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Why we read what we read : a delightfully opinionated journey through contempora
John Heath and Lisa Adams
Adult Nonfiction Z1003.2 .A33 2007

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From Publishers' Weekly:

What does an analysis of PW's and USA Today's bestsellers lists tell us about the values, desires and fears of the American reading public? "[R]eaders are increasingly attracted to simple, univocal reinforcements of hunches rather than complex... answers," say the authors. Heath (coauthor, Who Killed Homer?) and first-time author Adams go on to analyze book after book to show its superficiality and failure to challenge readers' assumptions; they pick in particular on Dan Brown. The low-carb craze was about simplistic answers to psychological and physiological issues. J.K. Rowling and John Grisham reduce the world to good vs. evil, eliminating the need to understand conflicting points of view; Laura Schlessinger's and John Gray's success reveal an American public longing for traditional male-female roles. Disaster books, even literary titles like Into Thin Air, demonstrate an American appetite for redemptive stories of survival in the face of tragedy, and the red-hot Da Vinci Code scored by manipulating our lust for controversy and conspiracy and our need to feel (without actually being) educated. This effort is larded with data that will be obvious to publishing professionals and of little interest to general readers. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Award-winning authors Heath (coauthor, Who Killed Homer?) and editor/teacher Adams attempt to take the intellectual pulse of the American reading public by examining the shared themes of the best-selling books of the past 16 years (they base their findings on their review of nearly 200 titles culled from lists produced by Publisher's Weekly and USA Today between 1990 and 2005). While best sellers make up only a portion of the books Americans read, their status is determined by broad audience demand and can thus "provide a glimpse into the current state of the national psyche." In each chapter, the authors examine seemingly disparate works and present insightful conclusions regarding the common thematic threads that resonate with American readers. The text's conversational style makes for easy reading, though the numerous snarky asides more often distract than illuminate. The sidebars, including a song parody based on John Grisham's The King of Torts, are especially precious. However, the authors clearly take their subject matter seriously, presenting a sobering analysis of the self-limiting literary choices Americans continue to make. Recommended for all public libraries.-Shedrick Pittman-Hassett, Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Lib., Dallas (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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