Welcome to the first entry of "Reviews of Books We Could Do Without," brought to you this week by a subscription to Publishers Weekly. The idea behind this feature is that we as an industry publish too many books. And the industry always has published too much for all the wrong reasons. I am not deluded in hoping for all publishers to find something new under the sun, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't hold ourselves to higher standards. All I want is for us to stop and think "Hey, maybe we shouldn't publish more books on Thomas Jefferson or Mammoths or whatever if we don't have something new to say." I want us to be accountable for what we put out in the marketplace. And not just to the sales force or the bookstores, but when you're sitting at home with your children or at a bar with friends. I want all of us to admit that we did our homework before presenting a title. To feel that what we're publishing is worth publishing and fills a genuine need. I accept with open arms a book that presents new material on an old subject (Shakespeare scholarship is a perfect example of a subject area where one would think we've run the course, but people still find something new to write about), but if you are presenting me with something I've seen several times before, something that several other publishers have already published well in a variety of forms. Stop.

So without further ado . . .

Our first entry from Publishers Weekly just so happens to be their first selection for the non-fiction reviews. I present you The Gladiators by Fik Meijer from St. Martin's due out in November 2005. That's right, more than 5 years after the release of the Ridley Scott/ Russell Crowe feature comes another book on the subject. On St. Martin's site they have such "rave" reviews as "in-depth book" and "The author has pieced together thousands of documents, eyewitness testimonies, and engravings to tell in vivid detail the story of the gladiators of ancient Rome." PW at least admits "Meijer adds nothing new to our knowledge about gladiators." Yet they still reviewed the book. Great I now know of another book out there to not read, but the space could have been used for another title that may actually deserves some attention. A simple search on Amazon and I find more than I ever needed on gladiators:

Age of the Gladiator
De Gladiatoribus: A Gladiator Oriented Roman History
Emperors and Gladiator
The Gladiator
Gladiator (based on the Ridley Scott Movie)
Gladiator 100 BC- 200 AD
Gladiator: The Making of the Ridley Scott Epic
The Gladiators: A Tale of Rome And Judaea
Gladiators: Battling In The Arena
Gladiators: Spectacle and Entertainment in Ancient Rome
Gladiators and Caesar
Gladiators at Pompeii
Gods and Gladiators
Life of a Roman Gladiator
A Roman Gladiator
The Sorrows of the Ancient Romans: The Gladiator and the Monster
The Way of the Gladiator
The World of the Gladiator
By the Sword : A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions

And I didn't even list the original sources, Spartacus, fiction and fitness titles. Most of the titles above have come out in the past few years. I know it doesn't match the quantity of other scholarship, but how many of them do we need? And what is the difference between them? Can you honestly look at the list and tell me that we need more than 2 or 3 of them?


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