By February 1, 2007 3 Comments Read More →

Bad Books We Love to Hate

Bad books by celebrities are favorite targets of people who write for a living. We attack them with both humor and outrage, excoriating them because: a) they are bad, and some of us are even paid to judge between good and bad books, and, b) they reek of hubris. I’m good at acting/singing/lawyering/investment banking/tacking lucrative appropriations for my home district onto budgeting bills, the authors seem to be saying–surely I can do something as simple as writing a book.

This grates for two reasons: 1) writing anything well takes diligence, intelligence, and craft, and, 2) writing rarely pays well, so having well-heeled competitors marking the turf makes writers fear for their dinners.

(I’m not sure if it’s good writing to mix lettered and numbered lists in subsequent paragraphs, but I’m sure my point is clear.)

Still, bad books by celebrities are much more certain than taxes and, when they rise above mediocrity to achieve true badness, can actually be worth celebrating. I’m partial to the bad-novels-by-politicians genre, something I’ve written about for Time Out Chicago. Bill Ott created a very entertaining quiz about political novelists in his November 15, 2005 Back Page.

And in “Read in the Face” (Radar), Claire Zulkey serves up a thick and slightly stinky bouillabaisse of books that the famous authors wish we’d all forget about. She discusses and excerpts some old favorites, like Lynne Cheney’s Sisters and Scooter Libby’s The Apprentice, but she also discusses some lesser-known gems. Did you know, for instance, that Dan Brown wrote, under the pseudonym Danielle Brown, a book called 187 Men to Avoid: A Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman? I did not. Or that Susan Orlean, under the pseudonym Patricia Sistrom, co-wrote The Skinny: What Every Skinny Woman Knows about Dieting and Won’t Tell You!?

(Charlie Kaufman, if you’re reading–yeah, right–this sounds like an excellent jumping-off point for a sequel to Adaptation.)

Any bad books by famous people you’d like to share?

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

3 Comments on "Bad Books We Love to Hate"

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  1. booble | March 29, 2007
  1. bsegedin@ala.org' Ben says:

    One of my favorites is by Charles Barkley who claimed that he was misquoted in his own autobiography. I can’t remember if it was in Outrageous! The Fine Life and Flagrant Good Times of Basketball’s Irresistible Force or Sir Charles: The Wit And Wisdom of Charles Barkley, but when asked to comment about a passage that claimed that teammate Armon Gilliam was not a consistent scorer or rebounder, and that giving up a number one pick to get Manute Bol was a bad move, the round mound of rebound replied “That was my fault. I should have read it before it came out.”

  2. Keir says:

    That’s hilarious. Reminds me of Pete Bennett.

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