Scathing Book Reviews of 1421: The Year China Discovered America, by Gavin Menzies

1421: The Year China Discovered America by Gavin Menzies is also known as 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, by those unfortunate enough to not live in America. (I keed, I keed…)  Seriously, that is its title overseas, and whether you agree with the thesis of 1421 or not, it’s safe to say that someone at Harper Collins discovered localized editions sometime in the 20th Century.

Now, as someone who’ll never forget reading about Thor Heyerdahl for the first time back in 4th Grade, I have to admit that the concept of the Chinese discovering America is intriguing, and y’know, those Aztec temples do look a lot like some Chinese restaurants I’ve been to.  When I read The Discoverers years back, I remember reading about the Chinese Treasure fleet with awe, and I would imagine one of those vessels would be easily large enough to sail across the ocean.  PBS, apparently needing something people would ACTUALLY WATCH for a pledge drive, even came out with a 1421 DVD, which no doubt now comes with a complimentary PBS tote bag for every pledge over $50.

However, the lack of solid documentation, and criticism of respected historians, combined with the recent publication of 1434, in which Menzies credits China with sparking the Italian Renaissance, makes me think that the author simply fell in love with his idea.  I’m sure he believes that China did all he claims… But I don’t.  On the other hand, no one once believed the Vikings visited North America prior to Columbus, which is now an accepted and documented fact.  However, these Scathing Book Reviews of 1421: The Year China Discovered America , think the book is like Chop Suey – apparently authentic, but not quite:

This is quite possibly the worst book ever written. A five year old could have written something that would have had more historical merit.


Menzies’ own account of his research techniques leaves one gasping with incredulity at his incompetence.


Oh, boy! This enormous example of what Samuel Eliot Morison called “moonstruck history” is a poorly edited, contradictory and irksome argument that the Chinese voyages of 1420 and following went not only to Africa, as Louise Levathes and others have documented, but circled the earth including treks to near the North and South Poles and planted colonies in North and South America.


 If you believe that little green men from outer space built Stonehenge or the Nazca lines in Peru, this is the book you want to read.


I would give this book no stars, excepting two factors. First, the part about trained otters was cool. Second, it made me laugh.


This book is both good and original, but but part that is good isn’t original and the part that is original isn’t good.


As a professor of Chinese history, I cringe now thinking about the time that I will have to take during class, time that could be used teaching about Chinese history and civilization, to disabuse students who have heard about this caper.


Eric von Danekin showed more scholarship in making his claim that aliens built the pyramids… Pseudo-science and pseudo-history are going downhill.


…I’m open to this story at the beginning. But I’m from Missouri, so when, on page 415, I find “the Mississippi River west of Kansas City” that old show-me attitude really kicks in…

…and, of course, the mandatory decrying of slipping standards:

It can only be an indictment of our currrent, media-addled culture that anyone would take this book as serious history.

…and this reviewer of 1421 believes the Chinese must’ve made one other major discovery. That’s right, the little blue pill:

I… enjoyed him having the Chinese making sperm donations throughout the New World into New Mexico and Arizona. They were definitely intrepid and must have also had Viagra.

Scathing Book Reviews of The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren

If you’re like me, the first time you heard of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren was during that hostage situation where the woman shared the book with her captor, eventually resulting in him releasing her.  Later on, we found out that she also shared some Meth with the guy.  I think Jesus had another Rock in mind when he founded his Church, but the Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways… 

Anyway, what with the hoopla over the “pre-debate” at Saddleback Church, it seems like Rick Warren is quickly becoming “America’s Most Famous Protestant Pastor”, so maybe the worth is worth a look.  Life is awfully complicated, and most of us could use some advice on how to best live it.  However, these Scathing Book Reviews of The Purpose Driven Life say the book is beyond saving:  

Please Lord, stop the endless flow of Purpose Drivel© merchandise. This is NOT about honoring you, it’s about making Rick Warren rich. Warren is to mass marketing what Tammy Fae was to makeup.


The modern professional who has no time for deep thinking wants a streamlined road to heaven and Rick Warren delivers. In place of commandments, sin, redemption and the cross there are business motivational lectures.


After reading this book, I had had a strong urge to find another religion. Something has got to be wrong with that.


I don’t recall anything in the book being ouright heretical. That is about the highest compliment I can pay Mr. Warren’s work.


The book itself is smug, dictatorial and frankly dodgy in some of its use of scripture. For example, to illustrate a point, we are given a quote from Job 5:2 – a quote from the mouth of Eliphaz – one of Job’s inept counsellors!


Great book if you’re looking for a way to give up responsibility for your life and your choices. I can’t quite decide if it is hopelessly misguided, or frighteningly maniuplative.

…and the Devil is in the Details:

I don’t know why anyone is surprised that this book has major flaws when Zondervan’s parent company, Harper Collins publishes the Satanic bible.

…and this reviewers says just go to the Source:

If you are searching for meaning for your life, read the Bible instead

Scathing Book Reviews of Walter the Farting Dog, by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray, Illustrated by Audrey Colman

It’s hard for me to believe that a book named Walter the Farting Dog required two authors, particularly when, according to book reviewers, the setup and plotline seem identical to Dogbreath by Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame. As for myself, I can’t believe that a book named “Walter the Farting Dog” would’ve been allowed in bookstores even as recently as the 1990s, much less the 70s back when I was a kid.

Although, perhaps there was a “farting” subtext that I didn’t recognize in my favorite children’s books. Could it be that Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel couldn’t get work was because of Mike’s tragic flatulence problems? Did the Ingalls Family keep moving because Ma and Pa had a fondness for beans that made them social pariahs? Regardless, the reviewers who left these Scathing Book Reviews of Walter the Farting Dog think the book stinks:

Unbelievable! SHAME to the publisher for actually marketing such a book! SHAME to the author who penned it! SHAME to the illustrator who drew it! And most of all, SHAME to the PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS etc. . . who actually purchased it! A waste of good timber!

…and the requisite mourning of American standards:

Ah, yes — the coarsening of American society continues. There was a time not so long ago when children were actually discouraged from engaging in potty humor because it was believed — how silly can you get? — that the goal was to raise mature people with a sense of class. Now, we’re told we should make poopie jokes with our kids and laugh right along.. . . just one more step in the process of creating a generation of low-class idiots.


To choose to encourage children to laugh at flatulence is unbelievable. My kids laugh enough at it that I feel no need to spend money to make it even funnier to them.


Yes, it’s true that kids find farts funny, but I don’t see why we should encourage rudeness and inconsideration unstead of teaching children control and respect for others. When your kid farts at the table, do you laugh and say “aw, how cute”, or do you have him/her apologize? Seems to me like all the people who love this book probably do the former.

…and I hope this review doesn’t refer that “that” F word:

What a treat–not. The author succeeds in getting cheap laughs by repeating the “F” word over and over, and by showing the mutt with clouds issuing from beneath his tail. Clever. Tacky. What was the motivation, I wonder? <shaking head>


Well, there are GOOD books and then there are BAD books. This one deserves the trash can. Pathetic and in very bad taste. Who cut the cheese, man ???


This book is a nightmare. Funny? No, please have adults sunk to this level and do they intend to teach children that this type of thing is acceptable? Oh, it’s just awful. 😦

Scathing Book Reviews of Breaking Dawn (Book 4 of the Twilight Saga) by Stephenie Meyer

Breaking Dawn, the finale to the Twilight Saga, by Stephenie Meyer, ends a series of books popular to teenage girls of all ages and sexes.  I have read the synopsis myself and I have to say that the ending is not what most readers would come to expect, and one that most parents would not encourage for their children.


All I can say is, any book that ends with a teenage girl married to an undead 100 year old teenage boy, who impregnates her even though he has no “precious fluids”, which leads her to give birth to a vampire child and then become undead herself…  Well let’s just say that Bella isn’t a great role model. Friends don’t let friends become undead mothers.


These Scathing Book Reviews of Breaking Dawn think that Stephenie Meyer should have titled it “Breaking Down”:

The Twilight series has never been great– it’s been sloppily-written, almost plot-less, and incredibly cheesy– but it’s been a guilty pleasure. Or at least the first book was. New Moon was bad, Eclipse was worse, and now Breaking Dawn is the cherry on top of the really horrible sundae. It rapidly goes from unintentionally hilarious, to awful, to leaving the reader wondering how it ever got published


Everyone who hasn’t purchased the book yet, don’t bother. You can probably find a few thousand copies at any local dumpster.


 I think a lot of fans, die hards and those (like me) who just like to read a good book or series, woke up this morning thinking, “What was she thinking when she wrote this?”


I must admit that I was one of those screaming girls last night (early early early this morning!!!) who had to be one of the first in line to purchase (PRE-purchase!!) “Breaking Dawn”. I wish I had gone to bed instead!

…and a SPOILERISH excerpt from a very long, good, but R-rated review:

Further about the sex. Edward apparently just can’t control himself after the sex, and eats the pillows, tearing them to shreds. The second time he attacks the headboard. Judge that one for yourself. I find it ridiculous.


No more flinching, wincing, or cringing for me. Stephanie Meyer, I’m quitting you.


If you haven’t already, do NOT read. Convince yourself that the series ended with Eclipse, and let your imagination run wild for what happens next (for it won’t run any wilder than Meyers). And let’s have a moment of silence for a short but brillant writing career that will never fully recover.

…and this reviewer knows the real reason Breaking Dawn and the Twilight Saga “bites” – George Bush, of course(!?!):

I am struck how low women’s roles in fantasy have sunk during the Bush administration. While Buffy was a strong and progressive leader and hero, Bella is a passive retrograde heroine that makes the women of the fifties seem feminist.

Scathing Book Reviews of Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis is a book that is as emblematic of the 1980s, just like the Bridges of Madison County is emblematic of the 1990s. OK, not “just like” it, but they’re definitely two sides of the same coin. They also share in common an obscure author with 3 names, who wrote two hit books, saw a book made into a movie and then found their early success hard to repeat.

Just think about it – Robert James Waller Bret Easton Ellis One is famous for what his critics would call sentimental pap. The other is famous for what his critics would call nihilistic pap.

I feel like I need Bret Easton Ellis’ stuff just to relive a little 80’s nostalgia, but perhaps it’d be more fulfilling to watch the Robert Downey Jr. version of the Less than Zero movieinstead, which has quite an 80’s cast. James Spader AND Robert Downey AND Andrew McCarthy AND Jami Gertz? I feel strangely compelled to rent it. Anyway, these Scathing Book Reviews of Less than Zero would prefer to give it Less than Zero stars:

208 pages of aimless drivel. About 3 over worked metaphors that stick through a vapid juvenile vocabulary like the ribs of a starved street dog.


Somehow I never noticed that the city I live in is populated entirely by blond-haired coke freaks. Thank you, Bret Easton Ellis. You’ve really opened my eyes….

…and from the same review:

This book makes Jay McInerney’s “Bright Lights, Big City” (which shares much in common with the present tome) seem like Dostoevsky.


Less than Zero is less than bad. It’s tenth-generation derivative California noir by a silly trust-fund amateur with great connections and no talent… It’s Didion writ dumb, Chandler without corpses–unless you count the readers.


I ordered this book from Amazon, after seeing such comments as “the Catcher in the Rye” for this generation. Who are they kidding? Ellis is a one-note writer, who can’t even play his one note well.


It’s not a book; it’s words on a page, and even more they’re the wrong words awkwardly strung together.

…and some harshness for Andrew McCarthy:

Rarely does a movie improve upon a story told in a book; especially when the movie stars people like Andrew McCarthy.


If this is supposed to be literature, I’d hate to see what bad prose is like.

…and finally a review that makes me wonder if Less than Zero’s alternate title should have been “A Night in the Life of Tucker Max”:

Maybe i’m missing the point, but the entire book consists of this: I went to a club, snorted some coke, went to another club, snorted some coke, went home and slept, snorted some coke.

Scathing Book Reviews of Stuff White People Like, by Christian Lander

I first heard of Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander on, I admit it, NPR.  (So sue me!  At least I’m not a fan of David Searis).  So I guess I’m in part the target and the target market for this kind of book.  I also have a blog and wear shorts when its just barely warm enough to put them on, I admit. 

These and dozens of other entries are covered in the Stuff White People Like Blog, from which this book sprang.  I admit its clever and good marketing too – a certain kind of person revels in irony, and the idea of embracing something which mocks your taste in Starbucks, Chinese food, and etc. is right up that demographic’s alley. 

HOWEVER, its not just “Stuff White People Like”, as I know from sharing this with friends that “go beyond the pale”, lets say.   A more accurate title of the book would be “Stuff that Middle and Upper Class Metropolitan Area People Like”, as I know for a fact that where I grew up, there’s one Starbucks in the entire county.

Anyway, these Scathing Book Reviews of Stuff White People Like think the book lacks color:

This book is the most offensive piece of dribble that I have ever had the misfortune of purchasing.

…and from the “missing the point” department:

This book is in the humor section, but it did not even make me smile, let alone chuckle. Organic food? Farmer’s Markets? Nonprofit organizations? Adopting children from third world countries? Barack Obama? This is supposed to be satire? Seems to me that supporting these things make for a better world. If he had gone after typical Republican or white trash stuff then maybe he could have squeezed out some humor, but that has all been done before.
…and a fairly shocking review (I didn’t write it – you’ll either laugh or cry):

The book was written by a white person and it’s the hallmark of elitist whites to say they’re not elitist and distance themselves from being white. Their “above the fray” attitude indicates that they’re better than all other people who engage in whatever attitudes and behaviors they’ve pointed out to us with their super keen senses. I’ve noted this behavior in English and Jewish people.


Worthy of sitting next to the toilet so it gets peed on, you know, since it’s not flushable.


There’s some acute perception and witty writing here. It’s sufficient to carry the reader along in a state of amusement until that inevitable point, otherwise recognizable in a too-prolonged diet of NPR listening, when finally the tone becomes insufferabl

…and, you know, the truth hurts:

I’ve got another thing that white people like: Reviewing books on Amazon and trying to come across as savy and intellectual. (Even on the books that don’t require either of those talents.)

Scathing Book Reviews of How Starbucks Saved My Life, by

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill certainly has a catchy title, and Starbucks has saved my life many a morning by getting my heart started with a jolt of caffeine.  I’ve skimmed the book at my local bookstore, but have been hesitant to buy it, because I’m still employed, and it just seems like you’re asking for bad luck if you buy a book about a guy who lost his job.  However, when the Tom Hanks Movie Adaptation comes out I might be tempted to rent it.

In the book, Michael Gill Gates discusses how he, a laid off executive, was able to find new meaning and dignity in life by working at the local Starbucks and doing a lot of cleaning.  I like Starbucks, but as someone once said, the book wouldn’t have sold nearly as well if it was title “How Wendy’s Saved My Life”, and now that the book’s been published and the movie is in development, I don’t think you’re going to see Gates making a Frap anytime soon.  The Scathing Book Reviews of How Starbucks Saved My Life think its a Decaf Americano:

Neil Genzlinger at the New York Times writes:

Some critics will no doubt dismiss “How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else” as promotional pap masquerading as a memoir. This critic, though, views it as one of the most scathing indictments of the advertising business to appear in a long time.

…and from Amazon reviewers:

The fact that the author was an advertising copywriter is way too obvious in this, the longest infomercial I’ve been through.


…This guy got on my nerves…Everything is so new to him, it’s ridiculous. “Once you get to know them, black people are okay.” “You get 30 minutes for lunch, and it’s really important to be back on time, because the next person is waiting to go to lunch.” He’s never even been in a Wal-mart. There’s something kind of fishy about this guy. Nobody 63 years old living in the U.S., is that naive. His stories about his great advertising and writing skills are not believable. He really doesn’t come across as very bright.


Although the book is short, I had to skip through much of it, because life is short too.


If you really like Starbucks, save your money and buy some coffee…not this book.


How this book wasted an hour of my life…The biggest problem is that the author seems to be writing at an elementary level. He clearly has an interesting story, but nothing that couldn’t be written in a two-page essay.


The writing and the story are so sugar-coated and sickening sweet I could almost feel the cavities growing in my teeth.


Actually it’s the perfect book for the whining generation. Everyone else should treat it like the toxic waste it is. I ordered it by accident and didn’t cancel the order in time. Then I made the mistake of actually opening it instead of giving it to someone I really don’t like. Serious error. Don’t you make the same mistake.

…and this review is so scathing, I have to find out what else this guy has read:

This slight memoir of having gone from being El Exigente to a lowly ten-buck-an-hour barrista at a Starbucks–entitled, with only skim irony, “How Starbucks Saved My Life”–is insipid; filled with the sort of hard-won wisdom most of us have learned by the the time we’re half its protagonist’s age, even if we didn’t happen to leave Yale eighteen credits shy of an undergraduate degree. As they no doubt never said in the Gill household, “Oy!”