In the previous post, I shared with you the three novels I finished last week. These were:
1) Omoo by Herman Melville,
2) Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich, and
3) Nova Classic: Volume 1 by Marv Wolfman.
Of the two literary novels on my list, the one that seems best suited to the values society prizes at the moment is last year's Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich.
As women make up a larger percentage of readers than men, Tricky Twenty-Two seems ideally suited to today's market. This novel, as with all in the Stephanie Plum series, plays on the romantic triangle of heroine Stephanie Plum, her cop-boyfriend Joe Morelli, and her rich, handsome mentor Ranger with a mysterious past. It also offers up bucket-loads of humor. Yet, as the overall plot is structured around Stephanie's career as a bounty hunter, the books are shelved in the mystery section. According to a recent survey, conducted by the Sisters of Crime organization, sixty-eight percent of mystery readers are female. So it makes perfect sense that Janet Evanovich's novels about bounty hunter Stephanie Plum have sold so well, and made the author a household name.
I suspect it would be impossible to count how many books have been bestsellers throughout the centuries. Many of those celebrated authors are no longer known to contemporary readers. Some of those books may be available in print or online to varying degrees. Even more are most likely lost to history. Stories designed to slot into a desired category don't necessarily survive the passage of time. Will Janet Evanovich's books survive, to take their place alongside those of Herman Melville, Jane Austen, or H. G. Wells? Would Herman Melville's novels still survive, had later critics not revisited Moby Dick, and decided it was one of the most important novels of the nineteenth century?
Who cares? And does that even matter? Janet Evanovich sells lots and lots of novels, whereas Herman Melville was forced to stop writing for a living, after Moby Dick failed to catch on with the readers of his day. One thing's for sure. As long as Janet Evanovich continues writing those entertaining Stephanie Plum novels, I'll keep reading them. But I'll also keep reading other novels, by authors long since gone, to remind me that great stories can be about contemporary tastes, demographics, and values.
To peruse the full list of what I've read this year, see the sidebar feature to your right labeled Books I Enjoyed in 2016.