I Read Bad Books So You Don’t Have To

I must admit that I have a few guilty pleasures in life.  Among them is watching videos that are critical of contemporary culture, especially music and movies.  There are a lot of funny people who take their bad art very seriously, who watch terrible knockoff movies or critique the lyrics of bad rap or pop music, and who show themselves to be hilarious while doing so.  This ought not to come as a surprise, after all, for we live in an ironic age [1].  This ought not to surprise anyone who pays any attention to our contemporary culture.  Irony is the face intelligent people wear in decadent societies, and we certainly live in a decadent society.  Those who are intelligent know that there is a lot of garbage in the popular culture, and they are often smart enough to realize that to be upright and moral would require difficult and painful personal sacrifice, while they are too smart to simply enjoy the garbage around them straightforwardly.  The solution is to wear a world-weary face of irony, with a shrug of the shoulders as if to say that the times were bad, and so we could not be blamed for being people without courage or virtue.

While I do enjoy critiquing music and movies when I come across them, my native domain is that of books.  For whatever reason, I have not found it as easy for people to make a reputation for being reviewers of terrible books.  Either this represents an obvious niche for someone of my skill of reading and critiquing bad books, or it represents a fundamental difference between books, music, and movies.  An album takes somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour to listen to, a movie usually takes a couple of hours to watch, and I read most books in two to three hours, a rapid pace but one that allows them to be digested with roughly the same facility as other related art forms.  Perhaps most people simply read books so slowly that they cannot sustain the pace of reading enough bad books to develop a reputation for being so critical about them.  That seems to be the case with most people I know.  Even a fairly large book usually only takes a couple of days to read through if I power through it, and I can read several ordinary-sized books in a day if I have any solid chunk of undisturbed time in the course of a day, which is not always as common as I would like.

Let us be clear about one thing, though, and that is that there are a lot of bad books that are published.  It is estimated that there are some 4,000 books that are published every single day.  Given that I can read at a pace of 2 or 3 books a day without too much trouble as long as my supply of books is kept up, this means that it would take some 1500-2000 people like me to simply get to all the books that are published to give thoughtful and critical reviews.  Somehow I do not see that many people who are as prolific as I am when it comes to reading and sharing their thoughts about what they read.  That means it is likely that there are many bad books in existence that have never been read, never been appreciated for the monumentally poor efforts that they are.  Alternatively, there are many good books that are in existence that have never been read either, and who lack an audience to appreciate what they have to offer.  Either way, there is something missing in the world when works that take a great deal of time and effort to create simply enter into a world without anyone being interested in them.

This is especially true when we look at self-published books.   If a book has managed to pass through the gauntlet to be published by a mainstream press, then it is pretty sure that someone will read it given the expense that was taken in the editing and graphic design and marketing and promotion.  It is by no means sure that the book will recoup its expenses in sales, but it will at least be read by someone.  This is analogous to the disastrous case of an album that cost $2 million to record and was purchased by only 1,500 people.  That is nowhere near enough to repay the cost of production, but it is at least some audience, however small.  If a book is published and no one reads it, does it really exist?  Perhaps someday that will become a conundrum and a riddle worthy of the sort of minds who think about trees falling in the forest.  But when that tree falls, is turned into wood pulp and then paper, and then a book is printed on the paper that the tree becomes, and no one reads the book, it is as if the tree’s death was in vain.

So, how do we keep this from happening?  Someone has to read those bad books that would otherwise languish in obscurity, and since no one else is signing up for it, I might as well find the enjoyment in ridiculing the terrible books that so often make their way to me.  It’s a rough job, but someone has to do it.  It might as well be me.

[1] See, for example:






About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to I Read Bad Books So You Don’t Have To

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Your blog has helped me decide which books I want to spend time on, on more than one occasion!

  2. Pingback: By This Standard: The Plain Truth About Partiality | Edge Induced Cohesion

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