To be candid, this post was going to be more on the sarcastic side (i.e. my usual) but the more I thought through this issue, the more I became bothered by it–hence, I cannot bring myself to employ (much) sarcasm. Here’s what I mean.
Pick up nearly any book, flip it over and you’ll see any number of ‘praises’ for the book given by any number of people. Admittedly, this sort of thing is virtually standard procedure, ostensibly employed for the sake of boosting sales. In most cases, the strategy involves those touting the book, who tote some rather hefty credentials of their own, to rave about the book in question.
However, one thing I’ve noticed recently is the growing length of these praises. It used be simple one- or two-liners, but now there are near paragraphs taking up the back cover. For example, and taking a sample at random: Thomas Foster’s book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor (2003) has two paragraph-length endorsements; Mitchell Zuckoff’s, Frozen in Time (2013) has four lengthy praises; and Amity Shlaes’s book, Coolidge (2013) carries five rather verbose comments. I almost think royalties also need to go to these endorsers.
I wish I could say that was it, but I cannot. The ‘problem’ (if I may call it that) continues to grow, and it has swelled over especially into the Christian market. Take for instance the book by William Dembski, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (2009). On the back, four comments of praise. However, inside the book, 13 additional paragraph-length endorsements! (15, if you check this version). Seriously?! Do you really need that many, especially when they’re that long? Are you trying to promote the book or boost your ego–i.e. look how many big-named people love what I wrote?
Just when I thought Dembski’s book (which, to be fair, is not that bad) pushed the boundaries, I came across this one by what I would consider to be the unlikely duo, Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears. Seven brief(ish) endorsements on the back and 15 extensive laudations! (Admittedly, and handful of them are extensions of ones on the back, but still). Call me cynical but I would think that if you need that much endorsement for your book, then either you’re skeptical about the quality of its contents or you love the attention you’re getting from others. Either way, that many is a bit over the top–dare I say: ridiculous.
My favorite endorsement, only because it made me laugh, was the one by James MacDonald:
When my friend Mark Driscoll says he has written a book about what Christians should believe, I believe him, and here he has. Mark writes like he preaches: clear, direct, and commanding of your attention. This resource is a challenging yet easy-to-understand guide to the major doctrines of Scripture. I commend it to you as a companion to your study of God’s Word.
First of all, Driscoll didn’t write the book–he co-wrote it; saying otherwise is simply not true. Secondly, if this is your endorsement (i.e. the reason I should buy it), then telling me that Driscoll writes like he preaches is not a selling point; in fact, it’s a turn off. And like with other things he’s done (both in writing and preaching), never once has he ever commanded my attention; his comments generally (and consistently) repulse me.