The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Dealbreaker Books

Invited into a home for the first time, a book lover will take great pleasure in combing through the owner's bookshelves. Some do it brazenly, some wait for the host to get up and refill the drinks, but we all do it. That peek into the psyche is irresistible.

But there is risk involved. Have you ever found a title that you just can't accept? a book that makes your skin crawl? a book that creates serious misgivings about going forward with the dinner party/new friendship/one-night stand that you thought was in the cards?

These are dealbreaker books. And I want to know what yours are....and why.

I'll start:

Ayn Rand. If someone has more than one Ayn Rand title and they appear well-thumbed/hi-lighted/color-tabbed, I'm out of there. It has to be at least two though, just one could be a youthful folly or a misguided recommendation. Of course, I've never read her but the association with Reaganomics, 80s excess, and free-market devil cults turns my stomach. Sure, I'm a selfish bastard too but I don't make a big thing out of it.

Okay, your turn...


John Klima said...

Wow. What a great post. Hmmm, I'll assume you mean other than people for our (shared) sordid past who tough to work with....

I'm having trouble thinking of an individual author (working in a library makes you immune to such things I suppose) but if I see only bestsellers that's a turn off. Sort of, I want to appear that I read. Especially when they have nice crisp pages.

qwertyuiop said...

James Paterson is a bad sign for a psychopath, likewise Celestine prophecy for a flake and Protocols of the Elders of Zion for a crazed bigot and Paul Auster for a pseud and too much of bland Bill Bryson and I'm out of there. Grrreat blog!

Gavin said...

Well, the Gor series might be one. You'd be surprised how many pretty young things have those on the shelf. Oh, wait, the books have bled over into this comment. No, they really don't have them.

William F. Buckley.
Ann Coulter.

I don't know: even if someone has something co-written by those two it might have been a present or a youthful mistake or an exploration of the dark side -- and how could I not forgive that?

ijk said...

Great post. This is a discussion we have at dinner parties regularly (a sad fact, actually).

Personally, Danielle Steel and Nicholas Sparks are pretty much dealbreakers. I have trouble taking anyone seriously when the profess a love of The Notebook *shudder*.

A related topic is "redefining books"...books that are such a surprise to find on the shelf that you are force to reconsider your idea of the human in question (e.g. finding Desade's, Justine on my mother's shelves in my teens bordered on traumatic *laughing*).

Matthew Tiffany said...

Where to begin? Michael Savage. Coulter. A childless adult with the entire Harry Potter series. Any Rachael Ray. Really, any celebrity-vehicle book. Or, any books about the vehicles of celebrities.

All hardcovers would give me the creeps, as well.

Matthew Tiffany said...

Sorry - all hardcovers, meaning, the book owner does not own any paperbacks.

Antoine Wilson said...

The Secret.

Nate said...

I just realized I had this habit the other day. I was taking a package to my neighbors house which had been left with me by the DHL man, and the neighbor invited me in her house. While she was talking to me, I found myself distracted looking through her bookcase and totally stopped paying attention to what she was saying.

I'm quite convinced that you'd all run terrified out of my house.. I have some creepy books.. and I'm a libertarian, so I have the Ayn Rand that will have you running out of the room Will. My wife also has some of the dreaded Rachael Ray books...

Nate said...

My own "dealbreaker books" would probably have to be anything written about ghosts from a non-fiction point of view, books on "natural cures" or homeopathic medicine, books on religion, or essentially books on anything else that covers a B.S. topic.

Anonymous said...

I'd be worried to see any "how to" books about genital mutiliation or, worse, anything by Bill O'Reilly.
Say...different subject. The pic of packed books? Shouldn't they be packed standing up -- much as you would have them on shelves? I was always led to believe this was the best way to protect them, as opposed to laying them flat.

Dana said...

More than one V.C. Andrews or John Sanford title. Both together would seriously creep me out.

William Smith said...

When I worked in B&N in my 20s I used to have a LOT more DB books. But I guess I've mellowed...or else I just don't make new friends anymore.

Since I can't respond to each post in sequence I'll get 'am all here

1. Errytay Oodkindgay has a place of honor on the list

2. James Patterson's a good one. Do people still read Celestine Prophecy? God I hope not. Good call on the Auster. Most overrated writer working today IMHO.

3. The Gor books sell too well for me to turn up my nose at them.

4. Love your DeSade Mom story. That's why I hide all my smut whenever the family comes to visit. I've got a special storage locker.

5. Hadn't thought about the "all hardcovers but good point". That's book as status symbol. As a veteran of publishing though many people I know get their books for free so they have a lot of really clean new hardcovers. Can't hold that against them. I was just talking to someone about this post and she "wished that books still had leaves that needed to be cut" so you could easily tell when someone's pretentious.

6. I don't know The Secret. Should I fear it?

7. As long as you don't go slinging objectivism in here, I'll let it slide;)

8. On packing: Nope, standing up would be bad for stacking. Books aren't made to bear weight that way. And if you put them on edge, openside down, the text block will pull downwards from the binding and get stuck that way.

9. Andrews and Sandford: Double-check. Actually on the Andrews tip, any author that's deceased but keeps releasing new books is a deal-breaker. They ain't Tupac.

don lindgren said...

Paul Coelho, The Alchemist.
anything by Marianne Williamson

WJM said...

All hardcovers would give me the creeps, as well.

NO hardcovers makes me feel pity.

I think there should be a law, by the way, that no classified ad listing "books" should ever be accepted unless at least SOME of the "books" in question are not (A) mass-market paper, or (B) RDCB.

c.b. james said...

Any of the Left Behind series.

who is it? Tis I. Oh, W. said...

I feel I must defend my bookshelf, even from the months old posts in this thread.

I have several Bill O'reilly, Michael Savage and Ann Coulter books. I disagree with everything these individuals believe.

I bought their books from thrift stores or the clearance section of used book stores, never new. I read some of their tripe because I think everyone should be judged on their own merit, not on second hand accounts. I keep their books on the my shelves (not eye level) because where else would I keep them? I refuse to throw out a book, absolutely. Perhaps I should recycle them, but I do feel the need to keep the books in case I need them for reference (I know that is unlikely). I refuse to give them to charity for the same reason I wouldn't give a pox ridden blanket to any smiling natives.

I also have most of Ayn Rand's books. I don't agree with her but I think it is important to understand what people that do agree with her believe, especially if I ever need to try to change their minds.

As far as Harry Potter books, I do have one of them, given to me as a gift. The first place I ever saw the first Harry Potter book was at a college bookstore. It was required reading for a modern literature class.

I don't subscribe to this belief that what is popular is necessarily bad. I have more faith in my fellow man. Stephen King is a modern Dickens. He won't win a pulitzer but he is a good storyteller.

To answer the original question. There is no book that would be a 'dealbreaker'. None. Books are not good or bad, ideas are not good or bad. People can be, but books can never be. That's what I think. And I'll give the person the benefit of the doubt.

But I do always look at shelves, openly and unashamed.

Joanna said...

Ooh, good one! Casteneda. Zen & the Art of anything. The Crow. I also agree that multiple books by the same author can trigger warning bells. If I saw more than a couple from Palahniuk or Bukowski, I'd run! That's one reason I love Librarything - you don't have to be invited to peoples' houses to be nosy about their books!