Hit Lit Crit Kit

In crime writer James W. Hall’s new book Hit Lit, he argues that most bestsellers, and in particular twelve mega-sellers that he examines, share some common characteristics.

Like many experienced readers, Hall became frustrated with the quality of the books that made the bestseller list. But teaching a course on bestsellers began to change his point of view, and now, although he still sees the flaws in these books, he also appreciates what they do well. His book identifies twelve characteristics that are shared by bestsellers: for instance that they’re small stories told against big backgrounds; that little time is spent on character backstories; that the bestsellers portray some aspect of the American dream; that characters in them move back and forth between country and city; and that they are often misfits of some kind in the world.

I don’t agree entirely with Hall, but I do think his book would make a fantastic starting point for a discussion in one of your upcoming meetings, perhaps even over the course of several meetings if your group prefers reading bestsellers to more complex fare.

Even if you aren’t interested in Hit Lit, I encourage you to check out the discussion questions posted on Hall’s website. They would make useful fodder for discussion of other books or as an icebreaker at an upcoming meeting.



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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