Why do people choose certain books to read?

Every now and then a book or movie or television show becomes popular despite breaking all the rules. I’ve always been fascinated by the way people are able to be very vocal about why something doesn’t deserve the attention it gets, but few people are able to say why they chose it and recommended it.

cartoon of a smiling potato on a blue easy chair

Some examples

There are multiple examples on television. How do reality TV shows like Real Housewives of X survive? In books, the latest hot commodity is 50 Shades of Grey and before that its basis The Twilight Series.

Why have they broken the rules?

These books and shows don’t match the traditional ‘rules of the game’. Reality TV that isn’t a contest defined the market for bad behavior entertainment.  The Twilight series didn’t follow the rules of good writing. The heroine was incredibly passive and everything happened to her not because of what she did. 50 Shades of Grey was originally fan fiction of Twilight. I haven’t read it – I don’t believe I have to read a book to know it’s bad, but I do believe I should have some basis for my opinion and I’ve read or heard a few passages of the book. It doesn’t seem to follow the rules of basic grammar or story telling.

Is it really such a big deal?

Personally I don’t think so. You like what you like. As long as I can access what I like in the way of entertainment, I’m not going to berate anyone.

Where I think it hurts is for people who are trying to find a way to be successful. People who are convinced that there is a way to make it happen. They look for reasons why something is successful and it makes them crazy when something is successful despite how bad it is.

What would Shakespeare do?

Whether you think Shakespeare wrote his work or was a front man, I think we can agree that his work has survived. I think Shakespeare would just do his thing in the face of success he couldn’t analyze. He wrote good stories and great characters. He wrote poetry that I like – and I find poetry hard to understand. He didn’t try to follow trends, he made trends happen.

As a writer, I know that I can work on craft – well structured stories with high stakes and compelling characters. What I can’t do is write like someone else. So, while I am fascinated by the success of 50 Shades, I know I can’t write like that. I don’t resent the success of these authors. I know that best seller status is like a hole in one. Great golfers get them and so do duffers because sometimes it’s more about luck than skill.

Advice to writers

Don’t be outraged by other people’s success.

Advice to readers

Read what you enjoy.