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I love books and reading, but I don't like to consider myself a book snob. I like some very popular writers, like John D. MacDonald, who wrote the Travis McGee novels. I loved "The Alchemist," which has sold tens of millions of copies. I loved the Harry Potter novels, and Daniel Handler's "Lemony Snicket" books, all 13 of them. I love Mary Renault's historical fiction, which has sold millions of copies. I'm not a reading snob, really.

But I can't stand a lot of contemporary literary novels, and I dislike a lot of modern-day popular novels, too. I half-read "The Lincoln Lawyer," by Michael Connelly, published in 2005, and hated it. It was so bad, I couldn't actually read every page but had to start skimming, something I rarely do. I've read two or three of the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, until I finally had to admit to myself how bad and dull they are. Reading one is like reading a car manual for 100 pages to get to two or three pages of exciting action, followed by another 100 pages of car manual. And I just picked up one of Stephen King's lesser novels — "Thinner," written under the Richard Bachman pseudonym — and it was so bad, not only did I start skimming, I resorted to skipping 200 pages ahead, where I was able to pick up right where I left off, and finally just gave up. I give up on a book maybe once a year, at most. 

It's trendy now to acknowledge Stephen King as a skilled author — even some snobby literary types, like professors and writers who do not profess to care about the bestseller lists, seem to be willing, now that King has been beaten about by life, to say, grudgingly, that he's pretty good.

Is he, really? Perhaps I'm not giving him a fair chance, or he's just not to my taste. One thing I really dislike about his work is its crudeness. He is always indulging in superfluous crude incidents and descriptions. I'd detail them, but that would undermine my point — I don't like seeing that sort of indulgent scatological detail in print. King, too, has sold many millions of books, but I guess that just proves you can't judge a book's quality either by its popularity or by its obscurity. Some of the greatest books have been extremely popular, and some of the lamest ones, too.

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Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at



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