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Two recent questions have been flagged for closure as recommendation requests but (at the time of writing) have not actually been closed:

  1. Have there been any works of literature featuring the elements from the "After man" series?
  2. Are there any Scooby-Doo books for adults?

The second of these has also attracted disagreement between high-rep users in comments as to whether or not it's really closeworthy. So I'm bringing the discussion to meta.

Should either/both of these questions be closed as "reading recommendations"?

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  • The reason there's no strong consensus on this is that the two situations are entirely different. If I agree with an answer's reasoning on one of the two books, but disagree with the reasoning on the other, then I'm not going to upvote that answer. Result? No consensus on either case.
    – verbose
    Apr 9 at 22:17
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Question #1: should be closed.

Although the question is posted with reference to specific book(s), it's asking about any books which use particular elements:

Have there been any works of literature featuring [...]
has anyone ever made up stories based upon such [creatures]?

This seems no better than the original examples of bad recommendation questions which made us declare them off-topic for this site. I've already voted to close it.

Question #2: not a recommendation question.

This question is asking about the existence of books in a specific franchise, namely Scooby-Doo. It's clearly scoped and will be answerable by a expert. There's no risk of subjective answers proliferating out of control (the main problem with recommendation questions), because it would even be feasible to provide a list of all Scooby-Doo books in a single post and go through them to check which ones, if any, are for adults. It's more comparable to questions like How many Red Dwarf books are there? - strictly contained within a single franchise and therefore reasonably answerable.

The only reason I could see for closing this one is as Primarily Opinion-Based, due to the fact that it can be hard to draw the line between a book for children and a book for adults. But I think a lot of modern fiction, especially in a franchise like Scooby-Doo, is clearly marketed for one or the other, and it's feasible to make that distinction here.

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    And yet, oddly enough, question #1 was the one that a mod voted to leave open.
    – muru
    Aug 27 '18 at 23:41
  • @muru #2 was also removed from review by a mod ("Edit" instead of "Close" or "Leave Open" automatically invalidates the review item).
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 27 '18 at 23:43
  • Huh, same moderator.
    – muru
    Aug 27 '18 at 23:57
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    I have to to disagree with #2. If the question were to ask "How many Scooby-Doo books are there?" it would be the same because it could be answered concisely with a number regardless if that number is 1, 5, 500, or 5000. The question is asking us to recommend or give a list of works which of those might be suitable for adult reading.
    – Skooba
    Aug 28 '18 at 14:40
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I think question #2 should be closed on the basis of being "too broad" and have voted as such.

For my birthday, one of my kids bought me a copy of Podkin One-Ear, a fantasy novel aimed at children. I read it and enjoyed it, for its imaginative setting and well-drawn characters if nothing else.

So: is it really a children's book?

The question is rhetorical and I don't want to debate it. Its simply to make the point that the issue with question #2 is that any answer threatens to spiral into a debate about what is and is not an "adult" book. It is, therefore, too subjective to answer properly.

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    Yeah, I can understand that position. Did you also VTC question #1? (Btw, haven't seen you around for a while! Hope all is well and that this answer marks a return to Lit :-) )
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 28 '18 at 10:42
  • @Randal'Thor I haven't looked at #1 - I came here after seeing #2 in the review queue. Thanks for the welcome - I've actually not been away, simply reading a lot of factual books and not seeing many questions I felt I could contribute to :) Aug 28 '18 at 10:45
  • @Randal'Thor FWIW, having now read it, I agree with you on #1 Aug 28 '18 at 10:55
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For the sake of offering a different perspective on these questions, I propose that we interpret them literally instead of as implicit recommendation questions. In other words, interpret questions asking, "Are there any X?" or "Have there been any X" as yes-no-questions, unless there is something in the question body that suggests that the intent is something else.

Hence, question 1 can be answered with yes providing only a single example as evidence; without evidence, it remains unanswered.

Question 2 is also worded as a yes-no-question and a single example would suffice as evidence in an answer. However, the issue with that question is how to determine whether a Scooby-Doo book is for adults (for adults only??), so the decisive criterion you need for your evidence is opinion-based. Therefore, you can close that question without referring to the "recommendation" close reason.

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    Sorry, -1. Such an interpretation would make a mockery of our recommendations policy, because nearly any recommendation question could be rephrased from "what are some good books satisfying XYZ criteria" to "are there any good books satisfying XYZ criteria". Even if in principle it's a yes/no problem, such questions would still be likely to attract multiple "yes, here's one" "yes, here's another one" answers if the answer is yes.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 28 '18 at 15:13
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    @Randal'Thor That assumes that every "Are there any X" question has more than one or two X. Some "X" are very hard to find and rare, but such questions still get voted down, in spite of effort shown by the OP.
    – Tsundoku Mod
    Aug 28 '18 at 16:08
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    It's true that some such questions won't have many possible answers, but it's hard to tell a priori whether one will or not.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 28 '18 at 16:10
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Question 1 is an open-ended list-based question, and so IMO close-worthy.

Open-ended list-based questions such as this one ask "Are there any works that meet such-and-such criteria?" On the one hand, it's hard to prove a negative and give a definite no; maybe there are such works, but potential answerers just don't know of them. And just because there's no such book today doesn't mean that someone won't write such fiction in future. On the other hand, if there are several such books, then there are as many answers as there are books; there is no comprehensive answer. So I think this question was correctly closed. See also the discussion in this meta answer.

Question 2 is correctly closed as well.

It has the same "are there any ... " structure as Question 1, but unlike that one, it is scoped narrowly to a single series. The difficulty is that "for adults," as asked, is opinion-based. One could change the question by asking whether any of the books were marketed as YA or general fiction as opposed to being in the children's section. In theory this is answerable by researching all the titles to see how the publisher categorized them. Or more simply, by looking at the publishers' imprints and seeing whether any of those are marketed toward adults. The trouble is that there are so many Scooby-Doo books and they are still being published. Even if there aren't any such books today, who's to say that next year, some publisher wouldn't have the bright idea of publishing a Scooby-Doo book for adults? So again, the question is hard to answer definitively. Questions that lack definitive answers are not a good fit for the SE format, and as such this question was correctly closed.

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