What's a Common Reader -- and what is Uncommon Reading?

Virginia Woolf defined a common reader as someone who is not a scholar; not a critic. A common reader "reads for his own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others. Above all, he is guided by an instinct to create for himself, out of whatever odds and ends he can come by, some kind of whole." By that definition, I'm definitely a common reader -- reading an uncommonly large and diverse collection of books.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guess who outsells JK Rowling on AbeBooks?

I couldn't let this slip past without commenting. According to a post on the website of online bookseller AbeBooks (which I highly recommend, btw, it's amazing what you can find via their network of booksellers), Georgette Heyer outsells novelists like Harry Potter creator JK Rowling and Charles Dickens.

If your reaction was, "Georgette Who?", prepare to be educated. (Briefly) Heyer sold her first historical romance in 1921, when only 19. Between then and her death in 1974, she churned out a series of iconic Regency romances; I've even heard people comparing Jane Austen to her unfavorably. She also wrote a series of rather unmemorable police detective novels -- my grandfather loved those, but I wolfed down the Regency stories at a rapid rate, beginning at the age of 9 or 10. I still recall that my first Heyers were Arabella and Regency Buck, but I rapidly came to prefer those with an older, more independent heroine, like The Grand Sophy, Venetia, The Nonesuch Frederica or A Lady of Quality. Her best novels have wit and verve, and still have a place on my shelves.

Happily, Sourcebooks began reprinting the Heyer oeuvre a few years ago, so they've already made most of my favorites available once more, and I don't need to worry about covers hanging by a thread or not being able to find what I want on AbeBooks. No surprise to me that they are still in such hot demand (even though Shakespeare and Agatha Christie still outsell her!)


  1. That's surprising! I've heard of the Georgette Heyer books but don't think they're really my thing.

  2. I was a bit startled as well, Sam! I had been thinking of them as almost a cult thing -- seems as if the membership is much wider than I had believed! These are books that I won't re-read often, but they would be sentimental faves, as part of my childhood.