Live Well: Terrible Books


In general, I like to use this blog as an outlet to share the books I think are worthy of being read. However, lately my life has been somewhat bereft of those books, a very sad state of affairs

I keep a running list of nearly 200 books that I want to read at any given time. About 100 of them reside in my apartment - books my dad has given me or books I couldn't resist on a weekend walk through the local bookstore. Another hundred live on an Amazon wish list that I have vigilantly curated over the course of two years. (Want to see what's on my list? Find it here.)

Keeping a running list of 200 books makes choosing the next thing you're going to read a lot of fun. I like to swing between widely varied subjects when moving from one book to the next. I learned very early in life that constantly gravitating toward what you think you want to read next can make you miss out on some amazing stuff. So now, I do what I can to introduce a wide array of books into my life. But sometimes this doesn't work in my favor.

Have you noticed how hard it is to distinguish a good book from a bad book before you start reading it? I've found that it's virtually impossible to come up with a 100% success rate. In order to sort through the massive number of options, I have a few heuristics I apply while looking at books in bookstores - for instance, does it have a long list of praiseworthy quotes from respected publications inside the front cover (note: the New York Book Review MUST be included)? If yes, that's a good sign. Does it have a quote on the front cover by someone who wrote a New York Times chick lit bestseller like the Shopaholic series or 50 Shades of Gray? If so, that's a bad, bad sign - stay far, far away. But neither of these methods is foolproof. Which brings me to the situation I'm in now.

The last two books I've read are The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls and The Dive From Clausen's Pier. Both met my general criteria - they had good reviews from respected publications. Both I chose randomly, and ultimately both were terrible. And while reading both I, like an idiot, kept thinking that things might get better and pressed on. But they didn't. Both books suffered from having completely unsympathetic heroines, and not in the good, literary way. Both of these books fall into a subset of fiction that I think of as pseudo-intellectual chick lit - they aspire to be thoughtful, high-brow books, but succumb to the tendency to have heroines that are complete Mary Sues. Also, they spend WAY too much time describing clothes. But enough ranting. I have a feeling I've already convinced you.

I'm hoping to shake my book slump with what I'm reading now: Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson. (See? I wasn't kidding about the weird and wide subject matter swings.) Untouchable has the distinct honor of having almost equal numbers of five star reviews and one star reviews on Amazon (with very little in between). So something tells me I'll love it or I'll hate it (and nothing in between).

What are the strategies you use when selecting book to read? Have you read any really great books recently?

See you back here next week - I swear that outfit photos will be returning!