Friday, June 29, 2012

Going Grey

I’m going Grey, in more ways than one. My hair is a given, but I’m referring to the trilogy dominating the best seller list. Certainly, I plan to read these books. For the same reason that I always read runaway best sellers. I want to know why they have hit the lists.

The attraction has to be more than sex. There are jillions of books in this ilk. So what is it? Plot? Characterization? A degree of titillation that I won’t understand until I turn the pages?
My dominate trait is curiosity.

Frankie recently posted about the dilemma of deciding which books to read. A lady after my own heart. So many books, so little time.
My “method” is not set in stone, but after Frankie’s post, I thought about my process. At the top of my list are books I’m dying to read for my own pleasure. Right now, that’s Bring Up the Bodies, second in the trilogy by Hilary Mantel. I love historical novels and complicated mysteries with complex settings. My daughters try to find the ideal gift of a “psychological literary mystery.”

Secondly, I’ll read mega-award winning books. I’ll love some of these, but not all. Usually, I find the Edgar winners to be top-notch. If a book that has won extensive critical praise doesn’t have a decent plot I feel cheated.  I hate books that wallow in self-pity for about 400 pages.
I adore classics with protagonists struggling with moral decisions. Oh, to have contemporary readers who would appreciate the lavish styles and subtle characterization employed by our predecessors.

Then I’ll track down best-sellers by new authors. Rarely do they make my irresistible list, but I want to know why they have caught the imagination of the reading public. There has to be a reason. I don’t bother to read most of the authors of a series again after I’ve analyzed their style and learned from them. James Patterson is in this category. He’s good—just not my cup of tea. In a writing class I taught, I asked the students to pay attention to the way he could turn a whole plot with a one word  one sentence paragraph. Really!
I read a lot of really poorly written history books because I must. I read books written by friends. Some I praise and with others I shut my mouth. I read books I’ve agreed to review, or blurb.

I have a pile of books—often free—that will just get twenty pages if I don’t like them. Then they go to the library’s used book sale.
My agent once said I needed to read more. A jaw-dropping statement, because I have always read all the time. She meant read more widely. Not just literature. I needed to read more junk, explore more genres, learn, learn, learn. How do western writers describe landscapes, romance writers manage to make trite plots seem fresh, and sci-fi writers make alternate universes seem real?

I’m jillionth in line at the library to check out Grey. I signed up to show my approval and support for our adventurous board, even though I intend to buy the books.  Bucking the trend, I’m going to purchase Grey in hard copy, instead of downloading.
I’ll put it right next to The House on the Prairie, The Satanic Verses, Mein Kampf, and any other book I take a notion to read

7 comments:

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Charlotte,

I can't wait to hear your thoughts about the reason for Grey's success.

Speaking of reading more widely -- I could certainly stand to read more in other genres. I do read historical romances for the setting. I would like to read more horror/paranormal for the atmosphere. I have a lovely looking book -- great cover -- The Haunting of Maddy Clare, that I picked up on impulse at the bookstore. It has terrific reviews, and it's set in the 1920s, an era I love. But ghost stories spook me (pun intended). So I have to find just the right time to read it.

Anyway, let us know about Grey.

Irene Bennett Brown said...

I'm with Frankie, please let us know your opinion of the Grey tomes, Charlotte. Erotica turns me off just thinking about it,(grinning here) so if you don't mind, I'll let you read and critique the books for me. And thanks!

Charlotte Hinger said...

Irene, Frankie--thanks for egging me on. But I'll post a review on Type M with an analysis.

Irene, I've never sought out erotica, so my opinion might not be worth a plug nickel. On the other hand, I'm pretty good at figuring out what make a book work.

Frankie, loved your post, and could write a lot more about "choosing books." Today's WSJ best-seller list made me sad.

Erika Bonaparte said...

Dr. Bailey,

The Haunting of Maddy Clare, did you finish reading it yet? I am curious about your
thoughts, because the book cover attracted me as well. That is why I have chosen it for my Diva Bookclub dinner in October 2012.

Erika Bonaparte

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