Thursday, February 05, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Too Much Information?

This week's BTT topic:

Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse - a biography has made you love an author more?

Well, my answer to the first question would have to be "I don't think so." (Yes, I know that's waffling – but at this hour it's hard for me to be real decisive). I can't really recall ever being put off an author's work after finding out about their personal story. I don't read that many actual biographies and in most cases (for the contemporary literature I read, anyway), I don't know any more about the author than the bits of info I get on the dust jacket or book cover. Sometimes I glean a little more from book reviews or bookstore and publishers' promotional material, but I rarely seek out anything more than that.

But even when I do know more about an author's biography, I don't think that has much influence on how I feel about his or her writing. If I let myself be put off by a writer's private life or opinions, I would never have read Norman Mailer or Lewis Carroll or Henry David Thoreau or Dorothy Parker or Oscar Wilde or J.D. Salinger, or any number of other wonderful writers.

Of course, there are some books that affect me so much I'm moved to find out more about the writer; but these days, those are few and far between. I guess I have to admit that I really don't care to know all that much about an author's biography. It's a little different for some older works, and the "classics" – well, I probably know more about those authors because I've studied them in school. But there again, I don't think their personal stories affect the way I feel about their work. Unless I find out they've plagiarized it – I suppose that would be the one thing that would make me change my opinion.

As I say, I don't read many biographies. And of the ones I've read, I don't know that any has made me "love" an author any more or less; but sometimes a biography or autobiography will make me more interested in a writer's work. For instance (although it was a historical novel, and not an actual biography), a book I recently read based on the life of Henry James (The Master, by Colm Toibin) has made me want to read more of James's work. But in general I think I prefer to let the work stand on its own.


  1. I understood the question to mean the snippet of information on the book's back cover. I generally don't read biographies myself. Happy Booking Through Thursday!

  2. The snippet on the back cover or the "about the author" section has absolutely no influence on me at all. I doubt either of those blurbs would say anything controversial about the author. I do have a problem with authors who support or who are actively engaged in spreading hate.

  3. I usually start with just the story, and maybe the biographical blurb on the back cover. But sometimes after I have read and enjoyed several books by one author, I like to read more about them, figuring their own life story goes into the stories they write. Often it enhances my reading of their work.

  4. The Master has been one of my favorite reads!

    The truth is, at least for me, knowing the life of an author might incline me to read more of the works. Knowing is key to understand the authorial meaning in fiction. After all, author is a life, reading an author is just getting to know the life.

  5. I've read a few Henry James books
    and have been wanting to read The Master...glad to hear it made you want to read more. I'll get to it one of these days, even if it is fiction!

  6. I'm not big into biographies either. When I do read one, it's usually about a celebrity I'm interested in and not an author.


Welcome and thanks for leaving me a comment. I love to hear from visitors.

Also, please note that while I appreciate the thought, I don't play the blog awards game. I think you all deserve awards! But you might think about becoming a follower of my blog -- that would really be the best award.