Do You Prefer Reading the Popular or Obscure Books?

Do You Prefer Reading the Popular or Obscure Books_

Popular books: the ones everyone seems to be reading.

Obscure books: the lesser known books that not everyone is reading.

I have a small confession to make: whenever it seems like everyone is reading a particular book or series, I run far, far, far away from it.

I just can’t bring myself to read the popular, hyped up books that everyone says is a must read. I’m sure they’re good and it’s possible I might find them interesting, but I dislike being told what to do.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not have a problem with authority. I am strictly law-abiding and you’d be hard pressed to find anything in my record. But, when it comes to taste, I hate being told “You’ll love this!”

Uh, excuse me, how do you know that?

Many people have told me I’ll love this or that or because I love this, then I’ll absolutely love that. Which are common phrases in book reviews. But I tend to have a somewhat bizarre palate when it comes to books. I lack any real author loyalty. Just because I enjoyed one book does not mean I’ll enjoy another from the same book. If I’m told I’ll enjoy a book because I loved another book, I often laugh because I don’t even need one hand to count how many times that has happened. I look at books in isolation. I take a single story and determine whether I’ll enjoy it on its own merits. Maybe it’s by an author I’ve read before, maybe it’s not. Maybe I’ll pick up a book from an author I’ve enjoyed before and found this book to be lacking and will put it back. If anything, I’m a fan of a good story, but I couldn’t possibly tell you what I think a good story is. If it tickles my brain enough, I’ll give it a try. So perhaps you should go and chat with my brain.

f it tickles my brain, I'll read it.

Over the years, the people who know me have learned to leave books up to me. They no longer recommend anything because I hardly ever enjoy it. Even the people who know me well (my mom, best friends, and husband) don’t recommend books because I’m, shall we say, particular.

But back to popular vs. obscure books.

When I was in high school, during my senior year, a book called I Am Charlotte Simmons was making it’s way around my class. We were preparing to graduate and head off to college, so Charlotte’s story was our imminent future. It passed from reader to reader and, one day, one of my best friends handed it to me. Now, I enjoyed the book, but didn’t love it. It felt like a good guide of what not to do in college and it’s safe to say I never read another book by Tom Wolfe.

Similarly, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb were wildly popular throughout my high school years, but I never touched either of them. I simply found the stories unappealing, yet everyone thought they were the best books in the world.

Instead, I read Robert Jordan and a multitude of fantasy authors that literally no one I knew had heard of. I devoured classic after classic and wandered into culinary mysteries. No one else was reading them, but I thought they were fantastic. And when I discovered self-published authors about 10 years ago, I became an avid reader of their books. I still enjoy them, to a point now where I even roll my eyes whenever the next “must read” book is announced.

Perhaps it’s because I enjoy marching to my own beat, or maybe it’s because I don’t like being told what to enjoy, or, more likely, it’s because I’ve never enjoyed the hyped up books.

I’m sure the must reads are great books, but they just don’t tickle my brain. Even though it seems contrary to what book bloggers in general read, I’ll stick to my obscure books, especially if they’re self-published and no one seems to know their name. One of my favorite books is obscure, Scriber by Ben S. Dobson. And I’ve yet to read another book by Mr. Dobson.

What about you? Do you enjoy the hyped up books everyone seems to be reading and raving about or do you prefer the books no one is talking about?

14 Comments

    • kat

      It’s always nice to find books once their popularity has waned. I find them more enjoyable because someone isn’t breathing down my throat demanding I praise it. I’ve been trying to get into non-fiction. It feels like a great way to get to know the reality we live in better.

  • FairytaleFeminista

    I tend to like books that no one else is talking about, but eventually other people come around. As for the NYT bestsellers, I never take it on faith that they’re going to be something I like, but I give them a try. Like you, recommendations rarely work!

    • kat

      Books really are a matter of taste, and they all deserve a chance. But that’s great that you find the books first! It’s a nice way to enjoy the obscure books before they become popular.

  • stolzyblog

    Really I proceed entirely by my interests, and I will quickly put something down if it seems to have no substance or if the writer lacks perceptivity. I do not know what is popular anymore, because my time is limited for reading and I don’t even check. I would say most of what I spend time with is obscure. Similarly with music and films. If it appeals to too wide an audience, it almost has to be watered down. I think I’ve gone further in this direction the older I become.

    • kat

      I think that’s an excellent way to go about reading, and enjoying films and music. With so much going on in the world and our own lives, there is only so much time to enjoy the arts, so choosing based on interest and how well it was executed is a great idea.

  • talrhodes

    Love it! I do like the popular books but only because I find them an easy read! Enjoyable but usually an easy, light read. And so true about stories from the same author. I love Lee childs Jack reacher novels but I’ve persevered with more than I couple I found totally boring!

    • kat

      I hadn’t thought of that, but it is true that the popular novels tend to be easier reads! Which never hurts a book’s popularity when readers are always strapped for time. I had heard the Jack Reacher novels are amazing and have been meaning to get to them, so it’s nice to know they’re a mix of good and bad.

  • jennifermzeiger

    I’m a voracious reader. I’ll read just about anything, hyped-up, self-published, doesn’t matter. Time is the problem. There’s never enough time for all the reading I’d love to do! (Although, admittedly, I hesitate over horror. Messes with my brain too much.)

    • kat

      That’s a great way to get a nice mix of everything! And a great way for an author to keep abreast of what’s going on in the literary world. Time is always the problem. I keep looking for extra minutes, but I think they’re all hiding. I’m with you on the horror. It’s just too horrifying to read.

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