I got an email from Amazon the other day offering me a chance to click on a list of their 10 best-selling books for 2012. I did. I found that I have read none of them.
I am basing my comments on blurbs of the books from the Amazon website and on the comments of reviewers who allegedly did read these books. As I have said before, anything like a star rating or a review should be treated with extreme skepticism, so my assessment of these books may not be fair. Anyway, here goes:
Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James AND the Fifty Shades Trilogy sold as a set.
Spank me again, O Rich Master, I’m a bad little girl unworthy of your virile greatness!
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Has the husband murdered his missing wife? Okay, kids, if you believe you could sit down right now and sketch out the plot in about five minutes, raise your hands.
No Easy Day by Kevin Maurer and Mark Owen
How we killed Bin Laden. Excuse me, but didn’t good newspapers cover all that at the time?
The Marriage Proposal by Jennifer Probst
Obscenely rich guy has to quickly marry somebody to keep his billions. Yeah, that happens a lot. I’m not sure if the prospective bride has to show up in a pumpkin coach at a ball while wearing a gown made by magical mice, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
Reflected in You by Sylvia Day
One reviewer said this was very similar to 50 Shades except it has a story line . . . of sorts. I’m not sure I would have added an actual plot. Why tamper with perfection?
The Racketeer by John Grisham
A Federal Judge has been murdered. Who did it? Why am I seeing Pelicans wearing briefs?
Defending Jacob by William Landay
An attorney’s fourteen-year-old son is charged with murdering a fellow student in a small New England town. I will not make light of this one. It’s too similar to the recent horrors in Connecticut. In one of my jobs, I sometimes had conversations with real murderers. I didn’t find it entertaining.
The Innocent by David Baldacci
Hit man decides to take a pass on an assignment and must run from his employers. How many hands do I see, class?
Amazon is a huge seller of books, so this sample of what sells is statistically significant.
It tells us that if you want to become a best-selling author your books should include lots of gunfire, a statistically improbable number of lawyers among the characters (when was the last time you saw a best-selling novel where the protagonist was a chemist or bricklayer or short-order cook or clerical worker or licensed practical nurse or mail carrier?) and women who yearn for insanely rich, narcissistic men who will paddle them and send them to their rooms without their suppers.
To be fair, as I said, I haven’t read any of these books. For all I know, some of them may be models of beautiful prose. Maybe some of them contain an idea or two or address some ethical or even spiritual dilemma in a meaningful way. But I doubt it.
This list tells me that even if a book sells by the ton, that doesn’t mean I should take it seriously.