When you think a book is merde but it’s a best-seller

It’s not often I abandon a book knowing I will never try it again. I often put books down, but I know I’ll go back to them. I’m enjoying them, but it’s like eating too much of the same thing , you want something different on the tongue.



I know I should be kinder about the books I think are merde, I know how hard it is not only to finish a first draft of a manuscript, but to revise it and revise it, and then to get anyone with any power to read it. To then get a publishing contract, it’s so damned hard.

I was talking with a writer earlier this week who has had four books published. He was telling me that you’d think with three under the belt you’d get publishers and agents to look at your fourth. But no. He had such trouble and not even ‘rejection slips’ (these famed slips, are they really slips? Mine have always been emails) – what he got was silence, which is rude as well as crushing.

The above book I bought against my own best inclinations. I knew it wouldn’t be the book for me. I knew I wouldn’t like it. So why did you buy it, you fool? Is what you are thinking right now. And here’s my honest answer: Because I was in an independent book store on the other side of town. My friend/business partner had taken me in there and introduced me as ‘This is my friend Jenny, her book is coming out in September.’ We had a chat. I wanted the bookseller to like me and I wanted to show that I support independent book shops. I asked what was selling well. I always like to ask booksellers what’s selling well.

The book above is selling well.

Luckily at the same time I also bought Amy Poehler’s YES PLEASE which I inhaled over two days. It’s not as if I don’t have towers of books to read here, and ones I’m working through. Luckily I have Maxine Beneba Clarke’s to go back to; and Omar Musa’s; and a Hemingway bio I’m re-reading; and Murray Middleton’s When There’s Nowhere Else to Run; and Knausgaard’s Book 4 and the Ferrante Books 2 & 3, and Rachel Cusk’s Outline, which I’m reading now.

But it’s just about taste, isn’t it? We have our preferences with reading just as we do with food, climate, sexual positions, comedy, paintings, movies, furniture, kitchen sponges, toilet paper, biros. So it’s not a biggie that I made a mistake and bought that book. Other people love it. It’s a best seller. Good. On. It.

2 thoughts on “When you think a book is merde but it’s a best-seller

  1. Hahaha, Good. On. It. Love it Jenny. Funny how we can sometimes get sucked in against our better judgement for reasons that come from the best place, but then we hate it because we wanted to spend our hard earned time on other things.

    As for writers with multiple books still struggling. My heart goes out to them when I hear these stories. What’s happened to loyalty and support these days?

  2. Look at that charming cover, no wonder people are buying it. Who doesn’t want to be charmed? I’m pretty sure I’d hate it too. I am awfully mean about books I hate if everyone else loves them (but not if they don’t). It’s silly, you’re right: it’s just a matter of taste. And what is it to me if people manage to find some joy in something, even if I think it’s awful?
    That’s terrible about the writer having no luck with a fourth novel. I’m terrified of the day when I start trying to flog my next one. God…

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