This week, in the UK at least, is the week when masses of new books get released, in time for Christmas. This explains why I spent two hours wandering around a book shop, fervently whispering ‘I want!’ under my breath and buying a huge pile of books, only some of which are Christmas presents for other people.
There are a lot of really good books being released, as well as a lot of classics, some modern, some old, some well-known, some more obscure, in gorgeous, stylish new editions.
However, these are the books being advertised. Whenever I walk into a bookshop, or see books advertised on TV, it’s always the same books. Celebrity autobiographies.
Now I have nothing against a good autobiography. I find a book like David Niven’s The Moon’s a Balloon, or Dirk Bogarde’s series of autobiographies fascinating. However, most of the current crop aren’t like that.
I have two requirements of a celebrity autobiography. That they’ve had an interesting life, and that they’ve lived quite a lot of it. (I’d also like them to either write it themselves or give their ghostwriters co-author credit, but that may be asking too much). But the ones I’ve seen advertised – incessantly – aren’t like that. These are young people, barely forty, who’s careers have only just started. And their early lives, to be frank, are quite dull.
I saw an interview with a publisher who was asked why so many of these celebrity autobiographies were being published. He said the money they make from these books means they can print the less popular, more literary books.
So if I want my stylish crime, my strange fantasy, my touching, moving small books, and my compelling history books, I have to accept those celebrity books in the same bookshops.
Thinking about it, it’s a price I’m willing to pay – though I wish I didn’t have to. It would be nice, once in a while, to see the latest Anne Perry or Tracy Chevalier, or Kim Newman book advertised, instead of another 23 year old semi-famous person’s ghost written book.
But it’s nice to know that the publishers still want to publish the smaller, less profitable books.