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Literary Conspiracy Theory-The Great American Read Poll

June 4, 2018

To be clear, I usually don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but I might talk myself into believing this one, if only because I came up with this theory myself.  The Great American Read  is a PBS (Public Broadcasting System) sponsored vote, listing the most popular 100 novels, chosen in the United States.  It’s a great idea, letting readers choose their favorite novels, with some conditions, such as only one book per author, and a popular series will get consolidated to its first book.

That’s not the conspiracy part.

One of the books/series listed is the Alex Cross series by James Patterson.  If this Great American Read is based on quantity, I could see why Alex Cross might be included.  James Patterson has written a lot of books.  Any list involving quantity has to include James Patterson.  If we’re talking quality, however, Patterson shouldn’t even be sniffing this list.

Here’s the conspiracy (that nobody is talking about).  I don’t believe anybody really chose a James Patterson book as a favorite.  I think (with no evidence to support me) that the original voting for the top 100 books was rigged in some way.  According to the PBS website, YouGov conducted the original poll with a sample of 7200 people and asked what their “most-loved” novel was.

I’m not suggesting that James Patterson had people voting for him in the YouGov poll.  I would never make an accusation like that.  I have no proof, and I don’t care enough to research it.  If he’s secretly having employees (coauthors) vote for his Alex Cross books, that would be pretty funny (and sneaky).  If he’s openly courting his fans to vote, that’s almost unfair.  Most authors (especially the dead ones) won’t lobby.  I’m not sure I can trust a poll that would say that anybody’s most-loved book is a James Patterson novel.

Why would anybody choose a James Patterson book as his/her favorite?  I’m trying to comprehend this; out of all the great novels/series out there, somebody out there likes the Alex Cross series more than anything else.  At best, an Alex Cross book is okay.  It’s great for the airport when your mind is mush waiting for the legal drugs to kick in before the flight.  It’s great when you’re a blogger with writer’s block and need a topic; you can always fall back on the crappy writing in the new James Patterson book.  But a favorite?  I don’t get it.

Even worse, the Alex Cross series starts wit the letter A (for Alex), so everybody who goes to the Great American Read website will see Alex Cross by James Patterson as one of the top books/series on the list.  It might not help the book in its next round of voting, but it probably boosts Patterson’s ego.  Yeah, he’s really pulled a fast one on the publishing industry.

To PBS’s credit, there is a section (Share Your Story) where readers can post about their favorite books.  A lot of websites wouldn’t allow readers to express their views today.  I’ve seen a bunch of BOOKS YOU MUST READ lists on websites that don’t have a comments section.  But this Great American Read has a place to comment (and it’s NOT a gallery either).  Out of all the books shared in the Share Your Story section, not one has mentioned a James Patterson novel.  I admit, it’s early, but I’ve read hundreds of selections on that page so far, and from what I’ve seen, Patterson is getting shut out.  He needs to step up his game and get a student from his Masterclass to write up an Alex Cross novel and say how it changed his/her life.

Maybe my conspiracy theory is lame.  The only evidence is my belief that nobody would choose a James Patterson novel as a most loved.  Patterson is like Arby’s, the fast-food place that comedians love to make fun of; it’s nobody’s most-loved, but it’s okay if you’re desperate.  In fact, I believe that more people would choose Arby’s as their favorite fast food place than would choose a Patterson novel as their most-loved.  I’m not sure I can afford a YouGov poll to prove this, so I’ll just yell it with enough confidence and repeat myself at least one time for every book that James Patterson has written.

If I do that, my conspiracy theory will be taken seriously.  Or people will think I’m crazy.


What do you think?  Is it plausible that a James Patterson novel would be anybody’s “most loved” book?  Does my first conspiracy theory have merit, or am I quickly descending into madness?

  1. The conspiracy starts with high school recommended reading lists – which often feature the last book many people ever read. Personally, my high school list is mostly 19th century. Never read James Paterson.

    • James Patterson writes a lot of YA fiction, so I’m sure there’s a school with one or more of Patterson’s books on its reading list. I’m not sure if there’s anything conspiratorial about that, though. I’ll need to think about it.

  2. You may have a point. Personally, I haven’t read any James Patterson and am not planning to do so.

  3. I still can not believe that no Kurt Vonnegut made it, on Patterson, he does so many co-authored books he has almost two books coming out every month, so he is in a lot of people’s minds with his quantity over quality approach. I’ve enjoyed a couple of his reads they are very fast and easy to read, with no challenge.

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