Goodreads is like an animal shelter. In a way.

Published July 13, 2016 by The Author


Goodreads is a shiny, happy place where those of us who love books can gather and make recommendations to each other, review what we read, and keep a nice record of what we want to read, are currently reading, or have read.

There are many warm puppies and fuzzy kittens in the Goodreads animal shelter.

Reviews of your own work might not be so happy. While it’s not the raving cesspool that Amazon reviews often become, there is still plenty of personal sniping and mean-spirited bullying there. I almost never read reviews unless they’re ones from people I’ve purposefully followed. Especially not for my own stuff.

There are many, many warm and fuzzy dogs and cats in this part of the Goodreads animal shelter that may not live very long. They’re sick, they might be unadoptable for one reason or another. They might bite. In fact, some greatly enjoy spreading rabies. You inevitably leave feeling terrible that you couldn’t help them all. The Goodreads animal shelter can be a very unpleasant place. You might even have rabies.

Today I was doing something I rarely take time to do, and that was read some of the Listopia lists on Goodreads. Specifically, The Worst Books of All Time. It was madness!

Take, for example, #1379, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) from American Psychiatric Association. For those who don’t know, this is a big, fat book that lists every condition that has been defined by the APA as a mental illness or other psychological condition, including things like its research, history, and list of common symptoms. If you see a shrink for diagnosis and/or medication, the chances are good that she or he is going to consult this book to narrow or expand your treatment — or they at least have a copy on their bookshelf. I have a degree and 3/4 in psychology, and the DSM III was surgically attached to my hand for about three years.

So, okay, it’s weird to see the DSM on the worst books of all time list. It’s not a particularly interesting read, I’ll give you that (although I highly recommend it as a tool for characterization!), but the worst book of all time? First of all, Why is the DSM IV   in particular so terrible? Did the APA add or subtract something heinous since the DSM III? It’s like putting the dictionary on the worst books of all time. But only Webster’s, not the OEE. I don’t think anybody thinks it’s the worst book. I think they’re probably making a statement about psychiatry. Or, they might be angry psych grad students. That’s entirely possible. I used to think about heaving it at some of my grad school professors. It’s pretty hefty.

The whole list reads like this, though. It’s obvious: people aren’t judging the style or content of books most of the time: they’re judging the imagined message, or the author, ideology, or genre. The list is full of religious books, from the Bible to books by Sylvia Browne (people on this list apparently LOATHE Sylvia Browne for some reason.) There are political books, from *makes a foul face* Ann Coulter to Barack Obama (boy, do the people on this list hate President Obama. Am I shocked? No, I am not.) Of course, they also hate Donald Trump, Jack Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, W, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, etc. etc. etc. From one end of the spectrum to the other, there is hardcore book hate.

But it doesn’t stop there. Every book that every kid in America has been required to read since print was invented is on there. Every book that has ever been #1-10 on any best seller list is on there. I kept going “Huh?” “What?” at some of the hate: I mean, CHARLOTTE’S WEB? For real? Who hates CHARLOTTE’S WEB… I mean, unless thinking about it still makes you cry 40 some-odd years later. Ehem. Every beloved Urban Fantasy, adult, YA, or otherwise, is on there. In fact, pretty much every popular YA series ever is on there. Harry Potter is on there. Books in German. Books in Spanish. Books in Hebrew. Books in Farsi. Stephen King and Nora Roberts are on there. Cookbooks were on there, especially if written by celebrities, or about whole food, vegetarian, or vegan eating.It’s just… bizarre!

But there it is. We readers area a wild, diverse, and passionate bunch! (And okay, a lot of us are bat guano crazy.) Sharing our opinions would be fascinating… if the comments didn’t naturally devolve into typical comment warfare complete with word napalm.

I must remind myself of The Rules:

Rule #1: Never read the comments. Anywhere. Someone could be talking about Winnie the Pooh and some nutbag would start a fight over it.
Rule #2: Never read the trends on Twitter. *shudder*


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