I read a lot of books. And, I share a lot of the better ones here through book reviews and the really good ones over at Book Rapper. I generally don’t share with you the ones that I consider to be ‘bad’ books.
I thought it was time to share some of the things that make me call a book ‘bad’. This might be helpful with a couple of tips to avoid if you are writing your own.
I look forward to reading a good book whereas a bad book is a tough read.
The old saying says ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. And, for me, a good book is one that is quick and easy to read. That doesn’t mean the book is short in length, it’s more that I’m excited to read it.
If a book is really bad, I won’t read the whole book. This probably only happens 10% of the time. I do screen books really closely before I start reading them. Plus, if a book is not inspiring me, I might skim read – that happens a further 20% of the time.
I think there are a couple of factors that make a book a tough read:
- It’s not well written
- The ideas don’t flow together
- The language is complex
- It’s not that interesting
- It’s not presenting any fresh insights
A Bad Example
A good book needs to be a good example of what it’s talking about.
Recently, I read a book about Infographics. Whilst the words were informative, the visuals were average at best. Some of the examples within the book were from other people and mostly these were excellent. In contrast, many of the infographics by the author were confusing and difficult to understand. This didn’t inspire confidence.
If the book had been about anything else I would have been more forgiving. And, when that is your topic and your area of expertise then it really needs to walk the talk. If it doesn’t… Next!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
William Shakespeare — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)
That’s one of my favorite quotes – a classic from Macbeth. And, that last line stands out as a crucial element of a good book: it must inspire something! I started reading a book recently that looked fantastic on the outside:
- The author looked credible
- The book was well designed
- It was from a reputable publisher
- The chapter titles were interesting
And, unfortunately, it just didn’t have anything new in it. It seemed like the same old dribble that every other author was peddling. It might have been good for you and it signified nothing for me.
A good book is not written in one sitting. It usually requires several drafts and edits.
I worked with a professional speaker a few years back to help them write their book. The first draft was almost entirely material gleaned from other sources and lacked personal insight. To help fix this I suggested they write a personal biography to identify some stories and anecdotes that we could weave into the text.
After a number of disagreements about how to proceed we decided to not continue working together.
Several months later the book was published. To my horror it was published almost unedited from the first draft that I had seen. To make matters worse, all that had been added was an entire chapter all about the author – the biography I asked them to write!
The lack of a good edit also made it incredibly long – over 500 pages and the feedback I heard from people who bought a copy was that they didn’t read past the first chapter. Bummer! It could have been so good…
It looks horrible!
The look and feel of a published book can make or break the success of your book.
For my first book, A Home Office You Love, I paid a designer to help create the cover art.
For my second book, Beyond the Electronic Drawing Board I decided I wanted to do it myself. So I did. And, it looked horrible. It looked so bad that I wouldn’t even buy a copy!
Whilst I stand by my design concept, the execution and my lack of experience in the print world let me down badly.
COMMENT: What are the things that make a book a bad read for you?