What Is America Reading?
Experience as an English major, a bookseller, a publishing intern, and a reader has formed questions in my mind about why people read what they do. My interest is focused in two particular "categories" of literature that vie for readers' attention: book clubs and literary awards. Because my skills are in literary interpretation and not societal or industrial analysis, I explored this supposed dichotomy by reading and comparing books from each category. In the "book club" books (My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult and The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards), I found a remarkable familial structure at the core: a daughter with a medical condition; a mother struggling to cope emotionally; a father who distances himself through work and offers profound symbolism via a hobby; an older brother who rebels; an outside couple, professionally involved in the action and romantically involved in each other. The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction-winning books, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, stretch farther with voice, style, and imagery. I found them intellectually and personally more satisfying. In addition pursuing academic interests, I also grew to better understand the variety of purposes for which we read. Though I concluded that if all four novels were to be labeled, they should simply be named "middlebrow," I came to appreciate different writers' strengths — research, personal experience, mastery of language — even when they do not match my personal criteria as a reader.