Sunday 25 March 2012

Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century's Biggest Bestsellers by James W. Hall - Book Review

Title: Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century's Biggest Bestsellers
Author: James W. Hall
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 10 April 2012
Pages: 232
Format: E-Book - EPUB
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: ARC from NetGalley

What do Michael Corleone, Jack Ryan, and Scout Finch have in common? Creative writing professor and thriller writer James W. Hall knows, and now, in this fun, witty, and thought-provoking book, he reveals how bestsellers work. Using twelve of the biggest bestselling novels of the twentieth century as case studies—including The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Jaws—Hall offers a fascinating discussion of some of the common features of popular literature. From tempting glimpses inside secret societies, such as submariners in The Hunt for Red October, Opus Dei in The Da Vinci Code, and the brotherhood of shark hunters in Jaws to pivotal personal secrets like those in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Bridges of Madison County, Hall gives us a tantalizing glimpse into the DNA of a bestseller. Featuring fascinating and little-known facts about bestsellers of the last century, Hit Lit is a must-read for fiction lovers and aspiring writers alike, and makes us think anew about why we love the books we love. (Goodreads Synopsis)

This is a book that I found hard to rate and review. There was nothing wrong with it as such, but it really didn't inspire me in anyway. 

In this non-fiction work, James W. Hall examines twelve bestselling novels, looking at the themes that run through each to determine what makes them so popular. He considers a range of ideas such a country vs. city and ideas of the family unit and there is nothing wrong with any of his arguments - it's just that they are all pretty obvious to any avid reader and so I didn't feel I learnt anything new.

The other issue I had was the fact there were three or four of the books he referred to that I had not read. While I could still follow the thrust of his arguments, I was not able to appreciate his references to those books. In the appendices, I later found summaries of the plot of each book. It would have been handy if I'd been able to read those first, but since I read in e-book format that was not possible. Naturally, anyone reading in print would not have this problem.

In conclusion, this is a book that would appeal and be of use to those just beginning literature studies or those with a simple interest in the subject. For those more advanced literature students, there is probably not a lot here that you will not have come across before; although, Hall's ideas are well expounded and the book might be worth referencing. Sadly, I was just not able to engage with the book or feel any enthusiasm.

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