To preface this list: I try hard to stay away from bashing bad books. In the first place, I wouldn’t like it done to my books. That shit hurts. Second, I might meet the actual author some day, and that would be awkward AF. Can you picture it at a convention?
Me: “Oh, hi, you’re [author]? You must be the one who wrote [this book, which I totally trashed in a review].”
Poor Author: “Yep, that’s me. So you’ve read it? What did you think?”
Me: *laughs nervously while backing away*
It is SUPER different for authors when it comes to writing book reviews. If I can’t think of something I liked about the book, I won’t write anything. It’s unspoken author code. We can’t go tearing each other apart, because one day the author being dropped in the shredder could be any of us.
Book Bloggers, on the other hand, kinda have a responsibility to be honest. It’s pretty much the definition of what you do, isn’t it? Read book, write opinion. Your readers come to you to see what you thought about it before they make up their own minds. And they can’t do that if you’re glossing over major flaws. They’d feel betrayed, and they would be right. (And, fellow authors, can I just say you have zero place commenting on book blog reviews when they’re about your book? It really has nothing to do with you anymore. Your book baby is on their own in the wide, wide world and the book has to speak for itself. I’ve done a whole separate post on it.)
That got philosophical and long. To get to the point, here’s my list of books I disliked, but am really glad I read anyway. There won’t be any modern authors on this list, and now you know why.
1. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
We had to read this one for school. Firstly, I’m too much like Piggy to not be traumatized at his death. Second, this book is WAY too plausible. Preteens are terrifying. I’m glad I read it and got the lesson, but I won’t be doing a reread anytime soon.
2. Night, Elie Wiesel
One reading is enough to brand this one on your brain. It’s a terrible read because it makes you aware of terrible truths. It’s another one that I’m glad to have read and hope never to read again.
3. A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens
Another school read. To be brutally honest, I’m a lazy reader, and wading through Dicken’s Victorian prose makes my brain feel like mush. It’s like feeling through spaghetti with your bare hands, looking for the occasional bit of meatball. I’d much rather watch the movies that were made out of his books.
4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
I know this one is a beloved classic and I freely admit that I’m in the minority with this opinion; but my opinion is firm. Saying this is a moving love story is like saying 50 Shades of Grey is a great couple’s handbook for safe BDSM. I can’t stand how cruel and selfish Heathcliff and Catherine are (mostly Catherine). This is the only one on the list that I hated and I’m not glad I read, even for the bragging rights.
5. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Another school read. Because I can cross this one off of ‘100 books to read before you die, you uncultured peasant’ lists, I’m glad I read it. At the very least, I can feel the warm glow of the superficially erudite. I don’t own it, never plan to buy it, and won’t read it again.
6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
God, this one is a tough read. If I’m in a masochistic mood I reread it, and sob quietly at the end. Every time.
7. The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux
When the movie with Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler came out I went through a bit of fangirling and read the book. Oops. The phantom is NOT like movie Gerard Butler, where you secretly think Christine should have gone for him anyway. Nope. In the book, he’s a psychotic, abusive, deranged, sadistic serial killer. Just . . . stick to the movie.
8. Oedipus Rex, Sophocles
Hot mess here, maiming there. Incest issues, everywhere. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. Ancient Greeks had serious issues, dude. I read it for school, Greek tragedy was tragic, the end. I do feel all cultured when it’s brought up as a classic reference and I get the reference.
9. The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis
I love C.S. Lewis. I adore Narnia, and Aslan, and everything in that world. I used to sit inside wardrobes (with the door shut, cause I was a weird little kid) and hope to feel trees prickling my back and a breath of snowy air on my face. But to this day I am irked by leaving Susan out of the last battle. The only way I can get through this one is to tell myself that Susan makes it to Aslan’s country someday, in her own time.
10. JAWS, Peter Benchley
You know how the book is always better? No. It isn’t. In this case the movie is totally better. It cuts out a bunch of useless subplots and a sideplot about spousal cheating, to focus on the main issue we really want to read about: the shark doing murdery shark things.