OUR library service has signed up for a great thing called the Six Book Challenge.
Run by the National Reading Agency charity, it’s a simple challenge for reluctant adult readers: pick up some books, keep a reading diary and perhaps win prizes.
But what are the various types of books out there? If you haven’t read one for a while, you might be wondering what’ll take your fancy, so I’ll try to give a bit of an overview.
A popular current genre can be summed up as suburban smut. In spite of Fifty Shades of Grey reading like something traditionally thought to come in 43 fewer shades, it has sold about 90 gazillion copies all over the world.
This has led to legions of wannabe authors leaping on to the bandwagon and then attaching themselves firmly to it with handcuffs.
Just as it was once impossible to walk through the children’s section of a bookshop without being confronted by racks of Harry Potter rip-offs, these days the fiction section is rife with alleged erotica that reads more like a Dyno-Rod contract or your shopping list the last time you went to B&Q.
There’s nothing to stop you reading such things, of course – it’s a free country and good luck to you. You might think twice about being seen reading it in public, though, as you don’t want the neighbours shunning you or the coppers turning up and taking your computer away.
Or the RSPCA turning up and taking your dog away, come to that.
Another popular genre these days is vampire fiction. However, the casual reader should beware. The new style of fictional vampire is not the accursed grave-stinking beast of old. No, the modern one tends to be a really attractive man with perfect hair who just happened to be about 17 when he was ‘turned’.
In spite of having the weight of centuries on his shoulders, he chooses not to live in some obscure mansion or castle, spending the nights preying on unwary travellers and reminiscing gloomily about those he loved in life, but who are now mere dust in their tombs.
No, the modern fictional vampire chooses instead to attend an American high school or college, busying himself with things like proms and dating. The latter is a bit sick, if you think about it – a 493-year-old bloke going out with an 18-year-old.
Anyway, the upshot of this is that the books tend to be quite popular among teenage girls, which can lead to people looking at you askance if you’re middle-aged and happen to be seen with a copy. Stick to Dracula or Salem’s Lot if you want a good old fashioned tale of fangs, blood and stakings.
If you prefer a spot of full-on literature, look in a broadsheet national newspaper for some well-reviewed likely titles and get hold of one. Mind you, you might want to read a chapter or two before buying the book or checking it out of the library.
The thing about book reviews in national newspapers is that some of them are written by the authors’ mates, so while you might end up with a good tale, you might also be landed with some tedious, self-pitying, embittered and thinly-disguised account of adultery among middle class people in North London.
Don’t neglect non-fiction. People’s accounts of surviving horrific personal circumstances are an especially popular choice, but you’d be better off trying some of the earlier examples, whose authors really did overcome terrible things.
These days there are people getting five-book deals out of their dad refusing to buy them a Scalextric set for their birthday in 1968.