Book group verdict • 6 June 2008 • The SnowBlog
Book group verdict
A few years ago I was one of the early members of a book group. In fact I know exactly how long ago it was because last night was the five-year anniversary. My pal Céline compiled the list of what had been read to date (mostly after I dropped out) and it was generally agreed that the total topped a hundred titles. What was interesting was how little agreement there was on whether a particular title was a hit or a waste of time. There was only one book that everyone seemed to have got a kick out of: Sacred Hunger. So thats a 1% hit rate when it comes to crowd-pleasers. What was also interesting was the hit rate for successes for any particular individual. After a bit of thought, and a look back at the list, it was generally agreed that you couldnt expect to enjoy more than about two in every five titles. Thats pretty damning considering each title was enthusiastically suggested by someone, and normally seconded. There were heaps of Booker and Orange prize-winners in there. There were tons of famous and trendy literary authors too. Several of the participants work in publishing, so consistently there was an informed and thoughtful selection process. I noticed only one populist title: The Da Vinci Code which provoked one of the best debates, apparently, because everyone hated it so passionately and wanted to air their criticisms. Maybe its just the nature of the beast, but it seems a shame that in the Twenty-First Century we still know so little about how to match a book to a reader, and the average book, no matter how lauded will fail to win over even the majority of those who are reasonably keen to read it. I doubt the donut industry could survive on those ratios.