I almost called this “In Defense of the Bad Book” but I thought that title was more funny. But truly, this is the purpose. I want to defend the bad book.
Let’s talk about this. I read a lot. Everyone knows this. I.READ.A.LOT. Obviously, when you read as much as I do, not every book can be a winner. Even if you only read 2 books a year, not every book can be a winner, it’s just human nature. Some things you won’t like. Some things you’ll actively dislike. Sometimes your mood will affect how you feel about a book. Sometimes you’ll be tired when reading and, therefore, less invested in that story.
There are as many reasons for not liking a book as there are books themselves. I am well aware I won’t like every book I read. I used to be the person that read every book, if I pick it up I will read it, end of story. But I am not like that any more. I have no problem stopping a book if I am not into it. Maybe I don’t like it, maybe it’s just not my cup of tea, maybe, maybe, maybe. I won’t hesitate to stop reading a book.
Why then, would I ever read a bad book?
Here’s why: They make good books better.
When you read a bad book, a book that unsettles you or puts a bad taste in your mouth, or just something that didn’t float your particular seacraft, and then you follow it with a book you enjoy, the good book suddenly seems better by comparison.
Here’s an example. In January I read a bunch of books I did not want to read. Many of them were outright terrible. It was not a fun reading time for me, on the whole. Then, I picked a book I was excited about to be the first book of my choice to follow those. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. Was this the best book I have ever read? No. But you know what? It’s close. I read it on January 28, and I have such a deep and abiding love for this book, I want to read it again. It has not even been two months and I want to read it again, because in my mind, it was magic. It doesn’t mean it was the best book ever, it is just at the time that I read it I was craving something good like it. And BAM, there it was.
If you read neverending good books, they all begin to blend together in your mind, and, honestly, they become fairly boring. Like your tolerance shoots up. But if you mix in the occasional bad book, suddenly they are shiny and beautiful again. It’s the contrast that makes the beauty stand out. Like the lone daisy in a field of weeds. Among a field of daisies, you’d never even notice her, but the contrast makes her beauty truly shine. That’s what bad books do for me.
Here’s another reason. Bad books help clarify what you do NOT like. I think this is just as important as figuring out what you DO like; when you are a reader. My example here comes from the book that prompted this post. The alpha male. I love me a good alpha male. Every time I have read a good book with an alpha, I tell myself, yes, I do like alphas. But then I read a book, like the one I just finished. The alpha in this story, while certainly, on paper, meeting all the traits, is like an alpha on steroids. He treats women like dimwitted, helpless, foolish, children and expects that this makes him look strong and handsome. In reality, this makes my skin crawl. I do not like characters that are too over the top. I do not like characters that don’t have respect for other characters. I do not like gratuitous sex. I do not like domineering men. I do not like simpering females. I do not like manufactured drama. These are just a few examples of things I’ve learned from bad books.
That isn’t to say that good books can’t have these things, they can. But it is unsurprising how quickly a book will turn from good to bad because one of these things will occur in a book I may have otherwise loved.
Lastly, I like bad books because they serve as a repository for the things I don’t like. We can keep the domineering disrespectful alphas in the bad books and reserve the generous, tender and kind alphas in the good books. It’s a system that so far seems to be working for me.
So, what did we learn from this?
Well, bad books are inevitable, but I don’t mind. I’m actually glad to read a book I don’t like. It brings balance to my reading life. I don’t want all my books to be bad, but every once in awhile, I am happy to read a bad book. I cannot lie.