I have to rant about something now. I’m really sick of all of these “I spent a year of my life doing something crazy or out of the mainstream or stupid and now here’s my book about it.” This seems like the latest trend in publishing to give pseudo-writers something to sell and foist more dumb books on an unsuspecting readership.
I will admit to having read a couple of these. I read Julie and Julia, in which the author spent a year of cooking recipes from Julia Child‘s Mastering French Cooking, and found it entertaining but frivolous. I also read Judith Levine‘s Not Buying It, in which she spends a year not buying anything that isn’t “necessary” and found it a waste of money. I would like to read Barbara Kingsolver‘s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in Food Life, but then, she is a “real” writer.
Here is a small sampling of other “year” books from Amazon:
- The Year of Living Biblically
- A Year Without “Made in China”
- A Dog Year
- The Year of Eating Dangerously
- and so on
I think Nickel and Dimed started it all, which I haven’t read but was probably an important book. But come on, haven’t we had enough? This morning, I read in the paper about someone posting fake ads on Craigslist in order to get material for a book about a year spent posting fake ads on Craigslist. Is that really what we want to spend our time reading about?
Once again, I feel like the publishing industry thinks we’re stupid and will buy just about any trendy crap they shovel out. But I don’t think these books are really aimed at discriminating readers. Rather, they’re marketed toward those people who only read one book a year or only buy one book a year, or some such depressing statistic.
Meanwhile, it gets even harder to find the good writing buried under all the schlock. And I imagine it gets harder for the good writers to get something truly innovative published. As an aspiring writer, I take one look at the whole world of publishing — which I once was a part of and grew rapidly disillusioned with — and wonder why I should even bother.
We have to figure out a way out from under the gigantic publishers and the chain bookstores, and get back to writing, publishing and reading meaningful books. Why does everything in our culture have to be about making as much money as quickly as possible?