Why We Read What We Read: A Delightfully Opinionated Journey Through Contemporary Bestsellers
In this slightly irreverent exploration of American culture through its
reading habits, co-author John Heath and I delve into nearly
200 of the most popular bestselling books from the past 15 years,
reviewing the trends and teasing out the themes that resonate
these days in the American psyche. Readers can catch up on all
the books they've heard about (but haven't had time to read)
while reviewing the aches, anxieties, and passions of American
readers have a lot of dirty little secretsand our bestselling books are
spilling them all.
bought millions of books about cheese. We can't resist conspiratorial
crooks or the number 7. We want to believe our spouses are aliens. And over
a million of us read 50-100 nearly identical books every single year.
reading habits speak volumes about our quirksbut even more about our desires
and fears. In Why We Read What We Read: A Delightfully Opinionated Journey Through Contemporary Bestsellers, Lisa Adams and John Heath take a snappy tour
through nearly 200 of the bestselling books to hit the shelves
since 1990, hauling out their persistent themes and noodling into
the American psyche. What do readers want from their love lives?
Who's got the greatest grip on God? Is everybody in Washington crazyand nasty?
Is there more to life than Chicken Soup?
themselves in the mega-selling worlds of Nora Roberts, J.K. Rowling,
Dan Brown, Nicholas Sparks, Bill O'Reilly, John Grisham, John Grey,
Spencer Johnson, Rick Warren, and hundreds of other authors, Adams
and Heath demonstrate that top-selling books are not merely flukes,
not merely predictable favorites from a handful of genre masters.
Rather, their common themes stretch across genres, satisfying a
reading public scouring the bookshelves for comfort and encouragement
from these disparate (and perhaps unlikely) gurus.
That's all well and goodif a bit repetitivebut it turns out that most
of these favorite books do exactly the opposite of what readers say they
want. Ferreting out the appeal of these titles, Adams and Heath demonstrate
how many inspirational books obstruct change, romances keep readers lonely,
thrillers comfort, and political books undermine democratic values. They
also explore those bestsellers, springing up from the oddest places at times,
that bare human experience in all its messy, complicated, shades-of-gray
splendor and thus give readers a more realistic shot at the growth and answers
The first book to examine bestsellers from a reader's perspectiveand
perhaps the first entertaining book about bestsellers ever writtenWhy We Read What We Read is an incisive and eye-opening journey through American culture
and all its angst and anxieties, obsessions and dreams.
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In each chapter, the authors examine seemingly disparate works and present insightful conclusions regarding the common thematic threads that resonate with American readers...
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.
William R. Drew, Editor, www.beneaththecover.com
Why We Read What We Read is a fun-spirited, charming, witty look at bestsellers of the last sixteen years...
it's full of insight and entertainment, a veritable cornucopia of "instruction and delight," as the NeoClassicists would say.
Best book I've ever read on bestsellers.
It ought to become a bestseller itself--and for all the right reasons! [Editor's note: We totally agree.]
Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor, Bookpleasures
Why We Read What We Read is comprehensive but never wearisome, analytical but never pedantic. Adams and Heath have an excellent grasp of the complexities of the subject matter and their analysis is certainly not bland but rather interesting and informative. Approached with an open mind, and perhaps with a grain of salt, this book achieves its ultimate goal; it forces people to think about the bestsellers in relation to current values, desires, and fears of Americans.
Lisa Ekus Group
Frequent flashes of humor and equally revealing sober insight make this thorough (and energetic, not exhausting) review into a page turner. Heath and Adams cover bestsellers from 1990 thru 2005, and span topics as diverse as Harry Potter and Barak Obama. They conclude with a sound wake-up call to reader, writer, and the publishing industry. Not to be missed.
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"The American Culture Behind the Bestsellers: An Examination of Readers' Perspectives"
The Diane Rehm Show
KALW-FM - "Book Talk"
KERA-FM - "Think"
Reading with Robin
The Michael Dresser Show
Voice America - "A Greater Voice"
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Why We Read What We Read was published by Sourcebooks,
Inc. in fall 2007, and was represented by Sharlene Martin of Martin
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