Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thoughts on a Book Sale

Over the weekend the local Friends of the Library had their annual book sale. While the books on sale were fairly diverse (including many hard-to-find, out-of-print titles), surplus bestsellers were very prominent in the stock, making it a good representative of the market of recent years, and seeing it reminded me of two things:

1. How much of the section of books devoted to "Business and Economics" consisted of self-help nonsense.
2. How many of the "big" books on public affairs, politics and the like have appallingly short lives before they cease to be of significance to anyone but historians wondering "What were they thinking back then?" In my mind, the prize for this sort of ephemeral writing goes to Dick Morris for his anticipation of the 2008 presidential election, Condi vs. Hillary, but Kenneth Pollack's The Threatening Storm (about which I'd forgotten until my eye fell on a copy there) certainly fits the bill.

Despite all its flaws, the publishing industry gets out a fair number of good books. Unfortunately, the trash-to-gold ratio is very high, and probably worsening, especially in this area. But what else could you expect given the direction of the business, and the dominance of public intellectual life by the lobotomized punditry of television and radio?

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