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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Best Sellers Column

I have mixed feelings about The Daily Beast's new irregular column by William Boot in which he "reviews bestseller novels to see which, if any, are readable."  He titles each, "Do I Have to Read..."  I have waited to see at least 3 columns before commenting.  Here is the link to see for yourself.

Let me fill you in on what Boot does in each review and then I will get to my mixed feelings.  So far he has reviewed a James Patterson, a Sue Grafton, and The Help by Stockett (which I read here). In each review Boot begins with the title, author, the number of pages, his opinion of the number of "readable" pages, and a sample quote. He then reviews the book and ends with a list of "readable pages;" and look at the Patterson review if you want to see how seriously he takes this list.  He ends with a final question, "Read This?" and a simple yes or no answer.

Okay, now for the mixed feelings.  The reader in me finds this column fun. I also like how seriously Boot and the Daily Beast are taking popular fiction; his reviews are thorough. 

However, my mixed feelings come from the fact that I could not show this resource to a patron.  As I have mentioned many times here before, true RA service is a nonjudgmental public library service which helps leisure readers to identify the best book for them, at that moment.

This leads to my ambivalence. Boot is very judgmental.  Take the statement I already included above, "The Daily Beast's William Boot reviews bestselling novels to see which, if any, are readable."  IF ANY? He assumes he will not like each book from the start, and although so far he has been pleasantly surprised more than he has been proven right, the RA in me does not like that he starts off assuming the worst. I have a lot of patrons who love the most popular authors.  There is nothing wrong with this, and assuming the book will be crap just because it is on the bestseller list is a problem from the RA standpoint.

The semester begins tomorrow night, and I do teach a part of a day on bestsellers in which we discuss this issue at length. I will include this blog post in our discussion that day. 

The verdict: I subscribed to Boot's feed, and I read every review for my information and entertainment, but I remain on guard, protecting the right of my patrons to read whatever they want, whether Boot and The Daily Beast deemed it readable or not.

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