14 June 2010

Deja Vu

In a recent post entitled The Double Take: Too Many Books on the Dracula Myth To Count, the lovely Katiebabs (KB) from Babbling About Books, And More! asked the question:
Is too many books on one topic released at the same time too much of a good thing?
And that got me to thinking. See, I was in a bookstore on the weekend with a family member, hunting for a suitable book. (FYI - this family member is moderately intellectually disabled and since I'm not quite sure what is and isn't an appropriate book for her we were looking in the children's/YA section.) Anyway...the more I looked the more I realized that all the books looked the same...and sounded the same. It was like endless variations of the Twilight franchise. Which is all very well and good if you like that kind of thing...but if you don't? *shrugs* (Urban fantasy/fantasy really isn't said family member's cup of tea - I introduced her to Harry Potter, but according to her that series just didn't cut the mustard :) But (and this is a serious question), what else is out there? Because, honestly, it seems like very little. And I will concede that the bookstore I was in wasn't huge, so the selection was...restrained. But...isn't variety the spice of life? The books even look the same, so not a one stood out from the others. And it isn't just the YA genre. Urban fantasy, historical romance...they all seem to be converging, not diverging...

So, what did we end up purchasing? Said family member bought and read Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl) earlier this year, which she enjoyed, so she decided on Roald Dahl again - The Witches and Matilda. But KB's question and my experience on the weekend got me to thinking about variety... Is variety the spice of life or do we find a good thing and stick to it? (I know I do that with food :) And am I just musing on this because I'm not interested in the latest 'fad'? (Yes, fad is the wrong word but the right one is hiding and won't come out where I can see it.) And...how feasible is it for 'something different' to appear when the market is so focused on what feels like one theme?

Edited to add: I thought that was the end of the post, but on the way home I got to thinking about what the word 'appropriate' means in terms of books...and how does one decide what is and isn't appropriate? I drift towards children's/YA books for the aforementioned family member because I know she doesn't like scary books and...they are more likely to hold her interest. But then, I'm just guessing. No one gave me an instruction manual. But the final choice of book is always hers.


  1. Orannia, it's tough to get away from the "sameness" because that's what is out there ATM. After a while it becomes cookie-cutter reading, IMO. But, the trick for me is to keep looking because the good books are out there, to change genres, to read books I find interesting even if they're old.

    I still read newly released books and keep up with series. But it's easy to overdose in sameness, weather it's contemporary, historical romance, paranormal, M/M romance or UF. (I'm not really a YA reader). Picking and choosing what to read and finding that one book that does it for me is what is all about. :)

  2. Good questions! I think that bandwagonism does a disservice to readers and to writers - publishers are focused on the hot thing of the moment, and writers who aren't working on that aren't going to get published.

  3. Great topic! I'm all for variety! Too bad that a lot of publishers always aim at the grand masses who only buy bestsellers... That doesn't help variety and mainly brings more of the same.

  4. I think if you are a big fan of a certain subject or type of story, then you won't mind the amount of "deja vu" books being published.

    But then again, too much of a good thing all at once may not work in the publisher and the author's favor. What if a reader only has enough money put aside to buy one book? Which one do they choose?

  5. Hilcia - cookie-cutter. Yup, that's exactly what it felt like on Saturday looking at the books. And I think a lot of that is because of the covers...the content may be different but it's finding that content in a hall of mirrors. And I'm so with you on changing genre. I've kind of fallen into an urban fantasy run ATM, but I think I need to throw something else in there...

    Chris - thank you, but the first question was KB's. And 'bandwagonism' (love the word BTW) worries me, because the focus becomes so narrow books outside the box may be ignored.

    Janna - thank you! And yes. I can see why publishers aim for the masses, but...the masses are fickle :)

    KB - I agree. If you like a particular storyline then the world is your osyter. But if you don't... And such a good question and one that didn't even cross my mind. Yes, the majority of consumers only have a finite amount of money to spend...if they're like me and can't decide they'll end up buying nothing :)

  6. I watching this show once--can't remember what it was, but it was somehow related to marketing--and they were talking about how people SAY they want variety, but they really don't. For example, a customer might say they want different things for breakfast, but when it comes right down to it, they eat the same breakfast cereal day after day. This is probably the same marketing rule that publishers labor under, and I admit that it works for me in some cases. Like when Harry Potter came out and all I wanted was MOAR Harry Potter, I would gravitate toward any book that sounded HP-esque.

    There are actually a lot of different kinds of YA novels out there now--you should check out Nerds Heart YA, it's a competition for novels that are "underrepresented." There's a whole slew of different types of books being judged.

  7. I'm in two minds about this because on the one hand there is the question of saturation and familiarity breeding contempt and on the other I love getting inundated when I'm in the midst of enjoying a particular something. Sorry. I must be being particularly Libran at the moment.

    Would you like me to ask the Mumma, who is an English teacher, if she can recommend anything contemporary etc that might appeal to your family member? She especially has a good grasp on those written in Oz and NZ which might appeal to your rellie.

  8. For example, a customer might say they want different things for breakfast, but when it comes right down to it, they eat the same breakfast cereal day after day.

    heidenkind - that is me. To a 'T'. I've probably had, on average, four or five types of breakfast in my lifetime. I want the same thing. It's...comforting. So I can see where the publishers are coming from. But, and this is kind of a different topic altogether, YA books are far more...adult than they used to be. And I kind of steer away from those types of books. Hmmm. I really should talk to IHC and see what they think. For all that my family member tells me she doesn't want to read children's books because she 'isn't a child any more', she likes them. And I will check out that competition - thank you.

    Kris - I'm not a Libran and I'm with you. It works if you like a particular something and it's what is out there, but if you don't like it or are looking for something else...it's tricky :) And if you and the Mumma don't mind then yes please! *smooches* She loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books - I introduced them to her 2 years ago and we went through those. Roald Dahl is the new one. And I want her to keep reading...and if I don't get her new books she just re-reads the same book over and over, which isn't good IMHO. I think she read Pollyanna too...there were a few in that series. Oh - What Katy Did. See, I'm gravitating towards the older books. Maybe because the more contemporary children and YA books have far more...adult issues discussed. Sign of the times I guess...and an interesting topic, but I wouldn't know where to start :) Thank you so much!

  9. Hi Orannia, Kris asked me to give you some suggestions of reading material for a member of your family who is having trouble finding something to read. As an English Head I made a decision to keep mainly with Australian novels, so I can only really give you a list of Oz texts so anything by Morris Gleitzman, John Marsden, Warren Flynn, Dianne Wolfer, Tim Winton's Lockie Leonard series, and any number of others. If you wish to contact me feel free to do so.

  10. HI Mumma J *waves* Thank you so much!!! The authors aren't known to me, but we import all sorts of things here, so I have written them down and will have a look in the bookstore. I had a quick look and I like the sound of Morris Gleitzman's Witches and Tim Winton's Lockie Leonard series. Said family member is currently reading The Witches...although has only read 4 pages in 10 days. *SIGH* Slow but steady :)

    And I love your avatar!