Hi friends! 👋🏻 I personally love the prompt for this week because deep down I am a cynical and pessimistic gremlin who really loves to complain.
That being said, there are actually not a lot of books that I have rated less than three stars and even fewer books that I don’t have anything nice to say about. That is changing today because I very easily found 10 (but actually 11) books that I can rant about. Prepare yourself for some walls of text because this post is a long one.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce – I have to start with the big one. There has never been a book or an author’s entire bibliography that I have hated as much as I hate everything that James Joyce has ever written. I understand that “write what you know” is one of the biggest pieces of writing advice out there (which I honestly think is a load of rubbish), but Joyce wrote an entire novel about himself. Portrait is about his own life with all of the names changed, and I would mind that if he didn’t have the most boring childhood I’ve ever read about. And on top of that, the narrative style is so challenging that it pretty much makes you feel like an idiot for struggling with it. What really cements this as the worst book I’ve ever read is that this was the first novel I studied at university, which meant that I had to spend months going through it with a fine-toothed comb and it was not a pleasant experience at all. In fact, I feel like this is the book that made me never want to touch a modernist novel ever again, I hate it that much.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – I don’t like to judge people for their tastes in what they read or what their favourites are, but every time I see someone call The Great Gatsby one of their favourite books, I can only wonder why. This is another book that I studied, and studying it really feels like English Class 101. The imagery is very obvious, which makes it perfect for school, but I studied this for A Level English so it felt almost too easy. Academics aside, I just can’t think of anything good to say about this book; the story is dull as dishwater, there isn’t a single character to root for (and that includes Nick) and it takes so long for anything exciting to happen, that once it does, the book is over. Yeah, they didn’t have TV back then and books were a big source of entertainment, but come on. Some excitement would be nice when I’m bored of being hit over the head with how shallow the 1920s were.
The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller – I’m including both books in one entry because the latter was terrible the first time I read it, and the former has gone down in my opinion a lot since I first read it when I was 13. I can understand why The Dark Knight Returns (or TDKR for shortness) is so revolutionary. It came out at a time when Batman was slowly gaining his popularity back after it crashed in the 1960s by taking the campy Adam West show too seriously, but Frank Miller’s writing and art have not aged well at all. He turned Batman into a violent thug and glorified it, instead of showing the audience that this way of crime-fighting is wrong (which is what Batman v Superman does but a lot of people missed that), and the way he writes women is just terrible. Yeah, Robin is a girl in this version, but she has no character, while every other woman is either a criminal with no character or a sex worker with no character. And then we get to The Dark Knight Strikes Again which is probably the worst comic I’ve ever read in my entire life. The art is somehow worse, the writing is worse, and we even get homophobia sprinkled in by the way of Dick Grayson being brought in and being very feminine, which is seen as a bad thing for a man to be in Miller’s eyes. Something I also find important to mention is that TDKSA came out after 9/11 which is when Miller decided to make his Islamophobia known through his work. While I don’t like these two books, I wouldn’t hate them as much as I do if the first book wasn’t considered to be the definitive Batman story when it’s actually an Elseworlds story (which means that it’s non-canon). Other writers just can’t seem to let go of TDKR even when it’s gone way past its sell-by date.
Fallen by Lauren Kate – It has been about ten years since I read this book, so I won’t have a wall of text ranting about why I don’t like this book (you’re welcome.) If my memory is on my side, this is likely the book that turned me off of reading books about angels. I was a Christian at the time, but now I’m not and I still don’t want to read books about angels because of this book (and also because I have a hard time seeing angels as suitable love interests in paranormal romances). The protagonist is annoying, the love interest is a total jerk to her, the setting was completely irrelevant to everything else, and nothing happens until the end. How I managed to read the whole thing, I will never know.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – Thinking about this book breaks my heart sometimes because I love the first two books in the Hunger Games series, but Mockingjay was such a disappointment that it has pretty much put me off of rereading the trilogy any time soon. What I loved about the first two books is that they have a good balance of action and scenes of the characters discussing strategy. Mockingjay, on the other hand, is like going from the original Star Wars trilogy to the prequel trilogy: there is way more talking and strategy and moping than there is action, and once the action does arrive, it’s over in the blink of an eye. In fact, it goes by so fast that I completely missed the death of a pretty important character. If your readers miss something important like that, you’ve goofed.
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner – Another book that I studied for university, this one I actually studied for a language class, rather than literature, and I am not a fan of studying the English language. The Sounds and the Fury is another modernist novel, and it’s another that uses the “stream of consciousness” style narrative that I cannot stand. If you’ve never heard of this narrative style before, it’s where all of the sentences run into one another, to mimic the way someone’s thoughts can run into one another. I can understand why Faulker uses this because two of the characters are shown to have incoherent thoughts (one is disabled, and the other is mentally ill which leads to his suicide) but that doesn’t make it any easier to read. I listened to an audiobook of this while reading it at the same time and even that didn’t do any favours for me.
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer – I was very tempted to say that I would throw the entirety of The Twilight Saga into the ocean, but I had a great time with the first three books in the series when I was a teenager. Breaking Dawn, however, is when I realised that I just wasn’t into the series the way I was when I was 12. I only got a quarter of the way into this book but what bothered me about that first quarter was that there wasn’t any risk. Bella and Edward got married, went on their honeymoon, had lots and lots of sex, Bella found out she was pregnant, and then I lost interest. I may have a soft spot for domestic bliss these days, but compared to the first three books, I wanted that sense of danger back, and a half-vampire baby just didn’t cut it for me. I did read the spoilers for the rest of the book and those only made me glad that I didn’t finish the book.
Rob Roy by Walter Scott – It’s probably unreasonable for me to hold a grudge against an author who has been dead for over 100 years and has done nothing to me, but I have not had a good time with Walter Scott at all. I had a panic attack in his house, had to write an essay on Rob Roy when I had barely read the book at all, Rob Roy is boring as hell anyway, and he also introduced the concept of Tartanry (which is a distorted version of Scottish culture that appeals to non-Scots in a similar way to appropriation). That causes me a lot of stress, and for that, I am ungrateful for everything he has done.
Matched by Ally Condie – Whenever I think about the “stereotypical YA dystopian”, my mind immediately goes to this book. Matched takes place in a world where arranged marriage is law, but the government also decides where you live and work. This is something that already happens in the real world so it’s not that interesting. But because this is a novel for teenage girls, the arranged marriage concept is what is really hammered home, and it’s just so boring. You get told that you’re going to marry your best friend but there was a glitch in the system, whoop-tee-doo. My Goodreads review from 2014 says that I enjoyed the plot of this book, but 19-year-old me was a different person. I don’t know her.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer – I usually have a rule about including the same author more than once on a list, but for Stephenie Meyer, I will make an exception. I read The Host when I was in a huge alien mood, and this was after I had outgrown Twilight so looking back, I have no idea why I picked up this book. When I did, I was met with nothing but disappointment. The concept is cool, but the execution was just blah. Once again, we have another case of nothing happening in the book. I’m usually okay with character-driven novels, but only when the characters are interesting. And then there is Meyer’s prose style which is a blinding shade of purple.
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Which book is your least favourite of all time? Would you throw it into the ocean or would you rather save the mermaids the misery of reading it?