Follow-ups to best-sellers that I haven’t (but should have) read

Perhaps you’re familiar with this situation to which I am referring in the title of this post. You buy a best-selling book that has been talked about everywhere, you read it and love it and think “goodness me, this writer is amazing. When they release their next book I am certainly going to buy that and read it and love it and stare lovingly at it whilst sipping my morning coffee, as well.” And then that particular author publishes their next book, and you rush out and buy it, perhaps still in hardback, and with more excitement than you know what to do with, you put it on your shelf, intending to read it in the next few days, and then promptly forget about it. The days pass, turn to weeks, then months, and suddenly you realise you’re actively avoiding reading these follow-up books (not necessarily sequels) and you’re not even entirely sure why.

Anyway, if you don’t do this, don’t worry, maybe I’m just weird (please, someone, tell me you do this too). But I thought I would briefly mention a few books I bought after reading a previously published best-seller, only to accidentally not read the follow-up.

Ape House by Sara Gruen

The predecessor to this book was Gruen’s hugely successful Water For Elephants, which has since been adapted into a film (the book is a lot better, of course). I loved this book about the circus life during prohibition era, and found the writing was well researched and highly evocative, completely warranting the hype. Ape House was the next book Gruen published (yes, she has a thing with animals in her books), and the description on the back makes it sound more than interesting:

“Six extraordinary bonobos who know sign language, a scientist who understands (and likes) animals more than people, animal rights protestors who liberate the apes right into the hands of an unscrupulous TV producer who produces a reality TV show which becomes the biggest phenomenon in the history of modern media…who will save the bonobos from this parody of human life?”

Once again, this book was highly researched from first hand experience, including actually communicating with great apes, and I have heard nothing but rave reviews about the novel. I even have this sneaking suspicion that I would prefer it to her previous book, if only I got up off my butt and read it (or maybe sat back down and read it – standing and reading would become tiresome eventually).

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini’s first book, The Kite Runner, is one of the most loved books of the last decade, and has also been made into a film, which was actually quite decent for a nice change. Likewise, A Thousand Splendid Suns is also set in Afghanistan and around the time that the Taliban take over the country, changing the lives of everybody as they bring nothing but brutality, fear, and suffering. The book revolves around a friendship between Mariam, who had been sent to Kabul for marriage as a teenager two decades prior, and Laila, a local teenager, and presumably this friendship is tested with the arrival of the Taliban, leading to acts of love and heroism and so on and so forth. The story does sound great, and many reviews have declared that this is an even better book than Hosseini’s first, so why on Earth have I not read it yet? There’ll be a third book by this author soon no doubt, so I need to hurry up and read this.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Niffenegger shot to fame a few years ago with the enormous success of her debut novel The Time Traveller’s Wife, a novel which I must confess I really enjoyed, and which combined the elements of a romance story and time travel story in a simple but effective manner. Again this was also made into a film (I hadn’t realised this aspect of all these authors until I found myself almost finished this post – oh well), further cementing the appeal of the story. In Her Fearful Symmetry, she has taken a different turn, instead writing a ghost story based around a pair of identical twins who inherit their estranged Aunt’s flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery in London upon her death, only to find themselves entangled with the various personalities found with the apartment block. No doubt the similar themes of love and loss come into play, but the story itself sounds significantly different and intriguing, and again I wonder why I haven’t yet read this book. Soon my pretties, soon.

While I contemplate why I haven’t read these books, I can’t help but think that maybe it’s precisely because I was impressed by the author’s earlier works – my expectations are already heightened and so I don’t want to be potentially disappointed, which is a silly reason not to read a book, if ever there was one.

Do you have any follow-ups to best-sellers that you haven’t read but have wanted to read?

Have you read any of the books I mentioned here? If so, what are your thoughts?

37 thoughts on “Follow-ups to best-sellers that I haven’t (but should have) read

  1. I haven’t heard of the first one. Liked the Kite Runner but loved A Thousand Splendid Suns, loved the Time Traveller’s Wife always meant to buy Her Fearful Symmetry but got distracted. yes, i do it to, buy the follow up but don’t always read them and they sit and get dusty until i get bored of looking at them and give them away.

    • Ahh so you preferred A Thousand Splendid Suns to its predecessor as well? How interesting. I really do need to get on and read that one!
      When my Auntie stayed in Australia a year or two ago (all my relatives except my parents and sisters live in England still), she read Her Fearful Symmetry (borrowed it off me) and said it was fantastic, just as good as The Time Traveller’s Wife. So again, I should really get on and read that.
      I am terrible and never give books away. I let people borrow them, but I think I really want my own private library in my house one day (actually I’m just turning my lounge into one as I speak…) 🙂

      • i read A Thousand Splendid Suns before i read Kite Runner just the way it went not realizing it was by the same person but i loved it. I have a big book shelf but when it’s full and if it’s not a book i am going to read again i always share often to Oxfam who has book shops. I figure there are people who like to read good books but don’t have a lot of cash and the sale of my books made about £100 for Oxfam last year.

  2. I haven’t read any of ’em – I’m supposedly reading ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ right now but haven’t picked it up in months. But I do know what you mean about the sequels – when I buy a sequel (or next work), one of two things happens: either I rip into it immediately and devour it like a devouring thing, or I (like you) put it carefully on my bookshelf and leave it there. I think it’s exactly what you said – when you’ve really, really enjoyed a book, it’s hard to believe that the writer can top that, or even equal it, and how awful would you then feel if they didn’t? Stupid reason, I know, but nobody ever said emotions had to make perfect sense! If they did, they probably wouldn’t be emotions.
    Ooh, deep, eh? LOL

    • Ohhh The Time Traveller’s Wife is good, the ending is really clever actually (not the ending itself, but how they get to the ending is clever). It’s definitely worth finishing.
      I think I’m the same as you, although many times I will just leave the book sitting there, sometimes I buy a sequel or follow up book, and I not so much read it as breathe it in, devouring it like a duck eats a meal (without chewing).
      Funnily enough, for me, the whole expectation of a sequel/follow up has let me down before – Catch 22 is my favourite book, but its sequel (written decades later) Closing Time, while enjoyable, was nowhere near as good, and the book he wrote immediately following Catch 22, called Something Happened, was so boring I couldn’t finish it, which left me somewhat devastated. But it was a harsh lesson I perhaps needed to learn – that even the best writers can write rubbish books.
      And that is some profound thoughts on emotions you have there! 😉

      • “Even the best writers can write rubbish books” – man, that should be engraved somewhere in letters six foot high! LOL preferably someplace where literary prize judges and critics can see it.
        And, about the emotions… well, what can I say? I’m a complex, evolving spirit with unplumbed depths, and if I EVER start talking like that, just take me out and shoot me, OK? I’m relying on you ;P

        • Hahahaha, glad you liked that, and I agree, it should be a statement made known to literary critics and judges, because it is something I believe so much more, the more I read (especially of those kinds of writers).
          Okay, I promise, if you ever start talking in that manner, I will do as you wish, but first I will get you to turn some of that into poetry – there’s gotta be some poetic gems in such emotional verbosity, surely? 😛

  3. I have never done this, whenever I read a book I enjoy I then search out all of the author’s previous works and read them all. I could see how it could happen though, if you are already into another book/author when a new follow-up is realised you might not read it straight away, and the longer you leave it the harder it might be to pick it up again.

    • I normally am the same, searching out all the previous works of an author and reading them. I think it only happens to me if the author only has 2 or 3 books, but where they have say 8 or 10, I am much more likely to read the whole lot of them. By the second book I have enjoyed, I am normally sold on the author.

  4. I do also buy books because I’m like “oh my gosh, I so much loved the previous one, that I have to read this one as well”. And then, said books stay in my TBR pile for ages…But I do read them, eventually. And that’s the greatness of it : books always wait for you.

    I absolutely need to read Ape House ! I know I will love it, even if I really disliked Riding Lessons…

    And yes, I currently have some “follows-up” on my shelves…Especially one written by my Literature teacher in secondary school. I loved his previous books but I stupidly fear to read the last one. I can’t stand the idea to be disappointed by the author and the teacher at the same time :S

    • This is very true, the books will still be there even if it takes me a year or two to get to them! So I might as well enjoy and savour the ones I am currently reading, too, rather than rush through it all.
      Ahh I haven’t read Riding Lessons, I think I’m going to avoid that one. But Ape House sounds great, I am quite excited to read it. It looks quite small, now that I flick through it again.
      Oh wow, one of your old teachers writes books? That is so awesome! I told some of my high school students that if they see a book on the shelves a few years from now with my name on it, they have to buy it and boast to everyone that I taught them, hahaha! 😛

  5. Yes – I also do this – I’m going out on a limb here to say that I didn’t enjoy The Kite Runner – my daughter gave me A thousand splendid suns but I haven’t felt drawn to it. On the other hand – I loved The Time Travellers Wife and as for Her Fearful Symmetry – oh do read it, really really it’s excellent IMHO- Diane

    • Oh okay? Wow, I haven’t met many who didn’t enjoy The Kite Runner, but having said that there are some brutal scenes in it that I think would put a lot of people off the book. Chances are if you didn’t enjoy it you won’t enjoy A Thousand Splendid Suns, but then you never know.
      Good to hear you enjoyed Her Fearful Symmetry, I definitely do want to read it. I bought that one when it was only available in hardback, which perhaps reveals my initial intentions to read it immediately 😛

  6. I also have to agree that if an author has a whole raft of publications I can become totally wrapped up in them. I have just survived a total Jack Reacher fest, one after the other, after the other. Trouble is that it is then quite difficult for me to change to another genre or style. I am weaning myself off them with a series of police stories by Bill Kirton to be followed by Agatha Christie, should be better by then!!

    • I know what you mean, you become almost addicted to that genre or style of writing. I went through a phase where I read all of Louis de Bernieres’ books (which have left a lasting influence on me), and have since been through phases with K.J.Parker (a fantasy author), a Spike Milligan phase and currently (among others) a P.G.Wodehouse phase. Sometimes it’s fun to indulge that heavily in a particular author, though! 🙂

      • Oh yes PG Wodehouse is definitely addictive -I wonder if it’s because his style is so very singular. I was so frustrated because I was in France with a little handful of them and couldn’t gain access to more, I was chewing the carpet.

        • You could be right – he is definitely unique. Lucky he wrote so darn much in his lifetime. 😀 And lucky that these days it’s so easy to get hold of books with the online market (without this it would be hard to get half the books I have, down here in little old Australia).

        • Hahaha, I was like that with Douglas Adams actually as well, come to think of it. You know you are driving people nuts when you keep talking to them about it and realise you’re telling them things you’ve already told them 😛

  7. I have done this too, but only occasionally. I’m probably only one of the few who didn’t love Water for Elephants. I don’t remember why, I just didn’t. I read Thousand Splendid Suns, but I liked Kite Runner better. I met the author at a signing in Marin County. I really liked Her Fearful Symmetry but had lots of questions about the end. Hurry up and read it so you can post about it. 🙂

    • Ah okay? I have met a couple of people who didn’t like Water For Elephants, but not many. I am curious to see which of Hosseini’s two novels I prefer, having only read one of them. And intriguing to hear about the ending of Her Fearful Symmetry. I shall have to read it so I can post about it. Am currently finishing off Mockingjay so I can do a combined post on that and Catching Fire, and finally be done with this Hunger Games series (which I am enjoying, but it is stopping me from moving on to other books). 🙂

  8. I liked Water for Elephants, but Ape House has been sitting on my shelf collecting dust. I can’t tell you why… I really want to read it, but other books keep getting in the way. Maybe this post will inspire me to read it after I am done with Good Omens. 🙂

    • Haha, suuuure you didn’t mean to be pushy! 😛 Haha no I’m kidding, I know you didn’t – I am genuinely curious myself to see what I think about it. I think the fact that my current health situation has led to me not being able to afford to buy books for a long time (due to having a lot of time off work) is actually a good thing, as it means I can finally get through all the mountains of books I already own. HFS will definitely be sometime in the near future, I think. All three of these books I mentioned here will be soon, actually.

  9. The only book of the ones you’ve mentioned, is ‘Water For Elephants’ and haven’t looked up Ape House, although it sounds like something I would like. (I use sign language at work, love monkeys and have conflicting emotions concerning animal rights activists) I have added the others to my TBR list, but I already have so many ‘next books’ that are still sitting on my shelf unread, for example: the last few of Diana Galabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series, a couple of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt stories, ‘Whirlwind’ by James Clavell, just to name a few. I don’t think it’s because I’ve been disappointed by sequels, just have so many books to catch up on, that they are lower down on my list. I really must read more! 🙂

    • Ah, good to know you have the same problem, and I think in many ways I might also just be the same as you – I have so many books I have bought but not yet read, so many books to catch up on, that it just takes longer to get around to most of the books I want to read, including follow-ups and sequels. If only we could be paid to just sit and read….sigh. I can dream. 😛

  10. I have read all these second best-sellers – don’t wait – they are (almost) as good as the firsts. But I do know what you mean. I was so excited to get Rosamund Lupton’s “Afterwards” in a London airport – two months before it was due to be released in the USA (read her first “Sister” and liked it). guess what – it’s still on my shelf!

    • Ahh, good to hear they’re all good! 🙂
      Haha, that is funny you managed to get a book that much before its release only to not read it anyway. I’d do something like that for certain.

  11. I’ve read both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns and I can tell you that I loved them both! I’ve also read The time traveler’s wife and I absolutely loved it! I was intrigued by the fact that there is another book by this author since I loved the first story so much, though you mentioned it was a ghost story? I don’t like to read stories about dead “alive” people.. 😛 And lastly but not least – I’ve seen Water For Elephants but have yet to read it, as embarrassing as it sounds I actually had no idea it was a book.. but I’m now looking forward to reading it! Loved your post!

    • Ahh awesome to know you enjoyed both of Hosseini’s books! I think I might read A Thousand Splendid Suns very soon actually, every time I look at that book I think “should I…?” But I need to finish off the two I’m currently reading first, I think.
      As for the other Niffenegger book, Her Fearless Symmetry, it didn’t do as well commercially as The Time Traveller’s Wife I don’t think, so it didn’t so much pass under the radar, but perhaps didn’t receive the attention it deserved, either (I guess I can make a more accurate judgement of this once I have read it). From what I can gather it’s a ghost story of sorts, but I don’t know if it is literally a ghost story, or if that is just a tacky label whacked on to it. I’ll let you know when I read it! 🙂
      I imagine you’re not the only one to not know Water For Elephants was a book originally. Apparently there is some link between that writer and NaNoWriMo, like, I think she wrote one of her books or maybe even this book initially for NaNoWriMo, making her the most successful novelist to have entered that month of madness.
      And thank you, glad you liked the post! Wondering when we’ll get to see a post by you, missy?! 😛

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