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Book Recommendations & Other Musings

by Carol Tuttle

Carol Tuttle, Collection Services LibrarianTrue Confessions of a Fiction Reader: I Read It. I Wasn’t Wowed.

Is there something wrong with me? Am I the only person who wasn’t wowed by Where the Crawdads Sing? This book was the bestselling hardcover of 2019, selling over a million copies. Book clubs and celebrities all over the country have discussed it, recommending it to friends. Literary marketing outlets have pushed it on social media, blogs and newsletters. Obviously, many people LOVED it! I read it, discussed it with two book groups, and still found it forgettable. Not even close to being one of my favorites. What’s wrong with me?
When a Slate article by Laura Miller discussed another literary buzz topic (controversy over the new novel, American Dirt), it clicked for me: Where the Crawdads Sing is a work of commercial fiction, rather than literary fiction. An editor described American Dirt this way: “it’s a really quick, pacey, dramatic read, and there’s a whole coterie of people who will say that to their friends, and word of mouth will move across the country like wildfire.” Laura Miller further stated, “In other words, the novel is a work of commercial fiction, much like Where the Crawdads Sing”. I describe Commercial Fiction as a category of fiction with broad appeal and intense marketing. Super librarian Nancy Pearl calls these appeal factors (interesting characters, language, setting and story) the “four doorways” that bring someone to enjoy a book. While Where the Crawdad Sings has strength in the four appeal factors, perhaps its greatest strength is the marketing it has gotten from individuals and media. Big sales don’t mean everyone will enjoy it. I admit I don’t care for James Patterson books, and those certainly have big sales. Commercial fiction can have a life of its own, without also being a good read for ME.

Carol Tuttle is the Collection & Digital Services Manager for the Willoughby-Eastlake Library System. She  is currently reading The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich.

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The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich