Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why Are These Books Being Published?

For the past 13 years, I've worked with books. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of books. I'll admit...I don't read as much as I used to, or as much as I'd like to, but my job finds me constantly surrounded by books new and old.

Sometimes, with the sheer number of titles I see in a given day/week/month/year, there are bound to be some amusing moments. Like recently at work, when I walked by one of the carts that was filled with books, and the following 2 caught my eye...side by side.

I'm not making that up. Those two books were coincidentally right beside each other! How fantastic is that? One one side, a title from a man who has become regarded in the past few years as one of our greatest minds, and one of our most innovative thinkers, called "Blink". And then, right beside that, perhaps the most iconic example of literary fluff, James Patterson, with a title called "Don't Blink." It's almost as if Jimmy "17 books in 2 years" Patterson is saying to readers: "Hey, you know that really smart guy who is telling you something? Do the opposite!"

For those of you who didn't get the spiffy nickname I just gave Patterson up there, read this article to see why I regard him as the epitome of everything that is wrong with the world of publishing today. Add in the fact that most of the time, he doesn't actually write his own books anymore...that he just adds his name in a giant font that covers half the front of the book with the co-author's name minutely printed underneath...and you can see why he gets my blood boiling.

But a big part of my job is combing through the publisher catalogues to see the releases that are scheduled to come out in the next season. I'm normally looking at books that are coming out 3-6 months from now, and I'm smack in the middle of that right now. Generally, I see a couple of titles per season that have me shaking my head...but in the last 24 hours alone, I've seen three separate books that I felt compelled to comment on.

#1) Grilling With Salming - Borje Salming

Now, a lot of you may not be familiar with Borje Salming, but as a kid growing up an hour outside of Toronto in the late 70s and early 80s, the Swedish hockey star from the Toronto Maple Leafs was a big name in these parts. Imagine my surprise when I saw a sell sheet for this book come across my desk.

The wording in the write-up is absolutely fantastic. I had no idea that "back in Sweden, Salming is still known for his defensive skills, but even more for his grill skills. There, he’s known as “the King of the Barbecue.”" A combination cookbook/memories of the NHL book (???), it also declares that "on the ice...he who dares, wins. The same thing applies to barbecue." I would submit that in barbecue, he who dares ends up with a burnt steak, but I don't have a cookbook coming out.

I've seen my share of confusing cookbooks in the past decade, so normally a former NHL star giving grilling tips wouldn't really catch my eye. But then I turned the page and saw this photo:
What the hell is that?

Well, I know what the hell it's Borje Salming on a beach blowing on the coals of a fire while a fish with a stick jammed through it is burning on top of the fire. But are you honestly telling me that someone at the publisher decided THIS was the best photo to promote this book? And then, I decided to look at the accompanying recipe that the photo was attached to...

You would expect this to have some sort of snappy name like "Fire Roasted Snapper on Natural Coals" or "Grilled Arctic Char, Beach Style", right? Want to guess what this recipe is called?

Stick Fish.

I SHIT YOU NOT...It's called "Stick Fish"!

And here's the best part...the recipe reads as follows:

4 fresh lake trout or arctic char
4 deciduous sapling branches, each approx. 3 ft (1 m) long
Salt, to taste

1. Gut fish but leave head intact.
2. Whittle branches to sharp point at one end, removing any side branches.
3. Skewer each fish with branch, entering through mouth and threading carefully
along spine.
4. Lean skewered fish on angle toward fire, turning now and then. The size of the fish
should determine the cooking time; flesh should be flaky and easy to separate.
5. Season with salt, and eat directly off stick.

Do you really want to be following cooking directions from someone whose instructions include telling you to turn the fish "now and then"? When exactly is "now" and when is "then"? Shouldn't a cookbook be more precise than that? I mean, for God's sake, he even specified that the stick has to be deciduous! You can't give directions to the reader in minutes????

Plus, I don't want my cooking instructions to include "whittling." Chopping, slicing, grinding, sautéeing...sure. But leave the whittling for the woodworking class.

Stick to hockey, Borje. (pardon the pun)

#2) The Rules According to JWoWW: Shore-Tested Secrets on Landing a Mint Guy, Staying Fresh to Death, and Kicking the Competition to the Curb - JWoWW

(Allow me to preface this section by stating that I have never seen an episode of Jersey Shore, although I am familiar with the cast due to their incessant fame-whoring wherever I turn.)

It's bad enough that Snooki has published a book...a novel about a "Guidette" (her word) looking for love. It's called A Shore Thing, but the working title when it was being pitched was Snookin' For Love. But now I open a catalogue and see this book from J-WoWW, or as non-Jersey-Shore-fans know her, "the one that isn't Snooki."

Ok, I'll bite...if fans want to buy a work of fiction from that Orange Poof-Headed monster, so be it...but now this one is writing non-fiction...and on DATING ADVICE, no less?! I mean, look at that subtitle: "Shore-Tested Secrets on Landing a Mint Guy."? And take a look at the cover:
Now, don't get me wrong, there are very few things that I, as a heterosexual red-blooded male, can find wrong with the "schoolgirl look", but when you dress up a TV skank and put her in that outfit on a dating manual, all it says to me is "forget what's in the book, dress like this if you want attention." And if you look closely at that cover, you'll see that in the first printing of this book, it comes with a FREE POSTER of her inside? Do you think Malcolm Gladwell fans get a free poster? (or want one?) Or even the evil James Patterson? Come on...

And don't be fooled by the cover image stating that the book is by Jenni "JWoWW" Farley, the sell sheet in the catalogue was very clear that the author is NOT Jenni's JWoWW...with 3 capital Ws and a lower-case o. Like all of a sudden, she's in the one-name category like Madonna, or Cher, or Oprah.

Plus...just to make you vomit in your mouth a little bit...first print run: 150,000 copies.

The best part? The opening line in the writeup: "The Jersey Shore's JWoWW offers a new spin on the rules of dating, from “smushing” guys to avoiding booty calls to landing the guido of your dreams."

I can't top George Costanza said, "Leave on a high note!"

3) The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph - Shawn Green

Let me point out that in early 2011, there are very few baseball names that are less relevant than Shawn Green, so to see that he was publishing a book was shocking. I mean, he faded into obscurity with the New York Mets and retired quietly in 2007. Then, to see that the first print run on this book was 125,000 copies was doubly shocking. THEN, to see the publisher trying to pump us his accomplishments in baseball... Well, let me show you the bio first, and then we'll break it down.

Shawn Green’s Major League baseball career spanned nearly fourteen years with four teams: the Toronto Blue Jays, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the New York Mets. During his baseball career he won numerous accolades, including both the American League Gold Glove Award and the Silver Slugger in ’99. He finished in the top ten of voting for league MVP three times, was a two-time All Star, and holds several Major League records as well as numerous individual team records with both the Blue Jays and the Dodgers.

First of all, a player who played 14 years in the majors and been named an All-Star twice isn't that big of an accomplishment...not really worth mentioning in his bio. Nor is the fact that in 14 years he finished in the Top Ten of league MVP voting three times. That pretty much means that some sports writer gave him a third place vote.

The thing that threw me for a loop was the claim that he holds several Major League records. I immediately said "that's total bullshit", unless they were talking about some sort of obscure made-up record like "most triples by a Jewish right fielder." But, just to be fair, I looked it up. Turns out I was wrong, and Shawn Green indeed holds multiple major league records. Check this out (from his Wikipedia page):

"Green holds or is tied for the following major league records: most home runs in a game (4), most extra base hits in a game (5), most total bases in a game (19), most runs scored in a game (6), most home runs in two consecutive games (5), most home runs in three consecutive games (7), and most consecutive home runs (4)."

Now, let me point out the following:

Most home runs in a game - tied with FIFTEEN other players.
Most runs scored in a game - tied with SIXTEEN other players.
Most consecutive home runs - tied with over TWENTY other players.

And please keep in mind that the most home runs in two games, and most home runs in three games are BS records anyways, not acknowledged anywhere by MLB. AND..almost all of these records came out of ONE game he had in 2003. Don't try to make the guy look like a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer when in actuality, he was just a slightly above average player who was grossly overpaid, even by MLB standards.

No one will buy this book, and in 2 years, you'll see it for $2.00 in a discount bin beside a Magic Eye book and a VHS copy of Freddy Got Fingered.

Three outrageous books coming out in 2011...which one do you think is the worst?

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