Reading a Book You “Know” You Won’t Like

Do you ever, for whatever reason, read books that you pretty much KNOW you won’t like? I’m considering taking that step (and not for the first time) soon…

One of my Sunday morning (or federal holiday morning – Happy President’s Day!) traditions is to treat myself to breakfast ’somewhere nice’ (or at least nicer than my kitchen). Of course, I always take my iPad on these solo excursions since one can only read the back of artificial sweetener packets so long before boredom sets in. My favorite bookmarked site for this routine is the ‘Book News and Reviews’ section of the NY Times book pages http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/

I often learn of new books of interest to me here, or sometimes discover reviews (by those more literate than I) of books I’ve already read. Another favorite exercise is to review the top seller lists (I usually check the combined print & e-books version) to see if I’m “keeping up with the Jones’s.” This morning, I didn’t find much else that interested me, but one book did catch my eye: Jim Marrs’ “Our Occulted History: Do the Global Elite Conceal Ancient Aliens?” The NY Times links to a review by Christopher Kelly in Texas Monthly titled “Thinking Beyond the Creationists and Darwinists.”

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Shortly after reporting Mr. Marrs as saying, “I pay my taxes. I go to church. I live my normal life, and I don’t make wild claims that are unsubstantiated.” Kelly proceeds to say that,

“Mr. Marrs’s newest book, “Our Occulted History,” is a consideration of the possibility that both the Darwinists and the creationists have it wrong, and that modern man might have actually been bred by “space-faring overlords” from the planet Nibiru. The Nibiruians, in Mr. Marrs’s interpretation, may still be exerting their influence over Earth by controlling “a small group of international yet interconnected individuals” who run the financial and news media industries.”

So, I’m forced to wonder, THESE claims are neither wild nor unsubstantiated? The planet Nibiru exists (contrary to the studies of tens of thousands of reputable astronomers through history) and alien overlords are influencing our lives here on Earth? I’m sure if I read the book I’ll learn that those legions of scientists who disagree are likely in on the conspiracy. Isn’t that the great thing about conspiracy theories? All evidence to the contrary – or lack of evidence in support – is dismissed as part of the conspiracy!

Now, I enjoy watching Ancient Aliens on cable as much as the next guy. After all, we need a good laugh now and then (Why it’s run on The History Channel or The History Channel 2 is beyond me, though, and as a History Major I find this disgraceful). I’ve even threatened to come up with an Ancient Aliens drinking game – e.g. drinking every time it goes to a commercial with a questioning phrase like “or could it be that…” followed by some wild, UNsubstantiated, hare-brained claim. Just watch it someday (as long as you can stand it). The narration is overripe with logical fallacies and basically asks a lot of hypothetical questions.

So, this morning I thought, “I should buy and read this book, then review it on my blog applying a lens critical thinking and skepticism.” Though that feels a little mean-spirited, at the same time I strongly feel that those less credulous among us should speak out in hopes of helping others not to be tricked or manipulated into believing a bunch of hokum. When I looked the book up on Barnes and Noble, I discovered that the nook version is ridiculously priced at $14.99 which may negatively influence my decision whether or not to read it. (& speaking of credulous, I remember when I First bought my nook reader being told “almost all books would cost no more than $9.99,” but before long I was seeing 10.99, then 11.99, 12.99 and now often 14.99. What a bunch of price gouge-ers! Now THAT is a conspiracy!)

What about you? Do you ever read books you “know” you won’t like? What reasons do you do this? I imagine “I had to read it for school” would be the most common, but what are some others?

P.S. Come on, History Channel. You’re better than that.

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8 Comments

  1. Falaise said,

    February 18, 2013 at 11:14 am

    I do but mainly because when I read books from my 1,001 Books Challenge, I at least give them a try.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      February 18, 2013 at 11:18 am

      Ah, yes. Attempting to fill the many gaps in my “cultural literacy” is a reason for me as well.
      -Jay

      Like

  2. Tomo said,

    February 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Jim Marrs’ “Our Occulted History: Do the Global Elite Conceal Ancient Aliens?”

    Marrs? That sounds like a name simply made for Alien Conspiracy theories!

    Like

  3. Dale said,

    February 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Very interesting question, Jay! I read John Grisham’s Calico Joe last year knowing I probably wouldn’t like it – and I was right. Sometimes I read things if lots of others are reading it just so I can know what everyone’s talking about – even if I don’t really like it. It seems like this question has a different spin for non-fiction as oppose to fiction.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      February 18, 2013 at 9:15 pm

      I guess I’ve read a few just “to see what all the fuss was about” too – some of those titles are too embarrassing to name. 🙂

      I did download the “free sample” of this book and was able toread the first 35 pages or so. It’s so bad it might be fun to read…

      Like

  4. Megan said,

    February 19, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    I guess I haven’t read books that I know in advance I won’t like, mostly because I feel like there’s just too much to read to waste my time on that. However, I have definitely started a book and discovered that I didn’t like it at all, but finished it up because I figured so many people liked it, there must be something to it that I was missing, and I might find if I could just push through. The Corrections and A Confederacy of Dunces are two examples of this. In the end, it turns out that finishing them didn’t make me like them any better. And with The Corrections, especially, I forced myself to finish so that I could honestly say that I’d given it a chance. People are so passionate about it I didn’t want anyone to claim that it would have changed my life, if I’d just finished it.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      February 24, 2013 at 9:02 am

      Hi Megan,
      I’ve been in that situation too, finishing one I wasn’t enjoying so that, assuming my bad opinion of it persisted through the end, I would be able to give an honest thumbs-down review. It does give one an odd, kind of “inadequate” feeling to be “the only one” (or at least in the minority) with a negative opinion of a work of art. Like you said, it’s that “What am I missing?” feeling.

      I guess those who review books for a living must encounter this situation often!
      -Jay

      Like


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