Friday, October 29, 2010

The Best-Selling Novels That Made You Snore

Audrey NiffeneggerImage via Wikipedia I remember starting a thread on a forum once, in which I asked other readers if they disliked a particular best-selling novel as much as I did—A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick.
It turned out not many had read it, but someone else started another thread about how much she disliked The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. Many jumped into the conversation, claiming they also didn’t care for the book.
The reason I bring this up is because I happen to have picked up “The Time Traveler’s Wife” from the library this week, and I’m about a third of the way through it. So far, so good—although I don’t think it’s one I’ll be praising from the rooftops or anything.
A novel can’t be all things to all people. Here are some of the best-selling books I just didn’t get:
A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick. The story didn’t have me convinced, and I found the writing extremely repetitive.
Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. I read it this past summer and found it…well… poorly written and kind of boring.
Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. This is one I thought I’d love, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe I just wasn’t that interested in the subject matter.
The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. When I picked it up, I didn’t realize this book was a sequel. Perhaps I would’ve liked it more if I’d read the first book, The Shadow of the Wind. It wasn’t horrible, but I found it extremely long and a bit corny.
One reader’s trash is another reader’s treasure. No two people will enjoy all the same books, and even like-minded individuals will differ in their opinions of certain stories.
However, we as writers should be able to look at a novel and recognize what factors led to its popularity, whether we enjoy reading it ourselves, or not.
Take “Twilight,” for example. I didn’t like it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand why it became a best-seller. Let’s face it: teenagers love vampires and romance. Put them together, and the rest is history.
Nathan Bransford says:
…the one question that aspiring writers should never ask themselves when reading a book is, “Do I like this?”
Whether we like a book or not is irrelevant.
Instead, Bransford advises that we consider whether the book meets the goals set out by its author.
It’s easy to look at a best-seller and say we don’t care for it, but it’s difficult to realize that no matter what we write, or how well we write, someone will think the same about our work.
And that’s okay. You can’t please everyone.
If you check out the reader reviews of the best-sellers I didn’t like, you’ll see that all of them do have a high number of four and five star reviews. That means somebody enjoyed them—in fact, the majority of readers did.
Which best-selling novels did you dislike, and why? If you need inspiration, check out:
Also, on a more positive note, which best-sellers did you love?
Some of my picks are Life of Pi, by Yann Martel; A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon; The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy; and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
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