What’s Popular Is Not Always Right: A Top Ten List

I wish I could say I haven’t wasted my time on E. L. James, Dan Brown, or James Patterson, but I have. I read the whole 50 Shades Trilogy. As a librarian, you get curious about these things. You see 400 people on the waiting list, you assume the book has to be halfway decent. I’m here to tell you that no, no it doesn’t. The ‘what is popular’ argument is what lead me to books like Kiss the Girls, 50 Shades of Grey, and The Da Vinci Code. It was also part of my job to be knowledgeable about what was popular in literature (it pains me to use the word literature there), it’s also why I left the public library field. Now I occupy that tiny sliver of the library field when my background in Latin is actually useful. I also feel less pressure to read what’s popular and more freedom to read whatever I was. Winning all around.

Smith and Dylan

This week’s list: popular authors that I’ve never read (as hosted by The Broke and the Bookish).

10. Alexander Dumas. Yes, I hang my head in shame as I acknowledge this. I’ve seen numerous film adaptations, for what it’s worth. (And what it’s worth is nothing.) Bonus: I haven’t read Victor Hugo yet either and I have no immediate plans to do so.

09. Thomas Pynchon.
Technically, I’ve dipped my literary toe here, but in general I don’t enjoy feeling daft – which is the primary response Pynchon manages to evoke (in me). I like to enjoy my reading.

08. Nora Roberts/Danielle Steel/Janet Evanovich/etc. They are so far out of my reading zone that I can’t even imagine a time when I would read one of their books. And honestly, when Katherine Heigl is cast as the lead in a movie, I can’t help it – I judge*.

07. Lauren Conrad, Hilary Duff, Madonna, John Travolta, etc.  Also known as the celebrities who try to write books – badly. Conversely, Hugh Laurie and Steve Martin have done it well.

06. Patti Smith. Recently I read that EVERY girl has read this and loves to talk about it. I haven’t read it, but I kind of want to now.  Just so I have something to talk about.

(Plus, there’s Bob Dylan.)

05. Jennifer Weiner. I find her abrasive and have never been tempted to pick up her books –although I do own Good in Bed. To be fair, I can’t stand Jonathan Franzen either. Which brings me to my next selection…

04. Jonathan Franzen. I’ve tried to read The Corrections…(at the very least, I read the Wikipedia synopsis – does that count?).

03. Clive Barker. I’ve been tempted, I just haven’t ventured there. Yet.

02. Markus Zusak. He perpetually tops my to be read list, maybe someday. Soon.

01. Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh. Never. Never. Never.

Okay, so has everyone read Just Kids? Am I missing out? Which authors have you never read? If you say Stephen King, I’ll be shocked. And if you tell me you genuinely enjoy Pynchon, I’ll be speechless.

*I know authors generally have little input into which actor is cast, so I don’t hold Evanovich responsible. However, the subject matter of her books is equally unlikely to pique my interest.

Image found here.

50 thoughts on “What’s Popular Is Not Always Right: A Top Ten List

  1. Alexandre Dumas! ❤ I opened Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and promptly closed the eBook; between the two (if you ever find yourself choosing between the two), I’d definitely recommend Dumas 😉

    I remember picking up Jennifer Weiner’s book years and years ago but I forgot why…maybe because it was going to be adapted? (and then I never watched the movie, lol)

    Great list! Btw love your layout here 😀 Did you change it recently?


    1. Between the two, Dumas is definitely more likely to win.

      Jennifer Weiner whines far too much for my personal preferences. I dunno…I guess I just think there must be a better way to constantly air grievances.

      I did. I switched to self-hosted wordpress and changed my layout, it’s nice having more control over everything.


  2. I thought Just Kids was really great. I knew almost nothing about the Patti/Robert relationship beforehand. I also really liked the nonfiction book about the life of the “real” count of Monte Cristo. Fascinating read.

    Totally agree on your entire list, especially Dan Brown.


    1. I don’t know a lot about it, I just happened to read a list that every girl has read it. I remember it being rereleased recently and I’ve been curious. I just haven’t picked it up yet.

      I’ll never get those three or so days back that I spent reading The Da Vinci Code. And that’s a shame.


  3. Alexandre Dumas is on my list too. In addition to all the Bronte sisters. Lol

    I have read Just Kids (on audio – which I highly recommend, Patti Smith herself narrates it). It was a beautiful read. She’s an excellent writer and I was extremely impressed. Don’t pick up her poetry though. lol


    1. Just remember, in this order: Charlotte, Anne, Emily.

      I like when authors read their own books, I always think it probably sounds more authentic. I know the things I write are supposed to be said and emphasized in a certain way, so I like knowing how the authors intended it to sound (like Stephen King).

      Alexander Dumas will happen someday, probably when I quit blogging – whenever that will be.

      Will skip the poetry…


  4. Prepare to be shocked!

    Never read King.

    Enjoyed Pynchon’s Vineland immensely. My favourite read of 2012.

    Enjoy Jennifer Weiner as a public figure. Do not enjoy her books (well, book; I only read Good in Bed and that was enough)

    Detest Franzen as a public figure. Love his books.

    Haven’t read Just Kids, thought it does sound interesting.

    Oh man, I can’t believe you read all three 50 Shades books.


    1. Seriously, you aren’t living. 😉

      Pynchon… (you know I’m secretly calling you a pretentious ass right now, no?*)

      It’s hard to be willing to read someone who has their own head shoved so far up their own literary ass that he’s obnoxious. So Franzen probably will never happen for me. To be fair, I have zero interest in Weiner’s books either. The two of them are like five year old children on a playground sometimes.

      I did read them, I wanted to know what all the hype was about and I was curious about the erotic component. What could have had all the Americans in an uproar? Let’s just say I was disappointed that people were getting all hot and bothered over spanking. Seriously. Anyway, at least I haven’t read about dragon copulation (one assumes that what Dragon Bound was about). 🙂

      *not really, of course.


      1. I think Vineland is his most accessible book, if that helps 🙂

        Yeah I read the first book and was so bored after 100 pages and nothing remotely naughty… you are a trooper to keep going! I am still on the look out for erotica/romance that isn’t boring as hell (50 shades) or totally gross (dragons etc.)


      2. Ha! If you find it let me know, I’d be all over that, as I’m mostly convinced it doesn’t exist.

        Pynchon = Tiring (I always knew I was a math whiz)


  5. *all classics authors*

    I could just leave it at that. I haven’t read a book published pre-1900 since high school. It’s not something I’m proud of, it is something I’m sure will change eventually… but it is not this day.

    As for more contemporary authors… in addition to most of your list (I did read one Evanovich and one Weiner, both got 2-stars from me), I’d add John Green and Khaled Hosseini. (Not that there aren’t a million others, of course, but those two seem to come up more often than others.)


    1. I’ve never read Khaled Hosseini either, I’ve read John Green and wasn’t super impressed, they were fine, but the “amazingness” was lost on me.

      I like classics. I wish I had time to read more of them, but I can’t if I intend to keep up with review books. Middlemarch, specifically, is one that I keep meaning to read, but don’t. I don’t read a lot of the popular authors, I couldn’t even tell you who the bestselling authors are right now (aside from James Patterson and that man is a machine). My perception of books has been skewed by the book blogging world.


  6. I have Just Kids on my kindle, but haven’t read it yet. And I’ve never read any of Stephen King’s fiction–although I did read his memoir and LOVED it.
    (Your #1 entry made me laugh out loud! I’m right there in the front row with you on that one!)


    1. I want to read The Book Thief, but like you said all the other book obligations keep getting in the way. Plus, I don’t like to cry and I hear that is a likely possibility.


  7. I did read Zusak but the rest of your list are not on my shelves either. I am not much of a classics reader or romance for that matter.
    I think for now the must read author I did not pick up yet is Patrick Ness though I have various of his books on my TBR and will read a book at one point.


    1. I’ve read a lot of classics, but they are not something I often turn to currently and I only read romance on rare, rare occasions (or if a trusted friend says I’ll like it).


  8. I can’t recommend Just Kids by Patti Smith enough, it’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

    Other than having embarrassingly read some Lauren Conrad books, I’ve not got through most of these authors either. Alexander Dumas is a temptation until I remember how huge my Count of Monte Cristo book is.


    1. I keep hearing that it’s wonderful, plus I find the idea fascinating.

      I would like to read Dumas someday, but I’m not sure it will ever happen. Hopefully my good intentions count for something.


  9. I tried Pynchon once and did not get far. And I haven’t read Just Kids (but feel that i should). On the other hand, I love Janet Evanovich. Someone gave me book one when i was in the hospital and it was perfect. I still read the new one whenever it comes out.


    1. I’ve tried Pynchon a couple of times. It was more work than it was worth for me. Just Kids will probably happen someday, though I’m not sure when.

      Was Katherine Heigl a good casting choice for One for the Money? Because I feel like that could speak volumes for me. If it was a bad choice, I’d be much more likely to read it. One of the reasons I’ve avoided it is because I don’t like when series get so long, I feel like I’ll never catch up. I don’t mind if I start early with the series (like with John Sandford, I found his Davenport series around book four and have kept up since – maybe book 18 or 19 now?).


  10. I read Just Kids, but wasn’t impressed. Not sure why it gets all the hype it does. I guess maybe if I were a fan of the people in the book I might have gotten a little excited reading about them? I don’t know. As it is, I didn’t think it was written all that well, and I didn’t think it lived up to the hype at all.

    I will never read Jennifer Weiner, even if her books are the last books on Earth.


    1. It may happen, but there are just so many other things to read that I’ll enjoy more. I do like some of the people she associated with, but I don’t know how prominently they’ll feature in the book.

      Haha, Jennifer Weiner, I feel the same. Late last year she got into it with Maggie Shipstead (which nearly shocked me, Franzen I understand, because he is obnoxious). I love Shipstead and she remained kind and gracious throughout the Weiner twitter attacks. I don’t know why my copy of Good in Bed hasn’t hit the donate pile yet, I think someone told me it was good?


    1. Celebrity bios/memoirs/fiction/whatever doesn’t appeal to me. I sort of feel like you should stick to one artistic outlet, crossing over rarely goes well (though there is Jared Leto and Steve Martin).


  11. What is all this about Just Kids? I have never heard of it. Maybe it’s just as well. It seems I tend to avoid all the same authors as you. A lot of those popular fiction books just bore me. I liked both Dumas and Zusak, but wouldn’t say they were a high priority. As for the authors I haven’t read, but should, there are too many to name.


    1. I’d never heard of it either, but when I looked up the cover I’d realized I’d seen it around. It just hadn’t piqued my interest. The Book Thief everyone tells me is a must, I’ just no sold on the idea yet. Dumas will happen if I have time.

      The list of what I haven’t read, but want too far out numbers the list of what I have read.


  12. Oh, you know movie versions hold nothing on a book typically! That’s definitely the case with Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo. Hugo, however, is a different story.

    I agree with some of your categories. I don’t read books by politicians and famous people typically, with the once in awhile exception of a memoir or biography…and that’s not often. The crazier and more famous they are, the less I want to read about it. I’m just skeptical.

    And I haven’t read romance novels in years, but went through a huge Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts stage in high school. Definitely a stage, never read one since then.

    I’ve tried a little bit of everything and I guess that’s how I’ve learned best what I don’t read


    1. Hugo just looks like a brick. And it’s not even a story I’m interested in. Dumas at least tempts me.

      I avoid political books like the plague. It doesn’t help if I have little respect for the author either (ahem, Rush Limbaugh).

      I feel like I’ve read a Nora Roberts before, but I attempted to skim her backlist and she has so many titles that I couldn’t even begin to tell you which one it might be. It obviously didn’t stick with me.

      I’d like to think I’m a fairly broad reader, but my preferences come out when I list my favorites. There are even a few romance titles I’ve ended up liking, which shocked me.


  13. Love Dumas, but I’m right there with the not-reading on the rest of the list.

    Also, unrelated: I love the redesign. Looks so good. And who took the photo of you? Really nicely done.


    1. Dumas is someone I’d like to get to eventually. Most of the rest – not interested.

      Thank you! I switched to self-hosted, so the design possibilities seem infinite now. And Finn (of all people) took it, it was a total accident, but a happy one.


  14. I had to laugh at your comment about Pynchon–enjoying your reading. I read Crying Lot of 49 in a postmodern grad course and I didn’t get anything that was going on. I’ve contemplated re-reading it…except you know that whole enjoying what you’re reading bit.


    1. That’s the one I read too, way too much effort for leisure reading. If I ever decide to pursue my PhD in literature – sign me up.


    1. Well if I’m not the only one it’s totally less shameful. You’ve eased my embarrassment.

      Until then, we can enjoy having seen the movie (with a young Henry Cavill, if you haven’t seen in and need incentive).


  15. I know The Book Thief is now ‘popular’ and has been turned into a movie and all, but it is a fabulous book. I really, really enjoyed it. Sad, compelling, good characterization. A lot of the others above I have never read either, especially Patti Smith. I’ve never even heard of her!


    1. To be honest, I’ve had it on my list for years (and I’ve owned it for quite awhile too). Many of my favorite trusted readers have raved about it, so I suspect I’ll like it.


  16. I’ve never read Faulkner. I own 2 of his books but, for some reason, every time I start to read one, I just can’t get into it and I set it down “to be read another time.” I’m guessing that I’ll find a period in my life when the timing is right (that’s happened to me in the past with other authors) or he’s just not my cup of tea?


    1. I felt that way about the first 25% Corrections. There are better books out there with nicer authors. Although I shouldn’t use that standard because I listen to Bob Dylan all the time and by all accounts he’s an ass.


  17. Great post! I haven’t read Stephen King and I’m hesitant when approaching his novels. I too have never read any Nora Roberts or Danielle Steel because they have never appealed to my interest. Sometimes “popular” literature makes me venture further into NOT reading them.


  18. I’ve never read any of these authors either… except for listening to part of The Book Thief on audio; I was on a road trip with my family, lost interest, and never cared to finish.

    But I want to read Just Kids! Everyone DOES seem to love it, don’t they?


  19. I know what you mean about Pynchon, but…I rather enjoy The Crying of Lot 49 (which I’ve read twice). It’s much more approachable. With that said, for some reason I own two copies of Gravity’s Rainbow, both of which remain unread.
    For authors I haven’t read (and there are many), I must admit Martin Amis. Not for any particular reason other than I haven’t had the time. On the flipside, I’ve tried to read Jonathan Lethem several times and have never finished a book of his.

    p.s. love the new look.


  20. I attempted reading The Da Vinci Code a couple of times because I really, really wanted to read about that subject. Unfortunately, couldn’t get past the third page the both times because the writing really didn’t suit me.

    I read Danielle Steel once as an adolescent, experimenting, and James Patterson, too, once, and they were just.. not.. good. Have no intentions of picking them up again. Neither will I ever pick up a Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Jodi Picoult, etc., because I’m absolutely sure I will never enjoy them.

    The Book Thief is okay, I liked it but it isn’t as great as I expected. Just Kids, however, I highly, highly recommend. Beautiful, just beautiful. Very simple, understated writing, but written with such heart. Please, please read it!

    I haven’t read Thomas Pynchon, Victor Hugo, and Alexander Dumas either, but I intend to read them all someday.

    I’ve read The Corrections and I thought Franzen wrote really well, but I just hated his characters. I thought it was a very obnoxious book and I finished it because I was hoping I’d like it at some point, but I still found it obnoxious till the very end, so when Freedom came out I didn’t bat an eye.

    I feel like I’ve been such a snob writing this comment, but I’m usually really very nice when talking about books. 🙂

    (Read Just Kids!)


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