion picture, I get why it became a popular read with book clubs up and down the country…and yet do I love it? I’m I inspired by it? Do I think it’s a book to last the ages?
Honest answer, no. In my teens I became obsessed with the writing of Maya Angelou, that wonderful lady took a 15 year old from Wigan to a world I couldn’t for a long time believe was real. How could people treat each other like that? Why did colour matter so much? Her life opened my eyes to the fight for race equality and the reality of people’s lives not that many years ago. From there reading The Help was like adding lemonade to a glass of white wine – adding a bit of sweetness and taking off the acidic edge.
Although the story is based around the relationships between the white employers and the coloured help I couldn’t help but find myself more interested in the inner workings of the Junior League, the treatment of Celia Foote, the out casting of Skeeter – when was someone going to speak up about those injustices. These sickly sweet and yet secretly vindictive ladies are the ones I want to know more about, what will Hilly do if someone was to publicly stand up to her, will Elizabeth ever think for herself.
Kathryn Stockett is a very good writer and whilst I do not want to seem uninterested in the race battle that went on in America and the rise of the civil rights movement. I for one would love to read more about the day to day lives of the women of Jackson Mississippi’s Junior League.
*other book shops and review lists are available