Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Books Are Like Food

The other day I read a blog wherein the author said something to the effect of 'there aren't any good books in the bookstore lately' and they wondered how they were supposed to get published when there was so much mediocre stuff floating around. This got me to thinking, of course.  (Happens sometimes.)  Now I know I've been in the same place.  It's genuinely frustrating to walk into a bookstore and not see a damn thing you want to read - especially when you've got your own books eating their heads off in a folder on your hard drive.

My answer to this person was: Books are like food.

Think about it for a second.  Saying 'books are like food' is no big revelation.  It's all about tastes.  Some types of food appeal to a wider variety of tastes.  Others draw only people like that chunky guy on the Travel Channel (who we refer to as The Weird Food Dude.)  Sometimes people might try something a little different now and then, but for the most part, we like what we like.

Publishing folks have to try to determine which book is going to appeal to the widest variety of tastes so they can sell the most books and make the most money.  That's not a bad thing.  They've got rent and mortgages and tuition bills for their kiddies, too.  They've got to look at the market and figure out who's going to want to eat what and how much of it they're going to consume in a given time period.  Not an easy job, folks.  Especially in a fickle culture where tastes can change in the blink of an eye.

And we, the authors?  Well, I guess we're like the contestants on The Next Food Network Star.  We make our dishes, thinking they're the most awesome culinary feat ever.  We present our food to the judges (or in our case, the agents) and hope Gordon Ramsey doesn't gag when he takes a bite.  Maybe one of the three guys will enjoy what we've given them.  Maybe all three will rave about it and we'll make it to the next round.  Or maybe all of them will tell us better luck next year.

What our families rave about at the dinner table might not turn anyone else on.

As for readers and the quandary at the bookstore?  Well, I think that might have to do with our appetite of the moment.  You walk in and nothing sounds good.  You know you want to eat.  You may in fact be starving.  But every bit of nourishment you look at makes you want to hurl.  Meanwhile, the shelves are stocked with every food imaginable.  All of it looks like mush to you because you aren't in a place where even the tastiest treat will entice you.  There's good food out there - lord knows the rest of the patrons are gobbling it down - but you're just not ready to eat it. 

Maybe you're getting over food poisoning (i.e. a bad read).  Perhaps you're already too full to think about another bite.  Give it time.  When you're ready to read again, you'll find something.

Until then, write a recipe.  Or stay away from food entirely until your appetite comes back.  In the end, you may still have a tough time finding the meal that's right for you, but then again, your tastes may just be more selective than most.  And that's okay.

But here's an idea, too.  Start trying to expand your tastes.  Eat a little fois gras.  And then grab a Whopper from BK.  Try some Kraft Mac & Cheese.  Have a scallop or two.  Eat a frog's leg.  Try the fried chicken.  It's all stuff someone somewhere enjoys.  Why can't you be that someone?

To paraphrase from the musical Mame: Life's a smorgasbord, folks.  And most poor suckers are starving to death.

I know that was a big rambly post, but I think you get my gist.  Now it's your turn to chime in.  What do you think?  Are you a picky eater or will you try anything?  Are you enjoying the smorgasbord or do you only eat from one section of it?  Chime in now.


  1. Good post! Honestly, I wasn't all that picky about books in high school. Anything I could get my hands on would do. But after university (and having no time to myself), I've gotten picky. I'm more willing to try new young adult authors, but romance authors? I'm quite picky about them, for some reason. I'm also hesitant about fantasy authors. *shrugs*

  2. Excellent analysis, B.E. I tend to get stuck in ruts, myself. But then I grew up with a man who became a cordon bleu chef as a hobby. He taught me to read like he taught me to eat. Even so, there are comfort foods/books I crave. Thanks for reminding me. ;-)

  3. I loved this metaphor. I think I like to read easy, breezy novels in the summer -- just the same way I like to eat crunchy, cool salads and drink iced tea.

  4. I tend to peruse the whole menu. I read fairly widely, but if there's something with a favorite ingredient scallops/suspense it's got a better chance of being read/eaten.

  5. Thanks, Everyone!

    When you have limited time, Nat, it becomes more precious, so I totally get it.

    Me, too, Silver. I get stuck in ruts and then out of the blue, I'll pick up something totally different. But yeah, there are comfort foods and books I turn to in times of need.

    Great addition to the analogy, Amber. Summer is the perfect time easy-breezy in both books and food.

    Same here, JB. Gotta have me some element of suspense and the scallops are to die for. =o)