It is a common refrain these days: “Newspapers are dead.” And yet, while it may be true that some forms of print journalism have gone the way of the woolly mammoth (having a dog as a pet is cool; just imagine if we could have domesticated the mammoth; “BEWARE OF MAMMOTH signs would fly off the shelves; there wouldn’t be any home invasions), serious writers still dream of the papers’ Bestseller Lists.
I know I do.
America values hard work. We revere those who succeed with it.
“He deserves that promotion,” we’ll say. “He’s put in the work.”
“After all those long hours, it only seems right that she should be getting that position.”
This is how (good) corporations function. There is no such ladder of ascension for the writer. But they can be catapulted to the front of the literary line with a Bestseller.
Let me just make this one point to you, reader of fiction and non-fiction alike. Just because a book is a best-seller, just because it loiters for months on a Bestseller List, that doesn’t mean it’s any good. In my time as a writer, and as a friend to many writers, I have read many wonderful books that never saw such recognition.
So the next time you find yourself wandering a bookstore (Isn’t it fun to wander a bookstore, by the way?), and I don’t mean Amazon (I like them as much as the next shopper, but you can’t find hidden gems on that mammoth site), the net time you’re traversing the aisles of hardbacks, or caressing books backed by paper, take a trip off the beaten path and delve into a book you’ve never heard of, a book that’s never seen a List.
You just might meet some new friends.
Or, if it’s a piece of historical fiction, maybe even the great wooly mammoth.