10. That Enormously Long Bummer
It’s just…really awful things happen for six hundred pages, right? You’d never say this, obviously, because you’re not really sure what happens for however many pages it is, but you do know it’s a stone cold bummer from start to finish, and you barely have enough energy to close your laptop when it starts burning the skin on your belly before you fall asleep. Walk more, get outside, make an effort, tidy up. You know what helps. You know what you’re supposed to do. You’re not stupid. Lying in bed doesn’t help anything. Get up, get up, get up. “I just don’t understand why everyone conflates trauma with significance,” you say to a casual acquaintance over drinks, who has been giving off the frustrating impression of being unimpressed with you.
“What do you mean, everyone?” they say. “Who does that? I don’t know anyone who does that.”
“I just can’t emotionally engage when a character feels more like a series of tragedies than a person.”
“Whose fault is that?” You don’t get drinks again, but you manage to convince yourself it’s not because they don’t like you.
9. It’s Set During World War Two, But It’s Not About World War Two
You bought a copy for your mother, and part of you sneered at how excited she was to get it.
8. The History Of Plates, or copper wire, or something
Now that everyone’s dashed off a sloppily researched retrospective on flour or how napkins changed the Age of Discovery forever, this is all that’s left, apparently. There’s a reason no one’s written the history of plates (or something) before.
7. It Had A Big Advance
No one else you know wants to talk about how big the advance was, even though it was huge, huge in a way that no book could actually live up to, because no one else you know thinks of themselves as someone who is going to be a novelist. “I think it’s great she made so much money on her first book,” your only-slightly-interested coworker says. “I wish I had that much money.” You don’t know how to tell her why that’s the wrong reaction to have.
6. What If The Author Did Something Odd But With Ultimately Low Stakes For A Year And Then Resumed Their Old Life Immediately Thereafter
They’d get a book deal, and then nothing, in that order, is what would happen.
5. Bought As Ammunition For Resenting The Author More Effectively
You already know what’s in it. The book jacket cover copy and one or two sentences from an out-of-the-way review is all you need to get through a conversation about it. It should go without saying you only talk with people who hate the author the same way you do. You’re not wrong, exactly, but you manage to find a way to not be right, either.
4. A Collection Of Articles That Have Already Been Published Online
Why does everyone else like it. Why does that bother you so much.
3. Someone Called It Sprawling, I Think It Has Two Unconnected Plotlines, One Of Which Is In The Seventies And The Other During The Harlem Renaissance
You wanted to read it, actually.
2. The Graphic Novel Memoir
“What do you mean, ugh?”
“Don’t be disingenuous.”
You know it actually is a genuine question, which makes calling it ‘disingenuous’ an especially effective way of not answering it.
1. What Did You Read This Year, Then
That’s not the point.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.