Will You Stay Up Late Reading Books You Hate?

It is little surprise that I read a lot of books.  Almost everyone who has seen me in person has seen the way I devour books the way I devour hapless pieces of chicken [1].  When one reads books as widely and indiscriminately as I do, one finds that books are written in a quality that has a certain distribution.  Some books are amazing, many books are good, many books are fair or decent as the sort of works one would read once and not particularly remember but that did not entirely waste one’s time, and a certain number of books are simply terrible [2].  Some books are bad in a way that is boring or dull, like an album by Rachel Platten or Charlie Puth, but many books are bad in an entertaining way.  If one has the frustration of wasting one’s time with a bad book, the least pleasure one can get is tearing it down and ridiculing it for the disaster it is.

This leads me into at least three layers of thought about writing reviews of terrible books.  The surface level is feeling that I missed my calling as a bad book reviewer by not being more quick to work with vlogging.  I have a few videos on my channel with fairly critical reviews, but very few views as of yet.  As someone who watches many entertaining videos from Youtube greats who discuss bad music, I am certainly aware that bad books could be similarly entertaining, even if my own sense of humor is far more witty and sardonic than that of many people I happen to see.  So, we might say that the first level of reflection concerning bad books is that I wish I reviewed them in a public enough and entertaining enough way that people would think of me as a skilled and humorous reviewer of bad books.

Yet at the same time this strategy has its risks.  For one, the vast majority of the bad books I read are books I am obligated to give an honest review to.  This is not always very popular.  The reactions that people have had to my book reviews has not always been positive.  At times writers have felt it necessary to defend their fragile books (and perhaps fragile egos) from my critical reviews, at times they have sought to enlist their friends to troll my reviews and leave me a lot of negative comments, and a couple of times I have even been threatened with legal action for hindering the sales of some mediocre-to-terrible books.  This sort of experience is one I do not relish.  It is one thing to tear into bad books because they waste one’s own time, but it is a different matter entirely to deal with the fact that people can be understandably offended that what one views as terrible rubbish was their life work and expression of their deepest supposed wisdom for months or years at a time.  It is hard to see one’s children–and one’s writing is akin to one’s offspring–treated as worthless rubbish.

And that is the third level that we need to look at it.  Beyond my own enjoyment at spending time profitably in witty and sarcastic banter, and aside from the worries of publishers ans self-publishers for the profits of their books, books are written by people.  The same is true, it should also be noted, of blog entries.  In our response to a piece of writing or a creation by someone, it is of the utmost importance that we do not lose sight of the fact that these artifacts are created by someone.  Usually they are created by someone who is more than a little bit thin-skinned and probably not all that keen on outside criticism.  That is, at least, my own personal experience.  We must remember that not only is it good to be funny, but that it is important as well to be kind.  Those of us who not only critique others but create ourselves know all too easily that the same roasting we give to someone else can easily be delivered to us, and it feels way less pleasant to receive than to give in this case.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/02/17/the-valley-of-the-shadow-of-books/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/01/21/what-would-you-have-me-do/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/01/24/a-little-princess-revisited/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/21/reading-for-my-supper/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/10/04/book-review-democracy-becoming-as-one/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/09/21/book-review-behind-the-stage/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/09/19/book-review-apocalyptic-tremors/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/09/02/book-review-the-four-dominions/

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About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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