I’ve rarely been accused of being normal. That shows up in my book choices. If you want to guarantee I won’t read something, tell me it’s a New York Times bestseller. I don’t know why. The book might be awesome, but the second I hear that it’s a bestseller on one of those big lists, I want nothing to do with it. Not long ago, I saw a quote that I’d like to take credit for, but I really never gave my book choices that much thought: “If you read only what everyone else reads, you’ll only think what everyone else thinks.”
I find myself more and more reading independent authors, independent publishers, and whatever I back on Kickstarter. Oh, also the books of authors I know personally, as I get to know more and more such luminaries.
The other day a friend asked me what comics I’m reading. I was hard-pressed to list a series I was reading that someone not already into comics might recognize. I finally remembered I’m still reading Conan the Barbarian. I have nothing against the standard superheroes. I love me my Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and X-Men. I just don’t buy them a lot anymore.
There are exceptions. I greatly enjoyed At Home in Mitford and the entire Mitford series by Jan Karon. Back in the day I read a good amount of Clive Cussler and Star Wars novels. So it’s not that I think that if something is a bestseller I think it’s low quality or something. They just don’t grab my attention. I’d rather read something else.
So when word came that my son’s class was going to read a book with some parental advisories, I thought I’d get ahead of the game and read it, too. My wife picked it up from the library for me.
And the first page listed all the awards it’s gotten: New York Times Notable Book. Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year. O, The Oprah Magazine Best Book of the Year. And on and on the accolades went.
And my immediate knee-jerk reaction: I don’t want to read this book. I’m going to have to force myself through it. Ugh.
And on top of all that, it’s nonfiction. I really don’t read much nonfiction. I much prefer speculative stories. Take me someplace out of this world. I spend enough time here already, thank you very much.
Last night I started in on it.
And what do you know? I’m not far in, but it’s got my attention. The writing is definitely “literary,” so it’s a bit outside my wheelhouse, but I found myself enjoying it. I want to keep going.
So what book is it?
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Apparently it was a big deal a few years back. My seventh-grade son’s science class is reading it in January.
I’ve come across a few things already that make me think it’s better suited for high school than middle school. The book was certainly written with adults in mind, not early teens.
What’s it about?
Doctors, without permission, took cells from a black woman. Those cells have been cultured and continue to be used in a number of applications that have benefited the world. But for decades, no one seemed to know where these cells came from. Henrietta’s family received no recognition or payment. The book follows Henrietta and her family’s story, as well as what happened with those cells.
So, I’m still early in the book, but again, I want to keep going. And ultimately, isn’t that the goal of a good book? Keep you reading?
Even if it is a bestseller.
I guess I’m going to be thinking at least some of what other people are thinking!
Anyway, I’m stretching a bit and reading something lots of other people have read. I’d encourage you to do the same – at least on occasion. You might find yourself enjoying something new.
Now I need to go read some more…