I’ve helped put together five spring books issues since I became an editor at the Reader in 2008. Each of them was a lot of work, but I wouldn’t say any of them was actually a problem. Until now. The one we put out last week was . . . unique.

The theme this time around was publishing, so we decided to include reviews of self-published books by local writers. I assigned a bunch and set a deadline. Now here’s the strange thing: over the following couple weeks, staffers who’d agreed to review a book kept showing up at my office door to express their anguish (anguish!) over what I’d given them to read. A few brought the book with them so they could give me a verbatim catalog of horrible grammar, laughable typos, stupid verbal tics, egregious inconsistencies, and ridiculous turns of phrase. Others came empty-handed, evidently so that they could massage their aching temples as they demanded to know what they were supposed to do with crap like this. There were multiple e-mail exchanges on the subject. “Are we still to review books if we greatly dislike them?” asked one staffer with a sweet diffidence. “I will, but I feel a little bad about bagging on a guy who put all this effort into self-publishing his novel.”

This wasn’t a matter of a stinker or two. It was pretty much the whole bunch. The feculency factor was so pervasive that we had to strategize over what to do about it.