One of my bibliographic pastimes is collecting mean reviews. I delineate between the mean spirited, the cruel, the epically evil, and humorously mean, taking especial pleasure in the reviews that deliver the coup de grace with a wicked bit of humor. There are some delicious turns of phrase to be found in the reviews by Choice, mostly in the ones that conclude that the title is 'Not Recommended.'
The Bookcharmer is delighted to have online access to Choice, the advanced search feature allowing one to search only for Not Recommended titles. Let's have a look at some of the scathier reviews, shall we? For purposes of being respectful to Mr. Copyright, we shall only give the juicy sentence, not the entire review.
Leys, Ruth. From guilt to shame: Auschwitz and after. (Published by no less an authority than Princeton University Press, I feel compelled to point out, in case I have any East Coast readers.) 2007. The juicy sentence is written by M. Uebel, University of Texas. It reads, "The value of the book resides exclusively in its exemplification of how not to conduct meaningful research into such an important subject as emotional states and their cultural significance."
Meow!!! And ouch!! How not to conduct meaningful research!
Choice reviewers are no doubt a group that is hardy in spirit and soul, willing to call out the meaningless titles that have somehow made it into print. A fellow librarian can take pride in this comment from J. Weidman, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on 1001 paintings you must see before you die: "Its Eurocentrism and hubris of title and stated purpose, with poor to useless reproductions and quirky selections, render this book annoying and nearly worthless." Two insults delightfully round out the sentence--annoying and worthless. Well done, J. Weidman!
Sometimes it is just a fun phrase that catches the Bookcharmer's eye, for example, the way J.T. Titon of Brown refers to the monograph by Roberta Schwartz as "sprawling, plodding."
Other fun insult words that pop up in the Not Recommended section include: misleading, repackaged, excruciating, and, the worst of all faults, careless. Carelessness will relegate you and your work to the dustbin of history in the eyes of Choice reviewers, as well it should! Even more ominous: irresponsible. Three cheers for the Choice reviewers that make keeping up with titles at least possible as well as enjoyable.