Is this unfair to say? Probably. Americans can always read book blogs or magazines. There are CSPAN broadcasts. If all else fails, there are those weird daytime cable commercials where James Patterson looms up from a Dianetics-ad-like background and thrusts his fucked-up beard at you. For most of us, though, Stewart's Daily Show offers the most convenient and least stuffy or "promotional" showcase for new books.
Unless I loathe the author's politics or find his topic too much of a niche interest to add something to my life, there's always a chance that I'll finish watching a Daily Show interview and add the book in question to my wish list. Stewart's a funny guy who's very good at showing his interest in books, and that's infectious. The problem is, about half the time that I finish these books, I have a reaction of, "Yo, what the fuck, Stew-beef?"
See, at this point, Stewart and his staff have gotten so good at picking out entertaining or thought-provoking parts of books to highlight that they can make anything seem pretty decent. However, they have declined to concurrently develop a means of signaling important qualifications to the audience. What viewers need to know is not whether something can seem worth talking about for a few minutes but how much they should want to read something. They need to be told something like:
1. While we have made this book seem interesting, it's actually a load of fact-free garbage that you will learn nothing from.I have no idea how to implement this subtly enough. It's not my job. But, in a pinch, I'd suggest the following system, based off the fact that Stewart likes banging the book on the desk. For number one, merely prop the book up and hold it. Number two, bang the book once and hold it up. Number three, bang the book twice. Number four, bang the book three emphatic times. That way we'll know.
2. In the five minutes we spent making this book seem interesting, we have told you everything of interest about it.
3. There's plenty more interesting about this book, but it's sort of fluffy.
4. This book is good. Buy it.
I bring this up because I'm looking at my copy of Escaping North Korea and resenting John Stewart at the moment. After a Daily Show segment, I put it on my wish list, intending to go back later and decide whether to leave it on the list after user reviews filled in and gave me an idea of how good it was. Instead, I forgot about it; some well-meaning family member bought it for me for some reason, and here we are.