images#1 book, fiction, 7/31/16

In theory I should be reviewing a nonfiction book this week, but I only just finished last week’s The Black Widow, so unfortunately I haven’t had time to get to #1 nonfiction bestseller It Gets Worse, which is an essay collection by a YouTube star. What a shame! I actually think that next week I’ll start referring to the USA Today bestseller list, which doesn’t have the prestige of The New York Times but does simplify things by not separating books out into fiction/nonfiction/children’s/etc. Anyway, this week’s #1 work of fiction on the Times lists happens to be a book I’ve already read, so I figured I’d go ahead and write that up.

The Girl on the Train is a mystery novel about an alcoholic British commuter named Rachel who believes that she may have witnessed some key events related to the disappearance of a woman she would often see from afar during her train rides to and from London. There’s nothing particularly zeitgeist-y about the book, nor is there anything particularly notable about author Paula Hawkins, a former journalist and pseudonymous writer of romantic comedies, so Girl‘s success would seem to be mainly a function of how well-written it is. (Or how good its title is at reminding people of Gone Girl.) The plot isn’t particularly complex or shocking, but the protagonist and the characters around her are well-sketched and sympathetic, and everything moves along at a brisk and engaging pace. I guess the other factor that could explain why this book has done so well is that it appeals directly to the kind of people who like to read books, the mild-mannered girls and guys on trains who might pass their time peering into Rachel’s life just as Rachel voyeuristically peers out at the people passing by outside her window. Kind of like how movie critics always loved Woody Allen’s films because the protagonists were always cinephile nerds like them. Anyway, I enjoyed The Girl on the Train and recommend it.

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