There is something inherently cliche and cinematic about the mom’s books club in which the women of the cul de sac gather to chat briefly about a book focusing on the more sensual scenes while consuming copious amounts of wine. While this might be a trope and sometimes ring true, I think more focus ought to be placed on the novels that become classics among hordes of housewives entrusting their literary lists to the all-powerful Oprah. This past summer while recovering from the strain of spring semester I searched for an escape into fictive worlds that would not only entertain but help me keep my reading pace quick for the approaching semester. After consulting peers, relatives, librarians, and the internet I began a quest to read as many of the trending books from the past couple of years that were marketed in a particular way.
I was in search of something beyond the classic Elin Hilderbrand novels that are beloved beach reads focused around summer romance and drama on New England shores. I was after the books that seemed to be in everyone's hand over the past couple of years so much so that many of them earned limited series on streaming platforms or op-ed reviews worth reposting to social media. I began with Liane Moriarty’s main trilogy: Big Little Lies, The Husband's Secret, and Nine Perfect Strangers. Then it was on to Tara Westover’s Educated followed shortly by Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. I explored love in our formative years through Normal People by Sally Rooney and needed a few days off from reading to recover emotionally before tackling Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. I closed out the last two weeks of summer reading The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides and the wildly gripping Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Just as soon as the last page had been turned, I was logging onto the internet to process endings and begin the media adaptations.
Now that I have exposed my random taste in books I want to prod at why they became so popular within reading circles. There is no formula for writing a book club worthy book as book clubs are made up of all kinds of people. I opened this blog post by referencing the most common demographic utilizing some novel revolving around a meet-cute as an excuse to gossip and drink wine. However, that could not be farther from the truth. The books I had explored this summer are hopefully known as great for prompting literary discussions of themes around family, identity, race, history, aging, love, etc. They were not written with an intent to reach the same one single audience but rather appeal to all and therefore be the source of fruitful discussions in which personal experiences are connected to the written word. The key component that drove many of their successes and central placement on the bookshelves of stores was accessibility. Now, not everyone has access to books or libraries or the internet but those who do regardless of occupation or other limiting factors are able to experience great writing in these digestible forms and when a book is so widely acclaimed there then exists a large circle of fellow readers ready to break down the book. Beyond the pages of these books there are, what I consider to be, supplementary materials such as podcasts, articles, saturated internet pages on connections, and TV/film adaptations. I believe that the increased interest in books that are popularized for the dialogues they initiate ought to continue to be highlighted even if it is on cheesy webpages claiming them as the next great hit for your gal pals. I understand that there are arguments against trending pages citing that society is only drawn to binge a show because it feels like everyone else is and never for personal enjoyment. To that I can only suggest that books get popular for a reason and if you wish to join in the discussion, by all means, pull up a chair and share with me your ideas.