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Books for Thought is where I post a discussion topic related to books, reading, writing, or something pertaining to one of the three. I hope you’ll join in, and discuss today’s topic of

the joy of reading subpar books

I use “meh” and “subpar” here to describe those books that aren’t the ones that you disliked or hated, or liked or loved, but those ones that were simply “okay”. That probably got the three star rating because there wasn’t anything inherently special or horrible about them. They just made you feel “meh”.

meh

(found)

Now, I guess a lot of people actually WOULDN’T enjoy reading these meh books, because they’d much rather be reading a good book or a brilliant book. Sure, I would too. I love finding really good books that I love and adore, and that make me flail and cry and squee.

However. I actually … sometimes … like reading meh books. And it’s all about laziness.

Okay, not really. It’s more about the fact that I can get emotionally drained. I love getting excited and flailing and crying and squeeing over a book, but I also love just reading a book, and having little to no feelings for it whatsoever. I may care on a lower level about what’s going on, and what might happen to the characters I’m reading about, but there’s no heart-stopping or hyerventilating or any kind of emotional exertion on my behalf.

And I like that. I like the feeling of going along with characters just for the simplicity of it. I like watching their story come to a point, and then diverge from that point either into a happy ending, a sad ending, or (dreadedly) an open ending. I can go “huh” when everything comes to a close, I can put the book on my shelf or give it away, and never even have to think about it again if I don’t want to.

These meh books can be soothing, especially if I have been reading intensely emotional books one after the other. Reading a book in which I have zero (or at least, very little) investment in is like taking a reading vacation. I’m still doing what I love (reading), but I’m not having to put the effort into the book as I might if it were one that completely dug its hooks into me.

Meh books are enjoyable because they’re not as enjoyable as some other books.

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What about you? Do you like reading meh books? Or would you prefer to read a book that had you react intensely – either in a good way or bad way?

sig-chiara

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Posted on: June 25, 2015 • By: Chiara

60 Responses to Why “Meh” Books Can Be Good Books

  1. YES ALL OF THIS! I’m finishing the Lumatere Chronicles right now and while they’re AMAZING and I love them forever, I’m emotionally drained from the huge attachment I have to these characters. I’ll need something fluffy – and maybe even meh – afterward :D

  2. I hadn’t given much thought to this before you brought it up in this post, but now that I think about it, I can definitely relate! I do love reading intense, feels-destroying books, because those are the ones that stick with me, but I also think reading those “ehh” kinds of books can help me a) learn more about my book taste (i.e., what makes an okay book great for me) and b) kind of recharge, like you were talking about here. This is a great topic for discussions; thanks for posting about the subject!

    • Chiara says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Christina :D

      And yeah, I hadn’t thought about the tastes thing, but it definitely helps, too! I read so much, and I have such a better understanding of what I do and don’t like than I ever have before, and it’s great. It usually helps me to choose books I think I will actually enjoy. But I guess you can’t always get it right and the “meh” books find their way into our reading lives!

  3. It is an interesting paradox – and come to think of it, I have to agree. Especially when it comes to those really emotionally taut and action-packed, tense novels it can be nice to have an ‘in between’ book to prepare for what could be the next epic read. ‘Meh’ books, though not *so* exciting, do, in some ways have their place too. Nice discussion Chiara :)

    • Chiara says:

      I’m glad you agree, Eugenia :D And yeah, it is nice to take a break from intense books sometimes, and read just to read – if that makes sense!

      Thanks, lovely ^.^

  4. Amanda P. says:

    I understand exactly where you are coming from. Sometimes you just need a mindless read. I totally get that. I also think that there is another plus to reading a ‘meh’ book, and it all depends on WHEN you read a ‘meh’ book. I actually try spread out my ‘meh’ reads so that I read one after I’ve finished a a great book. Because let’s be real, we all need a rebound book after finishing an earthshaking book. :)

    • Chiara says:

      It’s definitely great to read a meh book after an amazing book because you KNOW nothing will live up to the amazing book, and you might as well save a potentially good book for when you haven’t just been emotionally wrecked!

  5. Beth says:

    Oooh, you make a really good point here. Books like The Selection and Anna and the French Kiss are meh books for me. They were readable and enjoyable, but not particularly all-consuming. And that is the beauty of them!
    Beth x

  6. Yes! I can totally relate to this! I often read plain and stupid books just to waste time because I am too lazy to take up a book which I will be engrossed in totally. I’ve always thought I am the only one who does this!:)
    It’s actually amusing to see the books that I read during my “too lazy” phase after some time. Some of the books are utterly stupid and so bad that they’re actually funny. And not in a good way, either:)
    Wonderful post, Chiara!

    • Chiara says:

      You’re definitely not the only one! I like reading meh books :D

      Sometimes I don’t actually want to read an amazing book that will crush my feelings because it can get exhausting, so I totally get your laziness, haha XD

      Thank you, Mishma!

  7. Crini says:

    THIS! I would be a constant mess if I only read really good books that make me feel all the things. I’m already overwhelmed by the few favorites I have. If every book made me feel that way, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house anymore.

    3 star ratings have never made me not want to read a book. Maybe they aren’t AMAZING, but good books are great too.

    • Chiara says:

      Right! And then they wouldn’t be as special because there’d be nothing to compare them to.

      I like reading good books, because even though they might not be amazing on the whole, there can still be aspects worth reading for!

  8. I don’t enjoy “meh” books and I’d much rather a book and have feelings about it (good and bad), then read something that I didn’t care for. But your logic makes sense. Also, if you read incredible books 24/7, you probably wouldn’t appreciate them so much because you wouldn’t have anything to break them up and we’d be spoilt for choice. So whether we like it or not, “meh” books are necessary.

    • Chiara says:

      I would prefer to fall in love with every book I read – that would be amazing! But since that would also be a fantasy, I’ve come to enjoy the less-than-mindblowing books that I read, too.

      And exactly! If we didn’t have our meh books, we wouldn’t know a really special book when we came across it!

  9. I haaave to admit…nope! I really don’t like feeling meh about books! I LOVE intense emotions and feeling passionate about a book or character or world. I neeeeed it, so “meh” books always feel super disappointing for me because they haven’t poked me to any emotion. But at the same time: agreed. It is nice to have a break from being intense about a book sometimes. xD

    AND THAT GIF THO.

    • Chiara says:

      I definitely get that! But I just find I don’t really mind if I am lacking in the intense feels department sometimes :D

      Supernatural legit has a GIF for everything. It is its superpower.

  10. I think to some extent this is definitely true. Reading really intense books can drain you a lot, but I feel like the issue could be corrected by switching authors or genres, instead of reading subpar books. The issue really is that I have too long a TBR, and if I also got “meh” books, I don’t think I’d ever clear it out. Of course I still get ‘meh’ books despite relying on reviews and such, but I won’t deliberately use them to give myself breathing space.

    That’s just me, though. I do think some people may enjoy reading less tightly paced books, and for them this is a really great idea.

    • Chiara says:

      I don’t go out looking for subpar books, haha. It’s just that sometimes I might pick up a book on my TBR, or review list, that might not look like something I’ll LOVE. I still want it to be good, or at least enjoyable, but if it isn’t, I don’t feel sad or whatever!

  11. Mitchii G. says:

    The heavy emotions we invested in our “amazing books” does lead us drained in both good and bad ways. So I agree that meh books balances that out and keep us on our toes. ;D

  12. Mawa Mahima says:

    YES! THAT’S SO TRUE!
    It’s what I’m doing with anime these days. I watch one of the epics that put me through a hellish emotional rollercoaster and then I seek out some fluff (meh) anime to watch because my heart needs to repair and I need something that isn’t going to pull me in too fast. Fine, all the anime I watch pulls me in, but the fluff ones are fluffy while the epic ones are dark or have massive plots that require me to ugly-cry every now and then.
    AND THIS SO TRANSLATES TO BOOKS.

  13. Beth W says:

    Meh books are totally necessary. If EVERY book was amazing, then the bar would be re-set in a bad way. Meh books are still entertaining/educational/distracting. And then when you find a great book, you have a good comparison with which to measure it.

    • Chiara says:

      I do love the fact that meh books give the amazing books a reason to be amazing! As much as it would be quite fantastic to read great books all the time, it would get a little repetitive, and then even those great books would stop being great (if that makes sense!).

  14. haha I totally had this thought today! I was reading an OK book during my lunch today at work and was debating whether or not to finish it. But I really wanted to see how it ended. Plus, it’s a good way to pass my lunch time so I don’t take too long for lunch when I need to get back to work :P

    I don’t mind reading “meh” reads though I sometimes wish I read them faster or picked another book instead. I do struggle writing the review though.

  15. Meh books can be actually pretty relaxing. :)

    I buried myself in a lot of “meh” fiction after going through the emotional roller coaster that was “Mistborn”. Sometimes you just need a plot to cruise through.

    Meh reads are like…car or train rides. You know where you’re going and you don’t have to worry about getting to where you need to be. Easy-breezy.

  16. Romi says:

    I get this. I would definitely prefer to be reading brilliant, this is gorgeous and nothing gets better than that kind of books all the time, but those books are hard to find which adds to how marvellous they are. I find that “meh” books help me get out of reading slumps, too, so though they aren’t fantastic, and I don’t feel the need to keep or reread them, they’re still necessary. And sometimes it’s nice to just… rather enjoy. So long as you’re not left irritated.
    Aah, the dreaded open ending!

    • Chiara says:

      Exactly! As much as I wish I could find amazing books to read all of the time, part of their specialness is the fact that they are SO hard to find!

      And yeah, meh books are good with reading slumps, because there’s no pressure to fall in love with them.

      UGH open endings are the death of me!

  17. I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes I need expectation-less, emotionless reading and those 2-star, didn’t like or dislike books are great for this. Nice post!

  18. Benish says:

    YES to this post!

    I totally get what you’re saying, I feel meh books are important in their own ways as well. Sometimes, I do enjoy them but a lot of the times they did have potential to be an amazing book. I found those books also the hardest to rate as well, I agree that sometimes we don’t always need intense books and light books work fine at the moment,

    • Chiara says:

      :D

      Its always a little sad to see a meh book with potential! But if it’s a first in the series, I always look forward to the second book.

      Yeah, meh books can definitely be hard to rate, and review!

  19. I love this post! I’m not usually one to really plan my reading but right now I’ve got an organized stack of books that are alternating between genres, because I can’t go from one super exciting book to another, especially if they are in the same genre.

    I don’t know if anyone else has talked about this, but an important point is that meh books for some people can be favorites for others. If you’re not a fan of mysteries, you can still appreciate it even if its really meh for you. I think that recognizing that people’s reactions, including the noncommittal ‘meh’ can be different even when reading the same book.

    Lovely thoughts! :)

    • Chiara says:

      Thank you, Mary! I find it hard to read the same genre for extended amounts of time, as well. Especially fantasy/paranormal/dystopian (they can get so dramatic!).

      Oh, yeah, definitely! Sometimes I’ll say that a book is meh for me, but could be right up someone else’s alley. And that’s one of the great things about reading :D

      Thank you again! ^.^

  20. I always want a book to make me feel invested. I always want stories that make me care about the characters. Now, I don’t ALWAYS want to read books that are crazy heart-pounding, super stressful, super dark, and super EPIC because, let’s be honest, that’s just exhausting. But I don’t want to read “meh” books because, in the end, they’re not very memorable. Now that I’m thinking about all this, I’d rather read a book I hated than a “meh” book because at least I’ll remember something and have feelings. I must be weird. But I totally understand not wanting to have to use your brain all the time. Laziness is awesome sometimes.

    • Chiara says:

      I have read some meh books that have actually really left quite an impression on me, because something stood out – be it plot, or one of the characters, or a passage of writing. Sure, some meh books can be very forgettable, but not always.

      I don’t think it’s weird! Quite a few people have said that they’d rather feel something intense than not much at all.

      And yes, it’s sometimes nice to read just for the sake of reading.

  21. Oh my goodness, you put it into words! I’m 100% with you on this one – I try to alternate books that have allllll the hype with ones that I’m not entirely sure about, mostly because I know there’s a pretty high chance the former will leave me in a melted puddle of feels. “Meh” books are lovely for times when you just need to recharge and restock the emotional readiness without, y’know, depleting it by flailing everywhere. ;)

    • Chiara says:

      YAY! :D And yes, they’re super great when you just need to take a break, or read something different, or something that will just be an easy read without too much work!

  22. Shannelle says:

    I personally don’t feel the same way. I’m hard to excite, and I wish I could be reading more phenomenal books like THE SUMMER OF CHASING MERMAIDS.

    But yeah, I don’t feel so much with books. I am easily an emotionless little robot that gets easily angry at books, but rarely ever feels strong positive emotions. So I’m usually meh all the time.

    • Chiara says:

      You really want me to read that book, don’t you? XD

      That’s super sad! I don’t often fall 100% in love with books, but I can usually muster up some positive vibes if I liked it enough.

  23. I have to say I’m not a fan of meh books, and for a really bad reason – awesome books and terrible books are both really fun to review and just to talk about in general, I can fangirl or rant and (ack it sounds so awful *hides*) I kind of love to rant, obviously with a balance but.. yeah.. excuse me while I run away and continue to be evil *cackles*

  24. Hmm I can see why you like to read mediocre books, but my 3 starred books aalways bugs me because I wish those books were awesome, fantastic, and made me feel all the feels, but unfortunately they did not :(

  25. Nara says:

    This is definitely an interesting argument for “meh” books! I don’t really feel the same way though, to be honest! I much prefer when books give me more feels, because I’m the type of reader that doesn’t get hugely invested in books (one of the reasons why I’ve literally only had one book hangover my entire life, which lasted only two days). I mean, I do get invested in them, but not to a degree that leaves me drained or anything like that. Which is why I’m able to read a lot of really brilliant books in a row, and can keep up with that.

    • Chiara says:

      I’ve never had a book hangover, either. I’m always up for reading a book, even if I’ve been emotionally wrecked by the one before it.

      It’s good that you can do that! I don’t think I’d like it, to be honest, because I’d feel like the books were less amazing because there’d be nothing to compare them with.

  26. This is so weird, Chiara. I feel exactly the same, sometimes I pick up “meh” review reads or books that I know I’m not going to love, for the sake that I don’t want to be emotionally drained into a book. Weird!

  27. Kayla says:

    Definitely understand! Sometimes they help me get out of a reading slump, too, that came from reading an intense/too awesome book that I’ll always love. And perfect gif use!!

    • Chiara says:

      Yay! And they can definitely help with reading slumps, and getting over a book that was REALLY AMAZING. I don’t like to pick a book I think I’ll love after reading an amazing book, because I don’t want to compare them!

      And thank you :D

  28. I definitely agree with you that a dose of meh books are a good thing. And the laziness part fits too. Lol. Sometimes I want to read for the mere mechanics of reading because I need to do something to keep me occupied but am not in a state of mind to really be invested in a book. That’s when the meh books come in handy because I can just fly through them and satisfy that need to read yet not have to worry about my brain’s capacity to process what I’ve read.

  29. I agree with you, sometimes I love reading ‘meh’ books because I just want a break from the really good, complicated books. Sometimes you just want an easy, fun read that you know isn’t amazing so you don’t have all of these expectations. So how could you be disappointed?

    I agree with all of your points :D

    • Chiara says:

      Exactly! Having no expectations of a book can be so freeing when you read it, and a really nice surprise if the book turns out to be better than expected! :D

      Yay! ^.^

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