Why I Don’t Review Bad Books

The New York Times Book ReviewI review a lot of things. Many movies, some books. But you might have noticed that I generally don’t post many reviews of bad books. I don’t shy away from stating my mind about movies I don’t like, but when it comes to books, am I just nicer? More forgiving? Less discerning?

Well, no. At least, I hope not. But when it comes to movies, I don’t have much to do with them, career-wise. I feel like I can say whatever I want, and it won’t ever come back to bite me. I don’t anticipate directors ever really caring what I think. Authors . . . it’s a bit of a different story. I’m coming to the dinner party, and I don’t particularly feel like being a jerk even before I arrive. I don’t know when I might be approaching an author for a cover quote, or when what I write might end up getting to an editor I hoped to work with–who then will hold a grudge against me, since I lambasted one of his/her books. Know what I mean?

So I take the line of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I do read books I don’t like. I just don’t promote them in any way shape or form. You don’t hear about those experiences–not in a permanent, archived format, at any rate. In the past two weeks, I read two separate books–finished one, started the other–that I didn’t care for. The first one (the one I finished) had a lot going for it, but the execution didn’t sit right with me. The second was so awful I couldn’t get past the first 20 pages (and I usually make it a rule to give a book at least 50).

What didn’t I like about the second, to make me put it down in disgust?

It was extraordinarily condescending to YAs. It was written by a bestselling adult author (no one I know personally, and not a friend of any friends–that I’m aware of), who was “convinced” by “fans” that she should write for YAs, too. I interpret this to mean that she decided to cash in on the YA market. It was poorly paced, overly simplistic, and just plain boring. And that irritated me. So off with its head.

Anyway–it’s Friday, and I’m done editing for the day. I think I’ll go watch a movie . . . Oscars this weekend!

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