Saturday, August 15
But lately, the genre has been less satisfying. The number of books has exploded - and BJ Gallagher has written about these trends for Huffington Post - and this goes for mysteries, too.
But the quality of books may be in decline. Perhaps I've become jaded, impatient, and I finish only about two out of every three books I read anymore.
The reasons are many. Blurbs and jacket descriptions do not deliver on their promises. Publishers encourage authors to churn out one or more books per year. Some series rely on tired formulas. Authors invest more in publicity than editing, proofreading, storytelling, or research. Publishers, reviewers, fans herd in pursuing big names. Authors no longer allow series to each their natural conclusion, and heirs to a story line hire writers to keep the story going.
The Statistical Abstract of the United States reports that a total of 11,022 books were published in 1950, and fewer than 2000 were fiction. By 1965, the number jumped to more than 20,000 of which 1,615 were new fiction. For 2013, print books by traditional publisher totaled more than 304,000 and the total of non-print books was estimated at more than 1.1 million. The 2014 Bowker release adds, "In traditional publishing, Fiction and Juvenile genres continue to dominate the market."
Reviewers cannot read all books, and bookstores cannot stock all books. Globalization combined with word of mouth ensures that most readers can herd around the same dozen or so book each year.
And even those favorites can disappoint.
Still, readers persist in discovering and new writers and bringing their stories to the public's attention, including The Martian and Still Alice.
Photo of Yale Law Library, courtesy of Nick Allen and Wikimedia Commons.