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How Do We Talk About Books That Are Only Okay?

Jodi Chromey

Staff Writer

Jodi Chromey is a freakishly tall writer who edits MN Reads and has been blogging at I Will Dare since 2000. Follow her on Twitter: @jodiwilldare

While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Monday, January 6th.

This post originally ran July 9, 2013.

The other weekend I read a book. It was okay. It didn’t annoy me with bad writing, preposterous plots, or weak characters. It didn’t inflame me with its passionate observations nor did it make me laugh with witty insights. It did nothing for me, besides keep me mildly occupied for the amount of time it took to finish.

How do we talk about the only okay?

As someone who writes and talks about the books I read, I feel the (probably irrational) need to talk about this book, but to say what?

We all know there is no room for subtlety on the internet. It must be all caps and exclamations so people can clearly understand without a second’s hesitation if you loved or hated something. And it’s the internet, so we only love or hate, we rarely shrug and say “it’s all right.” Everything is the best ever or the worst ever. We never talk about the things that are okay. Occasionally you’ll see the dismissive and super unhelpful, “Meh,” which to me signifies boredom or disinterest more than mediocrity.

So what do you say when someone asks you about a book and it’s merely okay? Do you warn the asker away? Do you damn the book with faint praise?

“It was fine. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. It had about the same sort of emotional and intellectual stimulation as watching “Friends” reruns, but I felt better about myself because I was reading and not watching TV. You can have my copy if you want, it’s not making the permanent collection.”

This is a genuine question, Riot Readers, how do you talk about the only okay? What do you say when someone asks your opinion on a book that was better than watching “Friends” reruns but not by much?

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