Monday, 28 February 2011

It is World Book Night on

March 5th. If you want to know more about it then there are plenty of references to it on the internet. One of the references I like the most comes from my friend Nicola Morgan - here . I know all sorts of people who will be pleased if you do what she suggests.
I have reservations about World Book Night. The books that were chosen are not the sort that disappear rapidly off the new book shelf at our local library. Perhaps they do in other places? I do not know. What I do know is that here they often end up not disappearing from the new book shelf at all. The librarians are more likely to heave a sigh of exasperation, shelve them in among the main collection and hope that someone eventually borrows them.
They will eventually be borrowed by keen readers and by people who believe that they should be reading these books because they have been mentioned in newspaper book reviews or discussed in glowing terms in a radio or television interview. Look carefully at such books and you sometimes discover another little oddity. The first chapter or so is well thumbed. The rest of the book looks almost pristine. In other words people have read some of it but not all of it. They have tried to read the book because it has been recommended in reviews or because "real readers" have read it.
"Real readers"? That is the way that some of those who read literary fiction see themselves. I have looked at a couple of books lately, on the recommendation of "real readers". I"rough read" one - meaning I skimmed it. It did not grab me the way it grabbed her but I could see merit in it. The other bored me silly after just a few pages. I did not bother with the rest of it. I felt it was pretentious and self-serving - and was interested to discover that an entire book group, bar the person who chose it, felt the same way.
For me, life is too short to read books just because they are literary fiction that a few critics happened to like. If my attention is grabbed I will read it. If it is not then I will move on.
So I have a suggestion to add to Nicola Morgan's suggestion. If you go out and buy a book to pass on to someone else then choose something you would like to read or something that you enjoyed reading. If it was something that challenged you a little then good but consider whether a new reader will feel overwhelmed by it. What I would not do (and will not do) is choose a work of literary fiction just because a reviewer says it is good.
If you want to capture a new reader they are much more likely to pick up another book if they enjoyed the previous book.


Anonymous said...

Well if you want to capture my attention give me a well written but relaxing read. I do not want an earnest literary novel at any time. I read for pleasure not pain.

jodicleghorn said...

I came across Nicola's post via my friend Dan Powell forwarding the post from Nik Perring.

I love the idea she puts forward - seems to be a far better option, that gives a real grassroots feel to the night. Add to that, your suggestion to share something/someone you love... all the more awesome.

I'm on holidays at the moment and hoping to have dinner with some of my most treasured writing friends/colleagues and old, beloved friends. I'm hoping they'll all bring books with them and we'll be able to share them with unsuspecting folk where we're dining.

Caroline said...

You are spot on, Cat, and got me scurrying from Adelaide to Edinburgh to add my support. Do all roads lead back to Scotland?