STRIKE ALL THIS: Not reading these, after all. I'll leave the post but please don't be too upset it's now rendered MOOT.
Coming up at our next Readers Advisory Interest Group meeting our assignment is to read one book (or more) written by an author we've never read. A POPULAR author previously avoided, for any reason or no reason at all. This should be easy for me, because I don't read many authors considered POPULAR, few that wind up in our "Hot Books" section, with the exception of Ruth Rendell and the occasional aberration. I tend to stick with books I read about in literary journals, or blogs, I trust. Or the gazillion catalogs librarians have to read (woe is me).
Now the problem is, which one should I choose. POPULAR writers are usually genre writers - don't throw anything at me, you know it's true. And amongst the genres there's:
Chick Lit (think not)
Rooooomaaaance (just threw up a little)
... and some others but I'm getting bored.
Since I'm not supposed to read authors I have experience with, I had to go searching across the Internets. I found this library site: http://www.library.pima.gov/books/genre.php and it has a pretty impressive list of popular writers by genre. Enough to satisfy my requirement and then some.
As I scrolled down the list of possibilities I decided to go hog wild and click "Fantasy," because when I was young - in junior high or so - I fell into the world of the Sword of Shannara books and enjoyed them most awfully much. Since I love David Tennant Dr. Who, which sort of falls between Science Fiction and my fantasy life as David Tennant's wife Fantasy, I'm thinking maybe that's a good place to start.
On the other hand, what I don't like about so many fantasy books are the covers. They look cheesy, what with all that flying hair, flailing swords, weird beasts, etc., just not my thing. Mind, I read and loved Tolkien. Harry Potter, too. Even The Hunger Games. I enjoy the stuff aimed at more of a young adult/crossover-to-adult audience, just not the books with post-modern, evil-looking sorcerers (not the long, white-bearded sort like Merlin) and plots so convoluted I'd have to plot them out on a graph to keep the lines straight.
And the half-naked women. Don't forget the half-naked women - Amazons or whatever they're supposed to be. Shudder. No vampires or werewolves, either, as a general rule. I find the concept of vampires interesting but it's hard to do them well.
That's what she said.
What I have liked, though, and promise me you won't laugh, are zombies. Not the kind that have been in the news lately, eating people's faces off, because that's yucky. I'm thinking of Colson Whitehead's Zone One, which I read and reviewed for BookBrowse.com. I liked that far more than I thought, because what I thought was I'd hate it. And Colson Whitehead is coooool. Very smooth, very coooool. Not that the author should be a consideration when reading for review but COME ON!
So, who are the best sellers in Fantasy? First and foremost on my list, Neil Gaiman but I've read some of his stuff (brilliant), though only his YA books so far. I intend to read more and have already technically covered him.
Charles de Lint. Hmm. Looks like he falls into the YA realm. But nothing in our library's catalog appeals to me.
Diana Wynne Jones. I have read Howl's Moving Castle. So, technically she doesn't qualify as a "new to me." But there's so much more I haven't heard of and a lot of it sounds good. Blimey. I'll put that on my "for later" list.
China Mieville. I know the name but not the writer. Looks like we have The City & The City on the shelf:
When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.
I'll take it.
Next genre, Mystery...
Who are the POPULAR mystery writers? I listened to a Nevada Barr on CD. Didn't like it so much; certainly nothing exceptional. No interest in Dick Francis and race horses, or Janet Evanovich (sorry!), nothing set in Florida or involving brains splattering. James Lee Burke. Maybe. I do loves me my NOLA. But I'm so not into the cozies: no cats, no dogs, no quilts, no cutsie premises.
Minette Walters, eh? She apparently writes psychological novels with British settings.
Her latest The Chameleon's Shadow sounds ick - I don't read anything related to Iraq, terrorism or recent wars - but her older novel The Echo speaks to me:
In this hypnotic novel of psychological suspense, a homeless man is found starved to death in the garage of a ritzy London home. The police chalk it up to an unfortunate accident, but a journalist, Michael Deacon, is intrigued. Amanda Powell, a socialite whose wealthy husband vanished five years ago after being accused of embezzlement, is just as interested as Michael in finding out who died in her garage. They have no idea that this simple story will unveil a web of deceit that is an appalling as the people behind it.
Apparently she's been compared to Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine whom I LOVE. Ditto Ian Rankin and Jim Butcher, sort of, though I fizzled out while reading Butcher's series, stopping around book three or so. Too much weirdo paranormal stuff.
Today we've learned I actually read more genre fiction than I realized. Since I only finish what I really like, I really like a few authors in the genres. But not roooomaaaance, sorry. Nor chick lit. Cringeworthy, the both of them. Nothing with heaving bosoms, women pining for muscular men with healthy bank accounts, long auburn hair blowing in the breeze and either blue or green eyes that sparkle like glass, lips like berries, or roses, or whatever. I have Jane Austen for all that's well-written as far as romance goes, thanks, and never mind the pastiche or the sequels/prequels...
No and no.
I've avoided thinking of these writers as being genre, perhaps because their writing is more literary than a lot of the hardcore genre writing. And none of them have the objectionable covers with half-naked female warriors, men wearing hats with horns, brightly-colored, garish backgrounds or characters with apostrophes in their names. I've read free excerpts of the latter type of book via my Kindle and all have been so poorly written I weep for the current state of publishing. Then I dry my tears on Ian McEwan and all's right with the world. (Thought I was going to say Sebastian Barry, now, didn't you?! I have to mix it up every now and then.)
It'll be good to break out of my usual reading zone, though I haven't really broken that far out, come to think of it. I've chosen plots and/or settings I know, that appeal to me already. So there's that. But I haven't read anything by these two authors. That must count for something. And it's not like they're going to throw me out for cheating or anything. I've broken my reading patterns on my own terms, hand-picking books I'm almost certain to really enjoy.
Are there any books you'd throw my way (hopefully without intent to maim), judging by the assignment and my somewhat skewed picks? Something in another genre? Something that could actually change my mind? If so, I'd definitely strongly consider what you suggest.
I'm just not all that great choosing amongst POPULAR writers and since I refuse to read Richard North Patterson on general principle, that excludes roughly 60% of all published fiction in any given year.