I am considering starting a Conundrum of the Week Club. No, I won’t volunteer to be president or secretary. Last week I was puzzled by mystery readers and the great divide between preferring British or American authors.
This week my confusion started with a weeding report of books, fiction and romance, which haven’t circulated for several years. I want to know why these books have fallen from the public eye. Have the authors overstayed their welcome in the publishing world? Although I consider weeding the collection as necessary as weeding my flower garden – it provides space for growth and the general good health of the plants - weeding fiction is fraught with anxiety and must be approached more cautiously than uprooting dandelions. Weeding non-fiction can be as easy as removing books which are no longer relevant or, in the case of science and medicine, contain inaccurate information. Weeding fiction is more subjective and quickly veers into emotion and nostalgia. Sometimes I look at a book and remember a vacation. I remember the pleasure of reading an author for the first time and anxiously waiting for the next book. Pat Conroy’s recent death made me think fondly of The Great Santini and The Water is Wide. These two titles were not his most popular or best selling, but they were my favorites.
Fern Michaels has been popular for many years, but 17 of her titles have not circulated since 2012 and before. Several titles were checked out over 25 times each before gaining wallflower status. The sheer volume of her writing makes me think of LaVyrle Spencer, an extremely popular writer in the 1980s and 90s. She had been very honest that she would stop writing romances when she had earned $ 1,000,000. A worthy goal!
Several books by Joyce Carol Oates are on the chopping block. Years ago at a conference a member of the audience asked her how many books she had written. She didn’t know. I am not sure that she has a fan base of readers at BHPL who automatically reach for her next book. Philip Roth is slipping into the same category.
Perri O’Shaughnessy had been popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The titles are now being re-released in audio format, but the hardcover books have been benchwarmers since 2010. In a similar legal vein, Robert Tanenbaum’s early books are sitting on the shelf and he is not attracting new readers willing to go back and start reading from the beginning.
David Rosenfelt is a popular New Jersey author, but departed from a popular series with Don’t Tell a Soul. The book only circulated 2 times before people realized that Tara, the world’s most brilliant dog, was not included. Being tied to a book series must be as frustrating for authors as actors being identified by only one role played years ago in a TV series.
Burning questions: how has Sue Grafton lasted from A to X and Janet Evanovich from one to twenty-three? Do they each have a devoted audience and/or do they attract new readers? Why do people read James Patterson when his books are co-authored? I must go now and find my garden gloves.