1,001 Dalmatians-err, holds on Dan Brown’s new novel

At the time of this writing, there are 1,001 holds on Dan Brown’s new book, the Lost Symbol.  The second book with the most holds (592) is Swimsuit, by James Patterson.  Patterson’s book Alex Cross’s Trial comes in third, with 581 holds.

Call me wildly judgemental, but could someone please tell me why people love these books?  Many of our fiction bestsellers, “written” by blockbuster authors who are able to churn out five or more books a year get checked out like crazy, while genuinely great literature sits on the shelves for weeks, months and even years at a time.  So I am giving this blog post a new title:

Books that you should be reading but aren’t because you’re too busy reading Danielle Steel

God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre by Richard Grant

God’s Middle Finger is one of the finest travelogues I have come across, and I tell you over and over again to read it.  I’m feeling like a nag.  But don’t take my word for it-here is an excerpt from Publishers Weekly:  “He narrates these adventures with unflappable charm and humor, risking his life to the reader’s benefit, shared fear and delight of discovery. Though eventually worn out by his physically and emotionally challenging journey, Grant still manages to produce a clear-eyed, empathetic account of this complex, fascinating place.”

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

The ever hilarious Christopher Moore, author of Bloodsucking Fiends: a Love Story, and You Suck: A Love Story, has done it again, except this time he deals tenderly with the sensitive topic of death.  The main character, beta male Charlie Asher, discovers that he might be Death, and has to collect the souls of people who are dying around him.  Poignant moments and hilarity ensue.  If you haven’t discovered Christopher Moore yet, hold on to your hat.  He is a cult hero.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs

Jacobs, who is making a name for himself by subjecting himself to weird life experiments like reading the Encyclopedia Britannica cover to cover, decides to try to live a full year in accordance with all of the laws in the Bible.  He grows his beard, wears only white,  and in one memorable scene stones someone.  Jacobs is openly agnostic, but open-mindedly interacts with his spiritual advisors and various people he meets along the way, including snake handlers, atheists, Samaritans, Jerry Falwell, and Amish folks.

Gloria by Keith Maillard

This epic literary novel set in the 1950s follows the life of a smart and glamorous young woman from a West Virginia steel town who struggles with the desire to go to graduate school, when her parents desire for her to marry.  The story explores such issues as class, sexuality, social convention, and acceptance.  Also, Maillard is an incredible writer.

I talked to someone last week who was coming to check out the book that her husband reads.  He only reads one book, because he knows that he likes it and he doesn’t want to waste his time reading things that he might not like.  DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE.  There are people who can help you.  We’re called librarians and we love to help people find books that they would like to read–that suit their specific tastes.  You don’t have to read only Michael Connelly books or only the Da Vinci Code over and over again.  And despite the judgemental nature of this post, we will never judge you.




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9 responses to “1,001 Dalmatians-err, holds on Dan Brown’s new novel

  1. Rebekah

    Love this post! As a fellow librarian, and a former bookstore employee, I too have seen the phenomenon of bestseller syndrome. Don’t worry, help is on the way!

  2. Ryon

    Keep fighting the good fight.

  3. Nice post, Bonnie! I agree completely.

  4. Cor-bear

    As someone who has re-read dozens of serial books dozens of times, I can tell you why people read blockbusters. We read them for comfort, to see a little of the world, but not too much, and not too terribly different from the world we already see. We read them because they do not make us afraid that we misunderstand the world.

    We also read them for shared experience. Simply put, we want to read what 1,001 other people are in line to read because then we have something to talk about.

    • cor-bear, thank you for your thoughtful response. i have to admit that i never thought about blockbusters that way before, but i think you’re right. i may not be much of a dan brown reader myself, but there are quite a few books out there that i’ve read and reread for the reasons you’ve mentioned.

      – amy

  5. I tend to take the Beavis and Butt-head approach: if 1001 people are reading a book, I don’t have to read the book – I just need to find somebody to describe it to me. And hearing somebody describe a book I wasn’t going to read anyway is often more fun. Note: this works with television and movies, too.


  6. Liz Dierbeck

    I’m the daughter of a librarian, a lifelong reader, and an unabashed lover of brainless literature. (Mostly in the summertime, I promise!) I think people love escapist literature because our brains are already overworked with all of the messages flying AT us, much less the ones we SEEK OUT, and most of them end up being bad news anyway.

    While he can churn out a fun read, I refuse to endorse Dan Brown’s formulaic approach to writing (_Da Vinci Code_ and _Angels & Demons_ had the exact same plot structure), and like some other posters here, I also tend to avoid the “popular” book (especially if it’s on Oprah’s list). I agree that the answer is to draw such readers away slowly, as Bonnie has done with this terrific list of entertaining-yet-educational books about a range of topics!

  7. Emily

    Way to go, Bonnie!
    Based on this post alone, you may be my favorite librarian ever (although there are lots of greats). And I don’t even love this post for the outrage against bestseller-readers (although, I feel you). This list of books is now at the top of my must-read list. They sound really interesting and exactly what I’m looking for…escape that is not brain-less. I agree that sometimes we need comfort reads (like comfort foods), but a diet of only such brain food will result in mind-obesity and neuronal wasting. Man cannot live on best-sellers alone. Where is the challenge, where is the substance? I’m looking forward to a healthy meal of the above foods..er, books.

  8. Liz, Emily, thanks for your comments. If Bonnie weren’t on vacation, she’d probably be super-psyched about the additions to her fan club. We’ll make sure to tell her when she gets back :)

    Leigh Anne

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