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Worst Book Ever

April 15, 2013

Maybe you’ve noticed Tippi Hedren screaming in the shower on the
library’s website. We’ve been conducting an informal poll about the
worst book you’ve ever read. What book has made you feel the way Tippi
Hedren looks?

It’s an opinion poll, with no pretense to objectivity. We don’t even
ask for an explanation.

Thus, “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer appears (with multiple votes)
beside “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov.

(You can say Nabokov any way you like, but it seems the Russian
pronunciation is “na-BOW-kov.” I would have guessed “NA-bo-kov.” When
trying to learn the tourist basics of Czech, the instruction was to
accent the first syllable only. Try pronouncing Martina Navratilova
that way.)

We had some concern about inviting negativity, but the fact remains
that readers have visceral reactions to books. Even a negative
reaction can be a measure of commitment. A reader has dived into an
author’s world and merely found it wanting. Sometimes, it’s
inexplicable. But the reader dove, nontheless.

Two local books were “voted” in: “Benediction” by Kent Haruf and “The
Marble Room” by Bill Hatcher. Oddly enough, people have recently asked
me about each, “Have you read it yet? Wow!”

As the poet Jane Kenyon said, “There’s just no accounting for happiness.”

So, Kent and Bill have nothing to worry about. “Benediction” is a
national bestseller and “The Marble Room” has five-star reviews and a
local following. And on the worst-books list, they join the likes of
Nabokov, Umberto Eco, J.D. Salinger, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

And then there’s a vote for “What evolution is” by Ernst Mayr, a
figure as renowned in science as the above-named are in literature.
But this isn’t about names, of course. It’s about books.

The votes include incredibly popular books such as “The Celestine
Prophecy,” “The Shack,” “She’s come undone,” “Eat, pray, love.” And
“Twilight.”

Umberto Eco made the list for “The mysterious flame of Queen Loana,”
which is an “illustrated novel.” As opposed to a graphic novel.

My favorite title on the list, other than “One hundred years of
solitude,” is “Jessica’s guide to dating on the dark side.” Although
it’s not on my reading list.

Anyway, we’ve still got the poll going at the front desk, if you’d
like to add to it.

In case you haven’t noticed, you can leave reviews and ratings on our
catalog, too. You can use them, too—to search for books by user
rating, go to advanced search and find user rating among the many
“limiters.”

In a way, this worst-book poll is like a halfalogue—those one-sided
cell phone conversations we were discussing recently. It’s only part
of the story.

But I will say in partial defense of halfalogues, the ones that go on
like this, “Yes … m-hmm … uh-huh … yup … I know … yes …,”
are probably worth tolerating. Sometimes, a conversation is really
just about listening, but on a cell phone, you can’t nod in
affirmation or shrug “oy vey.” “Uh-huh” is a verbal nod.

User ratings are an increasingly expected and increasingly abused
social aspect of the Internet. They are a rough indication of
interest, of something going on. Like a mob down the street—you might
approach it, talk to some people nearby to see what’s going on, but
life is short so maybe you want to move on.

A worst-book list has a twist, though. It’s a bit more charged. You
are perhaps intrigued to know what’s so bad. All the “worst” books can
be had at the library, although many of them are checked out right
now. Hmmm …

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