Book Unrecommendations - Books To Avoid

I said someone should start a list of books that they hated so I thought I might as well be the one to start it.  I guess this isn't for books that are universally deemed to be bad, but books that someone seems to like (at least the publisher) and you found it to be pretty awful.

I'll start with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell.  This was recommended to me by my best friend (!) and I thought it was boring and passive.  Apparently I am alone.
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Comments

  • You might not be alone on that...I started that book several years ago and have yet to finish it...because it does seem boring as heck. ;)

    I love Annie Proulx's work (esp. her 3-volumes of Wyoming short stories), but I really didn't like "The Shipping News."
  • Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.  It took everything I loved about Pride and Prejudice and gutted it.  Unless you thought Wickham was a great guy and Elizabeth was a complete milquetoast, run.  Run like the wind.
  • I LOVE THIS IDEA. Let's save each other from terrible reading!

    Sanshiro, by I forget what author. It's supposed to be one of the great classics of Japanese literature but honestly, I could not for the life of me figure out why I was supposed to care about any of the characters.

    The Thorn Birds also bored me to tears. I finished it, but boy, did I struggle.

    I also gave My Brilliant Friend a try and decided not to go any further with that series. The narrator just felt so wishy-washy that I couldn't get behind her, and the rest of the characters didn't grab me enough to make up for that.
  • @GiverofCheese, my spouse hated Shipping News!  I'll gladly warn folks away from Anne Tyler novels, full of mopey people spreading gloom.
  • edited February 2015
    @GiverOfCheese, I share your hatred of The Shipping News. I enjoy her short stories, but unless a person who knows my tastes very well recommends it I'll probably never read another of Proulx's novels. I hated TSN that much.
  • I usually enjoy fantasy, but Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was too slow and too passive for my tastes as well. I finished it, but I didn't find the ending to be sufficient payoff for so many pages of setup.

    I didn't care much for The Life of Pi, either.
  • I just finished Captain Corelli's Mandolin and hated the ending so much.  I know it was supposed to be the "greatest romance ever!" and all that but it was undone in the end.

    I happen to really like Anne Tyler novels (sorry Altalinda), BUT the one book of hers that is supposed to be the best and won her the Pulitzer or whatever was by far the most boring and mopey - Breathing Lessons.  Took me several tries to get through that one.

    Hmm, I guess a subset of this string would be Great Authors, Lousy Books.  I'd put The Lacuna on that list by Barbara Kingsolver.  The Poisonwood Bible was so good and then The Lacuna was, well, boring and passive.
  • This is difficult, as an unrecommendation has the same risks as a recommendation - we all have different tastes, so just because I hated something doesn't mean that you will. For example, I simply adored Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, am -re-reading it now (via audiobook), and look forward to the upcoming BBC mini-series adaptation - but that doesn't mean others are wrong to dislike it.

    There are some acclaimed titles that just don't do it for me - much of Steinbeck's work, for example, is either too relentlessly painful or has no characters that catch my interest. (Oddly enough I've enjoyed many other bleak works, and I don't require likeable characters, but somehow Steinbeck's grimmer titles just turn me off. Perhaps it's all due to having been forced to read The Red Pony in school; that one gave me nightmares!)

    And I never got into Faulkner, beyond the short story "A Rose for Miss Emily" (which is wonderfully creepy) and a couple of other short stories. Every time I read rave reviews of his novels I decide to give them another try, but all it takes is a few pages' worth to make me give up again.

    But I'm not un-recommending those - just noting that *I* didn't care for them. You might prefer them to, say, Middlemarch or War and Peace, both of which I loved (though to be fair, I've re-read Middlemarch several times but haven't opted to revisit War and Peace again).

    On a somewhat lighter note, I do not care for some of the more wildly popular manga series such as Love Hina or One Piece, but am passionately devoted to Naoki Urasawa (Monster, Pluto, Master Keaton), Death Note, and Ouran High School Host Club {grin}.
  • rainwood said:
    Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.  It took everything I loved about Pride and Prejudice and gutted it.  Unless you thought Wickham was a great guy and Elizabeth was a complete milquetoast, run.  Run like the wind.
    You could not have explained my feelings on that book with any more clarity.  Ick.

    Speaking of classics, I tried reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles last year.  I hated it intensely and only made it about 2/3 of the way. 
  • I just could not finish "The Time Traveler's Wife". I was so bored that I left it in my hotel room in Aman, Jordan.  Also, when I did finish "One Day", I wanted to throw the book across the room in disgust, but realized I was on an airplane!
  • edited February 2015





    Great thread idea!

    My un-recommendations:

    The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

    Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton (came out today but I got an early copy. It was a hot mess.)

    The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

    Thoughts of Maria by Gregory Heath

    Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds by Ping Fu (many people think this autobiography is completely made up)

    How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (too incest-y)

  • I really disliked Frankenstein.  Maybe it's just because I had to read it for school but I enjoyed a lot of other assigned readings so I don't know.  I'm sure there are other books that I was just bored with and have forgotten over time, but this one sticks out in my mind as one I actively disliked.
  • I really disliked Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz. It was just not for me. There'd be a scene with multiple characters and then you'd get yet another 3 pages about undergraduate admissions at Princeton.


  • edited February 2015
    While I can't say I disliked The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, but I was greatly annoyed, frustrated, and angry by it.  So much so I wanted to throw it against the wall when I finished it.  I have never been so disappointed in an ending.  

    One of my favorite series is Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome, but even my love of that series cannot save my utter dislike of the last book in it, Antony and Cleopatra.  One of the problems with the series is how much of a hero worship she has for Caesar, and her loathing of Marc Antony and Cleopatra.  In my opinion she shouldn't have written that last book (many think she was pressured into it), and you can positively feel her loathing dripping from the pages.  
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman.  Hated. It.  A lot of people said it was a rip-off of Harry Potter. However, this fellow doesn't 
    come close to JK Rowling, and I don't even like fantasy.  
  • The J. J. Abrams meta-book S. Fun yet exasperating to read, very unsatisfactory and maddening conclusion.
  • I read Middlemarch and Don Quixote last year and came to the conclusion that (with rare exception) if you can't tell your story within 300-400 pages you probably need better editing skills! I was also recently disappointed by the first book in the Outlander series (though I've heard the TV series is really good), and Amy Tan's book Valley of Amazement.
  • I said someone should start a list of books that they hated so I thought I might as well be the one to start it.  I guess this isn't for books that are universally deemed to be bad, but books that someone seems to like (at least the publisher) and you found it to be pretty awful.

    I'll start with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell.  This was recommended to me by my best friend (!) and I thought it was boring and passive.  Apparently I am alone.
    I'll never get those hours back. I just ...kept waiting for something amazing to happen. I second your unrecommendation!
  • I can't get through the Louise Penney mysteries.  So gloomy.
  • Great topic!

    Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier - I didn't like it at all. I wanted to, but the combination of his word choices and molasses pace made me want to throw it in a fire.

    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - I just couldn't get into it, which is strange, because on paper (HA!) it has so much of what I like in a story.


  • There are only two books in my life that I refused to finish (in fact, I threw each of them across the room in disgust about a third of the way through).

    Watership Down (I know, I know, this is supposedly a modern classic, but I found it BEYOND boring and elementary)

    Eat, Pray, Love (absolutely the most meaningless, self-important drivel written by and about a person I could not care less about).
  • I had a terrible time reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson. It was soooooo slow, and gave way to much detail about stuff that had nothing to do with the story. I put it down for several months a few different times. I forced myself to read it because it was getting so much acclaim (long before the US movie), and it had been recommended to me. I normally binge-read books, and this was the one exception to that. 
  • Yes, @Twigg, it took me an entire year to read The Corrections. It became a war of attrition. I won, but it cost me.

    I recently read Lila (the third of Marilynn Robinson's Gilead trilogy. It's on everybody's best of 2014 list and... it was fine, I guess, but I don't get the hype. I'm also about 70 pages into Gilead, which won the Pulitzer for literature, and I keep thinking the lightbulb will go on as to why everyone loves these books so much. Not yet.
  • edited February 2015
    I have about 30 pages of Ahab's Wife left, and I don't know if I can force myself to read them. I picked it up because I love Moby Dick and am intrigued by the character of Ahab, but this woman is almost too much for me! I might want to slap her.

    I also just read The Signature of All Things, and didn't really love it.

    When I got to the end of The Story of Edgar Sawtell, I had a real wtf moment.

    As for books I had to quit reading : Gravity's Rainbow -- when it got to where whole pages didn't make sense, I had to cry uncle. 


  • @alyssaj I HATED the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I broke my own "Once you start it, you must finish it" rule.  Actually, that was the beginning of the end for that rule. Now I give myself a chapter or two, and if I'm not feeling it, I put it down. Life is too short for lousy books.
  • alyssaj, I actually understand your loathing of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  I finished the book, but when I was done I could NOT understand why THIS book was the one that everyone went gaga over.  I liked the "boring" part in the middle where they recreate the main crime/mystery of the book, but the first 100 pages of ultra-boring stuff about a company that didn't matter was really unnecessary, and the final part of the book where the "damaged" girl of the title suddenly became the smartest superspy in the world just strained credibility.  I didn't bother with the sequels.

    BitingPanda, thank you so much for your confirmation of my assessment of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.  I mean it is supposed to be a magical fantasy, but nothing ever happened and when it did, they only talked about it, they didn't show it.  I mean you expect that in a Marilynne Robinson "nothing happens" book, or Jonathan Franzen (ugh, The Corrections, never again), but in something compared to Harry Potter?  Uh, no.

    GeoDiva, I think your hatred of One Day must have something to do with the "twist" in the final third of the book?  I can see how that would anger people.  I was taken aback by it, but soldiered on because I thought there was a lot of good humor in the book.  But don't get me started on the movie.  Yikes.
  • The Adventures of Augie March.  Yes, I know Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but this book is making me crazy.  There's a good picaresque novel in there somewhere, but it's buried under a sea of adverbs and adjectives, and pretentious, Joycean passages.
  • GeoDiva said:
    I just could not finish "The Time Traveler's Wife". I was so bored that I left it in my hotel room in Aman, Jordan.  
    I wasn't blown away by The Time Traveler's Wife, but I enjoyed it well enough. And on that "recommendation," I bought and read and had to force myself to finish another Audrey Niffenegger novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. I forced myself to finish it because I kept hoping against hope that there would be SOMETHING to redeem it, but no. It was a ridiculous premise that just made me more and more ticked as I read on. With no pay-off. Ugh.

    Another novel that many people like but that I have loathed since first reading (and, since it's a "classic" and I was an English major, it was assigned reading several times through college and grad school) is Wuthering Heights. There is NO character to like or root for in this book, and while that's not necessarily a deal breaker, the whole thing is so dreary and boring. I do like the Olivier/Oberon movie version, however. 
  • @PoptartK while I personally love and adore Time Traveler's Wife (not because it was so very well done, but because it haunted me, infected my dreams, and breaks me every time I read it.) I was FUCKING furious as the monstrosity that was Her Fearful Symmetry. I never pay for hardbacks, but that's how excited I was to read another by her.

    I am curious if my then emotional and mental state was why I could not get into The Midnight Circus. Everyone loved it, I started it, but it is collecting dust on a shelf, somewhere.  Is it boring or was it me? 
  • edited February 2015
    A book club that I once belonged to read "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" way back when, and I couldn't get through it. And if I recall correctly, most of us didn't. 

    But the books that I really hate? Anything by William Faulkner. Makes me want to gouge my eyes out. And I took a comparative literature class on him (and Gabriel Garcia Marquez) in college, so it was a whole semester of his crap. I ended up giving up on him, and my roomie would fill me in on the crucial details of the storyline. 

    I'm sure there are plenty of others, but these are the first that come to mind.
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