I have friends who read a lot. I read a lot. In fact, along with my spouse (reading back and forth), we’ve put 36 books to bed in the past 23 months.
By comparison to avid reading friends of mine, this is probably not that impressive.
But the list is!
Two of the more notable most read books lists today are in USA Today and the New York Times. There are other ratings, but unless you spend hours at the computer looking for these charts, it’s difficult to dredge up the good reading below the Top 50.
I was never much of a reader, but fancied myself as a non-fiction fan until I started spending time perusing the displays at Barnes & Noble. I was amazed at some of the interesting titles and plots of these books, hard and soft cover. Most will probably sit on the “new arrivals” carousels for a couple of months before being moved to the aisle racks of passed over prose.
Here would be a good time to discuss books under the radar with those by name writers such as James Patterson, David Balducci, Michael Connelly, Nora Roberts, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Clive Cussler and Ken Follett among others. You may have read one or more of these authors who, actually, are no better nor worse than those struggling for big press runs by their publisher. The writers above don’t lose sleep over how many copies of their new book fly off big name and independent bookstore shelves. They’ve established credits already taken to the bank.
There is something happening, however, to the list of big name authors. Other names are creeping onto the covers of their books. More and more, well known writers are getting help with their work– ghostwriting– by people unfamiliar to us. Patterson, for instance jumped to the No. 12 spot on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list this week right out of the chute. Someone by the name of Mark Pearson is listed on the cover with Patterson. How much of the latter’s book did Pearson write, and does it lessen the quality of the book?
But, let’s get to the “other” good writing out there. These books often sell for less than 50 percent of the price of hard cover novels. They’re usually soft cover costing $15 or less on tables you probably missed during your last visit to a bookstore. I even find some on the hand-trucks sitting near the information counter waiting to be tabled. No one’s in a hurry to get the unknown in front of readers eyes.
Let me whet your appetite for some good journalism. You may need to do some digging, but it will be worth the effort if you find “The Art of Fielding,” by Chad Harbach; “The Cat’s Table,” by Michael Ondaatje; “The Sisters Brothers,” by Patrick DeWitt; “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed; “Canada,” by Richard Ford and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” by Ransom Riggs.
I could go on, but brushing by the big displays of top-selling books to titles below eye level by unknown writers, will be worth your effort.
Steve Guss is a journalist and photographer..