Today, the rest of the world celebrates Junk Food Day (I’m not sure if there is a day when this is not celebrated, but I tangentialize). I thought of recommending all the yummy finger food you can mindlessly consume while paging through your latest, but the pitfalls were deep and many: the meltitude of bonbons, the Trumpian stains of Cheetos, the venerable leavings of cheese and crackers, and the risk of wine stains that lend too-authentic a cast to your favorite mystery.
Instead, I offer you junk as the main course: Books which are “junk” by some reasonable standard, but that I still managed to read and even (in some cases) enjoy.
Shame me if you will, but I read this. And every one of its sequels. And I watched the movies at their premier-night midnight showings. My Meyer game is strong and, if you must know, Team Edward, of course.
It started as a responsible-parenting episode. I had a teen daughter, she was obsessively reading this, yada. But what red-blooded American girl can resist the charm of an immortal, chaste Edwardian with R.Pat’s looks and a century of practicing Debussy under his belt? None, I assert.
I won’t defend the writing, and many make a strong case about how this codependent mess of a relationship is the worst possible thing for teen girls to read. But the idea that someone would wait a hundred years for you? Game, set, match Meyer.
2. The Shack
I can say one nice thing about this book: They nearly got the title right. In that it should start with an “SH,” have one syllable, and a short vowel, and give one a sense of purgation upon utterance.
Twenty million people bought this (No, there’s no link. I will not be a party to this.) That’s roughly the equivalent of those killed by Stalin. I’m not sure whom I pity more.
The writing contravenes the Geneva Convention, the plot is a slo-mo reel of the Hindenburg disaster, and the theology is an abomination unto the Lord.
Eugene Peterson blurbed it and, as a result, I am going to burn the one Eugene Peterson book I own (relax, it’s not the Bible).
We don’t have a rating system here at Bibliophenia, but if we did, this one would get five of these:
If you haven’t yet forked over your money for this one, go buy yourself six McDoubles and be the better for it.
3. Atlas Shrugged
Oh, it’s horrible. But I did read it. Twice.
Here’s the thing: If you ever feel as though you just can’t make a difference in the world, as though you have no control over your own life, as though there is no evidence of free will in your sphere of influence, Atlas Shrugged is the one and only antidote.
Have yourself a big, cold drink of Dagny Taggart. It’s like Red Bull for your soul—powerful, instantly effective, and possibly the source of long-term damage. You will be sure that your world is YOUR WORLD. You will own it. You will be all powerful. You will be an unmitigated jerk.
After about three weeks of ceaseless dominance over your life, you’ll regain your senses, recognize that other humans are not mere props in your solipsistic one-man show, and settle back down to normality. But your closets will still be super clean and your boss will have already decided to give you a raise.
[Extra credit: The “Ayn” in Ayn Rand is properly pronounced like the German word for one: Ein. Or like the first syllable in Einstein. Or like the sound you make when hit your knee on a table whilst standing up. Or that bit that Ozzy sings in the intro to “Crazy Train.” If you forget and some fanboy gives you a hard time, remind him that her real name is Alice Rosenbaum and that she’s a Russkie. That usually throws some cold water on misplaced fervor.]
4. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
I had a new Kindle. This was a 99-cent promo. I was on vacation. There was nothing else to read.
I loved it.
Bonus: I loved my new Kindle, because no one could see what I was reading.
This is a well-written, tightly plotted novel that explains Lincoln in a way that Doris Kearns Goodwin cannot. Here’s a wee taste:
Abraham Lincoln would never take another life. And yet he would become one of the greatest killers of the nineteenth century.
The deliciousness does not stop. Need a break? Get yourself one of these.
And that, my friends, is our tour of junk food for the mind—some of it dangerous, some OK in moderation. I hope that you will try one, especially when you are feeling rebellious, but dare not rebel against reading. What will you read next?