Thursday, March 26, 2009

Supposedly Bad Books

So on today’s Booking Through Thursday we are being asked the opposite question of last weeks. This week the question was “What’s the best ‘worst’ book you’ve ever read — the one you like despite some negative reviews or features?” This is actually an incredibly hard question to answer and means that you need to think what constitutes a bad book. I have actually had some heated debates at previous book groups over this one when I claimed that I thought that Martin Amis’ London Fields was possibly one of the worst books I had ever read. I was asked “what my criteria for a ‘bad book’ was?” and I was stuck.

Some times it can be the writing style that I simply don’t enjoy. The plot might not go anywhere. I could be reading that specific book at the wrong point in my reading life (for example I think had I read Wuthering Heights at a younger age I would have enjoyed it more). I might not have gelled with the characters or the voices in the book, I don’t agree with ‘if a book has awful characters it’s a bad book’ as not all books should be happy and not all characters should be likeable or nice. It could also be that it’s simply not my genre or my taste, some people don’t like crime or thrillers – I love them, I don’t like science fiction and fantasy but that doesn’t mean every book in that genre is bad. I may not relate to any of the characters, sometimes you might totally empathise with a character because you have been through what they have for others it might leave them cold.

So in looking at all that it very much down to peoples own specific opinion. I love reading peoples reviews on blogs, in the press, on Amazon etc but when I do I always remember that this is one person’s opinion. I might write a review on here raving about a book that everyone else could loathe, it doesn’t mean either opinion is wrong it just means that we have differing tastes and differing factors that make us enjoy a book a specific way. If a review is completely and utterly glowing then I admit I am more likely to want to read the book and of course there are some reviewers, friends and bloggers you begin to trust because they seem to like all the books you do and any they recommend you whizz through. There is a very good piece that The Times ran ages ago on books that were so bad ‘burning is too good for them’ I think I would read any book deemed dreadful if it meant it would be saved from this…

As for my own Best Worst Book of all time, I am still struggling. I googled ‘Worst Books of All Time’ and laughed at some of the titles suggested on various different sites and also agreed with some. I didn’t like ‘Wuthering Heights’ which some people love, some people loathe ‘Pride & Prejudice’ which I think is a marvellous book. I think that if some of you saw my shelves would wince (in fact people have) at certain authors they don’t deem as being ‘literary’ for me books are about escaping and like I discussed with my review yesterday it could be a masterpiece in the depths of war torn India, or a page turning serial killer on the loose in Boston if I escape and if I enjoy it how can either be bad?

18 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

This is indeed a hard one. I pay quite a bit of attention to reviews, and if I detect alot of negativity, I will leave the book alone, simply because there are too many others I want to read that I KNOW are good. I was shocked and horrified at the awful reviews on Child 44, which as you know, I loved. I never understood that.

Savidge Reads said...

I think its the fact that Child 44 got on the Man Booker that caused the great uproar but it was a great book. I also think some reviewers (less so on blogs because its more about loving books than money) will slag off anything that is 'mainstream' or isnt 'literary enough' which I think is a load of old cobblers!

Dot said...

I agree with you about it being very much personal opinion! I think there can be a lot of snobbery about certain authors, I did English Lit at uni and I was often made to feel stupid if spotted reading the latest thriller. At the end of the day if you enjoy it then who cares?

Blodeuedd said...

Wow, you put some major thought into this one :)

And yes in the end, what one loves another one can hate. And of all people who mention they love a certain classic, how many actually do? So far the only one I have liked was Jane Eyre. They are all different so why should be all like them cos one should.

My own shelves are filled with fantasy which is not "literature", well I love my Jordan, Feist and Hobb.

Jess said...

I agree -- there are some books you just love because they take you on an adventure.

http://barneysbookblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/booking-through-thursday_26.html

violetcrush said...

I always wonder what is it to hate in P&P, but each to his/ her own I guess. I hated Wuthering heights and may be some people wonder the same thing.

Mo said...

Great, thoughtful answers to this one! I couldn't agree more that its all a matter of personal preferences, that a review is only ONE person's opinion, and that not ALL books need a "happy ending" (altho, I AM a happily-ever-after kinda gal, sometimes that just isn't how life works - even in books.)

Have a great Thursday, a wonderful weekend and may all your days be filled with wonderful (to YOU) books!!

claire said...

Great answer.. if we enjoyed it, how can it be bad? No matter how un-literary, if they achieved what a book is supposed to achieve, then it's done its job well.

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

This is exactly why I love reading other peoples blogs! If everybody always agreed things would be so boring. Differnt strokes!

Robin of My Two Blessings said...

Very thoughtful and insightful post. We all don't think alike and what one person loves, another hates. It is all a matter of opinion. I have an eclectic mix of books on my shelves and some aren't considered literary. I read what I enjoy. And sometimes a book that I start and don't enjoy is because i'm just not in the mood for it at that time. I'll put it away for later.

My post is up now.

here

Matt said...

This week's is a mind-boggling question. But look at it this way, it's really asking the same question as last week did. What is a bad book? One that is poorly written? deprived of a storyline? undeveloped characters? But as long as a reader enjoys the book, then it's not a bad book.

saveophelia said...

Reviews are the way to go for me. I rely on bloggers and on Goodreads for honest opinions.

I think it's a great point you bring up about people hating books that you may love - like Pride and Prejudice. My boyfriend and I were having just this discussion last night about Jane Eyre!

DeSeRt RoSe said...

I did some search too and found that the top 2 were books I enjoyed :) Twilight and The DaVinci Code!

farmlanebooks said...

Great post - it produced some thoughtful comments too.

We don't have the same taste in all books, but that doesn't mean that you're wrong to like a book I don't.

I don't like stilton cheese - no-one seems to bothered about that, but there seems to be outrage if I suggest I don't like Wuthering Heights - strange isn't it?!

gautami tripathy said...

Books are so personal. What works for one does not work for the other.

I for one, loved Wuthering Heights and 'loathed' Pride and Prejudice!

Mine is up here!

Sarah said...

I think every reader has books that just don't connect with them- Enduring Love and Saturday by Ian McEwan are two of my pet hates which often gets me into arguments!

I hated The Times running that which books would you burn feature as clearly the answer is none- I might not recommend a certain book but I don't want to stop someone else from enjoying it (or enjoying snarking about it, which can be just as fun).

Janet said...

I had a bit of a struggle with this question too, despite being the contributor. :-/ But then I realized how broad it is. Most book I like, I like "despite some negative reviews or features."

candyschultz said...

You are right about burning books. I have a book I am so itching to pitch in the fire. It is non-fiction and the science is so deplorable I ache to destroy it. The symbolism of burning a book, any book, is keeping me from doing so. I will probably just pitch it.