In Praise of Mediocre Books, with Good and Useful Ideas and Lessons

There are good books and bad books. Even a few great books. — There are really bad books, mediocre books, good books, and…there are a very few truly great books.

There are good ideas; good teachings, good insights, good lessons to implement.  And some of these are written about in pretty mediocre books.

Only a very few books are great books with great lessons.

For example:  think of the issue of time management.  I suppose I have now read a dozen books, or more, that deal with time management.  The “bible” on this subject is Getting Things Done by David Allen. It is a good book; with great lessons.  I would even call it an essential must-read book.  But…it is a good book, not a great book.  It will not win a Pulitzer; but it will help you get your life under a little more control. And that’s pretty important, wouldn’t you say?!

Here is what I am getting at.  There are a lot of books with good and useful content that are not written by great authors.  In other words, we have much to learn from many less-than-great — even mediocre — books.

I thought of this recently when I presented a synopsis of a book that had really important lessons.  Important lessons, yes; but the book itself is mediocre; too much needless repetition; borderline boring in places.  Terrific and important lessons; mediocre writing. (No, I will not name the book).

This was a real page-turner!

This was a real page-turner!

It never feels like work when I am reading a great book by a great author.  Give me a Michael Lewis book, and the time flies.  He writes true page turners; (yes, a nonfiction book can be a page turner!)

I feel the same about books by Malcolm Gladwell, and Charles Duhigg.  And, new to me, Sally Jenkins. When reading a great book by a great writer, I feel what I feel when I am re-reading all of my old Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout.  I enjoy the read; I laugh, I ponder, I am all in.

But, reading many business books, it very often feels like work to plod through them.  The writing is not as crisp.  I don’t care quite as much.  But I know that in such books I will find nuggets of wisdom and genuine help for my endeavors.

I guess I am saying that books are like a lot of other things.  I’ve had great meals at fine restaurants, and in our own home.  But I’ve also had plenty of McDonalds meals, and thrown-together sandwiches, that are a far cry from a great meal.  But those mediocre meals sustain me, and keep me going.

Mediocre books, with important lessons, teach me, sustain me and keep me going.

And on those rare occasions when I find one of those great books, well-written, with important lessons, then I can truly celebrate.

Life is made up of all the books in our reading diets.  I could give you a fairly short list of great books that I have read.  I could give you a much longer list of mediocre books with very good lessons and ideas.  And I am glad I learned from them all.

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