Sunday, January 11, 2009

Love It/Hate It

If I have learned one thing in these past few years of writing/reviewing, it is this: The reading experience is completely subjective. Of course, we’ve always known that some people like romance novels, while others read sci-fi. But even within a genre such as mysteries, the opinions about a single novel vary greatly. As proof, year after year, the 4 Mystery Addicts listserv asks everyone to send in their top 10 reads of the year and their bottom 10 reads. Inevitably, several books repeatedly make both lists.

This year, 17 books made a least one top and bottom list. Here’s the five most loved/hated mystery books (according to 4MA), with the first number in parenthesis representing how many top 10 lists it made, and the second number representing the bottom 10 lists:

Another mystery listserv, Dorothy L, also asks for best reads of the year, and oddly enough there’s very little overlap in the two groups’ favorite books (with the exception of Blue Heaven and The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly).

It’s also been interesting to observe reader discussion about Oprah’s recent pick, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. Some readers rave about it; others find it completely unreadable. Stephen King’s Duma Key has generated even more conflicting reaction.

Why do some books make the lists for both best and worst of the year? You tell me.

What were your favorite books of last year? Your least favorite? Have you ever read a book and loved it, then read it later and hated it?

2 comments:

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Hi Lj,

Can't say that I ever loved a book at one point and then hated it later. My tastes have changed over the years. Some books that used make the top of my list as fantastic reads have slipped fallen to merely good, or okay. I understand why I loved them when I did, but no longer rave about them to anyone who will listen.

I also have a group of authors who never fail to deliver fascinating tales. They've been with me for decades and I can't wait for their next releases.

Mark said...

Here are my favorite four:
1. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons: looking forward to the movie. If you've never read a modern comic book that qualified as truely profound literature, this is it.
2. The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont. Fantastic homage to the pulps of yesteryear featuring the pulp authors as the heros. Entertaining and informative.
3. American Gunfight by Stephen Hunter and John Bainbridge, Jr. Nonfiction account of the assassination attempt on Truman. For writers out there who need lessons on how to write about action, this 350 page book is about a battle that played out in 38 seconds. Fascinating.
4. This I Believe edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman. Collection of personal essays from both the original Edward R. Murrow series and the modern NPR continuation. It will move you to tears every other page or so.
I'm anxious to see some other people's lists. I'm a list addict.