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Friday, May 13, 2011


Today we welcome Peg Herring as our Book Club Friday guest author. Peg lives and writes mysteries in northern Lower Michigan. Of her paranormal mystery, THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY, critic Sam Millar (New York Journal of Books) says: “Ms. Herring’s story-telling ability…is genuinely impressive. Masterfully, she takes your conscious mind out of your own world and guides you into the atmospheric surrealism of The Dead Detective Agency, smoothly and expertly, with page-turning ease. The story and writing proceed at a furious, breathtaking pace, and when we finally come to the end of our voyage, it’s with deep regret, as if saying bon voyage to a dear friend we have known and loved for years.”

Learn more about Peg by visiting her website. -- AP


I have a friend who has never been able to forget (forgive?) that I did not like the Andrew Greeley book she gave me.

I once had the parent of a student insist I read THE STAND. She was visibly unhappy when I finally admitted I had not finished the book.

I was a little offended when my sister returned my copy of THE POISONWOOD BIBLE with wrinkled nose. “Not my kind of thing.”

What is it about reading that makes us want others to get the same thrill we get from a book? I don’t expect my sister to wear clothes like mine. My friend does not expect me to order the same food when we lunch together. And the Stephen King-loving parent would not expect that we agree on what color a person should paint her living room.

Here are some things that I believe cause disagreement about what is a good book:
Personality -- Some of us like romance; others want action. Some like a lot of setting or character description or gore; some don’t.

Time of life -- My choice of books has changed over the years. While mystery remains a constant, I paired it with biographies for a while, historical novels for years, and recently, nonfiction (quantum mechanics—Can you believe it?) Many books I once loved now seem thin or wordy or contrived.

Mood -- There are books I was in the mood for on a particular day. I might have owned the book for ages, but then the time to read it came along. THE BOY WHO COULD MAKE HIMSELF DISAPPEAR was one such book. Loved it; probably would never read it again.

Education level -- Without being snobbish, it must be said that education changes a person’s view of what’s worth reading. I recently enjoyed a book on brain research, but I couldn’t help but notice that the doctor who wrote it needed a ghost writer! I’m now enjoying Louis Bayard’s THE PALE BLUE EYE, because he cleverly inserts little Poe things that delight me but might slip past someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time with Eddie.

Outlook on life -- Friends tell me this or that author is brilliant, so I try their work. If it hasn’t got my slant on life, i.e., that good guys win, even in some small way; that life is serious but not to be taken seriously; and that there are good people in the world, I probably won’t enjoy it. I know there’s an audience for noir. It just isn’t me.

There. Some of why we can’t always agree on a favorite book. Reading is so darned personal that we react in ways we often don’t even recognize. That’s why, if you don’t like my books, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person (even if I’m tempted to think so.)

Thanks so much for being our guest today, Peg, and for a very interesting post. Taste is very subjective. We often forget that. -- AP


Patricia said...

Peg, that was so cool and right to the point! I, too, have changed what type of books I read and as years go by I'm sure I'll change it up again and again. And I never thought of it in the way you described - that we wouldn't expect our friends and family to enjoy the same food we do or wear the same clothes so why in heck would they want to read the same books we read? DUH! I am constantly boggled when I see what makes the Top 10 Bestseller Lists and I order the book and start to read it and go, "Yuck!" and bemoan having spent $25 dollars on that hardback bestseller!

Liz V. said...

The exciting thing about reading is the endless choice, and I look forward to new finds. Like the look of your upcoming historical novels.

Kari Wainwright said...

Even though a part of me thinks everyone should have my excellent taste, overall, I'm glad we can all enjoy different things. Otherwise, fewer writers would get published and this business is tough enough as it is.

Peg Herring said...

Patricia, I, too, have commented from time to time on the folly of paying for best-selling novels. I certainly wouldn't turn down that honor for one of my own books, of course.

Liz, I agree! If you don't like a book, there are always lots more to try. I do love writing the historicals, and I especially love the research. I feel so scholarly!

Kari, Well said...except it's MY excellent taste that everyone should have. ;)

jennymilch said...

This is a great, unique topic for a post, Peg. I love it. Something else that comes into play is tolerance level. I know a lot of people who once they became parents could no longer stomach a book in which anything bad even glanced by a child character, for example. While other people--parents too--don't so much as bat an eye.

Suzanne said...

Many books I once loved now seem thin or wordy or contrived.

LOL! From high school through my twenties, I was wild for anything Bronte. About a year ago, I attempted to re-read both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I thought they were awful and wondered what I'd ever seen in them.

This is all about change. Each of us changes over time, some more than others. Perhaps when we recommend books to others and receive a lukewarm reaction, it's because we haven't quite kept pace with the rate of the other person's change.

And speaking of change, trends often propel novels to the tops of bestseller lists, regardless of the quality of the writing. I've heard that mermaids are in the next big wave. (Pun intended.) Do mermaids interest you?

Suzanne Adair

Peg Herring said...

Mermaids are cute, Suzanne, but no. Can't picture them sneaking up on anyone and murdering him, or tracking down clues...hmm, that could be hilarious! And who better than someone named Herring to explore new oceans? :)

Thanks to Lois for hosting me. It was a lot of fun, and I hope to return someday.


Peg, thanks for a great blog post. We'd love to have you back at some point.