This week's musing from Should Be Reading asks...
What do you think of books that receive a lot of hype? (think of the Twilight saga, or Harry Potter, or The Da Vinci Code). Do you read them? Why, or why not?
I actually like a lot of the books that are "hyped-up." With the exception of the Harry Potter series, I used to hate them. I thought popularity meant that they were simple, for simple people who didn't know good literature when they saw it. (This is also how I felt about music.)
A note on Harry: The Harry Potter series is one that I grew up with. I had just turned 10 when I received Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for my birthday, and I devoured it—only to read it several more times before realizing I should move onto other books. There is something really incredible about that series that I will not stop loving.
What's changed? I think that the appeal of these books is more broad. They have themes that appeal to people's understanding of humanity, their capacity for love, and their ability to change. More recently, I've read all three of the Stieg Larsson novels (which were unexpected favorites), the Flavia de Luce books (ditto), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and The Help—all of which I loved and would gladly pick up again. I also hesitated on reading Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle, but I was so happy that I finally did; Walls' writing is beautiful, evocative, and particularly heart-wrenching at times.
However, there are some books that received a lot of hype that I'm tired of. Twilight is like poorly written fanfiction in my mind. I thought the characters' names and plot to be especially trite, and wouldn't waste my time reading any future novels in that series. It's also given way to that atrocious vampire trend. I also feel that Khaled Hosseini's books are good, but depict one facet of Afghanistan that popular culture and media have obsessed over. Time to move on and find something fresher.