Book Unrecommendations - Books To Avoid

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  • MMS said:
    I have to add - Gone Girl.

    I know it was beloved for the twist and turns - but it never held any mystique to me and it was just mean. Feh.  


    Thank you! I just finished that book the other day and I hated it. I hate it when I can't at least have a modicum of sympathy for one of the main characters. They were both so awful, I was kind of hoping they'd just kill each other. 
  • Glammie said:
    I'm about a fifth of the way into the fourth Wheel of Time book.  Obviously, I like the series well enough to be reading the fourth book and I don't find it horribly misogynistic.  But if you're struggling with the first book, you're not going to get into the series. Most of the stuff I've read online indicates that the series really drops off after the first five books, some comments say the first three.  Personally I find the Game of Thrones series a lot more compelling.

    Thank you!  I actually started reading it in an attempt to find something to fill the void waiting for Winds of Winter to come out.  I guess I'll try the Dark Tower series.  It's a bummer, because I really WANT to like this book.  I just can't seem to get into it.  Maybe I'll be able to pick it up at a later date and enjoy it.  
  • Jessi03,

    Have you tried the Kushiel books by Jacqueline Carey?  There's a fair amount of intrigue going on, the plotting's pretty strong and the writing easy going.  The heroine's pretty much a superheroine masochist, so that's not for everyone, but it works.

    To be fair to Robert Jordan, it did take me a while to get into the first Wheel of Time book--there's something about his writing style that can make what's-going-on and what-of-what's-going-on-is-important-to-remember a bit challenging, but I like the overall world-building and that the different main characters have their own goals and agendas.  It wasn't until I was fairly far along in the first book that I knew I would read more of the series.

    All of which, frankly, would make it great for a series--too bad the rights to it have been so screwed up.  
  • Massimo Carlotto's Giorgio Pellegrini series.  The books are a well-written delve into the corruption that is Italian politics and organized crime, but the "reformed" ex-terrorist anti-hero supports his restaurant through sex trafficking, when he's not psychologically abusing his wife and other emotionally fragile women.

    I usually like Europa Editions World Noir books, but these are too creepy for me.
  • I'm tempted to say anything recommended for Oprah's book club but there have been some good ones included on the overall list - though they've mostly been older works.  If it's contemporary fiction that's recommended I now know not to buy it as I've been burned too many times in the past.  In terms of specific books, I typically enjoy Barbara Kingsolver's works but I couldn't finish the Poisonwood Bible either time I tried to read it - and it was one of the few hardbacks I've ever bought before it was remaindered.  Unfortunately, I had the same experience with The Corrections - though at least I'd only bought that in softcover.  Franzen's Freedom is much better although for some reason I've stopped reading it 2/3 of the way through though I expect to finish it at some point.  Possibly my all time least favorite author is Joyce Carol Oates.  I've yet to be able to finish any of her books so I've given up trying.  I used to always try to finish a work even if I didn't really enjoy it but as I've grown older I decided it just wasn't worth it - I also now feel free to leave after the first act of a play if it or the production isn't that good (it's very liberating).  This conversation has been interesting as obviously there's lots of disagreement.  Personally, I quite like a number of the authors who others dislike and the reverse is obviously true as well.
  • edited July 2015
    Glammie said:
    Jessi03,

    Have you tried the Kushiel books by Jacqueline Carey?  There's a fair amount of intrigue going on, the plotting's pretty strong and the writing easy going.  The heroine's pretty much a superheroine masochist, so that's not for everyone, but it works.

    To be fair to Robert Jordan, it did take me a while to get into the first Wheel of Time book--there's something about his writing style that can make what's-going-on and what-of-what's-going-on-is-important-to-remember a bit challenging, but I like the overall world-building and that the different main characters have their own goals and agendas.  It wasn't until I was fairly far along in the first book that I knew I would read more of the series.

    All of which, frankly, would make it great for a series--too bad the rights to it have been so screwed up.  
    I haven't read the Kusheil books!  I'll give them a shot.  There are so many elements of Wheel of Time that should work for me, but so much of it seems so "done."  I think it's partially because it's been so imitated, but a lot of it seems like it was over and done with in LoTR and Narnia.  There's elements I love in it, but I loved those elements in books I liked better.  

    BobPSP, I'm with you.  Oprah's book club should die. 
  • BobPSP said:
    I'm tempted to say anything recommended for Oprah's book club but there have been some good ones included on the overall list - though they've mostly been older works.  If it's contemporary fiction that's recommended I now know not to buy it as I've been burned too many times in the past.  In terms of specific books, I typically enjoy Barbara Kingsolver's works but I couldn't finish the Poisonwood Bible either time I tried to read it - and it was one of the few hardbacks I've ever bought before it was remaindered.  Unfortunately, I had the same experience with The Corrections - though at least I'd only bought that in softcover.  Franzen's Freedom is much better although for some reason I've stopped reading it 2/3 of the way through though I expect to finish it at some point.  Possibly my all time least favorite author is Joyce Carol Oates.  I've yet to be able to finish any of her books so I've given up trying.  I used to always try to finish a work even if I didn't really enjoy it but as I've grown older I decided it just wasn't worth it - I also now feel free to leave after the first act of a play if it or the production isn't that good (it's very liberating).  This conversation has been interesting as obviously there's lots of disagreement.  Personally, I quite like a number of the authors who others dislike and the reverse is obviously true as well.
    Well if you really and truly tried to read Poisonwood Bible twice and didn't like it, I don't think we can be friends. :-)  However, I'm in complete agreement on Jonathan Franzen.  What a snooze.  

    And now that I've read that Neil Gaiman is a die-hard Scientologist, I can feel good about only liking Stardust and actively disliking everything else, including Anansi Boyz which some people (inexplicably) seem to like.
  • @DaveinHollywood, I have always read that Gaiman pretty vehemently denies being a Scientologist (although he was raised as one and his family sounds pretty hard core). Although you can dislike his books either way, obviously ;-) (I happen to like them, but to each their own)

  • And now that I've read that Neil Gaiman is a die-hard Scientologist, I can feel good about only liking Stardust and actively disliking everything else, including Anansi Boyz which some people (inexplicably) seem to like.
    What @KarenFK said. Gaiman's father was a spokesperson for Scientology in the UK and he and several other members of Neil's family are still members, but Neil is not. That in no way obligates you to like his books, but you'll have to just regular dislike them instead of disliking them on anti-Scientologist principles.
  • Lori said:

    And now that I've read that Neil Gaiman is a die-hard Scientologist, I can feel good about only liking Stardust and actively disliking everything else, including Anansi Boyz which some people (inexplicably) seem to like.
    What @KarenFK said. Gaiman's father was a spokesperson for Scientology in the UK and he and several other members of Neil's family are still members, but Neil is not. That in no way obligates you to like his books, but you'll have to just regular dislike them instead of disliking them on anti-Scientologist principles.
    Oh shoot, I wanted an easy way to give up on him.  It does appear that his Father & Mother were big Scientologists as was his first wife, so I guess we can call him a lapsed Scientologist or perhaps ex-Scientologist.

    I guess that's good since the audiobook of Stardust was one of my favorite "reading" experiences of the last ten years.
  • edited July 2015
    Oh shoot, I wanted an easy way to give up on him. 

    I don't see why you need an excuse to give up on any author.  If you don't enjoy his work, that's the only reason you need.   There are too many good books waiting to be read for you to waste your time reading something you don't like.
  • Lilithcat said:
    Oh shoot, I wanted an easy way to give up on him. 

    I don't see why you need an excuse to give up on any author.  If you don't enjoy his work, that's the only reason you need.   There are too many good books waiting to be read for you to waste your time reading something you don't like.
    I agree with you - but Gaimanites can be very cult-like, and if you are a certain type of geek/nerd to not love his work and see the truths of the universe in him is heresy.
  • Lilithcat said:
    Oh shoot, I wanted an easy way to give up on him. 

    I don't see why you need an excuse to give up on any author.  If you don't enjoy his work, that's the only reason you need.   There are too many good books waiting to be read for you to waste your time reading something you don't like.
    I agree with you - but Gaimanites can be very cult-like, and if you are a certain type of geek/nerd to not love his work and see the truths of the universe in him is heresy.
    This is very true.  I will say that I didn't love him and feared his fans a bit until I read Sandman.  That series got me hooked on comics again.  I love it.  It's not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it.  Also, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is just a beautiful little story.  
  • I like Neil Gaiman's work, though I don't think it's the end-all/be-all that his ardent fans believe it is. I think, in general, he does better where someone is giving the work a visual element--so the Sandman series and Stardust are favorites of mine.  American Gods, on the other hand, I can barely remember. I liked Neverwhere, which was a novelization of TV series he developed.  

    I give a bit of a pass to anyone raised as a Scientologist--they're in a bind--if they criticize it, they risk being cut off from their families, so I think with Gaiman, it's actually pretty clear from his writing that he's not a Scientologist (think about it when reading Coraline), but he's not going to openly attack it.  But, seriously, there's no way a writer as smart and as creative as Gaiman is going to buy into a second-rate SF writer's made-up belief system.
  • I had no idea the book of Neverwhere came after the TV series!
  • Lilithcat said:
    Oh shoot, I wanted an easy way to give up on him. 

    I don't see why you need an excuse to give up on any author.  If you don't enjoy his work, that's the only reason you need.   There are too many good books waiting to be read for you to waste your time reading something you don't like.
    Indeed. There are so many, many good books out there-and since we are all mortal, we can spend our reading time on books we like, and simply say no to those that we pick up but don't enjoy.
  • Glammie said:
    I like Neil Gaiman's work, though I don't think it's the end-all/be-all that his ardent fans believe it is. I think, in general, he does better where someone is giving the work a visual element--so the Sandman series and Stardust are favorites of mine.  American Gods, on the other hand, I can barely remember. I liked Neverwhere, which was a novelization of TV series he developed.  

    Good Omens is one of my favorite books, but at least so far that's the only Gaiman that I've flat out loved. I'm sure co-writing with Terry Pratchett has a lot to do with that.

    I haven't read Sandman yet, which I fear may soon get my geek card revoked. I'll get to it one of these days,
  • Lori said:


    Good Omens is one of my favorite books, but at least so far that's the only Gaiman that I've flat out loved. I'm sure co-writing with Terry Pratchett has a lot to do with that.


    Good Omens was the first Gaiman work I ever read.  Later, I realized that it was Pratchett's contribution that I liked.  I read American Gods, thought the premise was interesting but the execution failed miserably.  Neverwhere was chosen for the "One Book, One Chicago" program, so I gave it a try, and had to give up early on.  It had the same flaws as AG.  So no more Gaiman for me.
  • edited August 2015
    @Lilithcat: Yeah, no author works for everyone. After all these decades as a reader I finally got over feeling bad about my own tastes. If I hear good things about an author I'll give them a try, but if they don't work for me I just let the bandwagon roll on without me. I now try very hard never to say things like, "X is the the greatest!!11!" and instead to say, "I really enjoy X's work because of this and that."
  • I like Gaiman's short stories a LOT, especially Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things, and was enthralled by Sandman when I first encountered it, but I haven't warmed to his novels - except for Good Omens, and it seems I'm not alone there. [Side note: fans of Good Omens who haven't read the how-we-wrote-it afterword by Pratchett and Gaiman should look it up - it was in most of the editions of the book that I've come across, but may not be in all off them. I found their descriptions of how they came to collaborate and how the process went on both hilarious and charming - especially the bits where they each denied having written certain segments and began to suspect that the book was writing itself!]

    I wouldn't exactly UNrecommend Gaiman's non-collaborative novels, but they just haven't grabbed me in the way the short stories do. (He's done other fun collaborations besides Good Omens, by the bye: there's the delightfully weird A Walking Tour of the Shambles, by Gaiman and Gene Wolfe, purportedly a guidebook for an eldritch neighborhood of Chicago.)
  • Did anyone read The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht?  I think I'm in the ballpark on the title and the author, though not sure of spelling.  I listened to probably three hours of the audio version of it and just didn't like it much at all.  As I recall, it was way too scattered and the pieces didn't come together for me.  Also, it was "high literature" which usually means uninvolving to me. :-)  Like Jonathan Franzen etc.
  • I like to mix up "high" literature with "manfiction" occasionally, but I just gave up this morning on The Eye of God by James Rollins.  Just too, too ridiculous for me.
  • I'd like to unrecommend another book that has a lot of great reviews:  What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman.  Just too unrelentingly sad and depressing.  That's what non-fiction is for!
  • Just threw in the towel after ploughing through one-third of a conspiracy/thriller about a 'lost' Shakespeare play, titled, Interred with Their Bones. I've decided that conspiracy stories just don't do it for me;I start picking apart the maze of coincidences,etc. that keep the plot rolling.
  • I realize the Wheel of Time posts were more than a year ago, but I will say that if I had my life to do over, I would have let that series severely alone.

    The first...five? books were great. But Jordan suffered from serious story sprawl -- at one point I felt like he was just using some kind of algorithm to generate names for characters that you only saw for a page or two. And shouldn't Nynaeve's braid have come out of her head, the number of times he wrote about her tugging on it when she was mad?

    Anyway, I finished the damn series when the last book came out because I'd invested so much damn time, and dangit, I just wanted to know who killed Asmodean already. It wasn't worth it. The Last Battle was like 300 pages of Aes Sedai throwing fireballs at each other. BORING.

    Non sequitur: I would like to aggressively unrecommend The Noodle Maker by Ma Jian. So many unlikeable people in so many absurd situations. I guess if you like absurdist/surrealist literature, you might like it. Turns out I don't!
  • I'm getting a little aggravated about the continued pimping of Maeve Binchy since her death. 

    I truly mourned her, I loved her books. Since her death, two collections of short stories have been published, and the last one (A Few Of The Girls) was just a mess, in my opinion. Her earlier work, especially Scarlet Feather, Firefly Summer, Evening Class, Night of Rain and Stars, Minding Frankie, and A Week In Winter, were so amazing that this "Binchy machine" pushing out short story collections that she didn't think were good enough to be included in other collections irritates me.

    Longest. Sentence. Ever.

  • The first...five? books were great. But Jordan suffered from serious story sprawl -- at one point I felt like he was just using some kind of algorithm to generate names for characters that you only saw for a page or two. And shouldn't Nynaeve's braid have come out of her head, the number of times he wrote about her tugging on it when she was mad?


    I recently read Laurell Hamilton's Merry Gentry series and felt pretty much the same. The first couple of books were fun: good bit of filth with an interesting approach to fairy tropes, but then OH MY LORD she started phoning it in. 
  • I recently read Laurell Hamilton's Merry Gentry series and felt pretty much the same. The first couple of books were fun: good bit of filth with an interesting approach to fairy tropes, but then OH MY LORD she started phoning it in. 

    By far my least favorite thing is when an author gets to their fourth or fifth book and starts blowing it off to churn out books. It happened to three of my favorite mystery authors in the past five years. In fact, I didn't even buy Diane Mott Davidson's last book in hardcover, and I'd bought every one in hardcover! 

    I get through the book and then I realize I cant' remember the name of one character or the main theme of the plot because I skimmed the entire thing. Then I feel used and really pissed.
  • Okay, I just finished The Secret History by Donna Tartt and thought it was pretty awful.  Loathsome people and so, so slow.  It wasn't quite as awful as The Little Friend, but nowhere near as great as The Goldfinch.  It's so odd to me when someone can write one great book and everything else is just, well, tedious at best.  
  • I have to agree, Dave, that The Goldfinch is the best of her works to date. I actually really enjoyed reading all three, but I enjoy reading well-worded exposure of human loathsomeness. (Misanthrope, party of one.) Then again, one of my favorite things that came out of The Secret History was "supplemental reading" about secret histories. (There was an article in maybe The Smithsonian magazine?) I found that really fascinating. Of course, I was in grad school at the time, so some pomposity probably appealed to me more than it would now. The Little Friend I liked least, just because it seemed so influenced and derivative in tone to other southern writers.
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