Twenty-six weeks ago I set myself a task: I would read a New York Times Bestseller a week and blog about it in the hopes of re-connecting myself to popular book culture and (hopefully) read some great books.
It hasn’t quite worked out as I planned.
First off I didn’t account for the fact that books often stay in the number 1 spot for more than a week (the original plan was to read the #1 book each week). That was easy enough to adjust for: I could just take a book off another list (the New York Times now has a lot of bestseller lists, from e-books to YA, etc.), and sometimes I threw in a wildcard book just to mix it up.
As the weeks went on, though, I began to encounter a few deeper problems: books I couldn’t finish, books I wish I didn’t have to read, books whose popularity I couldn’t understand. What was this crazy task I had assigned myself, I wondered, and how was I going to keep it up all year?
On the other hand, I encountered several books that I absolutely loved and might not otherwise have read. And it’s those books that keep me going. It’s those books that make this project worth it, and if you haven’t read these books, you really, really should:
Week 1: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn I’ve read this book three times in the last year, and if that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. The premise is simple – a wife disappears on her 5th wedding anniversary and the husband is the prime suspect – but the execution is anything but. A must read.
Week 4: The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan . The story of the Van Goethem sisters, one of whom was Degas’ inspiration for his sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, it is set in Belle Époque Paris and is a mix of true details of about the sisters — all ballet dancers of varying success — and a true-life murder mystery that existed in Paris at the same time. Well written, evocative. It has stayed with me.
Week 7: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This book made me ugly cry and I’ve read it three times as well. I can still quote many, many lines from it. Brilliant.
Week 16: The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison. A book I called “perfect” in my review, this is a poignant (and funny) exploration of the importance of family set against a very possible reality: a popular high school teacher finds himself the subject of a (false?) YouTube video that shows him assaulting a student. Written with amazing (and enviable) assurance, The Banks of Certain Rivers explores themes of memory, loss and redemption with grace. My favorite book so far this year.
Week 20: Divergent by Veronica Roth. A book I never would have read if not for this project, I actually it better now than when I initially reviewed it, perhaps because I read the second book and am now eagerly awaiting for the third in the series. Dystopian YA might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you want to give it a chance, this is a good place to start.
On so, onwards. I got mired in Week 26’s pick (Dan Brown’s Inferno, another DNF, and lost a week climbing the Grand Teton in Wyoming (yes, for reals), so week 27 and 28’s pick are Curtis Sittenfeld’s new book, Sisterland.
Back to work. I mean, reading.