Before I begin this article, I would like to point out that this is just my opinion. This blog isn’t intended to offend or to sway anyone else of their opinion on the subject, but instead; I hope to open up a line of thought among readers and writers alike.
I have been seeing several comments around the web about a popular book series on the market and it has been rattling around in my mind for weeks. I haven’t responded to any of the comments, not wanting to get into a back and forth argument with the people posting them. The comments have stayed in the back of my mind all this time and I feel I must write this out to ever rid myself of the nagging of it.
These comments suggest that this series of books was written on a fifth grade level and that its appeal to its adult audience is astonishing. Others commented that it boggled the mind as to how a book like this could get published. I believe I understand what the authors of these comments are saying, but it still struck me in such a way that I feel I have to air my opinion on it. I don’t mean any ill will towards anyone; in fact, I would like to thank them for giving me such an intriguing topic to write about.
What is a best seller? According to the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary the definition of a best seller is this: n. a product, as a book, that among those of its class sells very well at a given time.
I am by no means an accomplished writer, nor do I hold any accreditation as a writer; I am a graphic artist by trade but I am an avid reader. I read a lot of books, tons of books, each year. They are stacked in every closet of my home, every bookshelf, and my Kindle is loaded with them; so I feel this gives me the right to have an opinion on this matter. I appreciate the written word just as much as the next guy and I feel that books are a treasure to be appreciated by all. Reading takes me to places I will never get to go and lets me experience things that I would otherwise never get to experience. I love almost any genre books as long as it has a story to tell. If it is told well on a fifth grade level, I’m going to like it, of course, if it is told well on a college level I will like it just as well.
I completely understand that some people spend years in college studying the English language, immersing themselves in Literature and Writing courses in hopes of being an accomplished writer one day. I feel that is the mindset that a lot of the above mentioned comments are coming from. But I have two initial things to say to that: (1) all the experience and education in the world will not make you a writer, and (2) books are a product you are trying to sell. If a market exists for that specific type of product, it’s going to sell.
Writing success depends hugely on what grabs a potential reader and keeps them coming back for more. This is something that years in college cannot teach you because the mindset of a reader shifts like the wind. To me, an average reader, the book I choose to read depends largely on my mood. If I have had a hard week and need to check out of reality for a while I’m not going to pick up a book that requires a lot of thought and concentration to read. There are books, even though I love them, that are simply exhausting to read when I’m tired and stressed. I just don’t have the brain power left at the end of the day to deal with them. It’s times like these that I adore my ‘fifth grade level writing’ books and have drug them off the shelves numerous times just for the fun of the read.
Two of my favorite authors in the whole world are, Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Both are superlative writers and I love the way they spin a tale with a wonderful use of the English language but I can’t always enjoy their writing the way I would like. If I’m worn out from day to day living I just don’t have the brain power or the energy to read their stories. I would rather wait until I am at full capacity to read their books so that I can fully enjoy every word they have put to the page. I feel that I can’t possibly be alone in this opinion.
You see, I believe that books represent many different things to many different people. I feel you shouldn’t have to have a PHD to read a book, nor should a book be analyzed to death on context and grammar. I feel that a book is meant to be brought to life in a readers mind, that it should captivate you and entertain you. Just like art, the written word is interpreted by the viewer/reader. This doesn’t mean that one person knows more than the other, it just means they interpret what they are seeing in a different way. For example, I have friends that I adore and respect, that love the book, Wuthering Heights. They tell me what a great work of literature it is and talk about all the intricacies’ of the characters and plot, so on and so forth. I, on the other hand, have never made it through the fourth chapter! I have tried to read it on numerous occasions but it just doesn’t do anything for me. It is exhausting for me to read and I simply cannot force myself to read it even if it is considered some great literary feat. Another example; I love Mark Twain, while others I know can’t make sense of his writing. I believe this all boils down to a personality thing.
Some people love to read historical novels and documentaries, others like romance, while still others like mysteries or comedies or even erotica. I have read all of these types of books in my lifetime and of course, I have my favorite genres just like all other readers do. My point is, if a book is published; don’t throw stones at the writer lucky enough to have their story published. All writers have a story to tell, whether they have a High School education or a College education, no matter what genre of book they happen to write. You see, in the end, it doesn’t matter on what grade level they write. The only thing that really matters is that the book allowed one or hopefully many people, to escape the humdrum realities of their days. Allowing that reader, for just a short while, to be transported to another place, a place where they don’t have to worry about the kids, or their jobs, or their bills or the million other things that plague their lives every day. A place where they don’t have to think about anything or fix anything; the only thing they have to do is read what’s on the page in front of them. That’s the beauty of the written word. There is something out there for everybody; man, woman or child, rich or poor, educated or uneducated.
A book doesn’t need to be an award winning literary work to be a good read. A good book is a magical thing captured within pages or on a screen. It has no boundaries or rules. Its only job is to create magic in the mind of the one who reads it. I’m not sure whether books would be worth anything at all if they were all written with the same skill and precision. Stories that stir emotions in a reader don’t need to have fancy words or be written to the highest standard; the story is what matters and the reader’s ability to connect with it. It’s that profound and that simple.
If you are a reader, my advice would be for you to read what makes you happy. Whether it’s considered ‘trash’ by some people shouldn’t sway your decision to buy it. Books like music has a genre for almost everyone.
If you are a writer with a story to tell, don’t fret about not being able to use huge words or the ability to write with the utmost skill, just write for the love of telling your story. Some of the greatest writers of all time only had a limited amount of education. It is your story and your passion for telling it that will capture a reader, not your prowess with the English language. I say these things as a person who has read more books than she can count and loved them based on the story, not on the words used to tell it.
I guess what I have been trying to say all this time is that I don’t really think the education level in which something is written matters in the end. What matters is the story that is told and the passion used to write it. (I know Mr. King would disagree with me but he’ll get over my opinion.) Some books are meant to be just entertainment while others will go down in history as great works of literature. Only time will tell what books of our generation might be considered a great literary work by the next generation. Read because you love to read. Write because you love telling a story. It’s really very simple.
What do you think? Do you think it should be a given that a best-selling novel be written with the utmost skill with the written word, or is a simply written, good story enough? I would love to hear your opinion on this subject. Leave a comment below.
NOTE: I will be moderating comments; if you are hateful I will not approve your comment.