When every media outlet that cares a dime about books is producing lists of the year’s best (including these pages), it’s tempting to offer a worst-of list. The problem is that the worst books languish, unreviewed, unnoticed, unread, unfindable. We could go for most overrated books, but that’s a matter of opinion, though possibly a good conversation starter. But what jumps out at us is books and book trends that mattered least, or not at all, except as possible cash cows by publishers trying to figure out how to survive. Here, then, are few annoying trends we’ve spotted – and that we really wish would go away.
Not-quite-books based on blogs and tweets
Begin with The Book of (Holiday) Awesome , by Neil Pasricha. That “Holiday” in the title is no doubt intended to rope in Hanukah, and even Kwanzaa, observers, left wistful by the prospect of missing Christmas, although the folks at Fox-TV may well construe it as just another salvo in what they insist is a War on Christmas, against which they gird their plump collective loins each year. Now Pasricha is probably a decent guy, and his blog, 1000 Awesome Things, began as a counterweight to the pervasive gloom of the world. Not his fault that the spin-off books have sold – and he’s made – millions. But enough already of the tiny books with loads of white space and fitfully amusing anecdotes.
Books about trashy criminals
Exibit A: Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony, by Jeff Ashton, with Lisa Pulitzer. Okay, so Casey Anthony, acquitted of killing her toddler daughter so she could party hearty, may be the most monstrous mum since Joan Crawford, but does that mean that everybody involved in the case (which ran non-stop on CNN) needs to write a book about it? I blame this phenomenon on the O.J. trial, which still produces an avalanche of books that shows no sign of slowing down. It will reach what is perhaps its reductio ad absurdum next April, with publication of William C. Dear’s O.J. is Innocent and I Can Prove It. Yes, and Norman Mailer killed JFK.
Books with **** titles
Any book the title of which combines a human excretory function with some form of relationship. I’m talking about you, Justin Halpern, and your eminently bleepable dad, Sam, but you’ve inspired a whole range of books whose titles cannot be printed in this newspaper. I exempt Adam Mansbach’s Go the something or other to Sleep, in which the title “f word” acts as a real intensifier of parental conflict over a child’s unwillingness to call it a day. But you others, go wash out your potty mouths. And just stop.
Books by dead people
No, I’m not talking about David Foster Wallace and The Pale King. That, at least, was the bones of a real novel Wallace was working on at the time of his suicide. Some may question the worth of the semi-finished product, but it is certifiably DFW. What I mean are “books” the likes of Micro, by Michael Crichton. Crichton wrote some true nail-biters – Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain among them – but Micro was generally dismissed as an unreadable mess, and unworthy of the writer.
I’m not sure how many books Robert Ludlum has produced since his death, but Jason Bourne is a character who just keeps on giving, as in Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Dominion, with Bourne’s posthumous collaborator, Eric Van Lustbader. Perhaps The Bourne Shutdown might be next, and last.
Books about Michael Jackson
Blame it on Elvis. After the King’s death in 1977, every girlfriend, crony, quack, bodyguard and hanger-on wrote an Elvis and Me book. And now it’s Jacko’s turn. Frank Cascio has just weighed in with My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship with an Extraordinary Man. How long can it be before we hear from Bubbles, Jackson’s pet chimp.
Books about Republican politicians
Really, I know more than enough already about Herman Cain-ewainee-wainee-wainee.