Shaking a book funk with mega-popular books

book circle, not a review

To shake a reading funk, I’ve decided to read a string of mega-popular books. The Hate U Give was the first. This is not a review.

I’ve been in a reading funk recently, maybe because I’ve been running full tilt (metaphorically speaking) and I’m still falling over. The result is I’ve been having trouble getting emotionally engaged in books.

Is it me? Is it the books? Only the Great Cat knows.

To shake things up, I’ve decided to try something I rarely do: seek out and read mega-popular books. And by mega-popular I mean more than 10k reviews on Amazon, or books that “everyone” is talking about.

I feel bad because these authors probably don’t need my support and so many wonderful books are undiscovered, but I’m tired from doing the discovering myself.

I’ll return to undiscovered books shortly. Right now I need a break.

One thing I realised in my new quest is that Amazon algorithms are great at finding you popular books.

Another thing I realised is that popular books tend to be more expensive. I made myself a rule that I would not impulse buy any book that cost over $5 unless I planned to read it right away.

More expensive books I add to my wish list. I’ll buy them if I get to them before I get bored with mega-popular books.

I don’t expect to like all these books–lots aren’t in genres I usually read and some are about topics that I don’t think interest me, but such big sellers clearly have something going for them.

Maybe if I read enough of them some of whatever it is will rub off.

The books

So far in this binge I’ve read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I’m in the process of reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. (Yes, I’m a little embarrassed by the latter.)

I also bought:

  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner (11,198 reviews)
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (57,762 reviews)

and added to my wish list:

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (27,246 reviews)
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (14,300 reviews)
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (13,807 reviews)
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (34,735 reviews)
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (43,944 reviews)
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (2,876 reviews – I know this is lower than 10k, but read the blurb and you’ll see why I want it)
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (14,849 reviews)
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (18,198 reviews)

Not a review of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

If you haven’t heard of this book, please tell me which rock you’re living under, because you must be more isolated than Pluto (the planet, not the dog).

Solar system
Which planet are you hiding on?

For those under-rock dwellers, The Hate U Give is about a black teenage girl who sees her best friend, a black teenage boy, shot by a police officer after a routine traffic stop, and the fallout for the girl and her community.

It’s clear why this book is currently #1 on the NYT bestseller list. In a word, it’s topical. (Okay, that’s two words, but “it’s” doesn’t count.)

Sebastian: It’s also well written. Or, should I say, invisibly written. The writing is unpretentious, and the dialogue does a great job of authentically capturing the voices of the ghetto’s inhabitants.

(In case you haven’t met Sebastian, he is my writer half. He’s also a bit of a prat.)

Rain: You don’t know how people in ghettos talk.

(Rain is the reader half of me. She doesn’t give a hoot about literature and enjoys baiting Sebastian.)

Sebastian: Well, of course not. But I imagine it being something like that. Better, it was easy to understand and didn’t use weird spellings.

Rain: So you liked the book because you understood the dialogue? That’s a pretty low bar.

Sebastian: Of course that wasn’t the main reason. We’re skipping over the most important aspect of The Hate U Give, its social value. I imagine a number of white people who consider themselves open-minded found some of the ideas in the book uncomfortable because they forced them to question their own beliefs. The power of literature is that it helps us walk in others’ shoes, and this is where this book really excels.

Rain: (makes a face at Sebastian’s pretentiousness) It was a cool look into a world you don’t see much in books. Fine, I enjoyed reading it as well. Not happily enjoyed, but hypnotically-depressingly enjoyed. Like an elephant crash when you can’t look away.

Sebastian: So it was just about shock value for you?

Rain: It made me uncomfortable. I think it was culture shock. I had enough culture shock when I visited the middle class white (mostly) parts of the US, but I had no idea places like this existed outside The Wire. I reckon I missed a lot of what the book was saying because I don’t know anything about the culture it’s all based on.

Sebastian: You should get out more.

Rain: I mean, take the gun in the car. The characters were all like, “The cop shot him and he wasn’t even armed.” And I’m confused, because of course he wasn’t armed. Who’s ever armed? Except in this world people are armed. The dad goes and gets his glock (I’m pretty sure that’s a gun) out of a drawer and I instantly feel like whoa, he must be a bad guy. But people seem to get shot outside his house on a daily basis. If people shot each other outside my house before breakfast I’d have a glock in the cutlery drawer too. Or a tank.

Sebastian: I’m glad I read this book. It’s important.

Rain: Less if you’re not American, but sure. And at least now I know what everyone’s talking about. Um, we can be low-browed and talk about Divergent next time, right?

Sebastian: You’re going to insist, aren’t you?

Have you read The Hate U Give? What did you think? Any suggestions for other mega-popular books I should read?

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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

14 thoughts on “Shaking a book funk with mega-popular books”

  1. I’ve actually been meaning to read The Hate U Give for a while – not only because of its relevance, but because every review I’ve read for it has given it stellar remarks. I’ll have to rent it from my local library soon.

    And I’d love to recommend more mega-popular books to you… but I can’t think of any new ones that fit that criteria. But I did love The Nightingale and All The Light We Cannot See (especially Light – gosh, I love the writing in that book), and I just finished The Light Between Oceans the other night and thought it was pretty good. It didn’t make me cry the way it has for other readers I know, but the story does strike close to the heart.

    1. I’ve heard wonderful things about the writing in All The Light We Cannot See – I’m really excited to read it. I’d never heard of The Light Between Oceans until just now, but it’s set in Australia (right?), which is just across the ditch, so I was particularly intrigued.

      I have to say, I didn’t love The Hate U Give, but I suspect a lot of that is a personal taste thing. It did take me places I wouldn’t otherwise go, and it was totally worth reading just for that.

  2. A Man Called Ove is wonderful – I’ve loved every one of Fredrik Backman’s books that I’ve read. Move that one up your wishlist!

    And Maze Runner. Umm. Yeah. Can’t wait to see what Sebastian has to say about that one.

    I’ve been trying to read more undiscovered books recently, as I tend to read popular ones about two years behind everyone else, and never catch up. But it is tricky sometimes. Well done for doing so much of it!

    1. *moves A Man Called Ove up*

      Haha, yea, um… Sebastian rolled on floor laughing when he read that. I’m reading Maze Runner now, and Sebastian certainly has some things to say about it.

      You’re only two years behind? You’re doing well! I pick up books thinking they’re really recent and they’re from 2010.

  3. I really hated Divergent. Like, could write essays about how much I hated it. Maze Runner was okay, worth a read, but there was just something missing. I never nailed it down. Just wasn’t for me I guess, although I liked the concept.

  4. Have not read “Hate U Give” and I’d have to work up some stomach strength to do so since I do live here in these United States where these things happen with horrifying regularity — my sister’s great nephew-in-law (if there is such a designation), a sweet young man of 27, was gunned down by a “friend” of his just a few weeks ago. Yes, he was black. And the indifference of the law enforcement personnel involved was remarkable.

    On another note, when I’m in a reading funk I go for some really good nonfiction. In fact I’ve just begun “The Body Keeps The Score” by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. Totally absorbing.

    1. Some books are too close to home. I don’t follow the news but I’ve still heard some of what goes on and it’s horrifying.

      I just looked up The Body Keeps the Score and it does look fascinating. I hadn’t thought to clear my head with nonfiction, but it’s an interesting idea.

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