I don't like to read popular books until 5 or 10 years after they are popular. I didn't read my first Dragonlance book, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, until around 1990. And I actually read that BEFORE I read Lord of the Rings, if you can believe that. I didn't read The Alchemist, by Paul Coelho, until last year - it was published in 1988. And I only read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone this year. I figured I better see what this Harry Potter business was all about.
I once made the mistake of reading a popular book at the height of its popularity - Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. All that book proves is that you don't have to be anything special to write a bestselling book that spawns a whole damned industry. You, too, can take the research and work of others, insert a handful of stereotypical characters, write it like a comic book with a hundred odd chapters and a new chapter on every third page, and sell millions.
The point is, you have to actually write the damn thing. Dan Brown wouldn't have dick if he hadn't actually written the damn thing. No matter how good your idea, your world, and your cast of characters, no one will buy or sell an unfinished story.
Which is to say I really need to get back to work.
But right now, I am reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt, for the first time. Ten years (give or take a year) behind the times again.