Trend Talking

As a librarian, an endless stream of book titles washes past me, and I can only dip into a few, but there are other ways to follow the currents. Book groups have much to gain from the same kind of thinking. I’m responsible for the science fiction and fantasy collection at my library. Today, the first thing I found in my inbox was an article about zombie fiction in a recent Publishers Weekly. Its a trend that many of us who follow books have noticed. Max Brooks’ World War Z and now Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies have both found big audiences, particularly for genre books by new authors. Clearly, the zombie invasion is underway, at least in the book world.

An hour later, I picked up the latest Entertainment Weekly to look at the music reviews (another one of my collections), but the cover story was about vampires. EW is a bit slow here. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that vampire stories are everywhere lately.

Tren confined to horror. Whether it’s knitting mysteries, grrrl power how-to books, or even repetitive cover images like lobsters, adirondack chairs, or human figures with the head cropped off, the trends in publishing are out there waiting for book lovers to find them. Some are driven by sales figures, some by media hype, and some seem to come out of nowhere.

Many of these trends occur in genres or subject matter that book groups typically avoid. The “common knowledge” in book-group land is that such books are too plot-driven, too insubstantial, not “literary” enough to support a discussion. Pejoratives aside, there is some truth to the idea that even if they are fantastic, plot-driven books may require a different approach to discussion. One such approach is to talk about the trends.

Begin by selecting the trend as your theme. Allow readers to pick different books instead of assigning the same book to everyone. That way you’ll get a broader perspective on the trend. When you meet, try these five questions:

  • Why is this trend hot now? Don’t assume that everyone who embraces a strange trend is cracked or swept up in hysteria. There are often good and timely reasons for the ascendance of a new trend.
  • Will the trend pass quickly? Or is it here to stay?
  • What are the best books that fit the trend? Are they the most popular books that the trend has spawned? Are there big variations of quality within the trend?
  • Is this really something new, or have similar waves passed by before?
  • What past trends captured your attention as a reader? Have you ever been ahead of the curve, reading a particular book type before it became widely popular? Or are you a reader who prefers to avoid trends?

I better go, the zombies are at the library door. Or is that just the latest wave of patrons?

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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