Thursday, February 9, 2012

Should be, or should not be: that is the question.

I love going to bookstores.  And it doesn't really matter what type of bookstore it is.  It can be a large store that's part of a national chain, a small independent, or a used bookstore.  Each has it's own charms, it's positives and of course, it's negatives.  But they all offer the opportunity to walk the stacks, browse through the titles, and find things to add to my 'to-read' list. 

While naturally the bulk of my reads the past couple of years have been from this list, there are a few gems I've found merely stumbling across them at a bookstore.  I look at Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue as a perfect example of a book I probably never would have read if I restricted my titles to things I found on-line or things others had recommended.

The gems I find aren't usually being displayed in the front window or a front-of-store display; they're hidden on a shelf, wedged between a couple of better known titles.  But browsing in a bookstore doesn't just offer me the chance to find new things to read. It also offers a glimpse at what the general public is reading.  And it isn't always pretty.

When I look at the first 50 books I've read from The List, most highly regarded, I notice they all share a common trait; most of them aren't prominently displayed.  I've talked last month about The Sot-Weed Factor and how nobody has ever heard of it.  Naturally it is hidden amongst the B's in the Fiction section, if you can even find a copy, which is too bad as it is such a great book.  This probably wouldn't bother me very much, if it wasn't for the fact that A Shore Thing by Snooki, is.

I'm always on the look our for what I call 'books that shouldn't be.'  A Shore Thing is definitely near the top of the list.  How somebody like this can be a 'published author' is beyond me and a symptom of everything that is wrong with society.  I remember the furor caused a year or two ago, when Snooki was paid $35,000 to speak at Rutgers in New Jersey, while they had only paid Toni Morrison $32,000.  How could a Pulitzer-winning novelist be paid less than Snooki!?  they cried.  My thought was always not how could Snooki be paid more, but rather how she could be paid at all.  But, I digress.

If Snooki's book/books (she has others, sadly) weren't enough, the Kardashians have also recently published a novel; Dollhouse.  It's bad enough when a novel has two authors, and this one has three.  Three sisters, who have no business writing a book.  It sounds like a really great plot too; it's about three sisters, whose mother marries a well-known, retired athlete, and the three sisters become famous for no reason.  I guess it's more historical fiction.

I wonder if I should take any solace in the fact that these books, like a Sarah Palin autobiography, were completely written by a ghost writer, likely without any input from the name on the cover.  At least an actual author wrote the book.  But I think at the end of the day, my beef isn't with the fact that they wrote a book, but instead that they are able to sell these books.  And worst of all, these 'books' are featured in many bookstores, while it's nearly impossible to find a copy of The Berlin Stories.

My progress continues, slowly but surely, on All the King's Men.  It's been a little slow starting, but things are starting to pick up.  I'm also tackling a book called The Leap by a local Calgarian author.  Both are due back to the library soon and neither can be renewed.  To the reading mobile!

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