What's the worst, most annoying book you've ever read? March 17, 2020 4:39 PM   Subscribe

I loved this post on the green and thought I'd extend the question to the flip side.

I am a voracious reader, and frequent a used book store on a regular basis. I saw this"Ahab's Wife and brought it home. Despite the rave reviews on Goodreads, I hated this book. And I can't get it out of my head. What are your worst reads?
posted by annieb to MetaFilter-Related at 4:39 PM (386 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

This piece of absolute cardboard. Purple prose with really really weird background message about how the Tory's are right about crime and punishment- only the dude's from Dallas! I wanted to use it as mulch.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 4:48 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Now I can't admit to having actually read it per se, and I'm sure it's a perfectly fine book given the number of people who like it on MeFi, but I more or less thre Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars against the wall after the first chapter when I realized I'd probably just be hate reading it for many chapters just to see what happens to the guy who's set up as a major jerkass at the beginning. And it just wasn't the thing I was in the mood for.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:53 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


When I was a teenager, I had a couple of good friends who were into Ayn Rand (as you do), so I picked up the Fountainhead. The main character is an architect, I figured. That could be interesting. And it's a book of ideas, that could be good.

The writing is so laughably bad, I don't think I got through ten pages. Just the worst kind of amateurish prose. Like, sub-Stephen King bad. I never even got to the ideas, which is just as well.
posted by rikschell at 4:54 PM on March 17 [10 favorites]


Ooh, Zalzidrax, I did not enjoy Red Mars either. The worldbuilding is impressive, but there's not much of an actual plot to speak of, and the characters just seem to putter along. I listened to it on audio while exercising, and was relieved to be done with it. I did not read the other books in the series, even though I was interested in seeing how Mars itself developed. There was just no there there.
posted by rikschell at 4:59 PM on March 17


A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

Did you miss the symbolism, you stupid, dumb reader? LET ME BEAT YOU OVER THE HEAD WITH IT, OKAY? HANG ON I'M STILL BEATING YOU WITH IT. Also John Irving's thing where he treats sex between consenting adults (even ones married to each other!) as inherently transgressive and naughty is soooooooooo tedious and WHY is a man with the mentality of a 13-year-old boy part of the American canon? (Oh, wait, I guess that's like 3/4 of the canon, never mind.) HANG ON BACK TO BEATING YOU WITH OBVIOUS SYMBOLISM.

Also I knew in the first ten pages how the book was going to end and then it was a FOUR HUNDRED PAGE SLOG through through pompously rambling prose, prurient giggling about sex, leadenly obvious symbolism, insufferable characters, details that are without exception either twee or grotesque, and ceaseless, ceaseless, ceaseless smarm and misogyny. Like, if you want to know what goes on inside the head of that super gross dude who keeps hitting on you and is suuuuuuuuper impressed with his own sadly limited talents and intellect? Read John Irving, he's putting it ALLLLLLL out there for you.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:02 PM on March 17 [44 favorites]


If I can include a book so annoyingly shitty I couldn't even finish it, then that would be Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles in high school. Just the most lifeless bloated feculence I'd ever encountered - even in books for English class - and it trudged on and on and on.... I got maybe a quarter of the way through before I decided I wasn't going to read another page even if it caused me to fail the test on it...which, as it happens, I got a B on; so yay American education system.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:10 PM on March 17 [6 favorites]


Also, Brideshead Revisited made me soooooooooo embarrassed for Evelyn Waugh (whose novels in general I like a lot), it was full-on non-stop full-body cringe. The convert's sentimentality towards Catholicism was just PAINFUL, the nostalgia for the aristocracy's heyday was bad, it was just ... uggggh, I was so embarrassed for him that he was expressing such callow, parochial attitudes with such painful sincerity.

My copy did have the virtue of the fact that the introductory essay at the beginning defensively told me to carefully note that there were no "definitively homosexual" encounters in the book. Clearly the essayist read a different book entirely, because seriously every male character who isn't Canadian is on the down low at least part time. It's not subtext, it's just text!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:11 PM on March 17 [7 favorites]


I mean, I sometimes hate read really, really terrible romance novels for my friends on Facebook, so the worst book I've ever read is likely a really, really terrible romance novel. But the most annoying book I've ever read is, 100%, without a doubt, Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist.

More than just the most annoying book I have ever read, it is actually the most annoying book I have ever read TWICE.

IN TWO DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.

Which makes it approximately 400 times as annoying as if I had read it only once.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:26 PM on March 17 [17 favorites]


Ian McEwan's The Innocent: or the Special Relationship. At one level it's quite a clever and well-researched bit of historical fiction about Berlin in the Cold War. But, because it's Ian McEwen, it's also an incredibly over-the-top exercise in calling the reader's attention to how clever the whole text and meta-text is, as well as being gruesomely, tastelessly violent. I still feel nasty about having read it to the end. Yeah, yeah, Ian McEwen, I should have known better.

I've got a fair bit of toilet paper until I have to do groceries again, but if it comes to it, this paperback is going to stand in.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:30 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


I eventually read Ready Player One, because I worked for a few years on VR software and it became a shibboleth for people into VR. It was truly terrible, the Family Guy of young adult science fiction, with no ideas that struck me as inventive or novel, and an awful ending. It blows my mind that anyone enjoyed it. Please never read it.
posted by value of information at 5:39 PM on March 17 [37 favorites]


I just gave up on Four Friends: stories about some of "America's crème de la crème" that the author knew in high school and their tribulations.
posted by haemanu at 5:49 PM on March 17


A short story that a former partner wrote -who fancied themselves a writer - that was published in an anthology of science fiction.
posted by bendy at 5:50 PM on March 17


I cannot judge Anna Karenina as writing. I only know that I got two pages in and absolutely disliked every character who had spoken to that point.
(Then again, I was a kid who read Jane Eyre in 10th grade and wondered why she was enduring all of the awful people around her...)
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 5:57 PM on March 17


Gone with the wind. I read it as a teenager. Someone told me it was a great romance and I read the whole damn thing waiting for anything romantic to happen. It was so depressing. And long. I did at least refuse to see the movie (learned my lesson from hating Jurassic Park the book and then being dragged to the theatre to also hate Jurassic Park the movie).
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:57 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


"Worst" is complicated. There are many books so awful that I dropped them after a few pages. I don't particularly care about them. There are a few books I was made to read in school that I hated at the time, but it wasn't really the books' fault. (I'm looking at you, Nathaniel Hawthorne.)

The one book - or series of books - I'm genuinely still angry at is Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. It managed to teeter just on the edge of being worth reading throughout the whole series. It was largely uninteresting, but lit by some small and fascinating passage just often enough that I couldn't seem to convince myself to give up. "Maybe the first 2400 pages were just the prelude, and the rest will be like this most recent good bit. . . " is delusional, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I might miss something by quitting. It could have been edited down into a genuinely great short story.

That I'd been very excited to discover a giant stack of new Stephenson, paid a fortune for them in a foreign book shop, and carried them to the ends of the Earth first didn't help. I've always been a fan of the author, and his more recent books are all either good or great. But, he still owes me thirty some hours of my life back for tricking me into reading that series.

In contrast, to this and the comments above, I really enjoyed the Robinson's Mars series. Even the eccentric appendix with the government documents and world-building stuff that never made it into the books or stories was surprisingly compelling. Cheers to those who hate it, though!
posted by eotvos at 5:58 PM on March 17 [8 favorites]


Wuthering Heights is just unbearable. I find most of the screen adaptations either overacted or farcical or both. While I adore Jane Eyre I'm just not an Emily Bronte fan. Kate Beaton understands.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:06 PM on March 17 [16 favorites]


Call Me By Your Name. I actually made it pretty far but was furious through most of it (THE FACE MELTING TEENAGE ANGST) only to get *spoiler alert* to the hotel scene where they watch each other poop. I was done. I have no idea how it ended and I will probably never find out! Argh.
posted by janepanic at 6:07 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Worst book is definitely tough, I read a lot of Terry Goodkin shall we say uncritically as a preteen/teenager. I got to Faith of the Fallen and my God, it not only was terrible, but cast the other 5 books in such a shadow. It was so bad.
posted by Carillon at 6:10 PM on March 17 [6 favorites]


Anything written (by which I mean enscribed on paper (or perhaps vellum (or even foolscap)) and, more pointedly, bracketed (perhaps surrounded (or even enclosed)) with enough extraneous parentheses (), such as to make an experienced LISPer cry) by Henry James.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:15 PM on March 17 [10 favorites]


like 90% of the classic white male anglophone canon. maybe more. god. hemingway? shut up. melville? you tiresome wanker. someone upthread mentioned hardy? christ.

every word ever uttered by fucking marcus tullius cicero, my nemesis
posted by poffin boffin at 6:16 PM on March 17 [12 favorites]


a confederacy of dunces still makes me want to commit war crimes not only for its inimitable badness but also for the people (vile, unforgivable) who recommended it to me as "something i think you would really like!"
posted by poffin boffin at 6:18 PM on March 17 [45 favorites]


It is a tiny tiny book but I could not get through Ethan Frome! And totally agree with Confederacy of Dunces, what a whiny piece of crapola.
posted by wellred at 6:21 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


zen and the art of i would rather be dead than read a single word of this tripe
posted by poffin boffin at 6:21 PM on March 17 [27 favorites]


hands down The Alchemist. god I hated that. I am not actually angry with the friend that recommended it, he's quite nice, but by god I will never read anything that man suggests again.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:33 PM on March 17 [14 favorites]


I recently attempted Wuthering Heights, something I'd done a couple of times as a younger person without getting through it, and it is so unrelentingly brutal and ugly that I found myself astonished it's part of the canon.

I also tried to re-read A Prayer for Owen Meany a few years ago, and was repelled by the incest plot which presents a pre-teen girl as the driving force in her own abuse by her cousins. Just vile.

I am also a romance reader, and so inevitably pick up books that are ridiculous, or very badly written. But those books aren't infuriating so much as they are regrettable, if you know what I mean. It's the books in the Western Canon, and contemporary books with pretensions to qualify, that make me pop my cork, and it's never because the writer can't handle a sentence with more than a single clause, or because they can only describe things in highly cliched terms. It's the book everybody raves about that turns out to be appallingly racist or sexist, or in which the author's facility with sentences or images camouflages a lack of worthwhile characters or ideas. Those are the ones that really tick me off.
posted by Orlop at 6:39 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


Neal Stephenson, I don't even remember which book but it made me so mad, I threw it like I was trying to kill a spider. Like two pages in.
posted by drinkyclown at 6:42 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


This is going to be fun!

Iain M. Banks, Use of Weapons. This was the first Culture novel I tried to read, and it turned me off the whole series for a decade. Events and characters that were way less exciting on the page than they obviously were in the author's mind. A sci-fi universe that made no sense and didn't really try. A "twist" that meant nothing to me because I couldn't care less about any of the people involved. I eventually read through the whole series and found it mostly okay, scattered with high points that didn't quite manage to outweigh the general mediocrity, but Use of Weapons is just awful.

John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces. Overwritten, tedious, unpleasant characters with nothing interesting going on to make their tedious unpleasantness worthwhile. Very, very American. I got about as far into this as I did into Infinite Jest, which was not very far.

Peter Watts, Echopraxia. Blindsight is one of my favourite books (even though its theory of consciousness is questionable), but Echopraxia annoyed me. The infodump-heavy style of Blindsight works because the infodumps happen in the context of the crew trying to work out what the hell is going on in their completely inhuman environment, and the narrator's role in explaining it all makes sense, but Echopraxia is just a long series of people telling the very dull protagonist what's going on then taking him to the next scene where someone else explains what's going on there. And it's all just too weird to hang together.

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword. Another member of Echopraxia's great-SF-novel-with-split-brain-narrator-of-dubious-reliability-gets-sequel-that-doesn't-work genre. All the things that made Ancillary Justice good - the psychological depth, the interlocking stories with common themes on different scales, the sense that the overt structures and symbols of a human but very alien civilisation are hiding truths just outside the reach of the narrator's consciousness - were all gone, replaced by "Oh Fleet Captain, you are so great, please solve all our problems for us in a totally unconvincing way so that we can have tea".

Vernor Vinge, A Deepness in the Sky. How much sexual cruelty can Vinge fit into a mediocre space opera? Way, way too much.

Anything by Isaac Asimov. "Dear reader, I am very smart and so are you, because you are reading me". So bad.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:43 PM on March 17 [13 favorites]


I throw down with Lord Foul's Bane
posted by thelonius at 6:43 PM on March 17 [18 favorites]


I am not actually angry with the friend that recommended it, he's quite nice

you should challenge him to the holmgang
posted by poffin boffin at 6:46 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Infinite Jest.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:50 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


Zorba the Greek. My hate is pure.
posted by aws17576 at 6:55 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


I read one Amish Romance Book and hoo boy. The protagonist, a international correspondent, ended up staying with her Amish grandmother after a car bomb injury. She met a widower with three perfectly behaved, chore-loving children and chucked her whole life away to marry him and be their new mom. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by kimberussell at 6:57 PM on March 17 [16 favorites]


I don't remember the name of it but it was by Chuck Klosterman and I was about 1/3rd of the way through it when I realized every page was making me dumber.

Also I've tried to get through Snowcrash twice. Nope.
posted by bondcliff at 6:58 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


No Heinlein yet? I couldn't finish (really, barely started) Starship Troopers. I read Time Enough For Love and Farnham's Freehold and do I ever regret it. (I likes some of his earlier books but that was when the politics went over my head.)
posted by zompist at 7:04 PM on March 17 [8 favorites]


you should challenge him to the holmgang

I could take him
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:07 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


my problem here is I don't read books I hate. I put them down and grab something else. But every now and then, somebody really wants my impression on something, so I stick it out.

One comes to mind, except I forget the title, and the author's name. But I remember what I hated about it. I just knew the guy was making it all up. Yeah, it was fiction but it was classic write-what-you-DON'T-know fiction, because none of it landed as remotely believable on a human level. Lots of sort of quirky characters that a twenty-two year old who spends way too much time alone might come up with. I felt sorry for him (the author) but sorrier for myself.

As for the friend who so enthusiastically pressed it on me, I just sort of shrugged and said, "I don't think I'm the target market."
posted by philip-random at 7:09 PM on March 17


I thought Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell would be right up my alley. I HATED it. Somehow got about halfway through before looking up a plot summary on Wikipedia, said "meh" and stopped reading.
posted by muddgirl at 7:09 PM on March 17 [17 favorites]


...because seriously every male character who isn't Canadian is on the down low at least part time. It's not subtext, it's just text!
posted by Eyebrows McGee


remember .... subtext is an anagram of buttsex
posted by lalochezia at 7:13 PM on March 17 [44 favorites]


Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Whoo yikes!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:20 PM on March 17 [16 favorites]


Rainy weather threw off the pacing in my vacation reading. Three pages into The Da Vinci Code, found in the motel lobby, I realized I'd rather stare into space.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:22 PM on March 17 [9 favorites]


An Adultery by Alexander Theroux. I had enjoyed another book of his, Darconville's Cat, but I would probably hate that one too now if I went back to it. Some things about that author's sensibility, I can't unsee now.
posted by BibiRose at 7:26 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Whoo yikes!

I did read the first page
posted by philip-random at 7:34 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is a book I read quite some time ago, so all I remember of it is some scene where the narrator is blathering about throwing a bunch of things to the wind and running off, maybe to the sea, I don't know and truly don't care, all I remember is a feeling of staggering relief when I was done with the thing.

More recently, I mostly hate-read The Queen's Thief after the first couple of chapters and do not plan on picking up the sequels.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:36 PM on March 17 [8 favorites]


1) I feel bad about this, because my lovely creative writing teacher adored it and proclaimed, "I don't know anybody who can get through the first 30 pages and put it down!" but... The Time Traveler's Wife, has the line "I am jubilant." Period. End sentence. I don't think you could have sucked more emotion out of the page if you tried. And it kind of exemplifies the whole damn novel. Unfortunately, this is not the worst line in the book. That little gem resides on page 17 and will haunt me forever: "I now have an erection that is probably tall enough to ride some of the scarier rides at Great America without a parent."

2) I feel bad about this too, because the SAME lovely creative writing teacher specifically picked out and assigned Cloud Atlas for me and another girl in our advanced creative writing class because she knew we liked genre-bending stuff. I got pissed off about that book approximately once a week for like... three years after reading it. Every story was the worst piece of fiction I had ever read in its genre, and was made even more terrible by the fact that people who liked it said, "No, no, you see--he's pointing out the flaws in the genre." Excuse me, you don't get to write bad genre fiction, say "the joke is genre fiction is bad," and suddenly get an award for it! Fuck off!

I swear she was a great teacher and writer, but those two books were just... antithetical to my existence.
posted by brook horse at 7:38 PM on March 17 [11 favorites]


Savage Theories was pretty intolerable.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:40 PM on March 17


I don't know about bad/annoying, but in case it might help anyone with insomnia, the three texts that made me fall asleep the most number of times were Johannes Kepler's Somnium (which is very short!), François Fénelon's Adventures of Telemachus, and Lady Mary Wroth's The Countess of Montgomery's Urania (which is long but seems even longer)--all available online. I wouldn't worry about reading them on a computer or whatnot keeping you awake. My experience was there's just enough of a thread to what's going on in them to lure me in, whenever, but if I wasn't super, super well-rested, sleep was inevitable (and I eventually gave up on the last one).
posted by Wobbuffet at 7:42 PM on March 17


American Psycho.
posted by sundrop at 7:43 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I feel like the standards for genre are different. I've read a lot of bad genre in my day, but little of it made me repent the existence of Western civilization. Except Farnham's Freehold. What the fuck.

In the world of literature, The Emperor's Children. That horrible moment when I realized that the author wanted us to take those characters seriously. I was going to say, god, the neoliberalism, but then I remembered that there's barely an idea in the book at all, just a kind of vague "intellectual atmosphere." Add in the 9/11 angle and it's a perfect stew of badness. Claire Messud is still swanning around trashing "lesser writers," too, the last I looked.

In between, The Magicians. I don't even hate Millennials, but this book? This is why everybody hates Millennials. How does a family produce both Lev and Austin Grossman, is what I'd like to know.
posted by praemunire at 7:46 PM on March 17 [7 favorites]


It has to be The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory, in which young Queen Elizabeth I is so overcome with the intoxication of sex that she can’t manage to do any work and is easily manipulated by everyone around her. Great. Let’s rewrite the legacy of a strong woman to make her sound like a Twilight character.
posted by Knowyournuts at 7:49 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


Up until very recently I would finish a book no matter what, three that I’ve hate-read to the very end that immediately come to mind are:
  • Grunts by Mary Gentle; I’d never have picked this up on my own, it was a gift and the giver asked if I liked it 3-4 times before I brought myself to read it. I did not like it. At all.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; so bad it turned me off of reading for a good six months or more. When I came back to reading I spent the next five years or so catching up on ~15 years worth of graphic novels before I ventured back to prose.
  • Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi; which finally made me decide to stop hate-reading things.
posted by togdon at 7:49 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung

Sorry cool guy, but I'm not cool.
posted by valkane at 7:50 PM on March 17


I actually like Dan Brown, you just have to know what you are in for. Like diner coffee. You don’t go into a roadside diner with a flashing sign that says EAT, and expect the coffee to be like your favorite coffeeshop’s. You expect it to be its own unique thing, watery enough to consume several cups, but with enough caffeine to eventually give you the jolt you need. Dan Brown novels are the diner coffee of literature.
posted by Knowyournuts at 7:55 PM on March 17 [11 favorites]


Oh, and No One Here Gets Out Alive, which everybody was reading in my high school class. Along with that stupid Led Zeppelin book.
posted by valkane at 8:01 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Oh, and No One Here Gets Out Alive, which everybody was reading in my high school class.

Featuring the story about a young Morrison deciding to try to OD on pot and smoking like an ounce of ditchweed and getting a headache!
posted by thelonius at 8:06 PM on March 17


Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet.

All four books of it.

Yes I read four books I hated. I was 26 and trying to keep a stupid boy interested. I regret it, ok? But by god my punishment was having to wade through Durrell's ham-(or something) fisted odes to breasts so maybe don't pile on, thanks.
posted by minervous at 8:11 PM on March 17 [7 favorites]


I could probably come up with some really vile, tedious fiction, but the first thing that came into my head was wishing Radium Girls hadn't been on my Kindle and I hadn't paid money for it, so I could feel justified in theatrically flinging it across the room in disgust.

I'm mad again just remembering it. ugh. UGH.
posted by jameaterblues at 8:13 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


Are we dancing on the edge of the apocalypse? Because boy did I hate The Member of The Wedding.

And that one where the guy falls off the branch. A Seperate Peace.

But I kinda did like The Pigman. So, two out of three ain't bad, curriculum-wise. Or wait, they are.
posted by valkane at 8:25 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


I learned how to give up on a book I hate in the harsh and unforgiving way we used to have to - Martin Amis novels and novels by friends of Martin Amis.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:38 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


Ready Player One is truly the worst book I've ever had the misfortune of reading. I made it through 2-3 chapters then realized I was ostensibly reading about the fantasy life of an incel. Vile.

Life of Pi and Call Me Ishmael are close seconds.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 8:44 PM on March 17 [13 favorites]


That little gem resides on page 17 and will haunt me forever: "I now have an erection that is probably tall enough to ride some of the scarier rides at Great America without a parent."


Oh, ok, now I know why my mother literally threw that book out of her bedroom and down the stairs while she was reading it and refused to tell me why
posted by Kitchen Witch at 8:46 PM on March 17 [22 favorites]


Oh and yes all the Hemingway and Catcher in the Rye, too
posted by Kitchen Witch at 8:47 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


I found "Absalom Absalom" unreadable when I was ?22, 23, 24? whatever and in college. Took my 'C' for it and moved on. I'm sure it would be different now. But; kinda too busy to do more than write this comment. :/
posted by Afghan Stan at 9:08 PM on March 17


Back in college I found a copy of Piers Anthony's Ogre, Ogre in a trashcan. I returned it to the trashcan after I read it.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:13 PM on March 17 [13 favorites]


atlas shrugged of course. and frank miller's dark knight sequel, that sucked.
posted by vrakatar at 9:19 PM on March 17


Fleishman is In Trouble
posted by Ideefixe at 9:28 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


"I read one Amish Romance Book and hoo boy."

I read a Christian romance novel that had clearly been written as a regular romance novel and then the author just find/replaced "sex" with "ice skating" when she sold it to a Christian publishing house and it. was. hilarious. These people in the wild west getting all turned on by each others' bodies with luscious descriptions of same, followed by him lifting her into the air as they skated around the frozen pond. Her breath caught. She had never had a man touch her like that before. Her breath came faster, in gasps. They were flying, skating together, higher and higher, as he lifted her towards a feeling of fulfillment, completion.

And then once in every chapter, I assume by contractual mandate, she inserted randomly in a conversation, in a way that did not flow one single little bit but was a complete non sequitor, something about praying to Jesus. So it'd be like "But if I can't make enough money to pay the mortgage --" "But maybe if you marry Bill, you can pay it" "Bill is a horrible roughneck!" She prayed to Jesus to forgive her for thinking such evil thoughts, and to open her hear to Bill as a child of God. "At least he's a hot roughneck!" "No! I'll never be interested in Bill!" Then she and Bill go ice skating, obviously.

It. Was. Amazing.

(I like Hemmingway okay a long as it's a dude alone on a boat or alone dealing with his WWI-induced PTSD in a post-fire forest with lots of grasshoppers, but as soon as there's one single, solitary woman involved, I'm out.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:28 PM on March 17 [46 favorites]


Oh god Ahab's Wife is horrid, but I didn't even try. I got through the first six pages of The Secret, but that's probably my vote for worst. Although FFS the "Metaphysics" section of a Bay Area bookstore ca. 2003 was quite something. The business section was the only area that really gave it a run for its money. I'll take any shit novel over some inheritance-class failson giving me investment advice.

In unpopular opinion territory, I think On the Road reads exactly like the addled benzedrine rant it is, and I . . . remain unimpressed.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:52 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Oh! Silas Marner, speaking of books assigned in school. Despised it so much, I passed on the 1994 Steve Martin/Catherine O'Hara movie (A Simple Twist of Fate; screenplay by Martin) based on the book, when usually I'll see either of them in just about anything.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:56 PM on March 17


A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Aw snap come to think of it Dave Egger's sophomore effort You Shall Know Our Velocity might be the worst thing I ever read with actual pretensions of being "literature."
posted by aspersioncast at 9:57 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


If I start reading and then skim to see if it ever gets better does it count as reading?

The Black Swan. This book on how no one thinks about rare events starts with WWI, the most predicted and prepared for war in history, and oozes contempt and disgust for everyone else throughout. I figured there's some specialist technical field in which this is justified but it felt like some crazy guy on a bench telling you how many arguments he wins against other people.

The Myth of the Rational Voter by Bryan Caplan. I thought it'd be some general comment about how our voting system leads to perverse outcomes (Predictably Irrational for politics, maybe) but it was hundreds of pages of tenuous logic claiming America would be more libertarian if voters were smarter.
posted by mark k at 10:00 PM on March 17 [6 favorites]


I had to read The House of the Seven Gables in high school and it was the most boring piece of fiction I had ever read. I don't think I've read anything since that I hated as much. I remember nothing about the plot except that there was a family in an old house and they . . . had a bad luck streak that lasted for generations, maybe? I should read it again and see if I still hate it. It was interesting how much better I thought A Farewell to Arms was the second time I read it, 20 years later. (I still despised Catherine, but not as much.)
posted by Redstart at 10:04 PM on March 17


Mitch Albom. Because it's almost obligatory to like the story.
It's not bad...see.
posted by clavdivs at 10:09 PM on March 17


Anything Stephen King wrote in the 80s that was over 400-500 pages. Snow Crash, because the ending was such a shitty letdown.
posted by Beholder at 10:36 PM on March 17


'Catmagic' by Whitley Strieber is truly shit. Just trash. So is 'I Will Fear No Evil' by Robert Heinlein. I gag slightly just thinking about it. 'Being A Green Mother' is fit only for using as particularly crinkly toilet paper. I'm sure there's a million more but those are three that I've been carrying a grudge against for three decades or so.
posted by h00py at 10:37 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Excluding things that were assigned or read with some intention (academic stuff), Pat Conroy, Prince of Tides and Jennifer Weiner, Good in Bed.
posted by 99_ at 10:38 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


i try not to shit on female writers too much bc no matter how heinous the drivel, it's still nothing compared to the virulent misogyny that the worst male writers are guilty of, but oh my gOD! the anita blake series by laurell k hamilton is some of the most appalling godawful shit i've ever read and unfortunately i keep hatereading it specifically so i can hate it more. it's SO BAD. the most bad. hating makes me feel so aliiiive
posted by poffin boffin at 11:22 PM on March 17 [14 favorites]


I absolutely could not stand Spenser's Faerie Queen.

I loved Beowulf, loved Chaucer, loved Piers Plowman and Pilgrim's Progress, and Paradise Lost is pretty close to being my favorite poem, but there is not one shred of real feeling, inspiration, or even so much so as a truly arresting image to be found in The Faerie Queen. It is so mechanical and monotonous it's surprising you don't have to wind it up with a key to read it, but maybe that would have helped, because I just could not take the endlessly prolonged dreary tedium to be found within the bounds of that work (Five long books!) and I made my English prof very unhappy with me by attacking it over and over again during the 2 weeks we discussed it.
posted by jamjam at 11:43 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Do Meta threads count?
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:44 PM on March 17 [12 favorites]


My company made us read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It was maybe 1998 or '99, and I'm still angry about it.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:49 PM on March 17 [13 favorites]


I know this series is much-beloved on here, and I'm sorry, I tried liking it, but I just could not get through the first book of the Murderbot series. I hated it. It turned me off completely and I can't even articulate why! And because it's received so well I feel like I'm in a mirrorverse and it's driving me up the wall, and every time I see it mentioned the petty little gremlin inside of me that rated it a 1 on Goodreads throws a kneejerk Donald Duck tantrum.

No personal enmity to those that enjoyed it, of course. I had to get that off my chest somewhere and I saw this thread and knew it was time.
posted by lesser weasel at 11:51 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


I eventually read Ready Player One

That book is always on display in our living room.

In the fireplace.
posted by tzikeh at 12:01 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


"The Dice Man"
posted by Mauve at 12:06 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Interesting to see several books I've liked mentioned. De gustibus non est disputandum, I suppose.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:19 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I like it how several of the A Confederacy of Dunces haters seem to think that the book being about a despicable person who does nothing worthwhile is some kind of a mistake, or bad writing.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:27 AM on March 18 [19 favorites]


The bible.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:28 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


The three sequels "co-authored" sequels to Rendezvous with Rama. Just...depraved.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 1:29 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


I do wonder sometimes whether it is commonly understood that prince Myshkin was not in fact an idiot, and Raskolnikov's problem was not how to hide from the police...
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:21 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Infinite Jest
I didn't so much hate-read it as I did hope-read it. As in, "I really hope this thing starts clicking sometime soon." I think I managed to slog 2/5 of the way into it, but I just gave up. And I really wanted to like the thing, too. I came away feeling like the title was a warning that the book is a huge joke being pulled by Wallace.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:24 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I like it how several of the A Confederacy of Dunces haters seem to think that the book being about a despicable person who does nothing worthwhile is some kind of a mistake, or bad writing.

lol it is bad writing. it's painfully bad writing. i like how you mistake criticisms about a badly written tedious book as people who don't like the book just being too stupid to tell what it's actually about.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:31 AM on March 18 [16 favorites]


i like how you mistake criticisms about a badly written tedious book as people who don't like the book just being too stupid to tell what it's actually about.

When somebody says the book is "tedious, unpleasant characters with nothing interesting going on to make their tedious unpleasantness worthwhile", are you sure I'm mistaken in saying that that's literally what the book is about?
posted by Pyrogenesis at 3:44 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Seconding Fourthing (?) Ready Player One. I read multiple Kevin J. Anderson Star Wars Expanded Universe novels as a teenager and Ready Player One is worse.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 3:51 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


The point is not that somebody who dislikes a book does not "get it", in some patronising highbrow sense. It is exactly the opposite: disliking these books is literally a sign of these books working, of doing what the author intended.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 3:55 AM on March 18


Something can be intended and still not something I want to read.

I hope we can keep defensiveness out of this thread. There are books here that I quite like that other people hate. Isn't it a marvelous world of diverse outlooks?
posted by muddgirl at 3:57 AM on March 18 [23 favorites]


it's free real estate guy meme but it just says it's bad writing instead
posted by poffin boffin at 4:29 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


A long time ago, I decided to give Stephen King a chance and read Rose Madder. I thought it was total garbage. Later, I read an interview in which he said he was high the whole time he wrote it and it wasn’t good, so I read a book he thought was good: The Shining. Also garbage. Stephen King thinks he’s developing character if someone scratches his nose the same way on five different pages. Also, re domestic violence: he’s against it.

He seems like a nice guy, but I wish he’d quit complaining that people don’t think he can be a literary fiction writer and that the New Yorker doesn’t take him seriously. He just isn’t at that level, and if he thinks he is, he should use a pseudonym, submit to their slush pile, and see if they start publishing his stories based on merit (not that I think they’re the best judge of quality, but he’s specifically complained about them not publishing him because of who he is). I wish he would just sit on his piles of money and be happy that he’s very successful at what he does.
posted by FencingGal at 4:34 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


On A Confederacy of Dunces - I'd argue that maybe it isn't that the writing is bad, maybe it's that the characters are so well depicted, and yet so thoroughly unlikeable if you met them in real life, that that's what people may be picking up on. It's kind of like the weird issue I have with Daniel Day Lewis - I could tell he was talented, but I hate his latter movies. Finally I figured out what was going on - he's so good at totally becoming his character, but it's a character that I thoroughly dislike. If he was that good about playing a dude I liked, I'd have a different reaction.

That's what my problem about Confederacy was for the longest time - because one of my jerk-off exes basically was Ignatius Reilly, and the first chapter caught him perfectly and I just kept saying "oh god, HIM again" and slamming the book shut and throwing it across a room. ....I finally sucked it up and read it, reminding myself through the first chapter that "this isn't M, this is a fictional character" and it got better. Not my fave, but I recognize the talent.

The Celestine Prophecy, however, that's something else again. Like, have the balls to make your book just be a hippy-dippy self-help book, you don't need to throw in this terrible Dan-Brown-cliche story about Panamanian drug lords and archeologists on top of it because you think that's the only way people will read it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:37 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


Thanks EmpressCallipygos, that's exactly what I meant.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 4:54 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Jonathan Franzen wrote Freedom and it ruined an entire beach vacation for me.

I also couldn’t stand Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad
posted by goHermGO at 5:08 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Like lots of other folks, mostly I just drop a book if I don't like it or it doesn't grab me early on.

But I gotta Nth Ready Player One. I didn't bother to try until the wave of buzz surrounding the movie release, and I figured, "Well, let's see what all the fuss is about." I did manage to make it through the whole thing, not so much hate-reading as . . . as . . . like, dumbfounded-reading , like, "No, surely something will happen in this book that's more than an author roughly my age spieling off a rapid-fire list of all the stuff he thought was cool when he was thirteen." Nope.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:21 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Rabbit, Run made me hate male canon writers almost as much as Updike hates women.
posted by k8lin at 5:21 AM on March 18 [23 favorites]


Oh yeah I did hate-read Ender's Game. Another book I didn't bother to get around to until long after it's initial publication, when the movie was imminent, and even besides the proto-incel right-wing Christian "victim as hero" morality and Marty Stu (lack of) characterization, the plot is just bad video game, the same things over and over and over again just with more powerful enemies.

I know some folks really find the book or the series meaningful, and if you did when you were an adolescent or young adult male, I beg you to go back and re-read it and think about it. It's really a terrible book with a terrible message.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:34 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


I’ve generally had fond memories of Vonnegut, but had somehow never gotten around to reading Cat’s Cradle until last summer. What a racist, sexist, steaming pile of garbage. It might be the only book that’s made me think dramatically less of the author’s other works for having read it.

I read several thousand pages of A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) hoping it would get good again. It never did.

Earlier this year, I wanted an easy read, and decided to pick up The Maze Runner because it seemed well-liked in YA circles. Yikes yikes yikes, even among YA, I’ve never read another book that was so condescending to the reader’s intelligence - there is literally zero subtext anywhere in the book (but don’t worry – there’s plenty of gratuitous violence!). “[Main character] watched his friend die. He was said. The cause of his sadness was that his friend was brutally murdered.”
posted by schmod at 5:50 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


My ragehate books are: Infinite Jest; Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Snow Crash; Pussy, King of the Pirates; Catcher in the Rye; Speaker for the Dead; Chapterhouse: Dune; and Atlas Shrugged. Detest them all.

But Franny and Zooey, man. Goddamn Franny and Zooey. I've been pissed about reading it for 20 years and counting. Fuck that book, it is the worst.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 6:02 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Gravity's Rainbow disgusted me to the point of being unable to finish it, which was probably the point? Ugh, I still feel nauseous thinking about it, 20 years later.

Unfortunately, a boss made me read Death by Meeting, a Leadership Fable, which has a hero who suffers from bipolar disorder for some reason, which makes him uniquely able to save the company through his innovative and higher-conflict approach to running meetings. Truly a low even for, uh, business fiction.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:02 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


> I read Time Enough For Love...

I owe this a lot of gratitude. It was the book that taught me that life is too short for bad books, that authors you like can produce shit work, not everyone has to like the same things, and it's never too late to stop reading. That's a lot of life lessons for one book. I had NEVER in my life, to that point, stopped any book that I'd started. I was maybe 30 pages from the end and I threw it at the wall.

God I hated that book. I kept thinking it'd get better, and then I realized it never was.

To put this into perspective, I have read ALL of the John Norman "Gor" books.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:06 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


business fiction.

I am astounded and horrified that this seems to be an actual genre . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 6:24 AM on March 18 [14 favorites]


I loved most of the Miles Vorkosigan series, a couple were just a bit less interesting but Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen was not just bad it (retroactively) ruined the series for me. I had thought Cordelia and Aral were at the very least ethical but this book retconned a long and unforgivable history of endangering and exploiting a subordinate.
posted by Botanizer at 6:32 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I am astounded and horrified that [business fiction] seems to be an actual genre . . .

Oh yeah. The sucky job I had last year began by the boss sending me a copy of another work from that genre, complete with a lengthy inscription about how he used it as a guide to how he conducted himself and strove to build business.

….My hunch is that it actually was someone else in the office who inscribed it, since over the course of the next year I was the one to have written similar things in other books in his stead. That inscription also now prevents me from donating it or taking it to a used bookstore, so I am stuck with this thing.

I may use it as kindling for a barbecue when we're out of quarantine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:35 AM on March 18


I may use it as kindling for a barbecue when we're out of quarantine.

I mean, considering the paper product that is currently disappearing from stores at an astounding rate, I can think of another use for it you might come across sooner.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:57 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Agree to many books mentioned here, including Franny and Zooey, The Celestine Prophecy, A Separate Peace, and A Visit From the Goon Squad (finished that a few weeks ago and couldn't understand why anyone would recommend it).

I hate to say it, but I read House of Leaves based on recommendations here on Metafilter and I. Hated. It. Take away the gimmicks of the way it's printed and the book within the book and it's a long slog that's not even scary or creepy. What is it about this book that makes people like it? Clearly, I'm not getting it.
posted by Fuego at 7:16 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


I am astounded and horrified that [business fiction] seems to be an actual genre . . .

I spent a good part of last year reading Atlas Shrugged; it was my bedtime reading and I usually only got through a page or so of its incredibly bad prose before dropping off. But I waded all the way through it. It is hilaribad. But not funny enough to repay the effort. And that economy! The trains! The magic metal!

Best of all, my copy was a special edition sponsored by Saxo Bank, with a breathless fanboi essay from that bank's CEO at the start.

This one: This Danish bank isn't bailing out its crushed currency clients because that's not what Ayn Rand would do
posted by chavenet at 7:18 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


New Yorker short stories like "Folie a Deux" by William Trevor. You have a character, or characters, going around doing something, but you know at least one of them has a secret, and the author is going to tell you what that secret is when they are good and ready. The whole arc of the story is that one of them realizes they now feel differently about whatever it was that happened all those years ago, or that they've been hiding, or both. That would just seem like kind of an uninspired plot, but the thing that's revealed is usually incredibly depressing and I end up feeling emotionally manipulated.

I read that Trevor is one of Yiyun Li's favorite authors and biggest influences, and I love her work, so that's funny. But her characters are much more interesting to me. And Jhumpa Lahiri often uses the same structure as Trevor, and I quite like her work, so maybe it's Trevor's characters I can't stand. But I hate most of Ruth Rendell's characters, and I love her books.
posted by BibiRose at 7:19 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


i am going to get voted down for sure, but i had to read beloved twice in college and haaaaaaaaaated it. i also fucking loathe the giver. i had to read it in middle or high school and hated it so hard. i read it again within the last decade because people looooooooooove it and maybe middle school me was wrong. i was not. i hate it.

i used to finish books even if i hated them, but i have not done that for a few years. there are so many good books out there and i'll never be able to read them all, so i no longer want to give an time to a piece of junk.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:25 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Fiction: My Sister’s Keeper.

Nonfiction: The Black Swan. mark k, if you would like to test your impression of Taleb, you may be pleased to know he uses Twitter.
posted by eirias at 7:29 AM on March 18


Books I have thrown (in anger/fury) upon completion. Off the top of my head and skewing recent-ish

All The Light We Cannot See--Anthony Doerr (twee Nazi romance and gratutious gang rape)
The Overstory--Richard Powers (I'm a committed environmentalist, this book was such overwritten, self-serious, unintentionally hilarious garbage that it made me want to cut down a tree)
Purity--Jonathan Franzen (This one put me off not just Franzen, but male writers for six months)
Chronic City--Jonathan Lethem (I literally described this as the "worst book I'd ever read" for about six months after reading it)
The Help/ Where The Crawdad Sings/Water For Elephants (I no longer take book recommendations from my mother. All complete tripe)
Hillbilly Elegy--(I no longer take book recommendations from my stepfather. Insulting classist trash)
Oryx & Crake--Margaret Atwood. (I love Margaret Atwood. I hate her sci-fi. I hate it so much)
I've read books by both Chuck Klosertman and Chuck Palahniuk. If I were immortal, I'd still want those minutes/hours back
posted by thivaia at 7:31 AM on March 18 [10 favorites]


Oh and just before the plague, a friend of mine sent me Erin Morganstern's "The Starless Sea" and boy howdy, was that a godawful mess.
posted by thivaia at 7:32 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]


I guess no one else in here ended up having to read On The Road multiple times as part of their education? Because, otherwise, I can't understand why there aren't more references to On The Road in this discussion.

Let me also indicate that I am in Team Confederacy Of Dunces Is Terrible. And I'm also in Team The Tin Drum is Terrible. Both of these teams, I think, are part of a larger team, The Just Because Your Characters Are Bad People Doesn't Mean Your Book Is Interesting Team.
posted by meese at 7:33 AM on March 18 [12 favorites]


I just bounced super hard of Ducks, Newburyport. I feel bad because it's like the whole book is an experiment in daring you to hate it. But reader, I hated it.
posted by frumiousb at 7:35 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I love Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, but I still have to read the last book (written by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan died), because ... fuck books 8-11 !! Sooooo looooong !!!

He really needed an editor is what I'm saying.
posted by Pendragon at 7:38 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Forgot to post my nonfiction pick: The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. Let me summarize the book for you: Do you need to start doing an important task? Are you hesitating? Count to 5...then do it! That's it. That's the rule. The entire book is just social media posts of people who tried it and it worked.

And this stupid rule didn't even work for me.
posted by Fuego at 7:42 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]


Palahniuk's Rant was a “why the fuck am I even reading this?” moment, and the weeks of sweet relief brought from the knowledge that I was neither currently nor ever likely required to read it got me though some difficult times.

In non-fiction, Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science had all the coherence of A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates. If you have to self-publish your 1200 page magnum opus because no-one else understands the subject, maybe that should be a hint but no there you go anyway Stephen.

Yes, I was force by my employer to read Seven Habits and it fucking blew. We also had to read Who moved my Cheese?, which was the book that pushed me over the edge. In retaliation I left copies of Hello Laziness in several company libraries.
posted by scruss at 7:50 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


IF you want to enjoy hating Ready Player One some more, listen to the podcast 372 Pages We’ll Never Get Back As a bonus it also discusses his second book Armada.

My most recent hated book is Shuttlecock by Graham Smith which is a boring book about a dull bully and his nauseatingly abusive marriage. He isn’t even an entertaining villain and I gave up in bored disgust.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 7:52 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Worst is hard to define. I used to read a lot of fantasy novels and there seems to be no limit to the sludgy depths of inept plotting and terrible prose. And that is not even counting the self-published books.

But maybe that is unfair - nobody really expects anything different from the genre. So I will nominate A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving as the book I have hated the most. Irving has a way with words but I hated the plot, the characters, the setting, the beginning, the middle, and the end.
posted by AndrewStephens at 7:54 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


A Little Life, sorry.
posted by Balthamos at 8:01 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


Someone's already mentioned him but Terry Goodkind has a book where the dude is captured by the evil, savage communist empire and literally spends the whole book carving a statue and when he unveils it the evil communist empire realizes the error of their ways because communists can't make art and overthrow their emperor or something. When I found out he was a hardcore Randroid that whole book made a lot more sense. I can't believe I didn't stop with the Chicken That Is Not A Chicken. (Imagine someone making an entirely sincere horror movie about an evil chicken).

I know lots of people love him but the Kingkiller Chronicles books, I just could not. Whether it was the dude being so good at sex the sex goddess loved him or whatever or the literal AND I BURNED THE TEACHER AND EVERYONE STOOD UP AND CLAPPED scene, it felt like fan fiction with an obvious self-insert, like, skateboarding while wailing on his electric guitar because he's so cool.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:02 AM on March 18 [10 favorites]


Paul Auster - "Sunset Park." It was so hamfisted. I appreciated the subject matter and context (2008 recession fallout), which was why I picked it up to begin with, but the writing was stilted and clumsy. I only finished it out of morbid curiosity.
posted by nightrecordings at 8:05 AM on March 18


This is going to offend at least one MeFite, but "The Crying of Lot 49". I got to the call letters of the radio station that Mucho Maas works at, and I just got this mental picture of Pynchon sitting at a typewriter, brainstorming, and thinking that "KCUF" was somehow clever and being proud of himself, and I could no longer continue. The mental picture was just too sad.

Actually, there's something worse, but I don't know the name of it. When I was in my 20s, I dated a girl who was really into Dean Koontz. I was at the height of my humanities major Great Books snobbery, and I would talk a lot of shit about popular fiction. She convinced me to give it a shot, to actually read something before making fun of it, which, fair point. So she gave me a Koontz novel she particularly liked, and... I made it two pages. Literally, two pages. I don't remember anything about it other than there was something about baking pies, but oh my, the prose was awful. Painful. She did later get me to read two Dan Brown novels, whose prose is also pretty awful, but were at least entertaining in a reality-TV kind of way. But yeah, Dean Koontz. So bad.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:08 AM on March 18 [7 favorites]


The Picture of Dorian Grey.

Look, Wilde's a great writer and a fascinating person. I think his plays really work, because the rhythm of banter is very effective in a performance setting. But I was about twenty pages into Dorian Grey when I started thinking, "god, is he really going to respond to every single thing that other people say with a witticism." And then at thirty pages, "oh god, I think he is." And then at forty, "shut up, shut up, SHUT THE FUCK UP EVERY HUMAN INTERACTION ISN'T JUST A SUGGESTION FOR YOU TO DO YOUR ONE-MAN IMPROV SHOW YOU TEDIOUS MOTHERFUCKER!"
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:11 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


No one's mentioned 50 Shades of Grey yet? I picked it up to see what all the fuss was about and couldn't get past the second page because it was so badly written.
posted by purplesludge at 8:12 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]


The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

If you love Alice in Wonderland, I'm sure you will love this. I hate stories that are journeys with a bunch of irrelevant whimsical episodes. I know most of them are metaphors for character growth, but it rarely works for me. I do like some whimsy, but it can't drive a whole plot by itself. That being said, I did not hate the writing style, so I have several of the author's other books on my TBR.
posted by soelo at 8:16 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Everyone who hated Ready Player One, I recommend you try the sequel, Armada, which makes RPO seem truly brilliant.

I very hated Ten, which was a really obnoxious and bad rewrite of And Then There Were None, and this book called The Son-in-Law, which sticks in my mind because people kept fighting with me about it on goodreads.

I also agree with A Heartbreaking Work etc etc which made me dislike McSweeney's for years, just on principle.
posted by jeather at 8:20 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


A lot of books here are books I read in my early teens (Owen Meany, lots of Koontz, lots of Stephen King) and I sorta like them in memory and have no interest in seeing how I'd feel now.
posted by jeather at 8:22 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


That inscription also now prevents me from donating it
It doesn't have to, but you could also just recycle the stupid thing once you remove the cover.
posted by soelo at 8:29 AM on March 18


Ready Player One

His second book, Armada, is somehow even worse. All the shallowest reference-spouting aspects of the first book turned up to eleven, which is a reference to the movie This Is Spinal Tap, which I knew because I'm super-cool and awesome and into 1980s pop culture...
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:34 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


I know we’re all supposed to worship at the altar of Madeleine L’Engle, but her books about the Austin family make me want to rage-slap all of them, particularly the parents who foster a thick atmosphere of contempt for Anyone Who Isn’t Like Us. Acceptable People in the Austin-verse: professors of any stripe; classical musicians; actors, provided they work in the theater; religious people; salt-of-the-earth types, if Grandfather says they’re ok; scientists. Unacceptable People: people with money; inexperienced campers; people who watch t.v.; teenagers who “go steady”; the irreligious; whoever is responsible for lemonade advertised as “10% real fruit juice.” You just know they hate people who buy pre-grated cheese.

And their treatment of the traumatized children who cross their path! Maggie’s parents die suddenly and you’re scolding her for screaming at night? Zachary’s mother dies, he attempts suicide, and the family continues their campaign of hating him because he got kicked out of school and says things like “zuggy?” Not very Christian, Austins.

And don’t get me started on “Daddy doesn’t like women in pants.” Do not.
posted by corey flood at 8:35 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


My library system does one of those "We encourage everyone in the county to read the same book and talk about it together" things, which I approve of in spirit but normally don't participate in because the books are not my thing. Four years ago, my branch manager decided that we should definitely all read the book, so I had to. It was Garth Stein's A Sudden Light.

I am still actively angry about having to read that dumb book four years later. The worst thing is, it could have been fun. A Sudden Light has all the structure and elements of Gothic horror: multigenerational family secrets, tragic ghosts, a house with a mysterious history and hidden spaces, weird inheritance plots, madness, incest, etc. Gothic horror is great! But A Sudden Light has all of that stuff and then goes out of it's way to not be scary or suspenseful. It's structured like horror but doesn't want to be horror because horror isn't Respectable and Literary. So instead it's just unpleasant and weird and has bizarre authorial asides about how kids these days don't know how to use the library.

God, I hate that book.
posted by darchildre at 8:39 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Oh god The Goldfinch. Why does that book exist. Why is it so long. Why was a movie made out of it. Why do they spend 100 pages playing video games and getting scurvy. Why does everyone have stupid nicknames. Just why everything.
posted by athenasbanquet at 8:47 AM on March 18 [14 favorites]


Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. so many people have love for it, but I found it a slog, and found the tiny tiny footnotes thing to be an unnecessary attempt to emulate DFW and it drove me nuts.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:48 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


I hate to say it, but I read House of Leaves based on recommendations here on Metafilter and I. Hated. It.

I didn't entirely hate House of Leaves. I thought it was a pretty decent 400-page book. It's just that it was a real shame about the other 300 pages. About the third time I got to a page full of long run-on sentences, all written like this, with descriptive phrases set off by commas, hardly any other punctuation in sight, going on and on, often repeating the same concept in slightly different ways, apparently trying to set a mood but really just taking up space...

...I just gave up and started skimming until I got to the creepy parts. There is a point where you've stopped experimenting with literary style and have started taking industrial medieval-tannery quantities of the piss. Get on with it.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:01 AM on March 18 [7 favorites]


whoever keeps recommending patrick rothfuss as a response to people looking for new fantasy in Ask needs to cut that nonsense right out. the only reason i can think of for telling someone to read 'the name of the wind' is that if you can't pass it on in 7 days, rothfuss himself will appear to explain at length why his main character is not the worst mary sue ever written.
posted by logicpunk at 9:05 AM on March 18 [16 favorites]


The Magicians made me want to reach through the pages and punch Quentin Coldwater in the face. But I weirdly love the TV series!

My Dad got me the hate-read the Thomas Covenant series because he hated it so much and needed someone to rant about it with. I will never forgive him (fuck Thomas Convenant!).
posted by Mouse Army at 9:14 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Ghostride The Whip, that's exactly the one I was talking about too! It's so terrible.
posted by Carillon at 9:20 AM on March 18


If the writing is really terrible, I tend to bail by forgetting to pick it up: Dan Brown, The Bridges of Madison County (remember that concatenation of jaw-droppingly dumb words?), Thomas Hardy (why would I read this? It's obviously boring and bad.)

And the fucking Goldfinch, fuck - look I get that she wants to justify her drug habit by writing a cool character with a semi-tragic but cool back story that is cool and really sympathetic and... I kept waiting for him to fucking clean up... and he kept not and all I could think was, "Fuck, I just spent 400 pages (or whatever) hanging out with a junkie and that shit, hanging out with junkies, I stopped doing that in my 20s for a reason." I really hated that book, while at the same time really liking big parts of it. But the fucking drug-addiction all prettied up? No. Just like Philip Roth's relentless misogyny, it's just an immovable obstruction.

In the same vein, I really really really fucking hated Saturday: McEwan what a smug fuck, writing about a smug fuck. What a tedious, boring litany of smug fuckery. Jesus. Nothing happens to pop the bubble of... just... fuck you. You fuck. Fuck off.

And Henry James is ... like those highly specific herbal liquors that are bitter and sweet and odd all at the same time: some aren't pleasant at all, but some - some are... special. Go fucking figure. I read the Golden Bowl about 15 years ago while commuting one summer and it was... wild. It's like the most beautifully worked painting of a very unattractive person, but the painter is so caught up in the fact that the commission is going to buy his summer house that he... it has shades of Saturday class-lust to it, sure, but it's also gorgeous writing. And (for me) so deeply weird that it saves it. For me. I won't read it again, though.

I put down the magic in England book "Norrel and Strange," "All the light I can't see," "Particular Disaster Physics and topics therein," I had heard so many atrocious stories about Mr. McSweeny's person that the first of his books that I read was A Hologram for the King and I really liked it but couldn't help but feel that someone else wrote it, and then he signed his name, same for "the circle" (?).

As an acquaintance put it, "If I don't feel the writer loves what they are writing, I don't bother." (Of course, sometimes that love is - gross (I'm looking at you Philip Kerr and a whole enormous slice of other gross, violence as porn freaks.))
posted by From Bklyn at 9:21 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


Cormac McCarthy's Child of God left me with a bad taste in my mouth -- a thoroughly disgusting story. I mean, I have a bit of misanthropy in my nature, but McCarthy seems to hate our species. His punctuation peculiarities irk me as well.
posted by Agave at 9:23 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Moby Fucking Dick. I've tried so many times and I just can't.

Also -- so many comments already and no one's mentioned The Giving Tree?
posted by Mchelly at 9:29 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


A Little Life, sorry.
posted by Balthamos at 11:01 AM on March 18 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


OH GOD YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES, I HATED THAT ONE SO MUCH
posted by thivaia at 9:33 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I have a friend who told me that early on he learned not to mention that he played tabletop RPGs at parties, after he was once pinned to the wall by a guy who narrated his last Lord of the Rings session dice roll by dice roll, hit point by hit point, in which his character rushed into battle and was immediately trampled by an oliphant.

This took twenty-five minutes.

That experience is exactly what reading the chapters on the Battle of Waterloo in Les Miserables was like for me.
posted by telophase at 9:38 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]


Gonna n-th Ready Player One, And half-n-th Jonathan Strange.

But the one I can’t stand that keeps being recommended to me is The Night Circus. Every single object, image, person, and detail, is overstuffed with superlatives it set my teeth on edge.
posted by itesser at 9:41 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Seveneves. Part 1 was generally a very cool, incredibly inspiring read on humanity pulling together and getting things done.

Part 2 was a bit more of the same, along with Intrigue In Space (and also Space Sarah Palin). Fine enough.

Part 3 was interesting for a minute and then very quickly became a story that was not what I had signed up to read, which then ended before explaining anything about the one interesting development that had been hinted at.

Overall very annoying because I read the whole 880 pages only to get bamboozled in the home stretch, which in my opinion is worse than a book that tells you you're in for a terrible time on page 1 and continues in that vein for the entirety. Which, uh, is now reminding me about another recent not-fantastic Stephenson book, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell. Maybe there's a lesson to be learned there.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:43 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


... another recent not-fantastic Stephenson book, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell.

It used to be that Stephenson couldn't write endings; he has shown real growth over his career in expanding that to not being able to write third acts.
posted by logicpunk at 9:51 AM on March 18 [12 favorites]


Am I the only one disappointed by Cold Comfort Farm? I had looked forward to reading it based on recommendations from MeFi, but found the humour arch and decidedly unfunny. I think the word "twee" describes it pretty well. I ended up skipping to the last few pages to find out what happened, and ended up relieved that I hadn't slogged through the intervening pages to get there.

Didn't like The Night Circus either.
posted by nuclear bessel at 10:01 AM on March 18


Oh god The Goldfinch. Why does that book exist. Why is it so long. Why was a movie made out of it. Why do they spend 100 pages playing video games and getting scurvy. Why does everyone have stupid nicknames. Just why everything.

A thousand times this. I hated this book. When I finally finished it - which I did only because several people I know and respect loved it - I threw it across the room I was so angry.
posted by lyssabee at 10:03 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


This is tough. I'd put The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen up there for a particular reason. Extremely frustrating. About half the book was excellent, engrossing and wonderfully written. But the parts about the psych drugs were so ham-handed, obvious and over the top that it ruined the book for me. And the parts with the brother in eastern Europe (can't remember the specifics) were awful, too in a very different way. So as far as frustrating: this book is possibly my #1 pick.

(as far as "just plain bad" goes, I've read too many to count, and they were mostly forgettable. So I forgot)
posted by SoberHighland at 10:03 AM on March 18


wow. this thread leads me to understand that people have opinions about many of my favorite books (wrong opinions)
posted by supermedusa at 10:14 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


After reading the comments here: Confederacy of Dunces also ranks high in my Frustration list. I found about 1/3 of the book really enjoyable, and memorable in a dark way. But by the end I just wanted it to go far, far away.
posted by SoberHighland at 10:15 AM on March 18


Hey everybody, I hate all the books you love and love all the books you hate. Sorreeee
posted by Television Name at 10:27 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


War and Peace. What did Tolstoy have against Sonia anyway?
posted by orrnyereg at 10:29 AM on March 18


A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is a book I read quite some time ago, so all I remember of it is some scene where the narrator is blathering about throwing a bunch of things to the wind and running off, maybe to the sea, I don't know and truly don't care, all I remember is a feeling of staggering relief when I was done with the thing.

My main hate memory is at the very end, he gratuitously starts shitting on some friend of his who is a depressed alcoholic, by way of contrast with how much he, the genius narrator, is Living! Life!
posted by thelonius at 10:30 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


"Books don't get better; at best they don't get worse."

Discuss. I would like to know about books that contravene this rule, and get better after starting off badly.
posted by chavenet at 10:31 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


ctrl+f "Discovery of" no matches

A Discovery of Witches. Started off so promising, I spent half a two-day drive halfway across the country listening to it, realized about two hours before the end that no, the protagonist was absolutely in no way going to save herself. Nearly threw my iPod out the car window somewhere in Arizona.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:31 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]


BTW, Henry James makes only very modest use of parentheses. He probably thought they were too modern.
posted by praemunire at 11:02 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


The Tunnel. 650 pages with what we all now recognize as a certain kind of internet comment section asshole.

But there are a few pretty good limericks.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:09 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


A Message to Garcia

I worked for a bit in college for the head of a medical department, and he required all of his employees--doctors, nurses, grunts--to read this slim tome. The gist of the story is that, no matter the cost, "delivering the message" is paramount, the highest calling any of us can have. (In this case, the head of the department was clearly Garcia, and whatever he assigned you to do was the message, and jesus, people like this exist in the world.)

He had boxes of these books.
posted by maxwelton at 11:10 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Dune -- if you can make it through the first fifty or so pages, you'll be rewarded.
posted by philip-random at 11:11 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I've held this thread to my heart and acknowledged that it sparks so much joy in me. Everything else right now is sparking anxiety, but this thread made me laugh multiple times. Thank you.

(Also, Life of Pi. Awful. Which story do I prefer? The version where I never read that book, thank you.)
posted by mixedmetaphors at 11:14 AM on March 18 [13 favorites]


Dune! A book full of so many wonderful concepts and ideas. A book that is huge and influential, with unparalleled world building! A book that is written so very, very poorly.

I slogged through it and I'm happy that I did. But in terms of basic writing quality: it is terrible. I remember having to re-read paragraphs and sentences and sometimes whole pages just to figure out which character was saying what.
posted by SoberHighland at 11:20 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


So many "classics" I've had a low grade guilt at not reading or only getting a chapter or two into, so thank you, thank you all!

Ready Player One, knew it was iffy going in, mostly was growling under my breath, this should be so much better. Was stuck waiting somewhere with nothing nothing (usually have my trusty kindle) and there was a copy of one of the Twilight books and just needed to turn pages, but what drivel.

Do think we need to do a community read of that Xian ice skating romance novel, would make for an amazingly funny hate thread.
posted by sammyo at 11:24 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Oh god The Goldfinch. Why does that book exist. Why is it so long. Why was a movie made out of it. Why do they spend 100 pages playing video games and getting scurvy. Why does everyone have stupid nicknames. Just why everything.

Oh my god. I had just read that and was meeting with my writing group at a restaurant and was talking about how I didn't like it, and a woman at the next table decided to join our conversation and explain the book and what the author was doing and how it worked (because we all were then or had been college literature teachers, so it was beyond us). It was the most godawful awkward time ever, and she just wouldn't stop, and I finally said, "Oh look, our usual table is open now" and we all moved across the restaurant before she decided to help us critique each other's work.
posted by FencingGal at 11:32 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't have hated it so much if I hadn't loved Call Me By Your Name so much but the sequel, Find Me, was exquisitely terrible. There was a sentence from it that was so unbelievably bad that I quoted it at people but I don't think I can find it right now. It was as if the publisher said to Aciman "look, people loved that book. Can we have a sequel?" and he was like "sure, get someone to write it and I'll put my name on it."

I also consider The Last Picture Show one of the great American novels and accordingly read the follow-ups. Texasville had some redeeming bits, and the beginning of Duane's Depressed was based on a good idea, and the last one, well, I cried at the end because I had gotten pretty attached to Duane, but the second to last one, I can't remember the title or anything that happened in it other than an old guy getting enthusiastically laid by a parade of young women because I guess that was fun for McMurtry to write, being an old guy. Did not make it fun to read.
posted by less of course at 11:37 AM on March 18


Blank Space's Fairy Tales, ostensibly a collection of fairy tales about architecture.
Never have I been so disappointed. I had been looking forward to it for years.
It was very itself, and not what I wanted. I did read it all the way through.

Recently had to put down Alison Lurie's The Language Of Houses, all of her observations were either banal, inconclusive or missing important information (talking about why poor people paint things white needs to include whitewash, the Pantheon is a big round building and the Parthenon is a big rectangluar building)
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:38 AM on March 18


There are plenty of 'great works' that I didn't like at all but the one I'll list as unreadable was one of the 50 Shades books. I don't know or care which one it was but I read the first chapter or so while Mrs. Wreckage was going though them and yowsa that was bad writing.

I'll stick up for Ready Player One. It's not a great work for the ages but I listened to the audiobook read by Wil Wheaton which made it better I think. I'm a sucker for 80s nostalgia and will overlook some things for that. Plus my oldest kid likes it very much so we can talk about it and enjoy the movie together. That's worth something to me. I'm fine with people hating it, but it's not a universally hated book.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 11:40 AM on March 18


Lady Chatterley's Lover (read for a book report in high school) because Lawrence was so freaking condescending to his characters.
Cryptonomicon (gift from a dear friend) because the extended metaphor of dwarves vs. hobbits showed that Stephenson didn't know jack about his Tolkien.
Most recently, had to give up on The Grey Bastards (heavily promoted by Powell's) because it was so, so very much a skeevy hetero man's world. An entire tribe of half-orcs exists because orcs rape human women on the regular. And the fetuses are magically abortion-proof. Ugh...
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 11:44 AM on March 18


Oh yeah I HATED Life of Pi
posted by Mchelly at 11:46 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I could never make myself give two shits about stately, plump Buck Mulligan or anyone else in Ulysses.
posted by pracowity at 11:49 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Oh, and to the work situation that indicated there was a very important book that we should all read and they'd help pay for if necessary and they wanted to start an after-hours study group (unpaid) for: I'm glad I called it the Boring Talking Gorilla Eco Book, for Ishmael was not a good use of my time.
posted by scruss at 11:51 AM on March 18


Oh god The Goldfinch. Why does that book exist.

everyone i know LOVES it, like, passionately, like frequent public wailing about it, and that's usually enough for me to be like "i might not like this as much as others do, perhaps" and THANK YOU bc now i don't ever have to find out for sure.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:52 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Interesting to see several books I've liked mentioned.

Yeah, inevitable of course but I've already seen Melville trashed here and Salinger which I'm just used to (yes yes we know Holden is a dick.) Oh and Call Me By Your Name which I mentioned adoringly in my diss of the sequel.

I guess if I wanted to share a diss of something I know a ton of people like, it would be American Gods. It felt like if people I didn't like in high school were a novel. Not grown up versions of them. High school them. Didn't finish it.
posted by less of course at 11:56 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I've tried a few times to read various Neil Gaiman things, and I just can't.
posted by SoberHighland at 11:58 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


Thomas Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities. As I mentioned before, I actually gave up hate reading it a couple pages before the end.

Joyce Carol Oates' The Accursed. I gave up about 40 pages into it. WHY ARE YOU NAME DROPPING FAMOUS DEAD PEOPLE?! My biggest regret is that I borrowed it on my kindle, so I did not even get the pleasure of heaving it across a room.

I've read Wuthering Heights multiple times and it has never improved upon subsequent readings.

And Girl on a Train. I could muster no sympathy for any of the characters and figured it out after 40 pages. Which NEVER happens, I am an ideal mystery novel reader as I am so stupid when it comes to puzzling out solutions.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 11:58 AM on March 18


i can't remember what franzen book it was that made me decide to stop reading books written by cishet white men but i thank him for that bold effort.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:02 PM on March 18 [11 favorites]


Certainly not the worst thing I've ever read (I'm notoriously undiscerning in my reading material), but in the spirit particularly of annoying, after reading and greatly enjoying Catch-22, I got my hands on one of Heller's subsequent novels, Good as Gold, I believe. And I found it was just trying to export the same oxymoronic jokes into a different setting, and I was Very Annoyed.
posted by solotoro at 12:03 PM on March 18


Oh, an important note for janepanic:

Call Me By Your Name. I actually made it pretty far but was furious through most of it (THE FACE MELTING TEENAGE ANGST) only to get *spoiler alert* to the hotel scene where they watch each other poop. I was done. I have no idea how it ended and I will probably never find out!

The movie is way better, to the point that I'd encourage you to still give it a try (although I loooooove the movie so I should add that disclaimer). The movie removes most of the parts I think you dislike; the book is from the perspective of "Older guy looking back through rose-colored glasses that amplify the angst", but the movie is from the perspective of "this is happening now" and tones that down. There is no poop scene, happily. It ends with Oliver going home and that ends things; and instead of the book sort of implying that Elio doesn't ever get over that, the movie implies that yeah, Elio's sad, but his family is around him and is going to help him get through the heartbreak and he'll end up okay. The movie got Best Adapted Screenplay and with good reason.

But I hear you on the book - I love, love, love the movie, and read the book after seeing it, but despite loving the movie, the book made me say "dafuq?" more than once and I got rid of it pretty quick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:03 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I couldn’t finish The Five-Second Rule and Other Myths About Germs because it threatened my way of life.
posted by dianeF at 12:05 PM on March 18


I bet people would hate The Goldfinch less if it were shorter. If you're not into what it's doing, it's a very long time to watch it go about its business. Overrated, and more importantly lacking the truly deranged energy of The Secret History, but I didn't hate it.
posted by praemunire at 12:06 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


I hate The Goldfinch despite having never read it (warned off by several people with whom I had shared great love for The Secret History) because a good friend of mine read Goldfinch first, and now refuses to read Secret History on principle.

I can't blame her, I guess. It just makes me so MAD.
posted by tzikeh at 12:10 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Maybe you have to have a vivid memory of coming out as a pretentious gay teenager but I stood in the bookstore and read half of Call Me By Your Name, bought it, went home, and read the rest. (Ok ok this thread is not to defend books. I am fine with people hating it.)

The thing that was so hilarious to me about the Goldfinch was the narrator, on the first page, saying "straining to puzzle out the Dutch-language news on television (which was hopeless, since I knew not a word of Dutch)" and FOUR LINES LATER "It was Christmas, lights twinkling on the canal bridges at night; red-cheeked dames en heren, scarves flying in the icy wind." It was twenty or forty pages later during an endless exposition in need of an edit that I quit reading but I never quite got past this.
posted by less of course at 12:11 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


Here are my answers, Space Edition: The Martian and The Sparrow.

It kind of amuses me just how much I hated both of these books, and how completely opposite they are from each other in terms of style, mood, etc. The Martian made me hate-read sentences out loud to my husband; The Sparrow made me roll my eyes over and over again.

I really liked the movie of The Martian, though.
posted by meese at 12:14 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Goodness there was so much navel gazing in the first 99 pages of Goldfinch that I hate-read the hundredth just to make it to my arbitrary cut-off so that I could then toss it across the room.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:17 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


As always, I'm curious about how many of the Moby Dick haters were forced to read it in high school. I wasn't, didn't have to read it until like sophomore year in college, and I thought it was highly amusing that huge swaths of the book are really Melville just being a huge Sailing Nerd. Which I'm sure is just torture when you're 16.
posted by soundguy99 at 12:36 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


Neal Stephenson's and Nicole Galland's The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., which I read on a long plane flight. It is filled with characters doing things proven to be self-defeating (and worse) over and over again, and yet never learning anything from the self-defeat. The book did not return with me from the trip.

Terry Pratchett's Dodger was genuinely dreadful.

I've read Wuthering Heights multiple times and it has never improved upon subsequent readings.

One of my undergraduate professors suggested that people like either Jane Eyre or WH, but not both.

If we're talking "great" novels, then Henry James' The Ambassadors. I read that novel three times, desperately trying to convince myself that I was getting some reward from the effort, and finally conceded defeat. Not that I have a universal dislike of James, but that one...

Ironically, I specialize in novels that both modern and nineteenth-century readers often think terrible, so my figurative stomach is strong. But the fiction of E. H. Dering (eccentric, wealthy Catholic convert famed for wandering around in costume) is in a very special class of terrible. At the British Library a few years ago, I had to slog through the Lady of Raven's Combe, and it led me to coin a new definition of "distant reading": "The best method for studying this book is distant reading. As in, I would like to be one hundred miles distant from this book."
posted by thomas j wise at 12:36 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


I didn't read Moby Dick until adulthood because I assumed it was some swashbuckling adventure for boys instead of the insane, great thing it is. I haven't finished it, because it is rough going in places and because the internet killed my ability to concentrate. (I know I bought my copy at Moe's in Berkeley and that I saw Laurie Anderson's Moby Dick show that same year so I wonder if I can credit her for wising me to the fact that it's not a swashbuckling adventure for boys.)
posted by less of course at 12:44 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I've taken two stabs at Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey, but just can't get past the first third. Does anything actually happen in the book after that?
posted by beagle at 12:47 PM on March 18


I'd also like to say that we've pretty much decimated Western literature here. Shall we move on to art and sculpture?
posted by beagle at 12:53 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


why don't any of them have any arms
posted by poffin boffin at 12:56 PM on March 18 [21 favorites]


is it like how rob liefeld can't draw feet
posted by poffin boffin at 12:56 PM on March 18 [11 favorites]


Cat Valente's Space Opera was one of the last books I finished despite basically hating it. I stuck with it on the off chance it would redeem itself, and nope. I was so excited about the premise (Eurovision in space to save all of Earth!) and the execution was just infuriating to me. I think it was attempting some hybrid Douglas Adams/Terry Pratchett pastiche, but said pastiche was nowhere near as funny or clever as it thought it was and didn't really do anything to serve the story. Ugh, so disappointing.

There are a couple romance novels I've read in the last year that also had me rolling my eyes and only finishing out of spite, but I feel like that's just kind of a hazard of the genre. Always a real crapshoot whether you'll get halfway in and realize "oh no, this is patriarchy damaged :( ". Honorable hate mention to Lucy Parker's Pretty Face which spent nearly all of its time having its main pairing attempt to convince people that their director/actress, 15-year age gap relationship isn't problematic, actually, and they're in love for reasons, despite no, like, narrative evidence of either of those things.
posted by yasaman at 12:58 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Can we do architecture? I think most of Frank Gehry's buildings are about as timeless as mustard yellow appliances.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:58 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]


Gehry is pretty much the definition of a one-trick pony.
posted by orrnyereg at 1:00 PM on March 18


One of my undergraduate professors suggested that people like either Jane Eyre or WH, but not both

this is very interesting. I love them both and have read each many times.

i think there could be an interesting paper/study whatever on why many people only like one or the other...like, to me, it seems that Jane Eyre is the apollonian element and WH represents the bacchanalian chaos. or cerebral vs chthonic something something. but I already have a writing project to see me through the pandemic lockdown so I'll leave it to someone else.
posted by supermedusa at 1:07 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Cryptonomicon

Oh god, Cryptonomicon. I enjoyed it the first time around, but when I went to reread it, I finally realized that I have outgrown Neal Stephenson's whole thing. A little digression is all in good fun, but when you are spending five goddamned pages on a giant graphing system for distributing a dead woman's furniture or two and a half pages on the proper procedure for fucking eating Captain Crunch, you have taken me out of the story and into a place where I want to reach through the pages, grab you by your lapels, and start shaking until you begin to type anything else.

P.S. When will the government finally stop Frank Gehry's sinful hand?
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:08 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Oh, A Confederacy of Dunces and Ready, Player One fellow haters. My people. I am pleased I have found you, because in my world, these are beloved books and I get SUCH LOOKS when I go on and on about how awful they are.
posted by cooker girl at 1:12 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Frank Gehry is the Dale Chihuly of architecture
posted by orrnyereg at 1:13 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


and Dale Chihuly is the Thomas Kinkade of glasswork.
posted by scruss at 1:27 PM on March 18 [14 favorites]


Ah, Ready Player One. I remember thinking the 80s references were tediously overexplained if you were old enough to remember them, but a little too underexplained* if you weren't, and who exactly was the target audience supposed to be?

* yes, this is likely the only RPO review to excuse it of insufficient mansplaining, and my impression of the writing may be wrong but I am never going back to check

Cider House Rules went in the trash - not even the recycling, the trash - first book I ever did that to.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is not a bad book but it disturbed me enough to bundle up the baby and drive to the library as they were closing because I didn't want it in the house a minute longer than necessary.

Books I have taken from Little Free Libraries, ripped up, and dropped in the recycling bin: Babywise (corporal punishment for babies), Orson Scott Card's Lost Boys
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:31 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


A Million Little Pieces.

I only made it a few pages in. (This was at least a couple years post-scandal.)
posted by Carouselle at 2:09 PM on March 18


My son read Ready Player One for his book club when he was 15 and deep into gaming/80s nostalgia. His summary: "This is a Bad Book. It's bullshit. I am mad that I'm never going to get that time back."
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:10 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Also -- so many comments already and no one's mentioned The Giving Tree?


The fucking Giving Tree.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:15 PM on March 18 [13 favorites]


> Chrysostom:"My company made us read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." which my abusive boss also made us all read. A friend refers to it as Seven Insights Into the Blindingly Obvious, which made reading and discussing it less unbearable, because I could keep that snark in my head.

Could not read Life of Pi and I tried, then gave it to somebody whose book group was reading it.

Metafilter: a certain kind of internet comment section asshole.

30+ years ago, I hated The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, by M. Scott Peck a lot. sort of self-help so judge-y and sanctimonious. I used to always finish books, and it is very rare for me to damage or discard a book, but I made an exception.

Gone With the Wind is racist tripe.
posted by theora55 at 2:16 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


When I started voting for the Hugo Awards, I thought I should read all of the nominated works in a category if I voted on that category.

Then I read Robert Sawyer's Rollback. The combination of a lying, cheating, whiny jerk protagonist AND everyone around him (including the victims of his lying and cheating) constantly extolling his virtues was bad enough. Add in the "I'm a white guy born in the 1960's writing about the far future, and I assume without question that every cultural touchstone I find relevant will be relevant for the ages" schtick, and that was enough to break me from that rule. If I find a book to be absolutely insufferable partway through, it's not going to improve enough midstream to affect my voting choices anyway.
posted by creepygirl at 2:18 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


We have been down the Giving Tree road before, but it's not like I'm going anywhere.
posted by theora55 at 2:20 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Most books published every year are mediocre or crap and will be forgotten in 50 years.

If that makes you feel better.

I have sworn off on all books featuring protagonists and/or authors that are white people who grew up on the East Coast and went to any form of an Ivy. WE HAVE HEARD ENOUGH FROM PEOPLE LIKE YOU FOR NOW.

It's quite an effective filter.
posted by emjaybee at 2:21 PM on March 18 [11 favorites]


right??!? like what could they possibly have to say that could not be said better or more interestingly by literally anyone! anyone else! on the earth! anyone at all! a baby! i would rather read a book by a baby. that's where i'm at.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:24 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


truly this is the end times
posted by poffin boffin at 2:24 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I should probably also add that my book club's current collective least-favorite book is Limbo by Bernard Wolfe. It's a post-apocalyptic book that somehow combines the white-savior trope, Cold War spy novel cheese, and voluntary amputation. It's been going on two years since we read it, and still it's one of the books that when any one mentions the name or brings up an element of the plot, most of us all groan and go "oh God, that thing."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:54 PM on March 18


Limbo

trope ... cheese, and voluntary amputation


Limbo
Limburger
Limb-o


I see what you did there
posted by chavenet at 2:58 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Someone gave me a copy of Augustan Burroughs’s essays and it was just the most self-invovled, unaware, smug, entitled provincial portrait of a certain type of insufferable professional class gay man that you knew he thought was just so charming and fascinating. The only book I have ever thrown out. The outside is it gave me a vocabulary and typology to identify those guys and avoid them like the black holes they are.
posted by The Whelk at 2:59 PM on March 18


I tend to stop reading when it turns into hatereading, but there are cases like A Little Life where I was stuck on an airplane and the YA Charlotte Holmes books that I genuinely thought they were going to get better, but they turned out to have (almost) every trope I hate in Holmes fanfic. I really hate those books, but I will admit that Hot Topic Moriarty is delightful.

I can't even get defensive over the books I love that are being trashed here--Brideshead Revisited is basically Twilight with catholics instead of vampires, and I have a feeling that my enjoyment of Franny and Zooey is related to reading it after being rescued from the rice fields where I had been stranded for hours in the rain. I was in a mood.

We should have a Tournament of Hated Books. On the Road vs. A Confederacy of Dunces. Jane Eyre vs. Wuthering Heights. A Little Life vs. The Goldfinch. The Alchemist vs. The Celestine Prophecy. Anna Karenina vs. some other book that has a surprising amount of farming.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:10 PM on March 18 [12 favorites]


march madness but more nerdy than usual
posted by poffin boffin at 3:12 PM on March 18


Dave Eggers' The Circle. You'd think Facebook is a rich enough target that it would be hard to miss it too dramatically, but no, apparently only anonymous people are mean, social media employees are motivated by a cultlike belief in radical transparency and there's no point in doing any research about the way technology works before, say, writing a whole book about it.

Also, I feel a bit bad picking on it, because it never set itself up as a major work of literature, but Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger remains one of my most viscerally dissatisfying reading experiences. Okay, I was not really expecting the extremely straightforward ghosts and the overall drenching Gothic vibe, that's on me, I was never going to be the right reader for this book. But independent of genre, it also devolved into one of the most bizarre, undermotivated plot swerves I can remember reading, followed by a series of endgame plot twists that managed to be at the same time luridly contrived, ludicrous, entirely predictable, and more or less unrelated to the plot in any way. Apparently I'm still upset about it.
posted by eponym at 3:15 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Middlemarch Madness!
posted by chavenet at 3:15 PM on March 18 [19 favorites]


If we're doing a March Madness we should also have ESPN-style talking heads making for and against cases for each book.

I'll be Stephen A. Smith and do bizarrely left-field hot takes.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:17 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Stephen R. Donaldson, specifically The Gap Cycle. I bought a few random SF books for a week relaxing once, and his name popped out as being someone whose earlier books I'd read as an adolescent and not entirely hated. I bought the first two on a whim to see if they were any good.

They are utterly, irredeemably awful. A perfect example of a writer seeming to make a huge effort to develop complex characters, yet somehow ending up with one-note caricatures, all of them unpleasant in some way or other. One character appeared to express himself entirely through scars on his face; barely a page goes by without them throbbing, glowing menacingly or twisting in rage, or doing a Ukrainian folk jig. And the author seems to thoroughly hate every character in his books, judging by the weird delight he seems to take in abusing them in every possible way. I think he was trying to subvert the space opera genre or something. I just found the books repellent.
posted by pipeski at 3:22 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


Can we circle back to the unreadable Kim Stanley Robinson Mars books? I read them all while trying to make a game effort to connect with the worst colleague I have ever had (she lent them to me as a goodwill gesture) and MY GOD.

I do enjoy a good Neal Stephenson digression but I would like to point out that Seveneves ends just before the words ‘5000 years later’.
posted by janell at 3:45 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


After some thought ... the Message "translation"/paraphrasing of the Bible.
posted by WCityMike at 3:45 PM on March 18


Any self indulgent, mental masturbation by Henry Miller or Anais Nin, Good lord. But what really pissed me off as a woman, was Women Who Run With The Wolves. That one was the one that I literally threw across the room.
posted by Vaike at 4:21 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


I'd be into a March Madness story of thing and would even do a video about my hatred of Wuthering Heights. How and where could we do this?
posted by fiercekitten at 4:30 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


"I think he was trying to subvert the space opera genre or something. I just found the books repellent."

It was Bester + Wagner, so it couldn't fail to be repellent. I think it's by far the most interesting thing he's done. That doesn't make it any less repellent.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:34 PM on March 18


The Gathering, by Anne Enright. A Million Little Pieces came close, but at least it didn't win a fucking Man Booker. I'm sure I mentioned before that A Million Little Pieces is the only book I've ever put through a shredder when I was done, to try to prevent the horror from spreading.

I also detest East of Eden. Like, deep hatred.
posted by holborne at 4:48 PM on March 18


I've learned the ability to just stop watching or reading something I don't like, most of the time at least. I've only seen about ten minutes of Frozen, for example. I once absentmindedly picked up a classic novel, giving it fifty pages to get started. The book in question was Tristram Shandy and come page 51, I put it back on the shelf. I've also given up thinking "good" and "bad" are useful concepts, the œvre of Chris Chibnall apart.

That said, the worst book I've ever read, hands down, is The Celestine Prophecy.
posted by Grangousier at 4:56 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Oh wait, there was also Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn. I actually don't think he could have written a worse book if he'd actually tried. Yeah, I'm really dying to read a whole bad novel that's actually just a 300-page whinge about how unfair it was that you didn't win the Man Booker -- sure dude, thanks for adding this to the literary canon.
posted by holborne at 4:57 PM on March 18


Ah, where do I start?

The Road. Horrible, and smug about the fact it is deliberately being horrible. No it isn’t transgressive or inventive, it is just grim and unpleasant and frankly repetitive in its ugliness.

Tess of the D’Urbevilles. This is a book written by somebody who clearly has a very fucked up view of women. And I judge the fuck out of any man who thinks Tess is a wonderful heroine.

American Psycho. Again, the overwhelming impression on reading this book is just “this author really really hates women”.

The Lovely Bones. It is quite an achievement to make a book about the graphic rape and murder of a young child twee.

A Catcher in the Rye. By the time I read this I had slept with quite enough “misunderstood” self-pitying teenage boys to know that I didn’t want to live in their heads, thank you.

Wuthering Heights. Look I like overwrought Victorian novels. A lot. But you read WH and there is not one single sympathetic character. You read it and you don’t think “how romantic”. You just think “you lot are all fucking mental”.

The Fountainhead I actually quite enjoyed, although it is definitely one of the worst books I’ve ever read. It is so completely ridiculously wrongheaded about everything, from the noble suffering manliness of its hero to its “frigid bitch who falls in love upon being violently stranger-raped” heroine. And it takes itself absolutely deadly seriously. Symbolism so heavy handed it might as well have flashing lights and a neon sign saying “this is a metaphor for capitalism”. It is hilariously bad, to the point where you assume it must surely be satire. A book where the author has entirely lost control of the subtext, and now the subtext is dancing about thumbing its nose at her. Impossible to read without laughing.
posted by tinkletown at 5:05 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


I think it's by far the most interesting thing he's done. That doesn't make it any less repellent.

same and same. there are some very unpleasant aspects of it that are nevertheless very, idk. resonant? to me. for a variety of extremely personal extremely unpleasant reasons. it's complicated and i prefer to avoid but it is good for when i need to confront.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:14 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Well, I didn't hate RPO. Realized it was a ton of 80s nostalgia references, but, it had a plot, and a lot of dues ex machina, but OK. Also, enjoyed Starship Troopers, despite the attitudes expressed by professor DuBois.

But read The Glory Road about 5 years ago... OMG. Wow. That was, something.

And was young enough when I read Lord Foul's bane that maybe I missed the whole rape thing. Wouldn't reread either of those last two.
posted by Windopaene at 5:15 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Tess of the D’Urbevilles. This is a book written by somebody who clearly has a very fucked up view of women. And I judge the fuck out of any man who thinks Tess is a wonderful heroine.

My wife has an ex who gave her a copy of that book and was like "you're Tess!"

He was... not a tough act to follow.
posted by Ragged Richard at 5:20 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


pilgrim's progress - i just can't

game of thrones - yes, i know if fantasy worlds had real people in them, they'd all be assholes like they were in history - that doesn't mean i want to read about them - unless it's los angeles and your name is raymond chandler

these must be the champion worst, because i could not finish them - i finished ayn rand's atlas shrugged so it must not be as bad as those

oh, i never finished linda goodman's gooberz, which was her attempt at a great epic poem - ick

i think the first book or two of the fairie queene is brilliant - after that, it's a hard long slog

and drop that copy of on the road and pick up visions of gerard and realize there was much more to kerouac than beatnik kicks and his many personal flaws

and please try to understand that james joyce was a very funny writer - i laughed my ass off several times in ulysses ...
posted by pyramid termite at 5:24 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


My wife has an ex who gave her a copy of that book and was like "you're Tess!"

Did she follow through and stab him?
posted by tinkletown at 5:24 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:52 PM on March 18


The Celestine Prophecy. Oh my god, what a poorly written, classist, ridiculous pile of garbage that book is. The fever dream of white entitled new age yuppies who think they deserve a paradise that all the 'low vibe' people cant access.

Also you cant drive from Macchu Picchu to Iquitos in 3 days. You cant drive to Iquitos at all because *there are no roads*.

Once on a retreat I got so bored I went in and edited the whole thing with red pen for grammar, plot holes, poor phrasing, and crap dialogue.

Hmph.
posted by ananci at 5:52 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


They are utterly, irredeemably awful. A perfect example of a writer seeming to make a huge effort to develop complex characters, yet somehow ending up with one-note caricatures, all of them unpleasant in some way or other.

so rather like Donaldson's other books, or certainly the two that I read. God, self loathing is boring.
posted by philip-random at 6:08 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


To Kill a Mockingbird sucks and Atticus Finch is smug asshole which is why Stephen Colbert is the best version of him.
posted by East14thTaco at 6:18 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I thought my answer to this was going to be Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet but my shitty of experience of that had more to do with the fact that I was a depressed and tightly wound 16-year-old who did not deal well with being told I had to FEEL MORE DEEPLY & didn't yet know how to find humor in overseriousness.

But my real answer to this is Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny, my hatred for which has endured at every age. (Despite the lovely pictures! And how much it looks like Goodnight Moon, which I adore!) The book is smothering and creepy. The kid's excellent imagination is squashed at every. single. turn. The mom is always one step ahead--of course she is, she's a grownup! Jeez, let the kid win one.

Kid: I'm gonna be a fish and swim away
Mom: I will turn into a fisherman who eats fish and I WILL CATCH YOU

Kid: OK, the I'll turn into a crocus in a hidden garden
Mom: I will turn into a gardener and I WILL FIND YOU

Kid: Fine, I'll be a bird
Mom: I'll be a tree and YOU CAN'T FLY FOREVER, YOU'LL HAVE TO COME DOWN SOMETIME

even the jocular ending is disturbing:

Kid: Shucks, I can't escape your oppressive embrace, I might as well stay right here
Mom: MANGIA! MANGIA! HAVE A CARROT!

It's the Every Breath You Take of children's literature.
posted by miles per flower at 6:38 PM on March 18 [14 favorites]


I hate the book Shantaram with a burning passion, and I've never met anyone who agreed with me. Please, tell me someone else hates this book!
posted by Paper rabies at 7:10 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I've only seen about ten minutes of Frozen, for example

So, you . . .

Let It Go.

(•_•)
( •_•)>⌐■-■
(⌐■_■)
posted by soundguy99 at 7:13 PM on March 18 [11 favorites]


My mom recommended I read The Shadow of the Wind. Fifty pages in, for the first time in my life I realized I could just... stop reading. I don't have to read every book until the end. And it was so liberating, because I wouldn't have to spend all that time in the company of someone so convinced of their own cleverness and profundity.
posted by Jpfed at 7:17 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


In the same vein as Confederacy of Dunces, where not only is the book bad but everybody you know tells you you'd like the book there's Jitterbug Perfume and everything else by that guy. I hate that guy. Can't stand Brett Easton Ellis or Jay MacInerny can't staaaan' em.

One time right at the bitter worst of the housing bubble blowup I came home from a quick errand and somebody had left The Secret in the parking lot of the little shithole apartment complex where I had lived for seven years and where I would continue to live for seven more because better housing was too expensive for normals.

Some one of my neighbors must've got pissed off at the book because they'd left it out there in the rain, obviously deliberately. I picked it up and brought it in and gave it a looksee. I'd heard a few things about it and I was curious.

Wellsir! It was amazing! If you've never actually investigated The Secret, it's a trip. The pages of it are weirdly thick and slick, and they've all got this wash on them to make it look like it's written on papyrus or sheepskin or some such very ancient hallowed material--but except it's this heavy slick shiny paper. There's just maybe 50 words per page, as I remember it, anyway, and lots of pictures of wax seals and treasuremap burned edges and such. Just a whole lot of graphic design. It's like a really thick, long brochure.

It was immediately clear why it got left out in the rain, too. I'd been obsessing over the political situation and the banks getting bailed out and us all getting the shaft, and then I come home and someone has committed violence against this book that says all you have to do is "put it out there" and checks will start coming in, so go ahead and charge up your cards and take out the loans that will let you live now the way you'd live if you had a million bucks: it's the only way you'll ever have a million bucks.

The Secret. It's the worst book.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:26 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


My dad had a bookshelf full of old sci-fi which I devoured because our library was an eternity away. There the golden age titles you expect but also, hoo, some real hot garbage pulp collections. I can conjure up some of the more hilarious covers even today.

The most annoying book(s) I've ever put up with are Jordan's Wheel of Time series. A friend gave our family like the first 6 books in the series and highly recommended them. Being a foolish truster of souls, I read the first one. "Well there's 700 pages of my life I'll never get back." Begin a foolish disbeliever of my own experiences, I read the second book, thinking maybe the first one was just a rough start.

I am not a wise person.

It may be just a coincidence that we are no longer family friends with that generous donor.
posted by introp at 7:50 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster. I like his other stuff - his stories are just on the ragged edge of plausibility, but this was a relatively boring story told four different, boring ways. As I'm far too cool to read prefaces, I had no idea that the book was the same story told over and over, and had to figure it out, with much shocked page-turning and comparison of dates.

The Land of Painted Caves by Jean Auel. It may not be her fault, there is a theory that she was developing mental issues as she wrote the Earth's Children series. The first three books of that series had their flaws but were overall amazing, but then it just... petered...... out. Part of the disappointment was that I had such hopes for the story.

People have mentioned The Goldfinch, which I didn't hate, but have you guys read The Little Friend by Donna Tartt? Again, I had such hopes after The Secret History, and then the story was about ... some girl who can hold her breath a long time. Just not what I wanted.

Looking at this I realize that I only am listing books that I had high hopes for that wound up disappointing me. House of the Seven Gables (for example) was also bad, but I never had any hopes for it, so I don't hate it.

BUT - I LOVE the Da Vinci Code. I have an illustrated version that shows all the secret signs in the paintings and all the bits carved into the floors of the churches. I have wondered if everyone else hates this book because they don't have this lovely illustrated version.
posted by Vatnesine at 7:51 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


The Celestine Prophecy. No contest.

“It says that whenever people cross our paths, there is always a message for us. Chance encounters do not exist. But how we respond to these encounters determines whether we’re able to receive the message. If we have a conversation with someone who crosses our path and we do not see a message pertaining to our current questions, it does not mean there was no message. It only means we missed it for some reason.”

It's awful. The central conceit is that coincidences are always meaningful, especially if you're a white gringo slumming with the brown people and effortlessly learning all the hidden knowledge they're too brown to pick up on. This allows the so called author to just string together random occurrences and pretend they mean something. People are always saying things like 'have you discovered the awesome power of coincidences?' and 'why yes, I have!'.

It's so bad it circles around becomes bad, again.
posted by signal at 7:52 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Vatnesine: " I LOVE the Da Vinci Code.… I have wondered if everyone else hates this book because they don't have this lovely illustrated version."

I couldn't get past the first few pages, the writing was too bad, but I've always been a bit amused at how you can tell people who were first exposed to Leonardo by TDVC because they refer to him as 'Da Vinci'.
posted by signal at 7:54 PM on March 18


Oh and Life of Pi was terrible. Truly the only book I've ever actually flung.
posted by Vatnesine at 7:56 PM on March 18


The other thing about Terry Goodkind, whom I read on the STRONG, STRONG recommendations of a friend, is that he has a big-time buttsex kink, where he's the bottom (and a woman is the top), and he does not seem to realize he is spewing his kink all over his goddamned books and I always feel super-embarrassed when I read a book and the author's personal kink is accidentally on full display. Like, something like 50 Shades (which I haven't actually read, although I do totally have other complaints about, even though I haven't read it) is fine; that's INTENTIONALLY on display. But Terry Goodkind thinks he's just writing a story when in fact he's explaining his sexual kinks to a VERY LARGE AUDIENCE. It's been twenty fucking years and I'm still embarrassed for him and that overrides anything else that was in the book. And the parts of the plot that made no sense made A WHOLE LOT OF SENSE when you realized the point was to get to more buttsex.

"That experience is exactly what reading the chapters on the Battle of Waterloo in Les Miserables was like for me."

This is why most of us skip it to get to the sewers of Paris part, which is amazeballs.

We should have a Tournament of Hated Books. On the Road vs. A Confederacy of Dunces. Jane Eyre vs. Wuthering Heights. A Little Life vs. The Goldfinch. The Alchemist vs. The Celestine Prophecy. Anna Karenina vs. some other book that has a surprising amount of farming.

YESSSSSSS someone arrange this and I swear to God I will banner it.

I ADORED Moby Dick. But I absolutely loathed (the movie) It's a Wonderful Life which is a tedious paean to whiny men who take no responsibility for their own lives and also to subprime mortgage lending. Dan Brown is terrible but he is squarely in my academic areas so I like the part where every ten pages I get to shout at the book, "YOU UTTER FUCKING MORON, THAT'S BAPHOMET, HOW DO YOU HAVE A PH.D.????" Also, when you read a Dan Brown book, stop to consider that people are running from one thing to the next with NO SLEEP for more than 72 hours, and NOBODY EVER PEES. They're all so stupid because they have terrible bladder infections and haven't slept in days.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:01 PM on March 18 [11 favorites]


One of my hot takes is that The Little Prince is just as bad and obvious and trite at whatever age you read it.
posted by signal at 8:02 PM on March 18 [10 favorites]


Somehow, the first Steinbeck I picked up was 'Travels With Charley,' a book about cruisin' around 1960 America in an RV with a cute dog, talkin bout how awesome everything was. And I was all, "why the fuck does this exist." Answer, as it turns out: when you're a great writer, sometimes you put out a victory-lap book to make a few bucks on the side. And to pay for that RV, I guess? The down side is that some random proportion of future readers will start with that book, and forever think of you as a fucking hack.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:08 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Oh, Travels with Charley is the worst.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:12 PM on March 18


All you fellow Life of Pi haters - thank you, this is helping so much. I read it on the plane, outbound, on the 2004 business trip where I was descending into myalgic encephalomyelitis and didn't know it yet - I was feeling this bizarre sense of impending doom, and was finding the sense of threat from the tiger hanging out in the other end of the boat incredibly disturbing instead of laughably implausible, and I didn't know at the time why the book was so upsetting but it was that my immune system was self-destructing, and I have this sense of duty about finishing books, so I kept on with it, but I hated hated HATED it and I can't think of that awful passage where I went from healthy to sick without remembering reading it and thank goodness some other people out there hate it for their own reasons. I've felt so *alone* in that.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:32 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


My greatest waste of time reading is a toss up between slogging through Atlas Shrugged in high school (the racy bits kept me…uh, interested) or finally plopping down the 3rd book of Game of Thrones after the eightieth beheading and silly plot twists.
posted by jabo at 8:41 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


you can tell people who were first exposed to Leonardo by TDVC because they refer to him as 'Da Vinci'.

Or by listening to NPR?

Seriously, the ship has long since sailed on the "da Vinci isn't his surname" claim. The first time I remember hearing about him was in 6th grade (1980) and didn't get the "technically he's called Leonardo" bit until college. Thinking a Dan Brown novel is the source for that particular anachronism is, well, ahistorical.
posted by mark k at 9:03 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


Seveneves. Unlike others in this thread, though, I didn't like the beginning either, with its weird obsession with Neil deGrasse Tyson's sex life, vilification of non-Americans, and other Stephenson quirks. I was cheering for more annoying characters to be killed off. And that was before I even got to the eugenics.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:09 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Generally speaking, if I've liked a movie, I find that reading the book is worthwhile, movies have visual expression that [well done] can enhance a story, but books can convey a depth and breadth that usually has to be condensed to fit into the ~2hrs of a movie.

That concept came unstuck with the following 3:

Lord Jim
Last of the Mohicans
The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The first two were written in a different age of course, but I found "Don't make a point in a paragraph if you can string it out over 10 or more pages" very tedious. Yes! We know he screwed up! We know he feels guilty about it!, He's such a pathetic human being! Arrgh! Stop hitting me over the head with it...

Dunno what Milan Kundera's excuse is, and I don't know why people rave over this book, but fuck me I found it a turgid pile of gettothefuckingpoint.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:10 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Understanding the perils of claiming there is inspired improv, here's is the truly awesome Bassprov covering the Leonardo issue.
posted by 99_ at 9:12 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


METAFILTER: I was cheering for more annoying characters to be killed off. And that was before I even got to the eugenics.
posted by philip-random at 9:18 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]


One comes to mind, except I forget the title, and the author's name. But I remember what I hated about it. I just knew the guy was making it all up. Yeah, it was fiction but it was classic write-what-you-DON'T-know fiction, because none of it landed as remotely believable on a human level. Lots of sort of quirky characters that a twenty-two year old who spends way too much time alone might come up with. I felt sorry for him (the author) but sorrier for myself.

Yeah I don't like Pynchon either.
posted by fleacircus at 9:47 PM on March 18


Dunno what Milan Kundera's excuse is, and I don't know why people rave over this book, but fuck me I found it a turgid pile of gettothefuckingpoint.

I've seen a lot of books here that make me want to revise my answer and say "oh, that one too!" but I read Unbearable Lightness of Being twice in two different languages* and hated it both times. I read another Kundera (The Book of Laughter and Forgetting) for a book club and hated it for the same reasons. They aren't the worst but my god do am I mystified by their appeal to people I usually agree with.

*Neither of which, to be fair, were Czech.
posted by mark k at 9:51 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I could not finish this murder mystery when it turned out the protagonist's brother made both a quantitative AND qualitative study of rocks, not rocks with drawings or etchings on them, just plain old granite.
posted by b33j at 11:24 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I can’t believe I forgot this one.

The Kite Runner.

It’s the first time I’d read a book and had a gradually growing sense of puzzlement, unease, and finally profound disappointment. Made worse of course because everyone else seemed to love it. I loathe stories that are neatly running on clockwork and wrap up with a perfectLy appropriate ending for all the characters and boy oh boy was this designed to do just that.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 11:38 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


I was partway through one of Kundera's books (I forget which one - possibly The Joke) when I realised that not getting to the point was the essence of his writing. Not just his books as whole stories, but sentence by sentence he always seems to be approaching some kind of point only to wander off into a digression whenever he gets too close. Then the digression gets its own digression and by the time he gets back to what he was saying, if he ever does, its significance has changed completely.

What it does, I suppose, is to force the reader to gradually fill in their own picture of the story in their mind rather than following a path through a series of events. I can see why this isn't for everyone, although I love his writing.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 11:41 PM on March 18


The Alchemist. I gave away my copy as soon as I finished reading it, so I never even chance upon it later. Why is it so popular?!
I find myself alternately nodding in agreement and getting riled up at the other comments, heh.
posted by Nieshka at 11:48 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Jpfed: Fifty pages in, for the first time in my life I realized I could just... stop reading. I don't have to read every book until the end.

The Germans (because of course they do) have a word for reading just enough so you know whether a book is worth your time. It's 'anlesen' (the normal word for reading is 'lesen'). So for example if someone asks whether you've read a certain book, you can say 'No, I've angelesen it and it wasn't for me'.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:43 AM on March 19 [16 favorites]


Jpfed: Fifty pages in, for the first time in my life I realized I could just... stop reading. I don't have to read every book until the end. And it was so liberating

My Goodreads reviews look like I am a relentlessly indiscriminate and generously spirited reader who rarely gives low ratings. That is only because if I don’t like a book, I abandon it and start reading a new one. I learned to do this from my librarian friend. Life is too short!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:07 AM on March 19 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, I read my second ever YA novel, which was The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss, and it was totally wonderful and adoorbs and great and people should read it.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:28 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


Seconding The Little Prince. Here is a drawing of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's expression after being bitten by the damn snake, sat on by an elephant, and stuffed down one of his damn stupid volcanoes:

( x ~ x )
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:17 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Both The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and The Sport of Kings by CE Morgan started off well enough and then toward the end took a hard turn into WTF-dom. I am still mad about the time I wasted on The Goldfinch.
posted by coppermoss at 4:46 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


The Goldfinch is trash, The Secret History is nonsense, The Little Friend is a masterpiece. Fight me.
posted by Balthamos at 5:02 AM on March 19


HiroProtagonist, if you've never read it, you may enjoy Mark Twain's Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:11 AM on March 19 [5 favorites]


...not rocks with drawings or etchings on them, just plain old granite.

I hear you. Igneous petrologists tend to be good natured but dull. If the author was trying to foreshadow the brother being evil, they should have made him a metamorphic petrologist. Sneaky, untrustworthy bastards who spend more time looking at their incomprehensible and occult triangles than actual rocks.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:12 AM on March 19 [4 favorites]


Jitterbug Perfume and everything else by that guy.

Oh, God, Tom Robbins. It makes me sad because I loved his books when I was a teenager. But now they just remind me of all the creepy middle-aged guys who like to creep on teenage girls (in possibly related news, I liked some of those guys when I was a teenager too.)
posted by Daily Alice at 6:41 AM on March 19 [8 favorites]


I couldn't get through Achebe's Things Fall Apart. I really did try.
posted by jquinby at 6:43 AM on March 19 [4 favorites]


i think there could be an interesting paper/study whatever on why many people only like one or the other...like, to me, it seems that Jane Eyre is the apollonian element and WH represents the bacchanalian chaos. or cerebral vs chthonic something something. but I already have a writing project to see me through the pandemic lockdown so I'll leave it to someone else.

I wrote a paper about pretty much this in college. One main difference is how they each incoprorate the dangerous-lover-trope - I wouldn't say JE plays it particularly straight (it's Rochester, who's into the trope, sees himself as the Byronic hero and casts Jane into the role of his savior, but what readers often miss is that she's really explicitly not having it), but it's a more gentel subversion compared to the brutal deconstruction of WH.

For me a key difference is also the respective take on spirituality. Both books take a fairly dim view on conventional Christianity, and develop their own unique, but different take on metaphysical questions.

But I very much love both books, although I found JE the more pleasant reading experience.
posted by sohalt at 7:02 AM on March 19


The other thing about Terry Goodkind, whom I read on the STRONG, STRONG recommendations of a friend, is that he has a big-time buttsex kink, where he's the bottom (and a woman is the top)

Sounds like you've got Terry Goodkind pegged.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:15 AM on March 19 [43 favorites]


The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss, and it was totally wonderful and adoorbs and great and people should read it.

I tried. It should have delighted me. It did not.
posted by cooker girl at 7:17 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


If we're doing a March Madness we should also have ESPN-style talking heads making for and against cases for each book.

I'll be Stephen A. Smith and do bizarrely left-field hot takes.


Come back, sports! We miss you, and we promise we’ll be better, just don’t leave us again! Come back, and it’ll be just like it used to!
posted by Ghidorah at 7:23 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


I really liked the first few chapters of the Goldfinch, then realized it was going to be an exploration of Being High, which I find utterly boring to read about, so I skipped happily to the end and liked those. So it's a perfectly fine book if you excise about...80% of it? Which is sad because I adore A Secret History.

I finally got around to reading Moby Dick and really enjoyed it. I didn't expect it to be so funny.
posted by PussKillian at 7:25 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


> Too-Ticky: "The Germans (because of course they do) have a word for reading just enough so you know whether a book is worth your time. It's 'anlesen' (the normal word for reading is 'lesen'). So for example if someone asks whether you've read a certain book, you can say 'No, I've angelesen it and it wasn't for me'."
Quoted for This is Excellent.
posted by theora55 at 7:36 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


I remember finding the Celestine Prophecy laughable, but I had the misfortune of working in a bookstore during its boom* and we could barely keep it in stock until one day, the boom just ended, and we had a full display of dozens and dozens of copies just sitting there, utterly ignored by all.

In terms of loathing, I made it about twelve or fifteen pages into Sword of Shanara before it became the only book I’ve ever thrown across a room. Never got any further. I did finish the first Wheel of Time book, but couldn’t stand how derivative the whole thing felt, and never felt the need to go any further.

As far as Dan Brown, and I might be misremembering, but I read a rundown of how his books are written, possibly by Brown himself:

-Always have two main characters, the two mains must be experts in their totally unrelated specialized fields that somehow intersect for the plot, that way you can dump exposition by having one main explain something to the other

-The two main characters must be followed by a shadowy conspiracy that provides tension, yet is based on something that exists in some way in the real world that it seems familiar

-There must be constant tension, where every chapter ends on some sort of cliffhanger

-Every chapter should be no more than four or five pages to keep the reader going.

There was more, but having just read Da Vinci Code in a day and a half, I was like, yeah, that’s about it.

As far as embarrassing/disconcerting author kinks, the entirety of the Heralds series by Mercedes Lackey has some really, really graphic rape and torture in nearly every book. Like, stunningly detailed. Every book. They’re all trilogies, mind you, so in one story, you’ve got at least three different graphic torture scenes. The only defense I can imagine for having read them is back then (as a kid, gah) I had a weird need to complete series that I was reading, and it just. Kept. Going.

*I worked in a bookstore during bridges of Madison county and Celestine Prophecy, and also at a Hallmark at the height of beany babies. Truly a cursed employment history
posted by Ghidorah at 7:42 AM on March 19 [5 favorites]


Went to Paris with a friend 15 years ago. She was taken with DaVinci Code, as are many; the Mona Lisa has a perpetual crowd. It's the sort of book that has enough research and enough pretense to appeal to people who, I dunno, want to like books that require effort but don't want to put in effort? I'm sorry, because I really encourage people to read books because I believe books matter, and I'm annoyed with myself for being a snob about it, but the book is crap that sells a bundle of historical and philosophical nonsense that people take way too seriously.
/former bookseller, waves at Ghidorah
posted by theora55 at 7:47 AM on March 19


to be the worst, most annoying book you've ever read, there has to be some reason why you kept reading it after the first few pages. many are the terrible books whose names or authors I cannot recall because my entire interaction with them ended within two minutes. it's a book you are somehow pushed into interacting with.

and here are the options I am aware of for how that might happen:
1. school assignment
2. it's a wildly popular book that other people keep insisting you MUST read and/or whose presence/cultural influence is difficult to escape
3. it has become a favorite of a child or other person who keeps asking you to read it to them
4. trapped on a plane/similar with no other reading material available and phone is dead

(I am aware that some people also make themselves finish every book they read, but at that point it's just masochism)

I think my least favorite school assignment book was Lord of the Flies, but it is important to note that that's at least half the fault of the teacher, who assigned us horrible, boring, forced, pretentious essay prompts that poisoned the book for me. Oooh, but maybe tied with Death of a Salesman, which I just hated.

I didn't like twilight, but being in the anti-twilight fandom with its fanfic and everything was so fun I can no longer really dislike the book. It was bad, but it doesn't annoy me anymore. The words "Patrick Rothfuss", "Name of the Wind" or "Kingkiller Chronicles", on the other hand, raise my blood pressure. So many people whose opinions I otherwise respect claim to like this terrible book. Each positive review of this misogynistic poorly written pretentious piece of plotless garbage makes me hate the book more. If it had been treated the way Twilight was treated no way I would have hated it this much.

I can't currently think of a kids' book I hate, but to be fair, we have enough good books I can discreetly get rid of any I don't like before I'm forced to read them to the point of hatred.
posted by Cozybee at 8:01 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


how about The Magus by John Fowles? I loathed that one, given to me with a pile of other “classics” by the brother I no longer speak to.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:38 AM on March 19 [6 favorites]


Ghidorah: "In terms of loathing, I made it about twelve or fifteen pages into Sword of Shanara before it became the only book I’ve ever thrown across a room."

I finished it, but even as a tween, my reaction was, "This is a totally a Tolkien rip-off!"
posted by Chrysostom at 9:19 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


Dan Brown novels are the diner coffee of literature.

Sure, if the diner was selling coffee laced with the worst-tasting substance known to humanity but at least half the drinkers claimed it was mmmm great! I'd say Dan Brown novels are the cilantro of literature.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:20 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


I feel like "diner coffee" must be a euphemism for something scatological that I haven't heard yet.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:22 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


I disliked everyone in the beginning of _Swann’s Way_ so much that I now dislike cattleya orchids.
posted by clew at 9:27 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Although it's been said many times & many ways, The Fountainhead is terrible and I am stupider for having read it.

I made it approximately 500 pages into The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, at which time I died of boredom.

Multiple people in my life shoved Reamde by Neal Stephenson into my hands telling me I MUST READ. I think their thought process was "He likes video games! This book has a video game! ERGO..." I liked Snow Crash. What the hell happened between 1992 and 2011?
posted by zeusianfog at 10:04 AM on March 19


Money and adulation, I assume. Seveneves is worse and I couldn’t even finish Dodge.

Stephenson’s slide into eugenics and caste systems doesn’t rewrite his early books as much as Bujold’s becoming OK with extractive criminal aristocracies rewrites her early books, IMO.
posted by clew at 10:10 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's just because I'm still on the younger side, but I think there's value in giving many books their full opportunity. Not, like, Nazi eugenics trash. But many works of art may initially seem incoherent or ridiculous to you precisely because they're operating on an aesthetics that is unfamiliar to you, and the only way to understand it and, more importantly, learn if it has anything for you is to experience it. This principle needn't be taken to extremes, but I still think it's useful.

The Secret History is sort of...beyond good and evil? It is objectively not a good book. But I've reread it several times nonetheless.
posted by praemunire at 10:48 AM on March 19


If you enjoy hatereading you may like 372 Pages We'll Never Get Back. It's hosted by Conor Lastowka and Michael J. Nelson (of MST3K Fame). The first book they read is Ready Player One, and it is much more fun to listen to them suffer through the book than to read it yourself.
posted by JDHarper at 11:59 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: YOU UTTER FUCKING MORON, THAT'S BAPHOMET, HOW DO YOU HAVE A PH.D.????
posted by daisyk at 12:25 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]


In terms of loathing, I made it about twelve or fifteen pages into Sword of Shanara

my first time, i got as far as the explanation that trolls, dwarves, elves, whatever were mutants caused by radiation from WW3 and decided that was just too stupid to continue reading, even though i hadn't minded it much until he explained it

years later, i managed to finish the book and just gritted my teeth at the dumb history lesson

yes, it's a pulpy rip off of tolkien, but sometimes i was ok with that

i did read the first goodkind book, wizard's first rule - it was alright but i don't know if i really want to read the 7 others i found at a garage sale

i gave up on the wheel of time at book 8, i think - just.too.damned.long. - and there's no real reason to write 12 books instead of 3 unless you're trying to suction a lot of money from wallets
posted by pyramid termite at 12:41 PM on March 19


I love journaling my books on goodreads. I usually write a review, or at the very least some notes for me or for friends so that i might recommend for/or against at a later time when i've forgotten my experience.

I've always found the 5 star system terrible, because sometimes the writing is gorgeous, but the experience of reading the book is much less so, and conversely, sometimes I just loved the hell out of reading a book that's just literary trash. It's been liberating, in a very personal way, to be able to still recommend a popcorn read with a "5 star" review, and still trash a heavyweight (like the goldfinch) for my own lovely reasons.

One book I don't understand the love for is Station Eleven. It's also on my hate list mostly because it gets recommended so often and I just don't see why others don't see how implausible it was. oh well.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:45 PM on March 19


I fucked hated Where’d You Go, Bernadette and couldn’t finish more than a quarter of it, and have been seething mad about how popular it was (especially because I lived in Seattle at the time) compared to my vast annoyance with how shitty it was ever since the day I tried to read it. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest, FINALLY.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:09 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]


Worst book I ever read was Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

It was a tedious slog all the way through, and I actually put it down literally about 10 pages from the end, not caring one bit how it finished.

And by "put it down" I mean "threw into the bin", something I probably haven't done with any other book. Have too much respect for them otherwise, but this was a whole new level of garbage.

The prose was dull, the imagery uninspiring, the themes pointless, the characters unrelatable, the road trip cliched, the "philosophy" embarrassing.

If somebody had told me it was written by a stoned teenager who'd never read a single work of decent literature in his life, and who'd never spent a minute looking into the history of Western metaphysics, I'd believe them.

In fact, that's probably a reasonable description of how that bucket of pre-sophomoric pretentious vomit came into being. Maybe the author was slightly older than a teenager, which makes it even worse.

TL;DR 0/10. Read anything else.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:15 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]


IT'S SO BAD
posted by poffin boffin at 1:36 PM on March 19


how about The Magus by John Fowles? I loathed that one, given to me with a pile of other “classics” by the brother I no longer speak to.

Awww, I liked The Magus! Although admittedly I might've been influenced by the fact that it was lent to me by somebody with whom I had a flirtation going, so I was rather excitedly reading into all kinds of possible implications upon encountering each plot turn. Also, I found myself recognizing pieces of myself in the (rather dickish) main character in ways I didn't like, so at least that prompted some reflection...
posted by Expecto Cilantro at 1:51 PM on March 19


signal: "The Celestine Prophecy. No contest."

I take that back. It's The Twelfth Insight: The Hour of Decision, which is the sequel to the sequel to the sequel to The Celestine Prophecy.
I haven't read it, there's not enough brain-bleach in the world, but, I mean, just look at that title.
posted by signal at 2:16 PM on March 19


I don't read books I don't enjoy, but the book that made me the most angry because it was almost enjoyable but ultimately totally unsatisfying was Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. OK, I only read the first two, but I Did Not Like Them. Sorry science fiction fans, I know I am bad and wrong, but ugh the main character was the most boring human being with no feelings who woman all wanted to fuck for no apparent reason. Sure, he's an unreliable narrator, but god was I just fed up with him after two books.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:27 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Zen etc. is the chronicle of a schizophrenic's ultimately unsuccessful struggle to recover the mind and the past self the disease destroyed, made all the more tragic by the fact that the author thinks he has succeeded, and raised almost to the status of a demonstration of malignantly ironic providence by the subsequent death of his son, who was stabbed to death in a mugging just outside the San Francisco Zen Center.

As such, I found it deeply affecting.
posted by jamjam at 2:29 PM on March 19 [8 favorites]


OMG, thanks to several people for reminding me how much I HATE Chuck Klosterman. To all the people who told me I just had to read Fargo Rock City because I would love it so much because omg, you are both music nerds: NO, NO THANK YOU, and also fuck you. That book is just crap and I hate it entirely.

And yet, for unknown reasons, I went ahead and read Killing Yourself to Live ... why did I do that to myself? Screw you, Chuck.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 3:14 PM on March 19


signal: "It's The Twelfth Insight: The Hour of Decision, which is the sequel to the sequel to the sequel to The Celestine Prophecy."

The first eleven insights aren't that special, but the *twelfth* one, well.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:55 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


mixedmetaphors: (Also, Life of Pi. Awful. Which story do I prefer? The version where I never read that book, thank you.)

I was trying to figure out what book I'd read that I actually hated, rather than just being bored to tears by, but this is it. I think what frustrates me the most is that the first part of it was actually a book I would have liked, a quirky coming-of-age story with an idiosyncratic narrator. Still wish we could have just had that book.
posted by capricorn at 4:04 PM on March 19


I found the keeper of my shriveled heart when he understood my HATE of The Giving Tree.

I had no escape with only a paperback of Terry Goodkind available, Sword of Truth, during a long airplane trip. Is there a German word for fear of dying with an awful book as your last read? If not, there should be one.

So, I have every English translation of the Tale of Genji and have, throughout my academic time, read it more than once. I hate Genji, who I view as a smug sex predator.
posted by jadepearl at 4:17 PM on March 19 [6 favorites]


There's a genre of fiction I think of as "nice lady" fiction that I loathe -- in the 1990s, the cover had that "from-the-knees-down-only women's legs in wellies" schtick; starting in the aughties, it was "blonde girls blowing on dandelion clocks, superimposed with a title that implies a violent fissure between two people" and the books show up in airport bookstores all over the U.S. The stories are almost always about a nice white lady whose comfortable existence is rocked by infidelity/ the reminder that she has relatives and they are Difficult/ her daughter's need for a brain transplant. There is almost always a beach house. There is almost always an epilogue.

I began thinking of it as "nice lady" fiction because it's the type of book that seems to be exuberantly endorsed by women of my distant acquaintance who will post about how this book gutted them/devastated them/absorbed them, and these nice ladies are also the same nice ladies who despise new stories that point out uncomfortable things about the world we live in and think carrying a reusable tote to the grocery store only counts if it's a tote cute enough for Instagram stories.

Anyway, Jodi Picoult is their lodestar and I am sorry I ever read a book (thrown away) and a half (nearly thrown but then I remembered I was in an airport bookstore reading it on layover. Picoult's writing is so cheaply manipulative and fundamentally lacking in empathy, and it is so perfectly calibrated to give these nice ladies the comforting delusion that reading this means they're deep. Ugh.
posted by sobell at 5:08 PM on March 19 [7 favorites]


I once, while very poor, tried to pay a coworker not to read Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast. She refused, and later admitted it had been a poor decision.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:41 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]


I tried reading the first Harry Potter book and quit after a few minutes. I hated The Goldfinch and quit after a couple of chapters. When I was younger I'd read books all the way through even if I hated them, especially if people told me I'd love them. Now, if I don't find any of the characters interesting in the first chapter I don't waste my time with the rest of the book. I don't care how many people rave about it.
posted by mareli at 5:48 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]


Underworld, by Don DeLillo.
The first part, at the baseball game, is among the best things I've ever read. The rest of the book is a dull trudge through a landscape J.G.Ballard would have covered in a single, weird, list.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:59 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Reactions to this discussion. A list of three elements.

1. Nassim Taleb / The Black Swan: I am proud that he blocked me on twitter when I pointed out how embarrassing his conduct was. (It was.)

2. Susanna Clarke / Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: I did not read the footnotes to be in any way inspired by DFW but rather a certain genre of academic historical literature predating the computer.

3. I read multiple poffin boffin posts out loud to my beloved spouse.
posted by jjray at 6:50 PM on March 19 [6 favorites]


i have recounted here many times the incident in which i bought a very large and popular book at an airport, read it on a flight to china, realized it was unbearable garbage, and abandoned it under my cathay pacific seat, only to be tracked down many hours later after my lovely restorative nap and shower (at either narita or hong kong, not sure) by an airline guest services worker who was delighted to inform me that they'd "found my lost book" and handed me The Other Boleyn Girl in full view of my next departing flight. oh the humanity.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:51 PM on March 19 [13 favorites]


If we’re talking recent books, I am thoroughly on the Goldfinch hate train. I bailed after way too much of the main character dithering about in high school; I’ll cheerfully take a character who makes any decision, even a bad one, over indecisive time wasters like that. I cannot imagine how dull the movie must have been.

Name of the Wind remains terrible and so is Kushiel’s Dart. If the main character’s sole distinguishing feature is genetically bestowed masochism, that is not a personality.

For high school books I had to finish, I think Anna Karenina tops my shit list for pointless digressions plus indecisive, useless characters. (Our other reading option was Lord Jim in that class, so... I guess that’s one for the bracket to figure out if I made the correct choice.)
posted by tautological at 7:09 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


How to Manipulate Your Friends Win Friends and Influence People

The Goldfinch inspired me to write my only hate-review on Goodreads.
posted by belladonna at 7:21 PM on March 19


Now that I think about it, my only real hate review is for a book written by a good historian but about a time period he knew little about and which bought into so many cliches about the middle ages : A World Lit Only By Fire. I abandoned it halfway through a flight to Rome. I mean, I know all the good pope orgy stories already, it’s going to take a lot more than that to get me to overlook shoddy writing. I’m not a good scholar, so when I know you’re half-assing it, it’s a bad sign.
posted by PussKillian at 7:37 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


what distinguishes a good pope orgy story from a bad one
posted by poffin boffin at 7:39 PM on March 19 [7 favorites]


lighting
posted by valkane at 7:43 PM on March 19 [21 favorites]


I've thought of two books that I read just a few years ago that have scarred me in ways that will probably affect my happiness for years to come:

'Cell' by Stephen King. I mean, I don't really expect more than just creepiness from this fellow and I quite like a number of his other books, but this one is the most appalling, lazy piece of shit. The only reason I finished it was because I am afflicted by horrible fascination and a desire to know just how awful it could get. It was, it did.

'Swan Song' by Robert McCammon. I felt like reading 'The Stand' again but I couldn't find my copy so someone from work offered up this loathsome piece of work. See the above explanation for why I finished it and why the memory of it lingers like a rotten stench.

Just my opinion, of course!
posted by h00py at 7:48 PM on March 19


Ugh, The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick. Narrator is a magical intellectually disabled person who spouts folksy wisdom a la Forest Gump. There is wildly implausible, unprofessional, boundary crossing behavior from said narrrator’s therapist. Every character connects impossibly, despite the book taking place in a huge city. Narrator creeps on and idealizes his love interest in a way that’s meant to be charming but is absolutely not. Said love interests’ dark secret and defining trait that makes her charmingly aloof is that she was raped. Because of course it is. Her brother’s defining character trait is saying fuck literally every other word.

On top of all of this, the book’s Philadelphia geography is WILDLY OFF BASE. I see that the author went to college in the city, but I have such a hard time believing that based on the walking routes the characters take.

I have hated other books before, but somehow this is the one I can muster the most feelings about.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:17 PM on March 19


Of books forced to read in high school, Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies were abhorrent. Of books that I read of my own free will, Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy was a steam of unrelenting sordid wretchedness. Books that "friends" harassed me into reading include the truly revolting Confederacy of Dunces and The Fountainhead. I cut off all contact with both of these "friends."
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:00 AM on March 20

In non-fiction, Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science had all the coherence of A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates.
I'd completely forgotten that existed. I found it for ten bucks in a used book store. So many apparently smart people took it seriously that I read a lot more of it than it deserved. That one definitely belongs on the list.

But, it was exactly the right thickness to raise my work monitor to the perfect height, so the money was well spent. I suspect it's still doing the same job for whoever inherited my desk after I graduated. I hope they haven't tried to read it.
posted by eotvos at 1:51 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]


Wholeheartedly agree with The Giving Tree, plus The Rainbow Fish and all kinds of kids books that tell you how to feel about relationships. I reserve special distaste for the ones that seem to be trying to get kids to regulate their emotions or play on their attachment to their parents in a manipulative way-- yes, the Runaway Bunny-- or make them feel guilty. This seems like kind of an old-fashioned thing, yet working in a children's book department, I read a lot of new books that feel like this to me. (That's why I like Mo Willems's Elephant and Piggy books so much. Some of them tell you to share and include people and all that, but it plays out between the characters and neither of them seems to be clearly in the wrong.)

Adult books press these negative buttons for me too, especially when they tell you which characters to like. Salinger is a huge offender. In older books it's often very blatant how it's tied to class markers, even if that class is artsy and bohemian rather than hugely wealthy. Paul Fussell's book, Class, is like a handbook on how to be snobby in that way. So that's another book on my "dislike" list.
posted by BibiRose at 5:28 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]


Sobell's mention of beach houses reminded me of another horrible book that I don't remember the name of - and I can't find it in my Amazon reviews (for some reason, I can only access the first page). It was a book about kids leaving home (something I was going through at the time), and it was all first-person accounts by parents. With the exception of one mother whose child had joined the military and died, it was the same story again and again - by the same impossibly privileged people. The dazzling college choices, the trip across the country to drop the child off, the dad joking about all the checks he was writing, the big excursion to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I wanted the ghost of Studs Terkel to come down, smack these people around, and write a book that acknowledged that not everyone has the same magical life experience. Ugh.
posted by FencingGal at 6:14 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]


I can tell you the exact moment I threw Ready Player One across the room (it was the Wil Wheaton and Cory Doctorow part, and typing that out is making me mad all over again)
posted by Sokka shot first at 6:22 AM on March 20 [4 favorites]


I mean, I don’t know the guy, but I kinda feel like I would throw Cory Doctorow across a room.
posted by valkane at 7:00 AM on March 20 [5 favorites]


On top of all of this, the book’s Philadelphia geography is WILDLY OFF BASE.

This triggered a memory of my annoyance with The Last Policeman, a book I otherwise liked, and its brief mention of Target (which has never sold weapons, unlike Walmart) being looted for guns and ammo. Sure I'll buy into your apocalyptic scenario, but misrepresent Target to a reader in Minnesota? This cannot stand.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:19 AM on March 20 [9 favorites]


Its not my intent to be argumentative but I feel I need to state some clarification around the Wuthering Heights thing. I guess lots of people approach it expecting a Victorian Romance, and are thus appalled. but the fact is its a Gothic story, about terrible people who vengefully destroy themselves and the lives of those around them in expression of a toxic greedy love. that's the appeal! its a dark, fucked up story written 200 years ago by a 20 something spinster living in seclusion in the wilds of Yorkshire. its enduring appeal is its strangeness, its darkness. I fucking love it.
posted by supermedusa at 8:38 AM on March 20 [8 favorites]


couldn't remember name/author but yeah The Magus by John Fowles ugh burn it with fire
posted by supermedusa at 8:43 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


And, dammit, if people are gonna trash both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, then can Anne at least finally get some love for Tennant of Wildfell Hall instead of everyone forgetting that book exists?

I personally find all three excellent, but, more befitting the spirit of the thread, have thus far been unable to get past the first few chapters of any Jane Austen book.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:46 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]


2. Susanna Clarke / Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: I did not read the footnotes to be in any way inspired by DFW but rather a certain genre of academic historical literature predating the computer.

agreed. love this book.
posted by supermedusa at 8:48 AM on March 20


gusottertrout totally!! I love WH and JE but yes The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is also excellent and sadly overlooked.

I too have never managed to make it so much as a chapter into any Jane Austen novel.
posted by supermedusa at 8:52 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Its a dark, fucked up story written 200 years ago by a 20 something spinster living in seclusion in the wilds of Yorkshire. its enduring appeal is its strangeness, its darkness. I fucking love it

It looks like (and is the same for me) many people encountered it as assigned reading when they were younger. I think the response for many folks (as someone who did the same and then had to become a conscious, critical reader in college as a lit student) stems from the fact that the framing of assigned reading for teens is all fucked up. Because something is assigned, the implication is that it's 'great' but what great is when young is often "I'm going to enjoy this" and then it turns out the language is alienating, the themes were never really discussed before engaging and you end up slogging through a book (this or others) that is a bummer and for many, pretty wierd. In college I studied with someone who had a specialty in 19th c British Lit and so I had to read way too much of that - it's basically learning a new language just to get to basic comprehension. Clarissa is a damned slog just to unpack the basic plot points. If we are introducing kids to the idea of critical reading, start with books that use language that is easily comestible and familiar and move up from there. Save Wuthering Heights and Hawthore for the second level.
posted by 99_ at 9:01 AM on March 20 [5 favorites]


99_ that is a good point. for me none of the Brontes were assigned reading. (for some reason at 12 or 13 I was just utterly determined to read WH. it was very challenging but as a fledgling baby goth, I ate it up!) I went in with zero expectations.

maybe this is why I am not a Charles Dickens fan.
posted by supermedusa at 9:27 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


METAFILTER: distinguishes a good pope orgy story from a bad one
posted by philip-random at 9:37 AM on March 20


This is hard for me because my taste in books has changed a lot in the 45+ years I've been able to read, and it also changes with my mood and level of stress. So I liked the Da Vinci Code fine as a throwaway summer read, and enjoyed Tom Robbins as a student. Confederacy of Dunces is one of the few books that made me laugh out loud repeatedly. Even the Sword of Shannara was fun for middle school me around 1980 because I *wanted* shameless Tolkien ripoffs once I finished Tolkien. But I might hate also those now.

Having said that:

* Name of the Wind + sequel - I liked the first one fine but thought the wrapper story in the inn slowed it down and the Mary Sue component went crazy by book two. I won't read book 3. Related ...
* Long-ass cycles that don't need to be long-ass cycles and where editors get kicked to the curb partway through. Also, if you are gonna make a long-ass cycle, learn from mystery/romance authors and churn that shit out once a year so I can keep going. Patrick Rothfuss, George RR Martin (once they added the Drowning God people and the sand raiders he lost the thread), Robert Jordan (dying is no excuse! Also every one got thicker and thicker).
* Anything by Umberto Eco. For the love of god, don't entwine a good story with a deep dive on some historical shit that you need to prove you know.
** Name of the Rose - A cool murder mystery! Wait, don't you want to read 100 pages about the history of the Papacy before I give you the next chapter?
** Foucault's Pendulum - Like taking the fun romp of the Da Vinci Code and padding it with random parts of Encyclopedia Brittanica. Read the Dan Brown version.
* It might be worth a retry, but I quit reading House of Leaves about 1/2 way through. I don't get footnotes in a novel, especially if they take up 1/2 of every page. It's fucking dumb. Ok, it's a creepy house with geometry that doesn't work. Is there really no way to tell that story in a smaller space?

Mrs. freecell is probably going to show up to rant about Blood Meridian, which I think she actually physically threw. She started it, quit, restarted on a friend's advice, quit again.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:39 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


maybe this is why I am not a Charles Dickens fan.

I find it more a matter of tone. There's a sort of winking moralism to Dickens and Austen, where the authorial voice feels more distantly controlling of the characters with a clear eye on the reaction of the readership to their actions, where the Brontes characters more often seem to loose the bonds of their authors, even when the reader is addressed directly, it feels like the stories can verge on or outright escaping expected form in strange ways.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:48 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


oh boy, I used to loooove Tom Robbins. Jitterbug Perfume was a touchstone in times of existential depression. not that I wasn't aware of the problematic elements in his work, but it was low key enough to ignore....

until I read the frog pajamas one. OH I HATED THAT BOOK. all the things that are problematic in his writing amplified to 11 and lacking the usual charm that made me able to overlook the problem parts. I have not read a word of him since...it completely ruined his work for me.
posted by supermedusa at 9:53 AM on March 20


This thread is delightful. Most of my most disliked books are already mentioned, along with many books I love.

I never read The Alchemist but The Witch of Portobello was infuriating trash.
posted by the primroses were over at 9:59 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


I went in with zero expectations.

maybe this is why I am not a Charles Dickens fan.


Might you say that when reading Dickens, you went in with Great Expectations then?
posted by solotoro at 10:19 AM on March 20 [9 favorites]


I just finished a book last night that I really wish I had just quit at the halfway point.

For all you romance novel readers out there, How Not to Fall is a great read. Smart, sexy, well-written, feminist, and relatable characters. It's written by Emily Foster (pen name of Emily Nagoski, author of Come As You Are). However, the sequel, How Not to Let Go, is almost unreadable (and I devoured all of the Fifty Shades books, I'm clearly not picky about my steamy romance).

The main characters both come off as smug academics, and the words they use make the book read like the world's longest vocabulary test. Charles, the male protagonist, seems like a straight up asshole, and Annie, the female protagonist, is an overthinking, crying mess throughout. It's never quite clear WHY these two are so resistant to actually having a relationship (there's a metaphor about dragons and rage mountains that is so tortured that I couldn't help but roll my eyes every time it came up). The hot, fun, sex scenes of the first novel are now tedious and completely unrealistic. I have never skimmed sex scenes before. I skimmed the last quarter of this book just to get it over with.

Halfway into this book, I had to check to make sure it was the same author. I had to reach out to my friends that I had just recommended How Not to Fall to to rescind the recommendation so that they never read this one. Unfortunately, the first book ends on a cliffhanger so it's kind of tough to just read that and skip the sequel. Better to not even start.

I would have thrown it across the room but it was on my Kindle.
posted by Fuego at 10:20 AM on March 20


I'm intrigued by why I can read some books and think that they are pretty bad, but I still enjoy them while some books enrage me.
I rolled my eyes through both The Name of the Wind and its sequel but I kind of enjoyed them (goodness me that unbearable love interest girl whose name kept changing!)
But I just thinking about "The Book of Lost Things" enrages me. Also that one with the long title that includes the word "dog" (sorry can't remember) where the writer was so proud of the fact that he hadn't done any research on autism before writing a book from the point of view of an autistic person.
I quite enjoyed Ready Player One, and have read Red Mars more than once too! And I loved Lord Jim and Moby Dick when I was a teenager. So there! :)
posted by Zumbador at 10:32 AM on March 20


book hate for me breaks down into a few different categories, some of which can exist concurrently:

- premise is good but execution is terrible (the aforementioned anita blake series, a lot of fantasy writing actually)
- premise is terrible but writing is obnoxiously engaging in some manner
- premise is not bad, writing is bearable, would otherwise be a good airplane book, but the author is personally horrible in some manner (the early clive cussler books are like this, oozing with virulent homophobia and misogyny)
- everything is terrible and the work is an affront to the gods

the first 2 categories i can hate-read enjoyably, the third i can hate-read in full once and retain details specifically to warn people about, the last is unbearable for any reason at all. there are varying degrees of badness wrt the writer's skill and the premise's stupidity within each category, i guess, and my ability to cope with all that also varies.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:23 AM on March 20


The Girls by Emma Cline.

It's a highly fictionalized story of a teen who falls in with "totally not the Manson Family. " And while this could have been an interesting character study about how a young woman falls into a cult and does terrible things, instead the protagonist does nothing, learns nothing and has no arc.

Then, on the night of the "totally not the Sharon Tate murders" the girl is in the car and just decides to get out before arriving at "totally not Cielo Drive" . So after nearly an entire book of the protagonist doing f* all, we don't even get to see her react to the culminating event of the story.

I have no idea what happens after that, because I stopped reading in disgust, about 15 pages from the end.
posted by Laura Palmer's Cold Dead Kiss at 12:12 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


I feel I need to state some clarification around the Wuthering Heights thing. I guess lots of people approach it expecting a Victorian Romance, and are thus appalled. but the fact is its a Gothic story

Yeah, I think Wuthering Heights and The Giving Tree both get a lot of hate for the same reason: people were expecting something different. Some readers are just disappointed that the book didn't provide what they were looking for - an inspiring tale about the value of giving, a passionate romance they could enjoy imagining themselves into. But some readers make the mistake of assuming the book is a failed attempt to be what they thought it would be. They imagine Bronte failed to realize that the Heathcliff she portrayed was a horrible person or Silverstein failed to realize that those pictures of the poor hacked-up tree could make people feel bad about her sacrifice. And maybe some people hate what I really like about both those books - that the author invites us to have some sympathy for all the characters. Not every character in a book - even a kids' book - has to be either a role model or a clearly marked villain you must hate.
posted by Redstart at 12:22 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]


Susanna Clarke / Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: I did not read the footnotes to be in any way inspired by DFW but rather a certain genre of academic historical literature predating the computer.

Yeah, this style is super-recognizable if you've ever read any pre-20C English academic work, or even some of the early English novels. It doesn't mean you have to like it, of course, but she was writing a period piece in a mock-period style.
posted by praemunire at 12:40 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


I briefly met Tom Robbins. He was doing a signing at the bookstore where I worked, and he first did a little meet and greet for the employees. It was uncomfortable. He was nice enough, but you could tell he didn't really want to be there. He signed books and didn't say much. His handlers from the publishing company were some of the most anxious individuals I have ever encountered. They were in some kind of crisis about getting exactly the right kind of beer for the green room, and they generally seemed like they were desperate to make everything go perfectly so that the author would be happy. But it was clear at once that this was a futile hope, since he just did not want to deal with the public, but was being forced to.
posted by thelonius at 12:43 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


The Monkey Wrench Gang by Abbey.

I wanted to like it, reader -- a friend in college recommended it, and I was so on board with sticking it to the Man, but I just could not get past the first chapter, or maybe 2?

It took me a long time to realize that it was misogyny: that all the women in the book were going to be appliances, appendages... whatever.

Ugh.
posted by allthinky at 1:08 PM on March 20


I know I only offered up one book with no explanation as to why I hated it (American Psycho - do I really need to explain, lol), but I gotta tell you, this is one of the best threads I've read in a long long time. I found myself nodding along and saying, "Oh yes, that one too!" many many times.
posted by sundrop at 1:29 PM on March 20 [4 favorites]


Dead Babies by Martin Amis.
posted by niicholas at 3:08 PM on March 20


I feel I need to state some clarification around the Wuthering Heights thing. I guess lots of people approach it expecting a Victorian Romance, and are thus appalled. but the fact is its a Gothic story

Yeah, I think Wuthering Heights and The Giving Tree both get a lot of hate for the same reason: people were expecting something different

It amuses the heck out of me that in a thread about books people have hated, in which several people have told anecdotes about other people saying, "you only don't like it because you didn't understand what it was trying to do! you were reading it wrong!" we get people popping in to explain that we who hate, say, Wuthering Heights are simply not smart enough to recognize what the book is really trying to do.

I mean, I kind of get it. I love Jane Austen, and when I hear someone dismiss her books because, "I'm just not interested in books about young women who are completely obsessed with romance and finding a husband," I do think they're mis-reading Austen. But I totally affirm the right of anybody not to enjoy Austen, for any reason or no reason.
posted by Orlop at 3:10 PM on March 20 [6 favorites]


My God that Dean Koontz book with the hypnotist and the mirrors (I think) that had DOG POOP as a key plot point.
It was my first and only Koontz, and I couldn't freaking believe a) that he was serious and b) that people liked that book!

I left it out in the wild (with a warning) for others to enjoy.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:39 PM on March 20


I can't name the worst one I've read, because I read it for work and since it was self-published, with the author, but suffice to say it was both a terrible book in its original language and in the English translation. It was trying to be the next 50 Shades type of "romance," replete with abusive, astonishingly rich asshole dude (whose trauma, of course, stemmed from an abusive father), a three-year-old who talked like a teenager and had incredible insights her moronic "talented chef" mother couldn't muster, and set in a city the author had clearly never set foot in and didn't know how to research. Every second of editing that thing took years off my life.

As for published things, that goes to The Martian's original self-published version (and honestly, to be real, the edited version that was published later ain't so hot either). It was so full of spelling and punctuation disasters, utterly garbage writing on a fifth-grade level, no consistency, cardboard cutout "characterization," and agonizingly fakey dialog, if it hadn't been on my tablet, I'd have thrown it out the window. It read to me like someone who had a great idea about exploring how to survive on Mars alone, but he couldn't do it as a paper so he decided to write it as fiction and never bothered to research how to write something creative. He clearly never attended an English class. It astounds me that intelligent people who are good writers think it's well written, mistaking a great idea for great writing. Whoever the editor was who shaped it up a little after the publishers bought it deserved a huge bonus, and so did the movie.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:41 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


I don't have a problem putting down a book that isn't working for me, so I don't often read all of something I hate. The exception was a Louis L'amour book a friend gave me. He knew I liked scifi, and this thing had flying saucers in it, so I would like it, right? I don't remember the name of the book, but it was really awful. A Western. Entire scenes were repeated. The flying saucers were pretty much irrelevant to the story. Thirty years later, and I still hate it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:04 PM on March 20


It amuses the heck out of me that in a thread about books people have hated, in which several people have told anecdotes about other people saying, "you only don't like it because you didn't understand what it was trying to do! you were reading it wrong!"

I think it comes down to how the dislike for a book is expressed. There are a number of different ways people talk about books they dislike; some saying they aren't able enough to "get" a given book in some fashion, others blaming the book itself for being or supporting unacceptable ideology or otherwise being substandard in craft or ideas, and others more just saying there's essentially a transmission problem between the book and them as reader, where the "failing" is that the reader can't enter the world of the story for various reasons.

The first two manners of dismissal can be troublesome for either excessive self-denigration or for attributing something to the book that may instead be more an issue of voice or expectation as others see what the book is doing differently. The want to address that second type of complaint comes from the implicit suggestion that readers who do like the book therefore must like the alleged ideology the person who dislikes it claims is there. It's understandable that there would be some push back on the claims over what the book is "about", which is different than saying everyone should like it. In my admittedly glib example, as any one run on sentence comparing Dickens to Austen to the Brontes would necessarily be, I was trying to suggest the authorial voice will work for or work against certain readers, but the books themselves are not to "blame" as there are volumes of writing on appreciative criticism of those same authors.

Personally I rarely really hate any fiction I read since I either abandon it if it doesn't work for me or tend to think more in terms of interesting and uninteresting rather than good and bad. Even something like The Da Vinci Code is sorta interesting for how popular it was when reading it to try and get a handle on that. A lot of book hate is more about the fandom certain books have, where the book's popularity makes it feel like something that needs addressing and maybe to be taken down a peg or two for having a seemingly outsized place in book culture. That's also an understandable reaction, but it can seem accusatory to those that do enjoy the books over their lack of sophistication or values.

I save my hate for non-fiction where the values expressed are more clearly meant to influence readers in a specific way. Don't even get me started on Evo-psych books on understanding art like Madame Bovary's Ovaries or any of the other seemingly endless supply of titles where art is "explained" by dilettante scientists trying to corral the arts as a lesser branch of their field of study.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:24 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


I know I only offered up one book with no explanation as to why I hated it (American Psycho - do I really need to explain, lol)

[...]

Dead Babies by Martin Amis.


two in a row I absolutely did not hate. Both proper horror stories, but also kinda funny in a darker than dark sort of way. Of course, it was at least twenty-five years that I read them, so perhaps my take would differ now.
posted by philip-random at 6:07 PM on March 20


Oh god, 50 SOG. I actually owe the author a debt of gratitude. When my SIL died a few years back, the upstairs bathroom at my parents was the unofficial get-your-shit-together site. My sister had her copy in the pile of books next to the tub. I’m incapable of not picking up a book and flipping through it-every time I’d step in the washroom that weekend, hitching and heaving and choking back tears, I’d pick it up, open it to a random paragraph, and without fail end up so irritated with her inner goddess or cheerleader or whatever I was able to collect myself enough to get through the next hour or so.
posted by jacy at 8:47 PM on March 20 [7 favorites]


And if you need a fun activity to spend some isolation time, go to Goodreads and read the one star reviews for the candidates mentioned in this thread. I've enjoyed it greatly the last two nights, and now have many more writers on my DO NOT READ list.

Now, back to Spook Country.
posted by Windopaene at 9:54 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


I love Red Mars, it's one of my favorites, but I will absolutely grant that the sequels are bad enough that the series as a whole kind of sucks. The benevolent trillionaire that had to be introduced in Green Mars to make the plot work. The infuriating way that we're supposed to root for Ann and Sax getting together in Blue Mars, even though Sax has been relentlessly shitty to Ann and everything she stands for throughout the entire series, including actual physical violation (forcibly subjecting her to unwanted medical treatment). By the end I was openly rooting for terrible things to happen to the characters.

Surprised nobody has mentioned Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated yet. I just found it so goddamn smug and precious.

Likewise If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. God, that was so oppressively cute.

Gravity's Rainbow for sure. I liked some of the earlier sections but just did not care about anything that was going on for the last half or so. And I don't just hate Pynchon by any means, I enjoyed Crying of Lot 49 and Vineland. But he's got no sense of plot whatsoever, so 700 pages is a long time to bear with him.

I was really excited to read The Magic Christian because of Terry Southern's involvement with Dr. Strangelove. I came away thinking that the unfortunate people of the early 60s must have been truly starved for dark comedy/satire if this is what passed for a landmark at the time. It's painfully unsubtle and repetitive.
posted by equalpants at 1:41 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


...others blaming the book itself for being or supporting unacceptable ideology or otherwise being substandard in craft or ideas...

Yes, there's a corner of fiction that I find genuinely despicable and that I attach to the writers of these particularly shitty books: Fiction that revels in torture/pain/harm, never gets my vote (there are few things to me that are more repugnant) and the other is particularly shodding writing. What generates real hate is when a book seems to be working towards being one thing and then this other quality - visciousness and pleasure in doing harm particularly - pops up and I think, "I'm going to write a letter!" I never do, but I've certainly thrown books like these out and promised myself never to buy another from that author.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:02 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Oh shit, Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood, left on the curb several pages in. Every book its reader, sure, but I wanted to get this one as far away from its non-reader as fast as possible. Apologies to whomever picked it up, hope it was for you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:25 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Has no one has mentioned How to Good-bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way?

Amazon says I bought this on March 23, 2001 and paid $16.95. I keep it as a coffee table book.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:32 AM on March 21 [3 favorites]


And if you need a fun activity to spend some isolation time, go to Goodreads and read the one star reviews for the candidates mentioned in this thread.

Ha, agreed! I was actually inspired to go read the 1 star reviews of my favorite books though. It was entertaining and enlightening to see why others dislike the books I love - and, honestly, I mostly saw where they were coming from. Watership Down is pretty damn depressing for a book about bunnies! (for example) Way better companion to my gin and seltzer nightcap than scrolling through twitter as my covid 19 anxiety slowly turns me into a wee nervous anxiety porcupine.
posted by the primroses were over at 8:20 AM on March 21 [3 favorites]


I was really excited to read The Magic Christian because of Terry Southern's involvement with Dr. Strangelove. I came away thinking that the unfortunate people of the early 60s must have been truly starved for dark comedy/satire if this is what passed for a landmark at the time.

yet the movie did give us this nasty gem of a scene ...

the whole movie
posted by philip-random at 8:33 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


I, uh, kinda want to read The Goldfinch now.

(Yes, I will smell that milk you think has soured. Why do you ask?)
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 9:10 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


I was going to say "everything by Tom Robbins and Tours of the Black Clock by Steve Erickson," then looked at the back cover of Tours on Amazon and funnily enough there's a Tom Robbins blurb.
posted by Lyme Drop at 11:19 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


I actually love The Goldfinch, mostly because, at a young age, I imprinted on Donna Tartt like a baby animal, and she can almost do no wrong in my eyes. I also have a high tolerance for pretentious belly-gazing, so there is that.

I also love Tess of the d'Urbervilles, but only because I read the Cliffs Notes for it in AP English. Condense all those pages into a pure plot synopsis and it's DYNAMITE. I would love to see a capable film adaptation for it, because you really can't beat this trajectory: drunk dad --> ancestry dot com --> send cute daughter to charm relatives?? --> assault and pregnancy and subsequently being ostracized --> dairy farm! --> true love --> hypocritical ideas about sex morals --> MURDER --> STONEHENGE.

My number one hated book is Serafina and the Black Cloak, which I am assuming never made it beyond a regional fame if it's not showing up on this thread. God, that book sucks. It takes place around the turn of the 20th century, and there is a character named Braeden Vanderbilt. That should be enough, but there's also an eerily accurate depiction of a child predator, almost tailor-made to trigger survivors of assault, and there is zero reason why the villain had to be written that way. I give the author a pass because I assume he wrote out of ignorance, not malice.

And on a similar note, I respect Margaret Atwood but I had to nope out of The Robber Bride immediately after a very graphic depiction of a child being assaulted. Sometimes prose seems sadistic, like here, and the older I get, the less I am able to go along for the ride.

And House of Leaves, yikes, should've been titled House of Gimmicks.
posted by witchen at 5:33 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


What a fun thread. Thank you to annieb for starting it.

There are quite a few listed here that I personally really enjoy. I loved the Goldfinch.

Here are that I found really annoying (which is slightly different than just being bad)

Atonement: I have given Ian McEwan a shot, but I have tried three books and hated them all. I always feel as though the author thinks he is being very clever, but the stories are so basic. Maybe I am missing something.

The Incendiaries: Cults usually create a lot of drama for an interesting story; however this one has one dimensional characters and extremely annoying meandering prose.

Snow: I found this book so boring that I struggled to get through it. I also found the narrator to be sexist. I gave up 60% through.

Eat, Pray, Love: Enough has been written elsewhere about this one.
posted by seesom at 7:01 PM on March 22


The Art of Racing In the Rain got as far as the narratorial dog smelling the cancer in the lady's brain and I was like "okay done"
posted by daisystomper at 7:12 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


I also really, really hated Confederacy of Dunces. Somehow I finished it.
posted by natasha_k at 7:56 PM on March 22


Recommended by a high school English teacher, under the heading of “I think you’ll really like this:”
The Magus, by John Fowles. [waves at Lawn Beaver, supermedusa]
I didn’t finish it on first attempt, as the first act was probably a little too “cosmopolitan dude with relationship problems” for a rural teen nerd into fantasy and scifi.
I made a second attempt in my twenties, and finished the damn thing, expecting something really amazing to happen, and it kinda never does. An old weirdo psychologically tortures the protagonist with quaint props, and it all culminates in a mock trial conducted by post-Freudian psychology cultists in animal masks. Or something.
I have no idea why I was supposed to like it.

Neverwhere. I think Neil Gaiman’s fine as a comic writer, and some of his blog/nonfiction writing is quite enjoyable.
But Neverwhere is unbearably twee, and it reads like it’s trying desperately hard to be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, But For Fantasy. I think I involuntarily said “ucch” out loud when the fucking angel showed up, but I was sick of angels by then for other reasons.
I borrowed American Gods from one of my oldest friends, and it quickly started to feel like a homework assignment for continuing to be friends with the guy, and I still liked it better than Neverwhere.

Folks have mentioned Henry James upthread, and I’ve only read The Turn of the Screw, which was the longest shortest book I’ve ever read. I kept having to turn back to the previous page (or two, or three) to remember how a sentence started. My mom agrees with me about the writing being kind of a slog. Dad scoffs at us, but also loves Tom Clancy.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany was a long short book for other reasons. That was the first time I ever really felt what people meant when they complained about “too much description.” Like, setting and imagery are usually what I’m in a book for, but even I was like, “dude, you can tighten some of these paragraphs up a little.”

Somebody I worked with handed me Sunset with a Beard by Carlton Mellick III. It claimed to be “surrealist science fiction” and had a long introduction about what a challenging idea the author thought that was (like, “how could I even do that?” [paraphrase]). I read the title story and quit. It was neither surrealist, nor science fiction. It was just fucking word salad.

The worst (in the “this story is so stupid” sense) thing I ever finished was The Traveller by John Twelve Hawks.

The Christian ice skating romance thing reminded me of the worst (in terms of wtf content) thing I finished, probably, which now makes me steer wide clear of Piers Anthony:
The Shade of the Tree.
In which (I’m sure there’s some plot in there about the old guy’s dead wife’s ghost or some shit) an old guy seduces a teenage girl and not only tells her the “it’s not really sex if it’s just anal” schtick, but uses the word “flying” to describe the experience to her during the course of said act!
It’s not laughably bad, it’s just fucking bad.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:42 PM on March 23 [2 favorites]


METAFILTER: it quickly started to feel like a homework assignment for continuing to be friends with the guy
posted by philip-random at 12:30 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]


I had literally forgotten the existence of Piers Anthony until now and I am not grateful for the reminder.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:41 AM on March 24 [7 favorites]


Mister Moofoo, I think I've ended up in a similar place regarding Gaiman. I absolutely loved Sandman, and really enjoyed moments where I came across things that he had based parts of his stories on (Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, which he cited as a book he drew from was pretty amazing), and I don't doubt part of that was young nerd Ghidorah being excited to find something that felt like it justified all of the useless knowledge I'd come across.

As I've gotten older, I like to think that I've gotten over feeling like I deserve some sort of gold star for having read something obscure, or that I know something that most people around me don't know. I've come to understand that mostly it comes off as smug at worst, trying to hard at best, and honestly, I think my best teachers in this have been people I've met as well as people I've worked with that remind me, very vividly, of the me I was before I learned to tone it down, or to at least find the time and place to let that sort of thing out (that... that is you folks, right? I mean, this sort of stuff is okay here, right?). Most of those relationships have gone poorly, mostly for the visceral dislike I have for the person I used to be, and, well, somewhere along the way, I kind of realized that there was something of that who I used to be in Gaiman's writing as well, a very deep desire to seem witty and creative, yet also possessing a wide and admirable depth of knowledge, making it a badge of honor to get the references he drops.

I love his comics, and think he is absolutely a master story teller. I love his short stories, as well, and I would love his novels a lot more if, and this almost definitely projecting, they came across as less wanting of recognition for how smart they are. Almost, I guess, if he himself would recognize just how good he is at it (projection has ended, here, by the way), and rely less on needing outside praise and recognition.

Seriously, I really, really do like his work, and I feel like a massive asshole having said all of this.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:20 AM on March 24 [6 favorites]


Count me as another person who thinks Gaiman is an amazing story teller whose solo novels tend to be disappointing - my theory is that he does his best work when he's collaborating with others. The Sandman is incredible, and Good Omens is so much fun (which reminds me, I still haven't seen the TV show; guess that's one more thing for my quarantine list). With perhaps the exception of The Graveyard Book, most of his solo works just feel like they're lacking something - they're decent enough but I keep turning pages waiting for them to get good in the same way that Sandman was.

However, I will say that his novels that I've listened to on audiobook are much improved for it - Anansi Boys in particular was good fun. Not sure if again it's thanks to the collaborative element (the narrator, Lenny Henry, does such a great job with the characters), but it was a MUCH better experience than reading it myself.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:42 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


I mean.
Sandman is great (I admit I haven’t read all of it), “A Study In Emerald” is amazing, that blog post he wrote about going to the Oscars was good enough to make me wonder why the rest of his writing wasn’t like that. He is definitely a good storyteller.

I didn’t really mind American Gods, even. It was the being asked about my progress by someone who had read the thing once a year since it came out that made it feel like work.

Neverwhere was just too much of the thing that it was, for me. I laughed at a lot of stuff, but it became like trying to eat a whole cake. Or like Homer trying to finish the sandwich. I wondered, years later, if some of the loonier bits of China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun weren’t maybe a little bit of a pisstake on Neverwhere.

I wonder if some of the tryhardiness of some of Gaiman’s stuff might be due to impostor syndrome, which he fully admits to experiencing.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:04 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


Fascinating. As someone who discovered Gaiman through his solo novels and has been thoroughly disappointed with everything else that has his name on it, I'm surprised by the consensus here. I'd list Sandman (at least the bits that I read) on the first page of my worst list. Not because it was awful, but because I felt tricked into wasting time on it since I so enjoyed the author's other work. I never would have picked it up otherwise and I definitely shouldn't have. The novels, though - except Stardust - I find really entertaining. To each their own!
posted by eotvos at 7:54 AM on March 26


on the Gaiman prose tip, I read Good Omens years ago and found it a blast, but for whatever reason, never tried anything else. But then American Gods kind of landed in my lap a while back and, given the hype of the then new TV adaptation, I decided why not? Sounds like fun.

It wasn't.

I got maybe a hundred pages in and ........ I was still waiting for the magic (the literary kind, that is, the getting-swept-up-in-it-all-and-forgetting-all-my-cares kind) but it never came. Just more words on more pages. Way too many pages.

I put it down. And didn't bother with the TV show either.
posted by philip-random at 12:04 PM on March 26


the show had a pretty good first season followed by the firing of most of its poc cast members so you made the right choice.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:12 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


I haaaaaaaated The Little Prince. I have read objectively worse books since, but that was the first book I remember really loathing.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 8:57 AM on March 27


I couldn't stand Gone Girl. I kept reading hoping it wasn't going to end in the very obvious way it seemed to be leading but it did. Total, complete waste of time. Also, I know this isn't a going to rub some of you the wrong way, I've become really put off by T.Kingfisher's latest novels. Like, throw them across the room put off. I liked her earlier stuff, but the past 4 or 5 books she's put out are all the exact same plot with the exact same characters except with different names. Its all just lazy, boring, wish fufillment.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:26 PM on March 28


Oh and for Gone Girl...Really? Let's just go and add creedence to the idea that women who dare to speak about abuse are psychotic liars just trying to further their own ends and men are actually the victims. Thanks for that.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:38 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I really disliked Perdido Street Station. I'm really not sure what turned me off to it, but man I hate read that book and it's likely one of the few I've ever done so.
posted by Carillon at 1:58 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


I just finished Imaginary Friend, which started out great, similar to classic Stephen King. Then it was taken over by late-career unedited second-by-second plodding King, and at some point Frank Peretti shoved him out of the way to finish the book. This went on for 700 pages. The main characters are well-drawn and I was invested enough in them to finish, but Lord, they deserved a better book.
posted by Flannery Culp at 5:47 AM on March 29


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