Guest Post and Giveaway: Are You Sometimes (*gasp*) a Reading Lemming?

Kelly Simmons, author of the new novel Standing Still, is sitting in for me today!  Read the giveaway details at the end of this post:

us_coverAre you sometimes (*gasp*) a Reading Lemming? 

In a great article recently in the New York Times fiction reading has finally been declared as being on the rise.  The folks in charge of the National Endowment for the Arts credit community-based reading efforts, book clubs, and popular franchises like Harry Potter and Twilight for this turnaround. 

We should all rejoice at this news, indeed.  But . . .  popular franchises driving reading?  Ouch.   That’s like fast-food driving eating.    That’s like sequels driving movie-going.  That’s like . . . oh crap, that’s America, isn’t it?! 

ksimmons_4866One of the biggest challenges I face with my daughters is convincing them to read books that aren’t series.   (That, and convincing them that normal high school freshmen don’t wear designer dresses and drink Bellinis like they do on Gossip Girl.) But they’re young, and young readers have loved lining up numbered books on their bookshelves since Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.   But what about adults?   Grown men and women so hungry for sameness, for a “sure thing”, that they read the same franchises and authors over and over and over again with a blind eye to their flaws.  (Confession:  in my youth I was a Kurt Vonnegut junkie. And you?) 

But book clubs don’t do this – they support diversity, they embrace new authors, they mix it up.    Don’t they?   Well . . .  I visited 86 clubs in 2008, promoting my debut novel Standing Still, and while I loved every minute of it (except for getting hopelessly lost in Maryland, where you apparently sometimes need to take the Beltway East when you’re heading West –who knew?)  I was truly shocked by  how many well-known titles were being chosen month after month.   It seemed only books that were heavily promoted by the publisher, heavily reviewed by lots of media , and heavily blurbed with quotes from other authors were being picked.   Worthy books, sometimes.   But very, very, popular worthy books.  And, yes, the same books did seem to be selected by every club I visited. (If I heard the words “Three Cups of Tea”  one more time I thought I was going to choke on a cinnamon stick.)  The bottom line:  in that kind of environment, I had to consider myself extremely fortunate to have been chosen by any book group at all.   Even though Standing Still, with its cynical view of marriage, its romantic view of activism and kidnapping,  its flawed, panic attack-laden main character and its ambiguous plotting and ending, is a book guaranteed to spark discussion and debate.  Even though I’d gotten some truly glowing reviews.   Even though the book clubs raved and said it was like a “simpler starker Bel Canto.”  I was flat-out lucky to be getting considered, and I was humbled down to my bones once again. 

What happened to me is by now a familiar lament.   My book didn’t have an advertising budget.  My handful of glowing reviews all arrived too late to be placed on the jacket cover (they had to be saved for the paperback.)   And no famous writer wrote me a fawning quote for my cover because I’ve never canoodled with any famous writers, other than sitting next to Tom Wolfe at an Amtrak station.    (And yes that’s how it’s done – through favors, just like Illinois politicians.  Oh, don’t act so shocked!) 

Yes, even book group members, as intelligent and independent-thinking a group as you could hope to find, are looking for guidance.   For the comfort of someone else’s belief to inform their decisions.   That’s not bad, that’s just human.   And we all do it, even those of us who know better. 

What I hope you realize, though, is the power you have as an influencer yourself.   Surely your friends ask for your opinion on what to read all the time.  And is there any point in recommending something everyone else is reading?   Don’t people depend on you to go a little deeper?   After all, when you ask a stylish friend where to get a great fitting pair of jeans for Saturday night, do you really want her to whisper “Gap” in your ear? 

Kelly Simmons, a former journalist and advertising creative director, is the author of Standing Still, in paperback February 10, and coming soon, The Bird House.   She visits as many book clubs as she can (here’s a great article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about her visiting clubs).  And she’s now offering an exclusive Book Group DVD to those she can’t.   For more information, see her website or email her at

Now for the giveaway!  Win an autographed paperback copy of Kelly’s new book, Standing Still!  From the product description on  “A riveting debut novel that will appeal to fans of Sue Miller and Janet Fitch, Standing Still is a powerful exploration of the darker side of mother-hood and marriage.”

Leave a comment here by Monday, Feb. 9th, for a single entry, or mention the giveaway on your blog (send me the link) and be entered twice.  Good Luck!

56 Responses

  1. It sounds like an interesting book, please enter me!

  2. I would love to win this book — sounds very interesting!

  3. I think that might be the reason readers get annoyed with Oprah. The books she picks become popular and everyone gets sick of hearing about them.

  4. i love the tone of this entry…the author is right on target and it made me laugh. i tend to avoid books that are touted by oprah or the today show. thanks for entering me in the contest!

  5. I’d love to read this – please enter me.

  6. I have mixed feelings about this… What I don’t like is the mentality that hundreds of thousands of people must like it for me to consider it. OR it has to be light and happy only. I had a friend last night who was told she should read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle because she had liked Marley & Me. Absolutely two different kinds of books entirely! I loaned TSoES to her and I’m so curious what she will think of it. I think it is all so fascinating – that hysteria excitement for Twilight, the love/hate for Oprah’s books, etc.

    I would love to be a lemming and read Standing Still. I read most of Vonnegut back in the day, too…

  7. I’d love to win this book. I know when I’m selecting books for my library book club I try to keep a mix of better and lesser known titles.

  8. please enter me!

  9. What a great article! The book sounds interesting. Please enter me…

  10. I agree about Oprah — some of us freethinking folks don’t want to get on her bandwagon, yet many of her picks are good books.

    But I am so laughing over Care’s friend who is reading Edgar Sawtelle because she loved Marley & Me! Yet, I have to say, when I finished good old Edgar, I told people I was certain I would have enjoyed the book much more if I was more of a diehard dog person. ( I have two dogs but I never let them lick my ice cream cones, y’know?)

    Thanks for entering, and starting the conversation!

  11. Ah, it’s always about who you know, isn’t it. Great post! Please enter me.

  12. Great post! I have the same reaction to the books most of my club members suggest each month. It seems like they are picking the same books that every other club in America is reading. And although it *can* be great for discussion, there are SO MANY MORE books out there that we’re ignoring! But it is really hard to change that in my club, because the group votes on which books to read. If someone suggests a popular title that many members have heard of, they are more likely to vote for that title than one that is unknown. It all comes down to the way a book is “sold” to the rest of the club … and it is something I’m working on every single month.

    PS. Being a Marylander myself, I totally get that Beltway thing!

  13. This sounds great. I’d love to be entered.

  14. sounds wonderful thanks for the giveaway

  15. I’ve posted this on Win A Book. No need to enter me.

  16. I’d like to be included!

  17. Looks like a good book! I’d love to win this
    eyeslikesugar [at] gmail [dot] com

  18. Whether or not Oprah has or hasn’t pushed it, I read based on whether a book looks interesting to me or not. This is why I haven’t read Harry Potter or any vampire love stories. I read books that look good to me, just like I would wear GAP jeans if I thought they fit me the best. If I am introduced to a good book because it’s getting a lot of hype then so what? I don’t avoid good books because if popularity any more than I read them for it. The point is a good book is a good book no matter how I heard about it or when i read it. I want good books and I look for them everywhere.

    This book sounds interesting. I’d love to be entered for a chance to win it. Thanks.

  19. I really loved Kelly’s view in her post. And I’d love to win her new book. I think I’ll be reading it regardless.

    mishtakes AT gmail DOT com

  20. I’d love to be entered please. Thank you!

  21. this sounds great-I’d love to win

  22. What an interesting post! I completely agree and I love reading books that are “outside of the box” because you never know what gem you’ll find! I’d love to be entered to win Standing Still. Thanks!

  23. The interview definitely gives me something to think about. Please enter me in the giveaway.

    jgbeads AT gmail DOT com

  24. I like her post about books picked by book clubs, very good! Please enter me!
    darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

  25. I’d love to be entered to win the book. And yes I can be a reading lemming.

  26. Wonderful post – sounds like a great read! Wether I win or not I will be reading this book!

  27. Please enter me. Sounds like a great read.
    angelacisco at

  28. Please enter me for this giveaway. Sounds like a good book to read

  29. I actually avoid books that the masses flock to. I will eventually read them but on my own terms, not just because “everyone else is doing it.” I guess I’m a tiny bit rebellious that way. That being said, I love the Harry Potter books, but haven’t read the Twilight books yet.
    akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

  30. Very thought provoking.
    Thanks for the giveaway!


  31. I’m definitely interested in this giveaway! sounds like a great read!

  32. Great giveaway!


  33. One of the reasons I have hesitated in starting or joining a book club is because I have sort of eclectic tastes, and I am not sure that others would appreciate the books I would want to select for a book club. I agree that sometimes clubs choose from only the most popular offerings, but maybe that is because they have not been exposed to some of the more unique titles out there. I agree with the previous poster who said that it’s all in the way you sell the book. Very interesting article. Thanks for posting this.

  34. Please enter me in the contest. Thanks.

    avalonne83 [at] yahoo [dot] it

  35. Since joining my book club, I have enjoyed many books which I would not have picked on my own. Creature of habit!! The book sounds intriguing. Enter me in the giveaway.

  36. I would love a chance to read this. I love to recommend books to patrons.

  37. Oh that’s a lot of comments to compete with, but she sounds like someone I’d enjoy reading. Please enter me.

  38. I guess I am lucky in that I don’t have a lot of friends who are avid readers. I don’t get suggestions of what to read a lot, so I am pretty much left on my own to explore bookshelves and pick out exactly what I want to read. I don’t think there is anything wrong with people giving recommendations, but I do find it annoying when a book is pushed and hyped and advertised as the greatest thing in the world and a must-have-must-read. I think those are things I can decide for myself.

    Oh, and I blogged your contest:


  39. Enjoyed reading the article and knew that it brought up many debatable issues when it comes to reading habits. Our book club has come to the realization that “bestseller” does not translate to “great book” a lot of the time. But you have to ask yourself why are so many people reading it if it’s so bad?? Is it just me? I too worked my way up through the ranks with the historical romances, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, etc but then started to branch out as other book lovers would pass on books to me to read. Now with our book club I have definitely found myself reading books I might never have picked up. Including “Threee Cups of Tea” (not one of my favs). So how then to avoid the bestseller trap and find those hidden gems??

  40. Count me in. This sounds like a must read!

  41. […] are you reading this week? If you’re in need of some reading material, please enter my current giveaway for a chance to win Standing Still by Kelly […]

  42. […] are you reading this week?  If you’re in need of some reading material, please enter my current giveaway for a chance to win Standing Still by Kelly […]

  43. It sounds like a very interesting book. I would love to read it. Thanks for this giveaway.


  44. Nice interview! I’ll have to check out the NY Times article. In the meantime, please enter me for the book giveaway – it sounds really good. Thank you for the chance!
    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  45. I completely understand your ‘statement’. I read several book blogs and at anyone time, they’re all recommending the same book. That being said, I’d love to read yours.

  46. Please count me in.

  47. This is a great blog entry! I often wonder about all of the books I’ve never heard about… I know there must be some great ones out there that just never get the publicity. I’d love to win this book so it’s one less book that I never heard about.

  48. I’ve had this book on my wishlist at for a while now…I’m itching to get my hands on it! 🙂

  49. Good luck ladies — thanks for entering and for being part of the conversation — and as long as we’re talking about discovering different books– has anyone read the memoir The Mercy Papers? I stayed up all night reading it last night — but I have to say it’s best to read it when your own mother is alive & healthy . . .


  50. Please enter me in your drawing Lisa. Thanks so much!

  51. I’d like to be entered! 🙂


  52. sounds interesting, please enter me.

  53. I would love to read this.


  54. Great post! We’re always looking for new (and lesser known) books for our book club. Please enter me in your contest, and good luck with your book.

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