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Dec. 29th, 2011

A doozy of a reader question today! "What books do you hate?"

That's not a question I can answer. Most of them I dislike as a simple matter of taste. I don't like that kind of book or that genre or a story like that, and so listing them accomplishes nothing except hurting the feelings of people who do like them.

Then there are books that disappoint, usually anticipated books in a beloved series or from an author I generally like, but I think this book jumped the shark or the author didn't fulfill my expectations. What possible good can come of listing them except hurting the feelings of colleagues because they weren't at the top of their form every single time?

Lastly and most rarely, there are the few books I genuinely hate because I think their message is harmful to society or to a group of people. But one thing I learned long ago working in politics is that it's completely counterproductive to give your opposition's story legs! The more you argue with a book or rant against it, the more publicity you give it. When you make truly disagreeable ideas "edgy and provocative" or "a controversial publishing sensation" all you are doing is drowning your own message.

Yes, there are a very few books I hate. But I am not afraid of them. I am not afraid of competing freely in the marketplace of ideas, and the way to do that is simple: write something better. The books I hate are a challenge to me. Can I express the opposite point of view in a more compelling way? Can I make my case better? Can I do a better job of engaging the reader's sympathy? Sympathy is not engaged by screaming at people that what they like is bad. Sympathy is engaged by speaking to them in words that can be heard, by giving them something to love, by telling them a story that touches their hearts. Sometimes I succeed at that and sometimes I don't, but the books I hate are always a challenge to me to do better, to work harder at perfecting craft, to reach further.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 29th, 2011 09:02 pm (UTC)
All I can say is...AMEN.

You just made me respect you even more.

Dec. 30th, 2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Dec. 30th, 2011 01:35 am (UTC)
Well said. If I may, perhaps you'd like to take a crack at a variant on the question:

What makes you hate a book, or be severely disappointed in a book?
Dec. 30th, 2011 01:36 pm (UTC)
Ok, my answer grew into a whole post! I just put it up.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )