Category: The Bestseller Code 100 (page 1 of 8)

#BestsellerCode100: Number 84 A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.

This post does not contain spoilers.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  This novel follows the lives of Baltimore residents Red and Abby Whitshank and their four children.

It is literary fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015.

Have you read A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 83. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009) – Discussion begins July 10, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of The Klone and I by Danielle Steel

Let’s take a look at our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Klone and I by Danielle Steel, from a writer’s perspective.

This post is likely to contain spoilers.

 

Danielle Steel’s The Klone and I*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When her husband of thirteen years leaves, Stephanie isn’t ready for the dating world. That is, until she meets someone during a spontaneous trip to Paris. Has she finally found her match or more than her match?

This is one of the oldest books on The Bestseller Code challenge list, published in 1998.

Labelled as a high-tech love story, The Klone and I is a mix of humor and romance.

 

Characters

Compared to our previous book by John Sandford, this book has a paucity of characters. The main character is Stephanie. She lives with her two kids, Charlotte and Sam. Her ex-husband Roger and his new wife Helena (Stephanie calls her Miss Bimbo at first), pop into the story when they take the kids. Otherwise, Stephanie spends time with her boyfriend Peter Baker or his bionic clone Paul.

Although Paul’s name is intentionally similar to Peter’s because he is Peter’s clone, the similarity between the two names was confusing at times.

Dialogue

Because the author writes the story in the first person point of view, much of the dialogue is internal. For the first 100 pages or so, the regular dialogue is well-written and witty. Take this example where the dialogue goes back and forth like a tennis ball at a tennis match while the characters discuss playing tennis. Brilliant.

…”we’re playing tennis with him tomorrow.”

“What?” Charlotte shrieked at me as I tucked Sam and the dog in, and she followed me into my bedroom, where I’d almost forgotten she was still sleeping with me. “I hate tennis.”

“You do not. You played all day yesterday.” My point. But only for an instant. She was quicker.

“That was different. That was with kids. Mom, he’s so ancient, he’ll probably have a heart attack and die on the court.” She sounded hopeful.

After 100 pages, the writer’s tone changes with the introduction of the clone.

“I have a million things to do today, and I haven’t finished the paper,” I said sternly, as through that would dissuade him. Ever since Roger left, I had promised myself I would wear makeup every day and keep abreast of the news.

“It’s all the same crap that happens every day, every week,” he assured me unmoved. “People killing each other, people dying, guys making home runs and touchdowns, stock prices going up and down like yo-yos. So what? Who cares?”

By the way, Stephanie’s efforts to improve herself after her husband leaves are mentioned numerous times throughout.

 

Public domain photo via VisualHunt

 

Setting

Most of the book is set in an apartment in New York, with one spontaneous trip to Paris, and one summer vacation at East Hampton. Of those, only Paris sparkles, perhaps because Danielle Steel actually lives there for part of the year.

Discussion/Review

Before this challenge I had never read a Danielle Steel novel, but there’s always a pile of them at the friends of the library used book sales so I assumed she’s popular. On the other hand, the number of 1 and 2 star reviews for this title on GoodReads suggested not many people liked this one. I didn’t know what to think.

The first 100 pages of the novel were enjoyable to me. I read through them quickly, and laughed out loud a few times. It felt like a close BFF sharing the pain of the break up of her marriage and the pitfalls of dating while laughing in the face of adversity. Then the main character, Stephanie, meets a respectable man named Peter Baker in romantic Paris and everything falls into place. It’s a sweet, relatable story so far, but my writer’s mind is waiting for the mid-point reversal (the place where the writer surprises the reader with a twist to the story).

Kaboom! The reversal drops in the title character, a clone named Paul Klone who wears a “one piece leopard spandex jumpsuit” and does flips in bed. The farce starts when Stephanie doesn’t realize that Paul isn’t Peter. From there, the believability flounders to the point where the reader begins to laugh at the author instead of with her. What happened?

Looking into the background of the book, I discovered Danielle Steel’s son Nick Traina died September 20, 1997, the year before The Klone and I came out in 1998.  It’s probably not a coincidence this book isn’t her best.

Have you read The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 84. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015) – Discussion begins June 26, 2017
Literary Fiction – nominated for Booker Prize

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of The Klone and I by Danielle Steel

The Klone And I, by Danielle Steel, is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  This is touted as a high-tech love story.

This post does contain spoilers.


(*Amazon Affiliate link)
 

Years and years ago I read several of Danielle Steel’s novels.  I remember enjoying her themes of women struggling to combine career and family and love, trying to have it all.  The women seemed strong and independent, and at the end of the day, the importance of family bonds was always the most important thing.  At least that’s how I remember her novels.  After reading The Klone and I, I have to wonder just how reliable my memory is.

Stephanie, the main character in The Klone and I was a disappointment in many ways. She is indecisive, inattentive, self-centered, and naïve.  I suppose being naïve is not a bad thing, but reading about someone that naïve after the life experiences she had gone through – divorce, raising children – made her unbelievable.  Maybe it was the trust fund that enabled her to go through life without seeming to really commit to life.

And speaking of unbelievable, shall we discuss Paul, the clone?  I had to keep reminding myself that this book was written in 1998 when computers were just beginning to become an integral part of our lives, but still seemed quite magical.  Anything was possible if a computer was involved, including life-like clones.  Paul, though, is so over-the-top that I simply could not buy the whole premise.

I understand why this book made The Bestseller Code’s top 100 list, because it is 100% about relationships, mostly Stephanie and her relationships with her ex-husband, with Peter, and with Paul. Unfortunately, I didn’t like Stephanie.  I didn’t like the dismissive attitude she often had about her children.  I didn’t like how easily she was swayed by the fun and free-wheeling Paul while knowing he wasn’t real and that he was using Peter’s money to buy all the gifts for her.  I found Stephanie to be shallow and self-absorbed. Overall, The Klone and I was a disappointment.

What did you think of The Klone and I?  Did you find Paul believable as a clone?

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 84. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015) – Discussion begins June 26, 2017
Literary Fiction – nominated for Booker Prize

#BestsellerCode100: Number 85. The Klone and I by Danielle Steel

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Klone and I by Danielle Steel.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

Danielle Steel’s The Klone and I*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When her husband of thirteen years leaves, Stephanie isn’t ready for the dating world. That is, until she meets someone during a spontaneous trip to Paris. Has she finally found her match or more than her match?  This is one of the oldest books on the challenge list, published in 1998.

Have you read The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? Do you think it deserves to be on the list of the 100 best? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 84. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015) – Discussion begins June 26, 2017
Literary Fiction – nominated for Booker Prize

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of Easy Prey by John Sandford

Easy Prey by John Sandford is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  This book is #11 in a series of twenty-seven (so far) novels starring Lucas Davenport, a police officer and war games designer.  Interestingly, all twenty-seven books include the word “Prey” in the title.  Does that tell you anything about the series?  In Easy Prey, the body count mounts quickly.  

This post does not contain spoilers.

Easy Prey* by John Sandford

This review is written about the first half of the book, up to Chapter 19.

Police Procedural

Easy Prey is a police procedural novel, which means that the murder mystery is solved by those trained to solve murders, the police, and the story is heavy on the police process.  This is a new type of mystery for me to read and, so far, I like it.  As Roberta mentioned in her Writer’s Review, this book has a lot of characters, but I’ve been able to follow along and keep them all straight without too much difficulty.  I was struck by the amount of detail Sandford gives for each character. For example, in Chapter 6 we are introduced to Lapstrake, a police officer from the Intelligence division.

Lapstrake was a bland, twenty-something guy with a home haircut who wore blue Sears work pants and a blue shirt that said “Cairn’s Glass” on the back.

A blue shirt wasn’t descriptive enough.  Sandford added “Cairn’s Glass” to the back of it.  I had to wonder why Cairn’s Glass, if that would be significant to the story later on, but it did succeed in making Lapstrake’s character more memorable.

Appreciation of Women

Lucas Davenport is not your typical police officer.  For one thing, he’s wealthy; he invented board games to supplement his police income, which turned into computer games and led to his own company selling simulations to law enforcement.  For another, Davenport has an innate appreciation of women, especially beautiful women.  He notices and responds to small things about women that seem atypical of a middle-aged male, let alone a street-hardened cop.  For example, in Chapter 2 he interacts with the wife of a friend:

She and Lucas had always liked each other, and if things had been different, if the Clays hadn’t been quite so happy with each other…She smelled good, like some kind of faintly perfumed soap.

Later, when Davenport is home, he continues to think of her:

Clean, mellow, starting to fade, the memory of Verna Clay’s scent still on his mind, he dropped into bed. He was asleep in five minutes, a small easy smile on his face.

Each woman Davenport interacts with affects him in some physical way, and he interacts with several in this book, in multiple ways.  I feel I’m at a bit of a disadvantage, meeting Davenport midway through the “Prey” series; throughout the book there are mentions of past relationships that I am certain were main themes in previous novels.  He is a character that I want to see from the very beginning in order to watch his growth and learn how far he’s come.

Bodies Galore

I’m only halfway through the book, but the body count is up to six and potentially there are at least two different killers, maybe more.  It’s a lot to keep track of, and even more to consider for motives and means, but I’m hooked.  I’m eager to finish this review so I can get back to reading!  And then I’ll have to track down the first book in the “Prey” series, Rules of Prey.

Do you like police procedural mysteries?  What did you think of Easy Prey?

Related posts (links will be added as posts go live):

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 85. The Klone and I by Danielle Steel (1998) – Discussion begins June 12, 2017.
Touted as a high-tech love story.

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of Easy Prey by John Sandford

Let’s examine at next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, Easy Prey by John Sandford, from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains a few spoilers.

Easy Prey* by John Sandford


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This is the 11th mystery in the “Prey” series, featuring police detective Lucas Davenport.

Summary:  When a supermodel is killed during a party, there’s a media frenzy surrounding the case. Things get even worse when it is revealed another person was also killed and one of Davenport’s own men is a suspect.

Characters

In Easy Prey, the main character of the series, Lucas Davenport, is a deputy police chief. Although he works for the city of Minneapolis, he can afford to drive a Porsche because he made a great deal of money designing some early computer simulation games, implying he’s working in law enforcement because he really enjoys it.

Author John Sandford creates many, many characters in this novel, including multiple victims, friends and relatives associated with the victims, suspects, police, sheriffs, assistant medical examiners, medical examiners, computer hacks who assist the police, etc. etc. The sheer number of characters is fascinating, especially the duplication. There isn’t one love interest, but three strong candidates and Lucas notices a couple of other women. There isn’t one initial victim, but two, and many more pile up. Lucas regularly reports to not one boss, but both the Chief of Police and the Mayor, who seem to travel in pairs. The good news is each of the characters is given a recognizable name and enough individual details to help keep them separate in the reader’s mind.

In a recent interview (video in this post), Sandford revealed that in his later books he felt Davenport had started to “direct traffic” rather than investigate, meaning his law enforcement team had become large and cumbersome. To overcome that problem in the most recent novel Davenport goes to work for the U.S. Marshals Service, becoming a lone investigator with a minimal number of assistants.

Setting of Easy Prey

As mentioned, the book is set in Minnesota, primarily in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Throughout the book the characters visit local sites, such as the Mall of America.

Sandford says when Davenport works for the city he can develop a level of intimacy with his setting. He knows the locations where crimes are likely to occur and he also knows who to talk to in order to get the inside scoop. In later books, he moves to a statewide agency, where his knowledge is still useful, but more diluted. As a U.S. Marshal (in the latest book) the crimes he investigates might be anywhere in the U.S. and, as Sandford notes, it is like he’s been “thrown into the ocean.” From the writer’s perspective it shows how setting can constrain or control a character.

 

Minneapolis-Easy-Prey-Setting

Public domain photo via VisualHunt

Plot

Not your standard mystery novel, Easy Prey has a convoluted plot with multiple killers who have a range of motives. Readers who like to solve the mystery alongside the detective will be disappointed when one of the killers comes out of left field.

Themes/Topics

Although Sandford is the first to admit that he writes entertaining genre fiction, he does throw in some deeper material. For example, his main character Davenport has a running discussion with an ex-college girlfriend Catrin about her emerging midlife crisis. She put her a career aside in the past to raise her children. Now she feels like she missed something and she regrets having been in the “background of someone else’s movie” when she could have starred in her own. Whether or not you agree with Davenport’s response (either choice will cause regrets), it is not the type of material a reader expects in a detective novel.

Comments

Easy Prey is an entertaining novel. It is also relatively easy to read, especially compared to some others in our challenge, but that isn’t to say the novel is lightweight. Based on elements such as the complexity of the plot and sheer number of characters, it has many things to teach an aspiring writer.

Have you read Easy Prey by John Sandford? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

______________________________

Newest book in the series:

Golden Prey by John Sandford

Published April 25, 2017 – Number 27 in the “Prey” series

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 85. The Klone and I by Danielle Steel (1998) – Discussion begins June 12, 2017.
Touted as a high-tech love story.

#BestsellerCode100: Starting Number 86. Easy Prey by John Sandford

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, Easy Prey by John Sandford.

This post does not contain spoilers.

Easy Prey* by John Sandford


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This is the 11th mystery in the “Prey” series, featuring police detective Lucas Davenport.

Summary:  When a supermodel is killed during a party, there’s a media frenzy surrounding the case. Things get even worse when another person is killed and one of Davenport’s own men becomes the main suspect.

 

Have you read Easy Prey by John Sandford? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts (links will be added as posts go live):

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

Join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about Easy Prey by John Sandford? Feel free to add a link to your review here.


__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 85. The Klone and I by Danielle Steel (1998) – Discussion begins June 12, 2017.
Touted as a high-tech love story.

#BestsellerCode100: World War Z Wrap-Up Poll

Time to wrap up the discussion of our latest novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listWorld War Z by Max Brooks. The conversation started here.

Note: Post does not contain spoilers.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War* by Max Brooks (2007)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

We are reading these books because they were picked by the computer algorithm in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers as the best of the bestsellers.  Do you agree with the computer that this book should be on the list?  Why or why not?

 What was your final opinion of World War Z?

Do you agree with the computer that this novel is one of the best of the bestsellers?

 

You can also join us on social media:

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 86. Easy Prey by John Sandford (2001) -mystery (series)- Discussion begins May 29, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of World War Z by Max Brooks

It’s time to wrap up our discussion of  World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks with a review from a writer’s perspective  (discussion started here). We’re going to focus on the traits emphasized by the authors of The Bestseller Code (see previous review).

This post contains spoilers.

 

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War* by Max Brooks (2007)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

World War Z is an epistolary novel. In this case, the author wrote the book as a collection of transcripts of interviews with survivors of a zombie outbreak. Because the reader is seeing the characters through the filter of an interviewer/narrator, it gives some emotional distance from the personal accounts, and also gives a unifying connection between the diverse stories.

In her recent review, Karen tackled the topics/themes (The Bestseller Code Chapter 2) of the novel and the emotional turns or beats (The Bestseller Code Chapter 3).  I’m going to take up where she left off and discuss points made in Chapter 4 and 5 of The Bestseller Code.

Style (The Bestseller Code Chapter 4)

Each author has an individual writing technique. An author’s word choice, sentence length, paragraph length, grammar, etc. determine the tone and pacing of a novel. In The Bestseller Code, Archer and Jockers point out that the first line of a novel should give the reader important insight into the writer’s style.

First Sentence of Introduction to World War Z:

It goes by many names:  “The Crisis,” “The Dark Years,” “The Walking Plague,” as well as newer and more “hip” titles such as “World War Z” or “Z War One.”

What do you notice about this sentence? To me, the author uses a nonfiction tone, as if relating a list of facts. The sentence is grammatically complex, with the inclusion of a colon, which reveals a certain comfort with grammar. It’s also a bit conversational in tone, particularly the slang term “hip.” The tone is a nod to the fact that this is an “oral” history.

Other things to consider are whether there are numerous contractions (indicating realistic-sounding dialogue), use of ellipses (which also indicate good dialogue), and fewer adverbs and adjectives (resulting in shorter, cleaner sentences). Without a computer it is difficult to accurately assess how well Max Brooks met those criteria, but simply flipping through the pages it was easy to spot contractions and ellipses.

 

airplane-max-brooks

Title and Characters (The Bestseller Code Chapter 5)

 Title:

The Bestseller Code analysis suggests the best titles for novels are places, events, things, or a character’s role. Using these categories, World War Z fits right in because it is an event.

Taking the analysis a step further, the full title, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is a similar title to The Good War: An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel. This is not by accident. According to an interview at NPR, Max Brooks listened to Terkel’s history as an audio book and it made a huge impression on him. He liked the idea of a series of stories that people could read in order, or pick and choose what they read.

Characters:

With over forty characters, Max Brooks set himself up with a difficult task by having to create a unique voice for every single character. Some reviewers have suggested the characters sound too much alike, but I thought he changed the flavor at least some of them enough to give the impression of different voices.

For example:

Former U.S. Army Infantryman Todd Wainio throws around technical terms and slang.

You had tanks?
Dude, we had everything:  tanks, Bradleys, Humvees armed with everything from fifty cals to these new Vasilek heavy mortars.

Director of Department of Strategic Resources Arthur Sinclair, Jr. talks like a college professor.

To be perfectly candid, our supply of talent was at a critical low. Ours was a postindustrial or service-based economy, so complex and highly specialized that each individual could only function within the confines of its narrow, compartmentalized structure.

Mercenary T. Sean Collins speaks in lists.

Maybe I was a mercenary, but you’d never know it to look at me. I was clean-cut, nice car, nice house, even a housekeeper who came in once a week. I had plenty of friends, marriage prospects, and my handicap at the golf club was almost as good as the pros.

Conclusions:

World War Z is an odd mix. In some ways it seems like a brilliant analysis of war. In other ways it seems like a parody. It is hard to give weight to a novel that treats zombies as a threat. On the other hand, the horrors of war and the human behaviors under stress it depicts are very real. Whether you like the book may tip in one direction or the other depending on your own experiences and interests.

Have you read World War Z by Max Brooks? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 86. Easy Prey by John Sandford (2001) -mystery (series)- Discussion begins May 29, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: World War Z, A Reader’s Review

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.  This book is categorized as Apocalyptic Horror and is a follow-up to Brooks’ zombie survival manual, The Zombie Survival Guide.  A movie with the same name was made from World War Z in 2013, starring Brad Pitt.

This post does contain spoilers.

 

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War* by Max Brooks (2007)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Zombie War Interviews

World War Z is different from any of the other books we’ve read so far in that it is a series of interviews of survivors of the Zombie War, which decimated the earth’s population and drastically altered the political and religious makeup of the world.  Since the interviews are of survivors, it’s obvious that humans won the war against the non-humans, although there are still millions of zombies “surviving” in the cold zones of the world and in the depths of the oceans.  In addition, the interview format creates a “distance” from the events that seems to minimize the “horror” aspect of the story, which was good for me, as I am definitely not a fan of horror anything.

In my last review (Weird Sisters), I mentioned that I was going to read The Bestseller Code again in an effort to make more sense of how the books we’ve read so far made it on the bestseller list and hopefully better appreciate the subsequent books we plan to read.  In fact, both Roberta and I wanted to read The Bestseller Code again, so we decided to give ourselves a three -week window for reading and reviewing World War Z.  As so often happens, though, life intruded and I have not yet completed The Bestseller Code, but it’s time for this review, so I’ll go with using the information gleaned from the first two and a half chapters.

Understanding the Theme and Topic

Chapter Two of The Bestseller Code talks about theme and topic, and Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers, the book’s authors, often use those two words interchangeably, which I found rather confusing. I was taught to think of theme as being the main idea or underlying meaning of a book, while topics (or subjects) being the avenue used by the author to present his underlying meaning.  In high school English class, theme seemed to be an important thing to figure out if you wanted to pass the test, but it doesn’t seem to have much bearing on whether a book is a bestseller or not.  Instead, the topic is much more important and The Bestseller Code goes into great detail about what topics are used most frequently in bestsellers and those rarely used.

It’s easy to confuse theme with genre.  One of the most popular book genres is romance novels, but the theme of romance novels isn’t really “romance” as much as it is the experience of love.  Readers want to feel an experience – an emotional, mental, imaginative experience.  And in order for the author to convey that experience, the topics they choose are vital.  Equally important are the percentage of topics used within the novel.

Signature Topic – Human Connections

Surprisingly, the computer model created by Archer and Jockers showed that some of the least successful topics to use if you want to write a bestseller are sex, drugs, and rock and roll.   The most successful topic is human closeness and human connection.  The most successful bestseller writers who have mastered writing about “human closeness” and “human connection” are Danielle Steele and John Grisham.  In Chapter Two, The Bestseller Code states that these authors “have only one signature theme, not two, that takes up a whole third (on average) of each of their novels.  This likely helps with their branding.  All the many other topics each writer employs are used in tiny percentages.” (This is one instance where the authors use the term “theme” when it really seems they mean topic.)

So how does a book about zombies and a global war become a bestseller?  It does so by employing the topic of “human closeness and human connection” in each and every chapter.  World War Z main theme is a social commentary on several fronts, including government ineptitude, corporate greed, and isolationism.  Each chapter highlights this theme by interviewing another zombie war survivor who relates his/her story of family loss, fleeing zombie-infested zones, and fighting side by side with comrades.  Each chapter is a roller coaster ride of emotions – anxiety about which family member might present symptoms of the zombie virus next, fear of being found by zombies and infected themselves, hope when they discover other non-infected humans they can band with, and relief that they might just survive after all.

The Story Beat

These emotional highs and lows in each chapter, or moments of conflict and resolution to use more literary terms, produce a “beat” that is discussed in Chapter Three of The Bestseller Code.  Those beats, or emotional turns, as Archer and Jockers refer to them, cause the reader to “feel” the book like one would feel club music.  “The more frequent the peaks and valleys are, the more of an emotional roller coaster for the characters and for readers.”  The Bestseller Code presents 7 different graphs that plot out the moments of conflict and resolution, and while they don’t reveal which of these graphs go with each book on the 100 Bestseller book list that their computer algorithm created, World War Z obviously fit one of those seven graphs.

World War Z is not a book I would have chosen to read on my own and while it was a bestseller, it didn’t impress me much – a week after I finished reading it, I could remember only one character from one chapter.  Possibly that is because I never bought into the whole “zombie” or “undead” premise, so it was difficult to become emotionally encumbered by any particular character or the book as a whole.  I did find certain themes thought provoking, though.  Specifically, I had an interesting conversation with my husband about the fact that during the Zombie War, the least useful individuals in the new world order were highly educated professionals and business people.  In a world without electricity, without modern day conveniences such as computers and cell phones, CEOs and accountants and computer specialists were essentially dead weight, while people who had a skill or had worked what were considered “menial labor” jobs – farmers, plumbers, carpenters, etc. – were suddenly at the top of the social hierarchy.  World War Z highlighted a disturbing trend in our present day world, where so many people can no longer do simple repairs or grow their own food, and only know how to rely upon technology to find an answer to a question.

What did you think of World War Z?  Were any of the characters memorable to you?  Did it inspire you to tell anyone about the book or discuss any of its themes?

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
  4. After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 86. Easy Prey by John Sandford (2001) -mystery (series)- Discussion begins May 29, 2017

Older posts

© 2017 It's A Mystery Blog

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑