“Why do practically all your reviews carry 4- or 5-star ratings?”
I was afraid you’d ask that. But here’s the deal. I read books very selectively, picking out only those I think I’ll find rewarding. For example, in today’s New York Times Book Review, there is a total of 110 titles listed in the paper’s several categories. Of those, I’ve read 14 (and reviewed most of them in this blog). I have three or four other listed titles on tap to read soon. If I don’t enjoy reading a book, I tend to figure that out once I’ve read a few chapters. I put it down and forget it as quickly as possible. So you can bet that I judge a book worthwhile if I’ve reviewed it at all, and outstanding if I give it five stars. (OK, so they’re not stars. They’re @-signs. But isn’t that symbol more appropriate in this age of the Internet?)
“OK, so what don’t you read?”
Hold your breath. Here goes. I don’t read books on cooking, diet, health, fitness, or sports — anything that reminds me of my deplorable physical condition. I don’t read self-help books of any description, convinced as I am that I’m beyond help. I won’t touch literary memoirs, criticism, collections of essays, or biographies of obscure literary figures. In fact, I won’t read biographies about anybody except people who are historically significant, unless I happen to know them. I avoid romance novels, chick-lit, or just about anything by women with three names. And I won’t even think about reading any book written (or more likely “authored”) by one of those Right-Wing imbeciles who is polluting the airwaves and distorting political debate in this country. Don’t get me started.
“But I thought you read just about everything!”
Guess again. In fact, guess how many books were published last year. Give up? The best number I can find is 550,000, about 290,000 of them in the United States. And even those huge numbers don’t include the fast-growing output of short-run and on-demand books, often self-published, now numbering in the hundreds of thousands. (Check it out here: http://bit.ly/bqTRMM.)