Can a Book Be Too Trendy for Posterity? [The Oprah Effect]


Big Brother Book Club is taking the week off (too many seasonal readings with too much free eggnog), but in the spirit of continuity, we’re posting a literary item inspired by mass transit espionage. Enjoy.

During this morning’s commute we spotted a woman across the aisle clutching Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and it kind of broke our heart. Not because we’re die hard Eggers Haters — although those certainly do exist. It would be like if we finally broke down and decided to read The Da Vinci Code after all these years of holding out. Certain books become so universally popular in a specific moment in time that it’s awkward when you see someone reading them eight years after the rest of the world did.

Off the top of our head, a few other works that belong on this list: Eat, Pray, Love; White Teeth; Everything Is Illuminated; Life of Pi; anything by Malcolm Gladwell; TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE!!!, Middlesex.

Does this say something about the quality of these reads? Probably not, because we really enjoyed all of the above at the time. (Yes, even the sappy tale of poor Morrie Schwartz.) But a literary work and its author can become so over-hyped that that they need to be permanently banned from the pages of the New York Times, conversations at cocktail parties, shout outs from Oprah, and most importantly, the L train at 9:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning.

You don’t want a stranger pitying you for reading a book they once enjoyed. That’s just uncomfortable for both of you. Next time, use an old school paper-bag book cover; it worked for us during an extremely dark time in our lives when we read It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken.

That is all.