Books, Authors, and Why I Try to Keep Them Separate

This is a topic I have seen written about a lot since I started blogging, and heard of even before that. Originally I had not planned on tossing my hat into the ring, if you will, except in comments, but things have happened since that made me feel like I should before I post another review.

When I was really little, I thought books magically appeared on bookshelves, whether they be mine, the library’s, or a book store’s. At some point I learned there were people behind the books, but I didn’t care about them. I just wanted to read some stories!

It wasn’t until I was almost 12 years old and had truly started learning about the Internet that I suddenly started caring. Not because the Internet put me in touch with authors like it does now thanks to social media, but I had all this knowledge right at my fingertips. The other thing that happened back then: I read the first three Harry Potter books. And Scholastic had a website dedicated to it.

Suddenly I was learning quite a bit about J.K. Rowling and I would continue to do so as the other four Harry Potter books were published and, to a much smaller extent, even now. I read about her writing bits of the story on napkins, how Hermione was based on her as a girl, how she’d first gotten the idea on a train ride…. I read interview after interview.

Until I couldn’t take it anymore. It wasn’t that I didn’t like J.K. Rowling (I’m still planning on reading The Cuckoo’s Calling) or the Harry Potter books anymore, but there were some things in her interviews that didn’t come across as right (not that she was the one necessarily saying them), and I was finding it harder not to think of what I read or heard in interviews as I was reading and re-reading (and re-reading) the Harry Potter books.

I think it’s fair to say going through that taught me a valuable lesson that I still try to follow – authors and their books should be kept separate.

Now when I read a book, I don’t pay attention to things the authors have said or done that I may have heard about. I force myself to push it from my mind. In rare occasions it may be something “too big” for me to look past, if only because it has been drilled into my head. For instance, A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. I can’t get over the author calling this work non-fiction when he wrote it as fictional. Since finding out he has also written a Young Adult series (which was turned into a movie), I can’t go near any of those books.

Another example is more my own fault than anyone else’s. I can no longer read books by James Patterson. I used to love his Women’s Murder Club series and enjoyed a few books in the Maximum Ride series. But once I found out how many books he publishes in such a short period of time and that he is not even the sole author, I started seeing red. His name was so big on all the covers, and his co-authors’ names so small. I just couldn’t stand it. And I still can’t. Yes, it is a good thing he gives credit to his co-authors since some don’t even do that, but for some reason I just could not and cannot look past it. Though I will admit Sundays at Tiffany’s does intrigue me.

Aside from those very rare instances, I am capable of keeping books and their authors separate. Ender’s Game? Totally on my to read (and to watch) list. Orson Scott Card? Do not agree with his views. All fourteen of the Oz books and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus? LOVE them. L. Frank Baum? Racist. Now, keeping in mind that I know those things about Orson Scott Card and L. Frank Baum, I’d like to add that I don’t generally seek out information on authors anymore aside from what other books they’ve written. In the case of Card, it was all over various sites I visit during the weeks leading up to the theatrical release of Ender’s Game the movie. As for L. Frank Baum, that was my bad. In 2012 when I marathon-ed his Oz books, I went to his Wikipedia page and found his descendants actually apologized for his racist views not long ago.

So, what exactly am I getting at here? And why now? Well, the why is not important other than I know there are some authors whose books I have either recently read or am planning on reading in the very near future, who are not considered to be entirely… reader-friendly – for lack of a better term. I won’t name names because my exact point is that I generally don’t care about that. If I find a book that sounds interesting, I pick it up and/or add it to my to read list. Maybe even read it right away. If I read a story and I like it, I’m going to give it a good rating. All regardless of what the author has said or done or believes.

Ninety nine percent of the time, the story stands on its own.

And that goes for any negative reviews too.

Comments (8) »

Anne - February 13, 2014 @ 8:27 pm

I think it’s a really good idea to keep the books separate, it prevents the story from being unintentionally tarnished! When I heard about OSC’s views, I really wished I hadn’t.

Christine - February 13, 2014 @ 10:53 pm

Yeah, I honestly could not get away from seeing posts about OSC’s views, they seemed to be everywhere! I did not read any of them, but the titles alone were enough.

Pamela D - February 13, 2014 @ 9:36 pm

I agree with you that the story should stand on its own. With that said, I have a hard time separating the author from the books.

Christine - February 13, 2014 @ 11:05 pm

Yeah, I know some people have a really difficult time with it, which is partially what spurred me to make this post. I saw some comments elsewhere where people were basically saying they couldn’t understand how anyone could be a fan of a certain author’s works and how ‘disgusted’ they are at the fans. So I wanted to sort of show that for me it’s actually quite easy. Even as I was putting my thoughts together to write up a coherent post, I honestly couldn’t think of anyone other than James Patterson and James Frey as authors I stay away from (odd that they’re both named ‘James’…) because of who they are rather than past works I’ve read and not enjoyed.

Sophie - February 16, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

Great points, Christine! I’ve never really paid much attentions to authors and their personal lives until more recently, and I’m more exposed to that information now because of Goodreads and book blogs. I think it’s nice to hear about how authors think about their own works, but I definitely agree that getting more into the “politics” of an author’s reader-friendliness can greatly impact the readers’ decisions to read or not read a book.

Like you, I’m also striving to choose books for their interestingness and not avoid books because of an author’s opinions about controversial topics. I also think that “the story stands on its own” most of the time – in my mind, books still come before authors, haha. 🙂

Christine - February 18, 2014 @ 10:22 am

Yeah, that’s the one problem with Goodreads, book blogs, and the Internet in general – it’s so easy to find all this stuff out!

I know some people like out-ing “badly behaving authors” as I think they call them, but I do my best to ignore all of it, while silently pleading that I never have something like that happen to me as far as them attacking people who give bad reviews, etc.

Sophie - February 18, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

I just recently heard about the “badly behaving authors” thing, and it does make me scared to have it happen to me too. But I guess on the positive side of things, it makes me strive to write more constructive reviews instead of ranting, haha. 😛

Christine - February 18, 2014 @ 9:16 pm

Oh, absolutely! Ranting is a no-no now. Well, at least what we post, but maybe not what we write up and then delete XD

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