Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Dan Brown is a publishing phenomenon. His novel The Da Vinci Code held the #1 spot on every major best-seller list in the country, and his books have been translated into more than 50 languages. His current best-seller, The Lost Symbol, again features Robert Langdon, a Harvard specialist on religious symbols, who again must use his vast knowledge and wits to find clues, break codes and unearth a long-lost treasure related to a secret society, all before time runs out and innocent people – possibly including himself – die.
Brown’s books attract legions of detractors as well as fans. In the detractor camp, spoofs abound, including Slate.com’s The Dan Brown Sequel Generator. For the fans, the appeal factors of Brown’s books are many – suspense, fast-pacing, intellectual adventure, code-breaking, and interesting tidbits of art, history, religion, and conspiracies. For a list of author read-alikes, see this essay about Dan Brown from NoveList Plus, a terrific database filled with reading suggestions to which the library subscribes.
Then there are the ambivalent readers – like myself – who don’t usually read fast-paced adventure (we normally opt for the high-brow literary stuff) but nevertheless find themselves pulled into Brown’s books. Part of what intrigues me is the underlying subject matter – in this case, the Freemasonry symbolism permeating our nation’s capital and the religious beliefs of our “founding fathers”. As Brown touches on these topics, I find myself wanting to know more, and particularly wanting to know whether or not Brown is painting a true picture. I mean, I know his books are fiction, so how much should we believe?
Fortunately, there are many nonfiction guides to set me straight, including the following:
And finally, the book that I find the most intriguing is not a direct tie-in to any of Brown’s books, but rather a nonfiction work that addresses some of the topics Brown touches on in The Lost Symbol:
Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation by Mitch Horowitz
This book is a fascinating look at the role of mysticism and alternative spirituality in our nation’s history, from its founding to the present. Horowitz looks at the influence of “fringe” religions from our country’s Freemasonic roots to the dawn of the New Age movement, making many interesting stops along the way (did you know, for example, that Mary Todd Lincoln convinced her husband to hold a séance in the White House?).
What about you – do like Dan Brown’s writing? Loath it? If you like it, do you recommend any similar authors?