Edit: Also, if you want to know what I think of the as-yet unread books in this post (and others still to come), you can follow my progress on Goodreads! ALSO! If you have recommendations for me about what I should read, please leave a comment, and I’ll add it to the list!
As part of my excitement of DIY MFA, I put myself on the library waiting list for a bunch of books topping the bestseller lists. I did this all in the mad rush of an hour or so while monitoring a study hall at school by doing quick scours of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the New York Times before just submitting hold requests for a bunch of bestselling authors. In some cases, where the bestseller was a later part in a series, I put in the for the first of that corresponding series instead.
It’s been a fun ride, reading these books (or some of them anyway) as they’ve come in. I’ve enjoyed stepping out of what I would normally think of as my genre, and seeing what the world has been doing in the last couple of months, and what was popular.
The wait lists were correspondingly gargantuan, but I felt like I was playing the odds – I was #196 of 196 holds, but there were 48 copies going around, so how long would it be until I had it? I thought maybe that would modulate the speed at which the books came in, and to some extent that happened, but I still found myself overwhelmed at times and unable to start books once they made it to me on the wait list. I’m going to have to either re-list or let go of a few titles that slipped off the radar in that way.
For Now, I’d like to give a brief rundown of the bestsellers I was able to get hold of AND get to in the midst of NaNoWriMo and the continuing madness of December.
A Shade of Vampire, Bella Forrest (paranormal romance) – I was pretty excited to start this book because it had great reviews, and because I considered my NaNoWriMo project to be a little bit paranormal romance-y. The actual bestseller on the lists I found was a later book in this series, but I figured it only made sense to start with the first installment. This book is very popular, but I didn’t enjoy it much myself, so it was a disappointing start to my exploration both of NaNo-Project related works and bestseller reads.
Woman of God, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (fiction) – Merely the latest of superpower James Patterson’s bestsellers, I enjoyed this read much more than I was starting to fear my exploration would go. It easily moved my emotional ass to tears on more than one occasion, although overall and if I try to be objective, the slings and arrows of fate depicted as they act upon our main character seem a bit extreme. The book is long, but pretty well paced, and I did like the narrator well enough. Intense in points, and a little predictable in others, all in all it was an enjoyable read.
The Atlantis Gene, A.G. Riddle (YA science fiction) – This sort of supernatural science thriller was a fun read. I was a bit disappointed at the ending, which just seemed like a hyper-concentrated cliffhanger and info-dump as formerly hidden details are revealed. I’m curious about the sequel, but not dying to read it. I did find the worldbuilding interesting, although the story itself was not my favorite. Can I say it was thrilling without being compelling? That’s kind of how it felt, like a roller-coaster ride.
milk and honey, Rupi Kaur (poetry) – This title was recommended to me by the friend of a friend, and then I later saw it on bestseller lists as well. I figured I might as well give it a shot. I had no idea how I would like reading a book of poetry, especially once I realized that the author was so young. I liked some more than others, but by the end I was lying on my bed crying as I listened to the audiobook version of the third and fourth sections of the book. I happened to get the auidobook and paperback simultaneously, which was a great way to read it, because the audio is read by the author and gives even more of the rhythm and sound effect, but the print copy includes several drawings that enhance the experience. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.
The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware (mystery/thriller) – This was the first book on the list to really grab hold of me. As soon as I started it, I had trouble putting it down until I was done. It’s fast-paced and intriguing, with a narrator who is only mostly reliable investigating some strange things she’s observed on board a tiny cruise ship. I felt that the narrator was realistically flawed and human, while still conveying the sort of strength and decency we like to see in heroes and heroines. A very satisfying read.
Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult (fiction) – Second in a row to really captivate my attention, this story moved in three narrators: a labor and delivery nurse, a white supremacist, and a lawyer. While I’m sure you can guess which of those is the hardest to find sympathetic, Picoult at least gets you close as she weaves the tale of the aftermath of the death of a baby in the hospital. I really wanted to know what would happen next. There was one twist at the end I didn’t really like, but overall the characters were compelling and the plot moved at a believable pace.
Two By Two, Nicholas Sparks (romance) – This is the first work I’ve read by romantic powerhouse Sparks. Another tearjerker, it was a so-so on my list of bestsellers. While I felt like there were many parts that rang true (anyone who’s ever been an adult in a deteriorating relationship will be happy to know that Sparks captures those exasperating conversations very well), the story itself was really predictable, which is probably what is best liked in stories in this genre. The family relationships were a bit more compelling to me, and I especially liked the narrator’s sister. The narrator himself struck me as annoying and a little bit dumb (or perhaps just naive) at first, but he improved with reading and time.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs (YA Fantasy) – I read this one really fast in a sort of compulsive way. Its tone and pace are perfect for YA adventure fantasy, with enough humor to make it very comfortable even in horror. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, and I can see how it would make a good movie (haven’t seen the movie, although it doesn’t surprise me that the author has worked with and studied film prior to writing this).
I honestly think this survey has shown me a lot more about my own tastes than about the quality of any of the bestsellers out there. All of the works on this list are popular, and yet some of them didn’t really interest me much. This helps inform me as to which genres I actually enjoy, rather than just the ones I think I enjoy, or used to enjoy.
I like thrillers and whodunits because I’m gullible, and I like guessing and trying to solve riddles without having to be responsible for my guesses and answers.
I like literary fiction or anything with a good core story and solid, believable characters.
I like a good romp, especially when it contains a tightly woven story.
And, I like poetry, because I like short intense statements that pack a punch, and I also like sound and feel of language, and enjoy when people play with those effects.
There are several books that are still on my list because of time constraints. I just picked up A Man Called Ove, and I’m going to need to reorder Crosstalk (which sadly spent all of Thanksgiving break packed in a suitcase that got lost and prevented me accessing it to read before it was overdue and other people on the waitlist), Deal Breaker (a first of a series), and Craving (another first of a series). I also just added Truly Madly Guilty to my list because I’ve seen it pop up on top of a lot of things lately (though it is not part of my October madness).
Though it’s been fun, I am kind of relieved that the rush is slowing down a bit. It will be nice to cozy up to some good old fashioned my-genre books, especially knowing I can renew them if I need to, which you can’t do if someone is on the waitlist after you.
Also, as I expand my purview in “reading with purpose,” I will be starting to pick up some classics (generally no wait list there, thanks powerful passage of time!) you will be shocked I haven’t read yet. In the meantime, I’m going to do a survey of the werewolf/supernatural books I’ve been reading (also since October) in tandem or in between these bestsellers. Look forward to it!