Here’s the writer Alan Moore on why writers should read terrible books, too:
As a prospective writer, I would urge you to not only read good books. Read terrible books as well, because they can be more inspiring than the good books.
If you are inspired by a good book, there’s always the danger of plagiarism, of doing something that is too much like that good book. Whereas, a genuinely helpful reaction to a piece of work that you’re reading is, ‘Jesus Christ, I could write this shit!’ That is immensely liberating — to find somebody who is published who is doing much much worse than you.
And by analyzing why they are doing so badly, this will immensely help your own style. You’ll find out all of the mistakes not to make. ‘Why did this story offend me so much?’ Analyze that. Find out why you didn’t like it. Find out all of the examples of clumsiness or bad thinking that spoiled the story for you.
That will probably be a lot more helpful to your career as a writer.
Yes! Reading bad writing not only boosts one’s confidence, it can be very instructive.
What you want to avoid, I think, is mediocre writing, which neither thrills nor instructs.
This is what Nassim Taleb calls a “barbell strategy” in Skin in the Game: Read the best and read the worst, but skip everything in the middle…
Thanks to @__mariamuller__ on Twitter.
Related reading: Make Bad Art, Too