The Problem With “Unoriginal” Backlist Books


One thing that a lot of bookworms look for when reading books is originality. Without originality, it can seem as though when we’re reading different books in our favorite genre, we’re really reading the same story told in slightly different ways. It can be tiring and annoying to read the same cliches over and over. We want something different, something new that will pique our interest and make this book stand out amongst the rest.

Often when we have read all the new releases in a genre, we turn to older books to quench our thirst for more. And when we turn to these older books, they often feel unoriginal – they feel as though they’re the same story we just read. It can be frustrating, especially when these older books are ones that many people talk about and recommend. Why is everyone so obsessed with a book that completely lacks originality? This is your first time reading the book but that doesn’t always mean that it feels like it.

The problem is that often these backlist books were the ones to start these cliches or overdone storylines. If you read every newer dystopian and then go back and read The Hunger Games or go back even further and read 1984, you may not feel the same excitement and uniqueness with those books that other people did. You’ve already read a ton of other dystopians that have a lot of the same elements. It can leave you feeling like all those people who talked about how unique THG was were lying to you. Where’s this unique story that all these people promised you’d get?!

I think it’s important to remember that yes, this story may feel unoriginal. But it was maybe one of the first really popular books in this particular genre. It likely inspired many other books, some of which may be seen as cheap “rip-offs” while others borrow some elements but introduce others. So it feels unoriginal because you’ve read many of the books that were inspired and influenced by this one.

And guess what? It’s okay if a book has cliches or tropes that you’ve read about before. It’s okay! Originality may be nice to come across, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that without a totally new take on things, the book is garbage. It can bring uniqueness in other ways. Perhaps the author is just a really good storyteller and is able to make cliches feel fresh. Maybe they use cliches but add a certain spin to it. Having a completely original plot shouldn’t be the only thing that makes us feel that a book is worth our time.

I’m not really that this post has much of a point to it. I guess I just wanted to point out that sometimes books may not seem original because they inspired so many other books that took pieces of this so-called “unoriginal” story. I guess I wanted to tell people that it’s okay if a book is not a totally new, never-before-seen idea. Maybe I just needed to rant. But regardless, next time you feel that an older book is unoriginal, consider the fact that it inspired all those other books you’ve read that make this one seem overdone.

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12 thoughts on “The Problem With “Unoriginal” Backlist Books

  1. Totally agree! I think this is important to consider when reading older books – and not just “older” YA, but when we go further back and read even some of the classics. I just read a book from 1933 and while I was groaning and rolling my eyes at some points, I had to keep reminding myself that this was SCANDALOUS writing at this point in history. Hehe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is so important to take into consideration the historical context of classics. I remember reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin in high school and everyone thought the book was so dumb because it was basically just about this woman cheating on her husband. But it was first published in 1899 when a woman cheating on her husband was completely unheard of and that’s why this book has become a classic and is seen as such a revolutionary novel. So yeah, I totally agree with you.

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  2. I’m straying slightly from your point here, but I’m really tired of so many new suspense thrillers being labeled as “for fans of ‘Gone Girl'” or “for fans of Gillian Flynn.” I read one such book that, to me, in no way resembled Flynn’s work aside from being a suspense thriller. (Not that that’s a bad thing…I don’t want to read copycat novels!)

    At the same time, I understand the need for comparison to a notable author or title in order to hook people. I’m sure there are marketing reasons behind it that I don’t fully understand!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaha trust me, I completely understand where you’re coming from. I think it was last month or maybe the month before that I did a whole post basically ranting about it. I don’t mind when a book is labeled “for fans of” as much as I mind something being labeled “the next Gone Girl” but yeah, it’s a huge pet peeve of mine. A book being the same genre does NOT mean that the books have anything else in common haha

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  3. I definitely agree with you. I try to keep that in mind as I work my way through The Mortal Instruments series, and I’m trying to keep an open mind. I mean, SO many people love that series and it has such a cult following so I’m willing to give the entire series a chance even if I feel like there’s some familiar tropes.

    There’s also books that have a ton of tropes…and I really LIKE them. When I read P.S. I Like You, it was the classic enemy-to-lovers storyline with the typical mean girl and the odd/slightly weird main character. So..yes there were familiar tropes, but it was so enjoyable!

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    • I honestly am almost never bothered by a story feeling like it has a lot of cliches or anything like that. I feel like just the fact that it’s a different author writing it means it’s going to be a different story, if that makes sense haha I mean, there are definitely some stories that just feel so overdone that I can’t take it, but in general, I think a book can still be good without necessarily being super original, you know?

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  4. Totally with you on this point. Especially when considering historical context. I remember finding no point to Beowulf in high school, but loving it when specifically studying medieval literature. The cannon has its place, as does backlist genre fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Totally agree with this post! I ran into this problem myself just recently when I read Jane Eyre for the first time. It felt totally unoriginal to me, but that is only because it is THE original good girl falls for bad boy type story line (among others), and has influenced so many books over the years! But I didn’t love it, or even really enjoy it all that much because it felt like I’d already read it, numerous times before. I really wish that I had read it earlier in life, and I think I would really have loved the book then. I can certainly appreciate the book now, but I don’t love it and don’t think I ever will.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah it can be really frustrating especially when it’s a book that everyone seems to love and you’re just kind of sitting there totally unimpressed because you feel like you’ve already read. I think it can be helpful though just going in knowing that the book has influenced so many others and having yourself expecting some familiar tropes.

      Liked by 1 person

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