As I browse discussions on goodreads, I’ve noticed that people are constantly bringing it back to a core set of books – Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight, some vampire stuff I’ve never heard off – and while I find the limitation personally frustrating, there is something fascinating here.
In a time when so many are worried about the future of books and literature, when many fear that technology has taken the place of reading and people just don’t have the patience to sit down and read a book, a time when the educational system is accused of failure from all angles – in this time, we are actually getting back to a point of books as popular culture. Some might argue that many of these books are not worthy of this stature. But that doesn’t matter – what matters is that reading has become a culturally unifying activity in a way it hasn’t been since the advent of television and possibly before.
Today, there are some television shows that people share. Downton Abbey and True Blood seem the most dominant with the people I encounter. But television watching is much more scattered now. People don’t watch the same things. Even the more popular shows are not so widely watched. Fewer than half of the people I work with watch the shows mentioned above, and in my wider circle of friends the ratio is even lower. Sherlock is popular among my group of friends, but not as much with people I encounter elsewhere.
Now, I won’t go so far as to argue that everyone reads the cultish books. However, people who read books are going overwhelmingly in this direction. Even those who are reluctant to jump on the bandwagon will end up engaging eventually. Such as myself. I finally read the Harry Potter books in 2008 (all in one weekend) just to understand what the fuss was all about. I haven’t gotten around to the Hunger Games yet, but as soon as it’s available at the library, I will.
Naturally, I would love for people to branch out more and read a greater variety of books. However, I think it’s marvelous that books are becoming such a part of shared culture because that does encourage people to read more. I also think that many of the books that become popular are harmless and sometimes even have some interesting ideas to get people thinking.
The exception is Twilight. From all I’ve heard about this and the lack of agency of the main character, I refuse to ever read the books or watch the films.