Write Stuff – Personal Best

Break out the eggnog and power up your tablets. It’s time for that annual ritual: the flurry of lists that recommend the best books of the year. It’s a fine tradition, but I say we start a new one for 2013. Let’s make it the year to discover our own personal best.

I’m not sure why, but something about a huge smash hit makes me want to avoid it. While everyone’s running for their Fifty Shades of Casual Vacancy (trust me, somebody will write it), I’d rather wait until the fuss has died down. That habIt’s led me to discover some wonderful books, and it might just do the same for you.

Sometimes, when a book becomes a runaway bestseller, It’s because the writing is top-notch. Charming turns of phrase catch us unawares, making us stop to savour them. More often, though, a book becomes a hit in spite of the writing. It’s the ideas that grab us, the storyline, the what-if plots, and millions of copies fly off the shelves even as professional reviewers tear the wooden prose apart.

That’s not a complaint. I’ll take a gripping story over dull perfection any day. Yet it always makes me wonder: What other equally captivating stories are waiting in the wings, stories that haven’t quite caught the same lucky wave of promotion or zeitgeist?

When a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or a Hunger Games comes along, It’s a good reminder to check out the hidden gems. There are the indies, of course, with something for every taste, from self-help to sci-fi. And then there are the small presses, the middle children of the book world. Too small to be corporate behemoths, too big to be indies, they tend to fly just under the radar.

They lean toward the literary and the poetic, as this list from the NewPages site reveals. But dozens more publish genre fiction, like the paranormal and fantasy over at Crescent Moon Press, or the mystery and romance at Champagne Book Group (just a few hours away from the AU campus). The Coffee Time Press site has links to them and dozens of other small presses.

Eventually I get around to reading those bestsellers. Just like any book, sometimes they’re worth it, other times not. But their popularity means there’s no need to put them on my books-to-buy list. There always seems to be a copy of The DaVinci Code on display, or a rerun of The Help to remind me that I haven’t read the book.

In the meantime, by browsing the small press catalogues and indies, I’ve found my own ?best books of 2012??books full of adventures I never would have enjoyed if I’d stuck blindly to the latest trendy reads.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season. And whether It’s books, films, or something else that brings you joy, may 2013 help you reach for your own personal best.

S.D. Livingston is the author of several books, including the new suspense novel Kings of Providence. Visit her website for information on her writing (and for more musings on the literary world!).

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