Worthless Books

At one time, I was going to write a book entitled
Worthless Books
But after writing seven reviews,
I suddenly realized how ironic such an endeavor would be.

Concept: A coffee table book highlighting the most worthless books ever published. Each entry being a picture (or two) and a short commentary (or two).
Putting to rest the misguided notion that just because a book has been published it has some sort of intrinsic value.

iPhone book poised over garbage can

Sometimes a single picture says it all...

iPhone: The Missing Manual

by David Pogue
The book that should have been in the box ®
Pogue Press, O'Reilly, 2007

The tag line should have read: If you've already located the power button, you don't need this book.

If you're the type of individual who had always wished those old rotary style phones had come with a 292 page instruction manual, then this is the book for you.

It's the type of book that makes you realize why booksellers insist on being paid in advance before one purchases a book.

Somebody (somewhere) actually paid $19.99 for this book. Amazing!

The average American doesn't read a single book during the course of the year. If you leaf through this book, you'll immediately come to the logical conclusion that the average American just isn't that stupid; they have better things to do with their time.

iPhone book poised over garbage can

In the background!
Proof that I like the printed word,
some of it...

Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms

Cliff Notes Incorporated, Bethany Station, Lincoln 5, Nebraska
Copyright 1961 by C.K. Hillegass

At one time a book such as this would have had a place on every student's desk, but today... replaced by the search engine on the computer's desktop.

If I have but one fundamental observation to make regarding this tome: within its bounds nowhere are the words synonym or antonym defined. So fundamental, that the book's purpose is implicitly presumed and nowhere explicitly stated. As if to say, those who can use it, will already know what this guide is for... obviously, to be included in a book on outdated, spurious, and marginalized tomes of which for many there was no distinct need.

Secret Codes 2005 Vol. 2: Unlock Everything

Brady Games Publishing
© 2005 Pearson Education

You know what? I'm going to be reasonable. This is the second volume of Secret Codes. And that means the first volume sold, that there is a need in the market. The public has spoken.

Me? I just can't seem to understand the appeal of such a book. I understand a one game strategy guide. Computer games are no different than a classic game like chess. And I understand both the need and desire to study chess. But when you get a book that contains hints for dozens upon dozens of games for seven completely different gaming platforms, what you're getting isn't strategy, you're getting a list of cheat codes.

And frankly, I just don't need a list of cheat codes for the one or two games I own, much less for several hundred that I don't.

So maybe not worthless, simply misunderstood.
No photograph. But if you'd like, imagine a small handbook sitting amongst a pile of old Atari gear.

The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book

A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
by Don Miguel Ruiz
Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc. 1997

Not a bad book, just worthless. And, yes. There is a difference.

You see, if you read the cover and then flip the book open and read the front jacket, well then, if you've done all that, you've pretty much read the book. Oh, you'll miss a nice little inspirational passage concerning the Angel of Death (he's the one who owns this world, you're just visiting), and you might never find out what mitote means (the Toltec word for multiple voices of confusion echoing in your head, I'm guessing, because you know, there is no English equivalent for a state of permanent foggy-minded distraction), so for some the book will be worth the read, but for me The Four Agreements say it all by themselves quite succinctly, making all those pages between the covers sort of redundant.

But since sixteen words do not a book make, there are thousands more awaiting between the covers. Words that will tell you to:

Be Impeccable With Your Word
Don't Take Anything Personally
Don't Make Assumptions
Always Do Your Best

Which is another way of saying, if these four statements seem a little confusing to you, this is just the book for you... or not, because if you can't understand those four simple statements, it seems sort of unlikely that you'd be able to digest an entire book length manuscript.

Oh, come now.
Don't take it personally.
I think you're making assumptions.
In the end, I'm sure you'll do your best.
Scout's Honor and all that.

Micky Waterman's: Inside Tips on Shopping Around the World

1973 by Palmtree Publishers

This is the book for you if you find the following tidbits useful:

Among the best buys in Corsica are Goat Cheese, and
One of the better places to shop in Leningrad is The Beriozka Shops

As a reference book, I suppose it has its place, but right inside the cover in big letters it proclaims:

You're Traveling?
You'll buy Something!
...Pack this book
(saves time and asking)
...Use the charts
(you'll be glad you have 'em).

Good advice provided you're the type of person who likes to carry a 313 page book deep into the heart of Jaipur (India) for the three pages of information this tome offers on that locale; or prior to your trip to Italy, you think you'll need to know how to say jacket in eleven different languages, including Swahili!

All I can really say is that I'm totally surprised that I got my hands on a first edition, 'cause you know this thing's been reprinted like a thousand different times.

"Wait! Wait! Before I go to Kampala (Uganda), I want to check out what Micky has to say. Let's see. 'Mrmdar rugs, Kalule pots, Waragi ligueur, spears, shields...' I'm guessing the local specialties. Good to know. Would have never figured that out within minutes of walking into the local bazaar. Thanks Micky. And don't worry, I won't be leaving your book at home. Who knows? After I'm done with the Congo, I might hop a freighter to South America and need to know the local Sears is a good place to pick up a bargain in Caracas (Venezuela)."

The [Transcendental Meditation] TM Handbook: How to Enjoy the Rest of Your Life

by Denise Denniston and Peter McWilliams
Illustrated by Barry Geller
A Three Rivers -- Price/Stern/Sloan Book, 1975

This little tome is a classic example of what is wrong with, oh, so many metaphysical books. They make a big promise: in this case, telling one How to Enjoy the Rest of Your Life. And then, they sort of fall short -- like big time -- when it comes time to deliver on the goods.

You see, to enjoy the rest of your life, what you'll need to do is practice Transcendental Meditation. Which seems simple enough, and I'd be happy enough to give TM a go, but (IMHO) the closest you'll come to an explanation of what TM®© is appears on page 35.

"The Transcendental Meditation technique is a simple, natural, effortless process that allows the mind to experience subtler and subtler levels of the thinking process until thinking is transcended and the mind comes into direct contact with the source of thought."

Got it? Good. You are now free to enjoy the rest of your life... after you sign up for the seven step program. Or if you're like me and don't want to shell out the cash for the program ($1,500, I hear), you just might want to do a web search on Mantra Meditation.

And basically, any book that can be adequately summarized by a Wiki article or cursory web search is in this day and age totally worthless.

So The TM Book, welcome to the club.

Perhaps, I will do additional single one-off's of these if I run across any choice titles in the future. You know, not the type of examples one uses to fill up a book project such as these; but rather, those prime examples that make one think about doing such a project in the first place...

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Oh, hey. Would it be too meta if I did a rant on worthless web pages and back referenced this one?