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{17/07/2012}   To read or not to read a best-selling novel

Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and, most recently, 50 Shades of Grey; all best-selling books that I feel I should have read.  Ah, the power of publishers and the power of curiosity.  I am one of those people who usually refuses to read best-sellers on principle.  But really there’s a closet follower in me because I usually succumb at some point.

What got me thinking about all this was that yesterday I sat across from a young bloke who was reading 50 Shades of Grey.  I get the impression it’s a “girlie” book, so, for example, I didn’t see any blokes reading The Girl with the Pearl Earring, yet I suspect it’s the soft porn element that’s got the male interest piqued.  I have no problem at all with who reads books, I just find it mildly amusing that a soft porn book is a current best-seller and that it’s so openly read by both men and women.  I have had a sneaky peak at it, in Sainsbury’s, and I was tempted to buy it.  I don’t think it’s actually the subject matter that is of particular interest, more that I want to know what all the fuss is about, which is the case with all best-sellers.

As for the Harry Potter books, I refused to read them as they were coming out because it seemed like on every mode of transport I went on, in every office, on friends’ coffee tables, there was a Harry Potter book.  Then an American friend, obsessed by the books, decided to fly (he works for an airline) to London to see the first film on the first day of general release.  And he got me a ticket, so I had to go!  I absolutely loved it.  He came over for the second film too, though this time I think he went a step further than I could handle: we all had Harry Potter baseball caps!  I think he “only” flew over for two films.  Since then, I have watched all bar the last two at the cinema, and the final two on DVD in a mammoth double whammy of viewing pleasure!  Somewhere around film four, having had a few friends tell me I should read them as I would love them, I decided to succumb when a friend lent me the first three books.  For however many weeks it was, I read one to seven in rapture, awe and delight; such magical, creative, adventure-packed and brilliant books.  That had been the first in a long time I read at every possible opportunity, including walking out of tube stations, in any breaks, however short and way past my bed time.

As for the other books I mentioned, I haven’t read any of them but I do have a copy of The Da Vinci Code and the appeal of that book lies in the fact a lot of it is written about places I know and I recently saw the remains of a Knights Templar church in Dover and wanted to know more about it, to which it was suggested I read The Da Vinci Code.

I find it fascinating the books that stand out as best-sellers and how or whether they reflect a general mood of the nation.  I guess 50 Shades of Grey isn’t a serious or depressing novel, it’s about relationships and, despite there being plenty of soft porn books around, it’s a genre that a lot of people have probably never read but probably been curious about.  Easy escapism?  I think that probably does reflect what most of us need or want right now.

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