Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves

“All the secrets of the world are contained in books. Read at your own risk.”

Lemony Snicket

Oh, I’ve been looking forward to this one…

  1. Reviewers who never post a bad review. There are more of these out there than you’d think, and it really gets up my nose. For several reasons. Firstly, there’s an unspoken assumption in choosing not to post negative reviews that art is subjective and so you can’t ever say that a book is actually objectively bad, only that you personally didn’t like it, and that someone out there will so why offend everyone by being mean? A brief meditation on the difference between 50 Shades of Grey and Pride and Prejudice will tell you that this assumption is utter bullshit (excuse my Klatchian). There are objective things that you can point to and say “This is bad” or “This is problematic” in fiction. And – this leads into my next point – choosing not to call these things out, not to say, “Hey, this is totally racist/sexist/grammatically incorrect/stupid/homophobic/completely and utterly nonsensical, what the hell was the author thinking?” can only perpetuate those kinds of problematic and/or bad things. Starting conversations is what art is for, after all, and it can only do that if we’re prepared to think critically about it. Also: not posting bad reviews because it might hurt the author’s feelings fundamentally misunderstands what reviews are for, which is not to stroke the author’s ego but to inform and entertain the reader and to start conversations about our art. Reviewers should never be beholden to authors and publishers. Plus, reviews in which everything is made of kittens and fluffy pumpkins are boring, and tell you nothing about the actual quality of the book, especially if the reviewer says the same thing about every single book they review.
  2. Putting a book face-down on the table to mark your place. I wince, every time. Bookmarks, people, Bookmarks. Please. For the sake of the books.
  3. Dog-earing books to mark your place. I repeat: bookmarks are the way forward.
  4. Writers who don’t know what words mean. Stephen Donaldson, I am looking at you. Please use a dictionary. It is not a difficult concept to grasp.
  5. Writers who think they can rewrite Tolkien with the same results. There are a very, very few exceptions to this, but mostly: you can’t. No, really, you can’t. It’s been done. Move on. Come up with a new idea. You’ll have way more fun, I promise.
  6. Books without a proper story. I like a plot to my books, and by “plot” I mean something more substantial than some people wandering round the streets of Dublin pondering the State of the World. (Yes, Ulysses, I’m talking to you.) This probably makes me supremely uncultured or something, but I just can’t be bothered with authors who are too clever for their own good.
  7. Authors who can’t leave old series alone. Step away from the childhood favourite. Please. No, we don’t need any more Old Kingdom books. I’m sure Tiffany Aching is fine as she is. What more can you possibly have to say about the Dark Tower?
  8. Film adaptations that totally miss the point of the book. If you put a book’s name on the poster, you have an obligation to make the film at least a little bit like the book. Using an author’s name to sell a film fundamentally unlike the book is just unacceptable.
  9. People who think reading is stupid and say so loudly and aggressively. It does not make me think that you are in any way cool, impressive or superior. It makes me think a) that you have the attention span of a five-year-old or b) that you just don’t care about anything ever.
  10. People who say “it’s just a book” or “it’s just a story”. This really gets my hackles up, because it’s inevitably an attempt to close down a discussion. It is never just a book, and it is never just a story. People have died for what is in books, for the stories they have told. And it’s important that we discuss, that we have heated debates where we have to defend our positions. That, to repeat my first Pet Peeve, is what art is for. To generate discussion. To make connections between people. Ultimately, to change us and help us and show us ourselves. And that cannot happen in a vacuum.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

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