The topic: Book Recommendations
The perpetrator: Sherlock Holmes
As someone who does a book recommendation segment on The Watsonian Weekly podcast, I'm always looking for Sherlockian books to tell others about. As a Sherlockian, I'm always looking for interesting books that I haven't read yet. In fact, I have an ongoing TBR list that is three pages long, and two and a half shelves of books in my basement just waiting to be read.
So I view it as an important time investment when I read a Sherlockian book. Life's too short to read bad books, right?
That's why I was so disappointed by Mr. Holmes.
"Let me recommend this book,—one of the most remarkable ever penned. It is Winwood Reade's Martyrdom of Man," Holmes says in The Sign of Four.
Sherlock Holmes can't be wrong. So for years, I've expected this book to be a worthwhile addition to my shelves. Well, I finally got around to reading it last week. And let me NOT recommend this book.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't the literary version of Holmes and Watson, where I would be hard pressed to come up with any enjoyable parts. Reade makes some very interesting points in his history of the world, but he never seems to decide if he wants to be writing a history text or an opinion piece on religion.
And it's a long book. It took forever to read and was confusing. At first I thought it was just me. School was back in session, I was exhausted every night, and had little time to read outside of the demands of work and family. I was starting to wonder if I wasn't paying attention as I read. Things started sounding familiar later in the book. Was I rereading pages I'd already read? No. Winwood Reade repeats himself in this book a lot.
Some Sherlockians like to have a copy of every book mentioned in the Canon. Clark Russell sea stories, Bradshaw, Catallus, etc. I love books and I always thought I'd end up there someday. But if I have a book on my shelf, I want to have read it. And I don't know if I can trust Sherlock Holmes to recommend books to me anymore. Holmes's book recommendations are never to be entirely trusted,—not the best of them.