Kirsti's Reviews > Why We Read What We Read: A Delightfully Opinionated Journey Through Bestselling Books

Why We Read What We Read by Lisa Adams
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's review
Jan 29, 2012

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bookshelves: anger, business, essays, humor, nonfiction
Read in January, 2012

An informally written, sometimes snarky investigation of which books become bestsellers in the United States and why. Some of Adams's and Heath's opinions and conclusions:

* Americans tend to read books that confirm rather than challenge their beliefs, whether those beliefs involve politics, religion, business, science, or romance.

* Self-help books can be an addiction. Reading about the possibility of improving our physical health, spiritual health, or general outlook on life can make us feel good while we're reading it, but then we don't make any significant changes in our lives. After awhile, we need another self-help book.

* It's weird that so many Christian authors don't know how to read the Bible in any of its original languages.

* Americans dislike books with tragic endings. Often, the protagonist overcomes incredible odds; even if he or she doesn't, the book ends with some hope for the future.

* Dan Brown wrote two books--Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code--that are basically the same book.

* Americans love conspiracies. Kevin Trudeau, the author of Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About, spent two years in prison for larceny, but people still buy his books.

Here are some books that were bestsellers AND worthwhile reading, according to Adams and Heath:


Reading Lolita in Teheran by Azar Nafisi

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

John Adams by David McCullough

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

The Freakonomics books

Books of essays by Malcolm Gladwell


House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

The Reader by Bernard Schlink

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Harry Potter books

Light from Heaven by Jan Karon

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger


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