Robin Ince’s Bad Book Club
by Robin Ince
Robin Ince has an obsession with buying and reading very strange books. His disclaimer in the beginning points out that he’s not actually calling the books bad, despite the title, just different. This is very apparent as he writes about each of these books. When he describes their plots, he does so with tongue-in-cheek but rarely rips into them. He celebrates their strangeness–the fact that they should have never been published but were.
Style: I am a style snob. A style and voice can make or break a book for me regardless of characters. The underlying voice in this book kept me wanting to read on. It’s the subtle humor, the ironic tone, and the funny references that really hold it together for me. (“If Jeremy Clarkson wrote thrillers…” page 294)
Focus: The focus of this book is the books in Robin’s collection, and it doesn’t really deviate from there. He often tells how he acquired the books, a little about the authors, a lot about the genre (both facts and opinions), and then of course the plots, usually quoting the most ridiculous lines that force you to shake your head and wonder if he’s making all this up.
The one book that could have been made up is The Secrets of Picking Up Sexy Girls, which someone stole from him on his Book Club tour and there seems to be no record of it anywhere, probably because it wasn’t produced in the traditional route, like with an ISBN number. This is a hilarious an unironic guidebook that starts with Chapter One: What is a Girl?
Other favorites of mine mentioned here include:
- love letters to David Bowie written by people who think they are from other planets
- poetry book about Elvis Presley
- the autobiography of Terry Major-Ball, who’s life goal was to go to Heathrow Airport (not to get on a plane, but just to see the airport) and doesn’t really get around to it
- a book of celebrity interviews…from beyond the grave (which is hilarious because half the time the author Albert Watson is interviewing Coleridge, Shakespeare, Lincoln, etc. and the other half are interjections from Watson’s dead mother)
- he does rip into Ann Coulter a bit, which is always amusing
- bad horror novels like Crabs on the Rampage and The Killing Thing
- the Bible summarized in limericks
- pretty much all of the religion chapter book titles: What Would Jesus Eat?, What God Does When Women Pray, God is for Real, Man. Here, Ince compares God to “a lonely neighbor deliberately throwing dog excrement into your garden to force some sort of conversation. He is then happy to have been noticed when you go round and say, ‘Could you stop throwing your Great Dane excreta over our fence,’ even though you were red in the face with anger, so he stop chucking the poop over the fence. Until he wants you to notice him again.”
- How to Marry the Man of Your Choice which suggests the best place to find the right man is at a boating repair place or at a shoe store
And finally: It’s funny to be a little choked up at the conclusion of a light-hearted book, but he does make a point for the possible death of the secondhand book shops with the progression of the digital age. The “traditional page-turners” may never completely go away, but that doesn’t mean that the little charity shops are going to be able to afford to be in business forever. I don’t know where Robin Ince will get his fix if that happens, but at the moment, he has more books than he can possibly read in a lifetime. He’s started reading just the first chapter of books and deciding whether to keep them or donate them based on that, because counting up how long it takes to read a book and the average lifespan, he can look at his books and know which shelf he will have gotten to when he dies, and there would still be loads extra.
It’s a great book. Took me a long time to read because I’m no longer commuting to work, so I only have time to read when I go in and out of New York, but it did keep me distracted through frustrating train delays.