Can you recommend more books like Fifty Shades of Grey?
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, which I had just read. Since then, Fifty Shades — or “the book” as people are calling it – has landed — and stayed — on the New York Times (combined print and e book) Bestseller list. It’s been written up in the Huffington Post, the New York Post, USA Today, Today.com, and CBS New York (video). It remains very popular on Amazon.com and Goodreads.
To my shock, that post has drawn more people to my blog than almost anything else I have ever written. It’s given me a “best day ever” in terms of daily visitors almost every day since I published it. In no time, it will be the most viewed of the hundreds of posts I have written over the past 3.5 years.
I know that many fellow bloggers and tweeters have read Fifty. Some have enjoyed it, some have hated it. But few folks in my online circles have really loved it like this:
“I couldn’t put it down,” admits Yogel, 33, who shooed away mom friends at her son’s school pickup because she didn’t want to be distracted from her reading.
“I’d be sitting on my couch at 7 a.m. with my two kids while they’re watching cartoons and drinking milk, and I’d be reading it on the Kindle app on my phone,” she says.
“Everyone in Armonk is reading 50 Shades of Grey,” my friend Deena insisted, her hushed tones becoming less hush and more hysterical. “Moms are forgetting to pick up their kids at school! You can’t even get it! It’s sold out at bookstores everywhere!”
5+ stars. Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I still feel somewhat under the spell of this book. I’m so … beguiled by it (book allusion). It was honestly an amazing read – and one which I meant to just skim a few sample pages of, but ended up buying and then staying up the entire night to finish. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to write a review, because it seemed too difficult to put into words everything that moved me about this story and to try to do it justice.
I came across this book through browsing around the Kindle store. After reading the premise and the reviews I was intrigued enough to add it to my library. I sped through it like a woman starved, incredibly grateful I had come across it. I knew nothing of this author or her previous work, and had no idea what the history of this series was.
What accounts for this book’s snowballing success? I’m not sure. A lot of the buzz is offline, consistent with this data recently shared by Goodreads.
I also think that the fact that it is not published by a romance press like Harlequin, and does not sport the typical erotic romance cover, are significant factors in its success, such is the ten foot pole many women readers want to put between themselves and the romance genre.
It’s hard to turn a nonreader into a reader, or a reader who normally reads Oprah’s Book Club picks into a regular romance reader, and many of the women raving about Fifty are in those categories, and, moreover, are not online. That said, a lot of people are finding my blog by searching for “books like 50 Shades”.
Browsing though the raves for Fifty, some themes emerge:
- Compulsively readable
- Intense, dramatic relationship
- Wounded, mysterious, powerful hero
- “Kinky” sex — envelope pushing and very attractive for many readers
- Sensual awakening of a virginal heroine
- Epistolic communication (Christian and Ana’s emails were a hit even with people who didn’t care for the book)
- Unexpected story arc
My sense about the lukewarm reaction of many (but by no means all) romance readers to Fifty is that they feel there are better books out there. (There are other issues, too, namely Fifty’s provenance in the Twilight Fan Fiction community.) Many of us have children, but we aren’t those women in the HuffPo article who haven’t read a book in five years. Many of us aren’t those women in the Post article who have to speak in hushed tones about a sexy book. And many of us aren’t those women whose husbands are delighted we’ve found a naughty book so we will finally agree to have sex. The coverage is accurate as far as it goes, but it doesn’t really reflect the bloggers and readers *I* interact with, and that has added, I think to a feeling of distance from this phenomenon.
So, to finally get to my point, I’m asking: for readers attracted by the themes I listed above, and looking for “books like Fifty“, what would you recommend?
I’ll post a link to this thread on my other Fifty post. Maybe we can tempt one of those “never read books like this” folks to try another romance novel.