Unpopular Opinion: We’re gonna make you pop-u-lar!

As much as Galinda might disagree, popularity isn’t something gained by a new gown and hair style, especially when it comes to books. The trends of popularity aren’t easy to pick out.

The Lovely BonesThe Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon, #2)My Sister's Keeper Twilight (Twilight, #1)    New Moon (Twilight, #2)      Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)

Bossypants           The Fault in Our Stars

The above are the covers of  the most popular books, according to Goodreads, for the past ten years. Most of them have been turned into movies, or are on their way to becoming them. Many of them are part of series, but there are also stand-alones. There is an overwhelming amount of YA fiction, but that’s not the only genre represented. So what is it about these ten books that made them stand out above all other books published in their year? And what does it say about our society that these are the books the most people choose to read? From the story of a murder victim to the story of a cancer victim, has our society changed that much in the past ten years?

I wasn’t particularly surprised by any of the list, except maybe Bossypants which I hadn’t really heard of. I was maybe a little startled to see that only one Harry Potter book made the list.

For me, it seems a lot of the popularity of a book comes from luck. The right thing happening at the right time. There are books up on the list that I don’t necessarily believe deserve to be there because they aren’t well written, but they are up there because the best books aren’t always the ones that get read the most. In the end, a lot of times people will read what they’re told to read. I almost always only read books that have been recommended to me. I rarely pick a book of a shelf because it looks interesting, and this makes me a little sad.

I think that a lot of times readers get so stuck on what’s popular to read that some of that enjoyment of reading a book that you know absolutely nothing about is gone. In a way, book culture is becoming very standardized. Everyone’s read Harry Potter. Everyone’s read Twilight. And if you haven’t, as a reader, then there must be something wrong with you.

That’s not the kind of reader I want to be and that’s not the kind of person I want to be.

About megtao

Student. Writer. Nerdfighter. Fights for love, justice, and awesome.
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20 Responses to Unpopular Opinion: We’re gonna make you pop-u-lar!

  1. Wow, what an interesting assortment. I’ve read over half of that list, tried to read all but Bossypants (which, I’m actually quite familiar with). Never would have placed them in the top ten of the past 10. I think I agree that the top 10 are more about luck and chance than what kind of books they are.

    PS, I really love your “unpopular opinions” posts.

    • megtao says:

      They’re not necessarily the top ten books of the last ten years, but they’re the most popular book in each year from 2002 to 2012 (according to Goodreads).

      And I’m really glad you enjoy the unpopular opinion posts!

  2. Krysta says:

    Although luck does play into popularity, a lot of other factors determine bestsellers as well. Marketing is probably the most important aspect, whether that’s done the traditional way or just by making the book controversial, as in the case of The Da Vinci Code. However, even good marketing can’t sustain the popularity of a book forever unless there’s something speaking to people. I would argue that perhaps a book’s being “well-written” isn’t of paramount importance. It’s better to have a well-written book, but a book that has mediocre writing but still manages to address important themes in a thoughtful or new way shouldn’t be totally dismissed.

    Even though I might not agree that all of those books should have been the most read in a certain year, I can understand why people might have chosen to read them. Most of them address things people wonder or worry about. The Da Vinci Code intrigued people because it was supposed to be scandalous. My Sister’s Keeper, as I understand it (I haven’t read it), addressed difficult moral questions. Perhaps neither are great works of art, but it’s not entirely accidental that they managed to catch people’s attention.

    That being said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading popular books or books recommended to you either by a friend or by a bestseller list. There are a lot of books out there and it makes sense to invest your time in something that you think has a fair chance of being good. If a lot of people are reading a particular book, I like to read it, not just because everyone else is and I want to appear knowledgeable or well-read, but because I think it must have good qualities that recommend it to so many. It is a bonus, however, to know that are a lot of people with whom I can discuss the book once I’ve finished reading it. 😀

    Interesting post!

    • megtao says:

      I think addressing important themes is important, yes, but I’m not sure if all of these books does that. *eyes Twilight*

      And I’m not saying that I will never read ANY popular books ever again. I’ve found some of my favourite books through book recommendations. But I’ve also found some of my other favourite books by randomly perusing through library shelves. And I think it’s nice to be able to recommend a new book that no one else seems to read to your friends because then you’re making the reading world a bit better of a place. 🙂

      • Krysta says:

        Hmm. Yes. Twilight. I did gloss over that one, didn’t I? I haven’t read it, though, so I’m not sure I’m qualified to discuss why it made the list.

        Oh, I didn’t mean to put words into your mouth or imply that you’re completely against popular books! I merely meant to explain my thoughts on reading a lot of popular books–because I do. 😀 I also enjoy scanning the shelves at bookstores and libraries, though, and looking for some gem other people have neglected. I love finding something and then having the ability to recommend it to others!

  3. I’m kind of surprised by the Jodi Picoult book being on this list. I knew she was popular but not that popular.
    I’m such a stubborn person that I usually resist whatever the “it” book is at the time. I still haven’t read Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series despite the fact that I’ll probably like it. But I definitely think you’re right, it’s fine to read a book that’s popular but you shouldn’t read it BECAUSE it’s popular. You’re reading for the wrong reason.

  4. Heidi says:

    I think you make a great statement here! And honestly, I’ve already had this conversation once tonight: people should read what they want to read, not what they feel obligated to read for some reason.

    I took a History of the Book course once, and we actually talked about the phenomena that can happen with a book. We talked most specifically about The DaVinci Code, and analyzed what was happening at the time politically and in other current events that may have lended to the book’s popularity. It was actually a really interesting case because Angels and Demons, which was published first and had all of the same potential to be controversial and huge didn’t hit, whereas The DaVinci Code did. It was all a matter of timing. This is why I hate when people ask you to predict ‘the next big thing’…you can’t really, because you have no idea where books, and culture in general, will be in the near future.

    • megtao says:

      And considering how long it takes to write and publish a book, you can’t really write for the time, you have to write ahead of the curve. I actually enjoyed Angels and Demons MORE than The Davinci Code, but it’s the one that is popular, and I never really understood why.

  5. Apparently, I have been sucked into a very random game of blog tag, and so I have decided to have you come along too! See the question I have asked you at http://wp.me/p2niio-4I

  6. Ruby says:

    So, I’m not really a big reader, and definitely not one to read the “so now” books, like Twilight, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc.
    It feels like a lot of the more popular books these days are tweeny books. They get turned into movies with all the merchandise (because tweens are where the money’s at?) and everything and that makes the even more popular among other groups.

    • megtao says:

      I’m not sure if the most popular books today are tween books. Tweens are between the ages of 13-15, I’d say, and while they’d have the ability to read any of those books, I don’t think they’re really targeted at them.

      I do think turning books into movies helps to promote them and make them more popular, but I think the book has to become popular on its own first before a movie can be made. It takes a lot of money to make a movie, and financiers don’t want to take the risk that it’ll flop without some proof that it’ll do well.

      As for merchandise, I have no problem with it. I have a ton of book related merch myself. It’s nice to be able to buy stuff related to my interests, and I think that other interests have so much more merch.

  7. Miss Anderson says:

    I’ve read all of these books and thought they were all okay! (Well, minus Twilight. Hated Twilight!) These books to me are like book candy, quick reads. And I do read them because everyone else is reading them — as a librarian, especially, I read things more out of professional interest than personal interest all the time. I wish people spent time looking for really good books, but the fact is that many people read fewer than 10 books a year. They are only going to consider reading the book that’s on the news, in the display at the store, or recommended by a friend. What I see, though, is that mediocre books are the most popular BECAUSE they are mediocre. They aren’t terrible, they have a mass appeal, they are accessible to everyone of all reading/education levels. More sophisticated readers are reading deeper in to genres, or reading more complex books. These books, though better written, are only going to appeal to a certain percentage of the population that is really passionate about that book.

    It’s the same reason pop radio is so annoying, and I will never hear my favorite bands on the radio. Oh, and of all the books on this list, Bossypants was, HANDS DOWN, the best.

    • megtao says:

      That’s such a shocking number to me! I’ve read that many books in a week (a really good week). But it makes sense. You make some really good points.

      Hm, if Bossypants is that good maybe I need to step out of my fiction bubble and give it a go.

    • megtao says:

      That’s definitely scary. Now I’m worried once I’m no longer a student I’ll suddenly lose my will to read o-o

  8. Candice says:

    First off, read Bossypants. It’s amazing.

    Second… I haven’t read all of those books, but have read most of them. I think I’m sort of torn about “popular” books. On the one hand, clearly there’s a reason they’re popular. Twilight, for example, I think appeals to a large group, both adults and teenagers. However, I remember when I had first heard about it and read about them on Wikipedia – the plot sounded ridiculously crazy and I thought “I will never read these. They sound so dumb!” Then I saw the movie, thought I’d give the book a try and, 3 days later, I had found a new favorite series. Is it the best written series? No. Is it predictable? Yes. But it’s appealing, therefore it’s popular. However, had it not been popular, there’s no way I would have even picked it up. Same goes for a lot of the books listed up there.

    But, sometimes I don’t feel like I should read a book just because it’s popular and everyone’s reading it, because sometimes the book just doesn’t appeal to me. The Help is one of those books – while I enjoyed what I read of it, it didn’t really hold my attention nor did it appeal to me (but that’s a whole other story). I think that as a reader, I’ve gotten to be pretty independent in what I read. 9/10 times I don’t go to the “new books” section of the library but will instead wander the stacks looking for other books that appeal to me. I have friends who are flabbergasted that I haven’t read some of the more popular newer books. My response is always “What? It doesn’t sound good to me.”

    As serious readers, I think we’re more open to read less popular books about subjects we enjoy. We may start out with the popular books, but delve deeper into the genre and read more complex books. I don’t think there’s anything inherently WRONG with reading popular books, and I’d be a complete hypocrite if I said there was, but I think when you only read a book because it’s popular rather than making your own reading choices, you limit yourself and stifle your mind. However (there seem to be a lot of these) if the popularity of a book gets a hesitant reader to read, and gets them to thinking about the subject and forming opinions, then I’m all for that.

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