Book-Talk Monday: Reading *Popular* Fiction
The term “popular fiction” is occasionally used interchangeably with “genre fiction”—another term to describe books that fall into categories like romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, etc. In fact, my master’s degree is in Writing Popular Fiction, and my area of specialization was Romance.
But using popular to describe all genre fiction is a misnomer—because not every book published in genre fiction is going to be “popular,” i.e., “regarded with favor, approval, or affection by people in general.” Looking at my own sales numbers, Stand-In Groom is a much more “popular” book than A Case For Love—as it’s sold several thousand more copies.
As readers, the books we love don’t always find the spotlight of popular approval. They’re not the bestsellers, the books that get all the media attention, become major motion pictures. And for many of us, the books that are the most popular (those on the bestseller lists, for example) aren’t those that we enjoy—we just don’t “get” why these books are so popular.
I’m a stubborn person by nature and I rarely do something just because everyone else is doing it. That’s not to say I don’t get caught up in pop culture trends—like certain TV shows like LOST. However when it comes to books, the more often I’m told I should read something, the less likely I am to read it unless it’s something that greatly interests me. (I have to this day never read The Shack, even though I have a copy of it on my shelf. I’ve been told repeatedly I *should* or *need* to read it—but the concept of the book and the storyline itself doesn’t interest me at all, so I don’t see the point in reading it.) I’m also not the kind of person who runs out and reads a book just because there’s a movie coming out based on it. Sometimes, the investment of two hours is all I need to know whether or not I’m going to like a story. (Such as with The Help. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I have no desire to read the book.)
However, there are times when something becomes so popular, gains such a following, that I decide out of curiosity to check it out to see what the hubbub is. This happened many years ago when the sixth Harry Potter book came out. All the outcries against the series started up again in the Christian writers’ group I was in—from people who’d never read the books, just read about them on conservative blogs or heard about them from preachers or speakers who were against them. That’s not to discount their stances or beliefs on the books. But I have never allowed others to form my opinions for me. So before I took a stance one way or the other on the books/films, I decided I needed to find out what they were about. So I got the discs of the first three movies from Netflix (they all actually arrived on the same day) and spent a Saturday watching them. Before the third movie ended, I’d gotten online and ordered a set of the first five books in paperback, as well as the hardcover of the sixth book (it wasn’t out in paperback yet), and within less than two months, I’d read the entire series and was eagerly anticipating the release of the seventh book. Which wouldn’t happen for a couple of years.
There have been other times when I’ve picked up a book to read because I’d heard a lot about it, because it was popular. But most of the time, I’ve discovered that my tastes don’t necessarily run to what’s “popular,” not even within the romance genre. I’m just a picky reader.
This weekend, I decided that I needed to once again get in touch with popular culture and read The Hunger Games. I started with downloading the sample to my Kindle. When on that page on Amazon, I discovered that it’s a title that’s part of Amazon’s free lending program. But I still wanted to read the sample first. I did—and as soon as I got to the end of the sample, I downloaded the entire book. That was around 9 p.m. Saturday night. At 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon, I finished reading the book. And I could see what all the hype was about—and I’m now wanting to see the movie, too.
Have you ever read something because it’s “popular,” even if it’s not something you might normally pick up? What’s been your experience in reading “popular” fiction?