Why do Bestsellers Disappoint?

What differentiates humans from animals, apart from the tail, is that humans love stories. We love to hear stories and we love to share them. Say, you are late from the office and your wife starts hurtling carrots at you, what do you do? You quickly weave a story to escape the wrath.
Your mother finds a pack of cigarettes in your jeans, what do you do? You again make up a story. In fact, all our talks and gossips are stories. And this is why humans devised writing and books: to make their stories travel far.
We even have mastered the art of limiting them to 140 characters (on twitter).

So what makes a book work?
Sometimes I’ve picked a bestseller only to discard it within first few pages, because the story didn’t click me. The book wasn’t inherently bad, it simply didn’t work for me. If you go through the list of the best books of all time on Goodreads, you’ll find that each book has some one-star reviews. So for every book ever published, there are people who’ve hated it.
But the taste for books is subjective, isn’t it?

If a book has all the nuances of the language but a weak story, it fails for me. And if it has a story but the author’s inability with the words is clearly evident on the paper, then too the book fails to interest me. One thing I’ve realized over time is that the bestsellers generally don’t go well with me; and i’ve read many of them in the past. Now the ‘Bestseller’ tag is insignificant for me, and so are the star ratings. However, sometimes the books that have not the greatest ratings on the planet have worked well for me. Like Animal farm and The catcher in the rye.

So what exactly makes a book work?bookwork
Some books grow onto you slowly over time. Like, in my case, Animal farm. The more I’ve faced the politics of life, the more I’ve grasped the meaning of Animal farm. And each time I marvel at George Orwell’s capability of having conveyed so much in so less (The Animal farm is just 128 pages).
When I read Lord of the flies, I absolutely hated it; but slowly I’ve come to understand its meaning. I don’t have to re-read it. The book simply comes to me when I’m faced with tough situations of life, like a betrayal by a colleague, and it makes me realize that humans aren’t bad, it’s our instinct for survival that makes us do evil things.
I like such impact of books upon me.

So for me a book either must have a good story, like The Hobbit; or it should grow upon me, like Animal farm and Lord of the flies. Fancy imaginings like Twilight never work for me.
However, reading something is better than not reading at all. So tell me, do you read the bestsellers? Or what kind of books do you prefer? And how do you select your next read?

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4 thoughts on “Why do Bestsellers Disappoint?

  1. All of the books you have listed are classics. They are books that stand the test of time. I have read a few classics that I really like: To Kill A Mockingbird, anything by Jane Austen, Grapes of Wrath, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, anything by Edgar Allan Poe, The Man in the Iron Mask, Wuthering Heights. I could ramble on. These books stand the test of time because of their themes – and good writing. You are correct that both must be present for the book to be a good read.

    I read a variety of books – fiction and non-fiction. Best sellers in the literature category are usually better reads for me than best sellers in the serial category – I don’t usually read serials. Like you, if a book doesn’t click with me in the first 50 to 100 pages, I don’t finish it. I do try to give it a chance, I like some mystery, science fiction, and the occasional thriller, but literature is still my favorite genre of fiction.

    An example of a book I could not read: I tried to read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy a few years ago, after watching the movie. The movie captured my attention, but I could not read the book. The book annoyed the heck out of me.

    I read devotional books with prayer and meditation. I love quotes, so I sometimes read quotes. I read biographies sometimes – currently reading “The Seven Story Mountain”. I also enjoy compilations of short stories – two favorites: “The Things They Carried” and “Olive Kitteridge”. My favorite reading is always a good story – true stories or fictional ones.

    Enough from me. Cheers 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Robin for taking the time to share about your reading preferences. I must say, your reading is so diverse. I’ve read To kill a mocking bird and I liked it very much. In fact I’m planning to reread it next year (2016 shall be my year of rereads). The only problem I face with literature is that sometimes the pace of story gets extremely slow, which makes it boring to read, especially the nineteenth century classics.

      One genre I’ve not read till now and wish to read is horror; and I’m starting with Stephen King.
      I checked the books you’ve mentioned and The things they carried seems promising. I’ll buy it soon.

      Thanks & regards.
      Sunil

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you want to read horror novels, Steven King is the master. I highly recommend one of his earlier books called: The Stand.

        It’s true that some nineteenth century classics can be boring. The language is very flowery – lots of drawn out descriptions – also sometimes referred to as “purple prose”. Having said that, I liked “The House of the Seven Gables” by Hawthorne, and “Great Expectations” by Dickens. You can find them for free.

        Some of the titles I mentioned, such as The Man in the Iron Mask, can be found online for free. If you aren’t familiar with this site, check it out for free literature: http://www.gutenberg.org

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for wonderful recommendations, Robin. Let me complete The Shining – my first Steven King read. If I like it, which I think I will, I’ll surely read The Stand and his other works.
          I have idea about project gutenberg, but I prefer paperbacks over ebooks, so I’ll buy the print versions of your recommendations. Thanks once again.

          Liked by 1 person

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