Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Don Quixote

What Are Humanity’s Most Popular Books?

I’m always happy when I can write a blog post that deals with all three of the major topics I cover—Reading, Writing, and Publishing.

Most Popular Books

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I’m sure readers want to know about popular books, even if they often love books that aren’t popular.

I’m sure writers need to know about popular books, even if they have no intention of writing a bestseller.

I’m sure publishers are ravenously interested in what makes a book popular.

Still, there are fleetingly popular books and enduringly popular books.

So along comes a site in Australia called Women’s Weekly that takes the data and orders it a bit in an article called, The 30 biggest selling books of all time might surprise you.

I imagine Readers can enlarge their horizons by checking out these books

I’m sure Writers would improve their craft by reading these books

I honestly wonder what Publishers think about all this

Here’s a list of those books (ranked by total sales):

The Holy Quran

The King James Bible

Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

She: A History Of Adventure by H.Rider Haggard

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe by CS Lewis

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Odyssey by Homer

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Nineteen Eight-Four by George Orwell

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Anderson’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson

Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Are any of your favorites in the list?

Are there some you’d consider reading?

Why do you think these particular books became the Most Popular?

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Breaking The “Rules” of Writing

See that boy in the picture who’s pointing?

Break The Rules

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I can’t help but think I used to play with him—the kid who changes the rules in the middle of the game :-)

Sure, there are things in life that must have rigid rules—spaceflight for one—but, I truly don’t think writing is one of them

In my short novel (which my co-author swears is not a novel), Notes from An Alien, I broke the rule that “Novels should not have prologues”.

I also just broke a rule in that last sentence—Never end a sentence that has a quotation mark right next to some punctuation with the punctuation outside the quotation mark—but, to me, it’s just more logical, when the quote is “within” the full sentence, to end with the punctuation

Actually, I could have logically ended that sentence this way: …the rule that “Novels should not have prologues.”.—a period for the rule and one for the sentence; but, I try not to totally freak out my readers :-)

I’ve written many posts on this blog that include cautions for writers about sticking to the “rules”.

Here are two links to my archives: 41 posts about Writing Advice and 47 posts about Writing Tips.

If you take those links, you’ll see this post along with the rest; and, many posts are in both categories

Two specific posts worth mentioning, about the “rules of writing”, are:

Learning How To Be An Author Means Much More Than Reading About How To Write…

More Proof That “Breaking The Rules” Is Good for An Author

The direct stimulus for the post I’m now writing came from an article in SalonThe joy of literary destruction: Writers who broke all the rules.

I think I just broke another writing rule—using the word “post(s)” more than six times in eight contiguous sentences :-)

That Salon article talks about many writers, modern and not, who found their own way to write; and, usually, had a slew of other writers follow in their tracks.

The rule-breaker I found most interesting is Cervantes and the rule-breaking book was Don Quixote.

I’ve been meaning to read that book for a few years but my absolutelymustreadbecauseofwork stack of books somehow keeps giving birth to more books

Don Quixote was published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615.

Here’s an excerpt from the Salon article:

“Usefully for my purposes, one of the works of literature which most strongly expresses this complicated view is also one of the most innovative in form. I am referring to Miguel de Cervantes’s “Don Quixote”—perhaps the most stylistically ambitious novel ever undertaken, in no small part because it was one of the first.”

I’ll now list a series of questions the article says Cervantes’ book evokes:

“What does it mean for an author to get inside his characters’ minds and relay their thoughts, rather than simply displaying their actions on a theatrical stage?

“What is a ‘narrator’, and how does he connect with the author of a work?

“How do the realities of fictional characters’ lives compare to the realities of readers’ lives, and where, if anywhere, do the two planes intersect?

“Does the book exist in its own time or in the time when you are reading it, and does that mean it exists in a different way for each new reader?

“Can the reader himself inhabit more than one era, time-traveling through books?

“Can the past…be made to live again, and if so, can the nonexistent, purely fictional past also be brought to life?

“Are dead authors different from living ones, from a reader’s point of view?

“How do poetry, drama, history, and fiction overlap?

“What is novel about the novel?”

The author of the article says, “Cervantes was possibly the first person to ask most of these questions, and probably the first person to answer them

One last excerpt:

“One of the many things Cervantes discovered was that he could repeatedly remind his readers that they were reading a book—could, in that sense, blatantly announce the fictionality of his fictional characters—and still get us to invest emotionally in these people and their story.”

By the way, that Salon article was excerpted from Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser.
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Literary Theory ~ Is It Worth Anything?

I’ve been having a certain book thrust into my awareness, repeatedly, from many directions lately.

The latest appearance was in an article about literary theory—oh, my, fiction can teach us enduring truths? Really??

In a post I wrote back in March, World Crises And Fiction Writers ~ Can They Help Humanity?, I posed a number of questions. Here are a few of them:

* Is fiction a proper tool for purposely proposing solutions to world crises?

* Does it go against some “law” of creativity to ask writers to make their fiction conform to some response to world conditions?

* What is the role in society of the fiction writer?

So, this last thrusting of a certain book into my awareness happened in the New York Times Opinion piece, ‘Quixote,’ Colbert and the Reality of Fiction, by William Egginton.

In response to an argument that “naturalism”, the theory that science is the only way to real truth, is a better guide to life than literary theory, he said:

“As a literary theorist, I suppose I could take umbrage at the claim that my own discipline, while fun, doesn’t rise to the level of knowledge. But what I’d actually like to argue goes a little further. Not only can literary theory (along with art criticism, sociology, and yes, non-naturalistic philosophy) produce knowledge of an important and even fundamental nature, but fiction itself, so breezily dismissed in Professor Rosenberg’s assertions, has played a profound role in creating the very idea of reality that naturalism seeks to describe.”

I do recommend you read the full article

It does require more than average reading concentration but it’s not rocket science :-)

What was the book that kept thrusting itself at me—the one I now have two copies of on my computer’s desktop?

The book that I really want to read because of the previous glowing recommendations and this most recent use as an example of literature that informs us about truths?

The one I’m having extreme arguments planning sessions with myself about; like where I’ll find the time to read it?

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

William Egginton says, in that NY Times article:

“…Cervantes created the world’s first bestseller, a novel that, in the words of the great critic Harold Bloom, ‘contains within itself all the novels that have followed in its sublime wake’.”

He even goes further and says:

“…in writing those volumes Cervantes did something even more profound: he crystallized in prose a confluence of changes in how people in early modern Europe understood themselves and the world around them. What he passed down to those who would write in his wake, then, was not merely a new genre but an implicit worldview that would infiltrate every aspect of social life: fiction.”

Now, to make  time to read it………
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How Many Ways Are There To Write A Novel?

The “powers that be” in the worlds of the novel—those folks who set themselves up as “experts”—might tell you there are two ways to write a novel, or definitely only four, or as many ways as there are novelists.

When the “experts” disagree, it’s time to make your own decision

Wikipedia’s opinion of what a novel is: “…a book of long narrative in literary prose….Further definition of the genre is historically difficult.”

Of course, the word “novel” comes from roots that mean “new”.

And, if you plunk the words how to write a novel into Google, you’ll be able to lose yourself in the sea of, sometimes not so novel, opinions

Sophie McCook, one of my new friends on the open-source social networking platform, Diaspora, is writing a chapter a day of her novel and posting it on a blog, tinychaptersontherun.

Here’s what Sophie says about her novel:

Tiny Chapters on the Run  is the story of Miriam Short, told in bite-sized chapters, published once a day (except weekends – the author is only human!). Miriam has no tact, delicacy or grace. She lies, steals and inadvertently kills.  But she did also get her brownie badges in ‘basic mental adjustment’ and ‘innate self-worth’.  There will be ups and downs, loves and down-right dirty lies.”

As of the time I posted this, there are 53 chapters–they’re short, remember :-)

I’ve read the first two chapters and am having a time-schedule-freak-out—-prep for writing sequel to Notes from An Alien, 30 hours a week being Events Manager on Book Island in Second Life, attending to various social networking and other Webby tasks, wondering when to carve out time to read Don Quixote, and very necessary amounts of meditative zoning-out—-but Sophie’s novel has sucked me in…

DO  go read it.

DO  come back and let me know what you think.

Since this post was first written, Sophie’s book is on Amazon…
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