It happens. You can read all the excerpts you want. You can ask your friends. You can have already read several other books by the same author. It doesn’t matter. If you love reading, and consequently actually read a lot instead of only saying so, sooner or later you’ll come across a book that sucks. It’s an inescapable truth. Like the ubiquitous nature of gravity–no, there’s no place where gravity is zero. Only places where you’re in a free fall, sorry for the digression.
A book that sucks, I was saying. Well, most of the times this is fine. After all, as the Latin maxim goes, de gustibus non est disputandum, there’s no accounting for tastes. In fact, though you haven’t enjoyed the reading of that particular book many other readers still might.
However, on some occasions you come across a book that not only sucks, but also makes you cringe and growl, makes you want to throw it out the window and set it afire.
Of course, if you’ve bought the book, you can go ahead. It’s yours and you can do whatever you want with it. Anyway, I could never use violence on a book, not even an abysmal one. I’d rather put it in some remote place of the basement, or the attic, and try to forget about it. I could also decide to leave it on a table in a library or some other public place. I never tried services like bookcrossing.com to purposefully lose a book, but it strikes me like an interesting option.
Instead, if the book pertains to someone else you’d better return it unscathed. After all, you wouldn’t want any of your friends to assault and destroy any of the beloved books you gave them just because they didn’t like it, would you?
In any case, if the market share of e-books keeps growing the way it is, soon the most gruesome thing you’ll be able to do to a book will be to erase it from your devices–but, alas, not even from your cloud if you bought it on Amazon. This isn’t a a very cathartic kind of experience, I would say. Virtual reality may well be interesting and exciting, but we still live and feel in the old fashioned real world. Sometimes we really need to get our hands dirt.
How to survive reading a bad book
Reading an awful book can be a frustrating experience. But, depending on the way you look at it, it can also be a useful one.
First of all, if you’re a budding writer and you come across such a book, you could realize that if something so atrocious has found its way to publication, even self-publication, then you’re already a step closer to success. In fact, if your prose flows way better than the prose of the book you just read, then it’s probably time you start focusing on marketing. In any case, reading a novel written by some renowned name and ending up realizing you can write better is, to say the least, a great booster for the moral.
Secondly, a badly written and edited book can represent a treasure trove. In fact, it can show you clearly what mistakes you have to pay special attention to. I’m not speaking just about grammar mistakes here. I’m referring to the structure of the story, its architecture. I’m also referring to the creation of memorable characters.
Lastly, an awful book offers you the succulent opportunity to write a caustic review. In it you can unleash all your rage, all your fury and disappointment. You can address the writer and abuse him or her any way you want. You can write for pages about the suck factor of the book and how you decided to use it, the book not the suck factor, to save toilet paper.
This can be a liberating experience. But once you’ve written your book review, you should pause and let your it rest for some days. After a week or so, do yourself a favor and trash it. Then, if you still feel like, rewrite your book review from scratch.
You’re going to give that damn book two stars anyway–I don’t like one star reviews. But at least this time you’ll avoid attacking personally the author. Above all, this time you’ll explain why you didn’t like the book with more balanced and objective tones.
In this way you’ll be helping others to better understand your reasons and the characteristics of the book. And given that Amazon is overhauling its review system, in this way your review will have more chances of being rated as useful.
As a reader, I must say I always privileged the Ops-I’ve-lost-the-book option. In fact, over the years I’ve managed to ‘lose’ all the books I found myself slogging through. Anyway, to keep things in perspective, they must amount to a scanty dozen over the past twenty years.
Sure, on some occasions, I caressed the idea of reviewing them. But I never got around that. Let’s say that before I really decided to write a review, I was already reading something else. And usually the new book was so good that I had no time for any review.
Sometimes, surfing the internet in search of some new book, I end up reading one and two star reviews. I do this with a sort of incredulity. In fact, considering the amount of time and energies an author has to pour into a book, I consider it’s astounding the number of reviews that criticize a book on subjective basis.
I mean. One thing is if the story is simplistic or full of glaring holes. Another is if I don’t like it because it goes against my tastes.
The same goes with style. Though some writers can write spectacular English, I don’t particularly love their style. But I would never penalize them for this.
For example, I can’t read more than two pages by Joseph Conrad. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he is a bad writer. It simply means that his book and my tastes at the time of reading were in sharp contrast.
Besides, you should remember that if you’re reading a book you don’t like, you can simply stop reading it. It’s as simple as that. If after fifty pages or so the book doesn’t grab you, chances are it’s not going to grab you at all. Though you should be aware that there are some exceptions to this rule of thumb.
About this, The Lord of the Rings comes to mind. I loved it from the very beginning, but some of my friends found it quite frustrating for the first one hundred pages or so.
And you, what kind of reader are you? Do you love writing reviews? And if so, what kind of reviews?
Photo by: Shain Erin