Hertfielder and Papazien: Why it’s OK to thoroughly enjoy a bad book every now and then

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Both of these books are somewhat badly written, at least by the standards I judge writing by. The prose is either unremarkable or flawed, given to cliche and obvious tropes. But I really enjoyed both of them, and I’d be very sad if ever a day came where I found myself unable to enjoy a book that didn’t live up to some objective standard of obsessive rewriting and literary dedication. As much as I value words written beautifully, it seems ridiculous to expect everything I enjoy to fall within that paradigm.

“80.3: Gas Available” is a collection of columns written by Ed Hertfielder for a few different motorcycle magazines. Hertfielder writes short, humorous essays on enduro racing and dual-sport riding, a motorcycle subculture that I have only moderate experience with, but enormous respect for. His essays read a bit like an extremely blue-collar Dave Barry writing mostly for his own amusement -lots of cheap gags and predicable jokes- but it’s honest writing and it’s about interesting shit. Good enough for me.

Charlie Papazien’s “Microbrewed Adventures” is a beer-based travelogue, written by the founder and head of the American Homebrewers’ Association. Papazien has written some of the best how-to books on homebrewing out there and is a perfect evangelist for the American homebrewing Renaissance, but he’s only a mediocre travel writer at best, falling into the kind of cliched patterns of retelling experiences that characterize the blogs of non-writers hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or backpacking across Europe. But again, passion can score points over craftsmanship, and Papazien’s undeniable enthusiasm for beer and the community it engenders covers a multitude of sins.

Recommendation: Read shit that’s interesting to you and don’t get obsessively hung up on exclusively literary prose, or you’ll turn into an asshole and people won’t talk to you at parties.


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