Saturday, April 24, 2010

Top Ten Picks: Worst Books You've Ever Read

I saw this post by Jillian at Random Ramblings, and I thought it looked sort of fun. Sometimes books just deserve to be on a "bottom 10" list, you know? So here are some of the worst books I've ever had the displeasure of reading (from bad to worst):

10. Past Lives, Future Lives Revealed
by Dr. Bruce Goldberg

I enjoy reading about reincarnation cases, and this was one of the books that I read when I first started getting into all of that. When I read it again years later, though, I realized that it had some genuine WTF moments (that I'm not sure how I missed earlier). I think this excerpt from my review sums it up pretty well:

It's as if the author is one of the blind men in the story about the elephant, and he's only able to describe the animal by feeling its tail. The bare bones about reincarnation are there, but there is way too much other stuff that many would view as nonsense, and that damages the credibility of researchers who are looking into the phenomenon of reincarnation. In Goldberg's world, it seems that anyone with inexplicable behavior, past or present, must be possessed -- either by a poltergeist, a past-life persona, a demon, or an extraterrestrial time traveler. I laughed out loud when I read the following passage concerning reptilian aliens: "These time travelers are most definitely to be avoided, as they eat humans." It is statements like this that make me suspicious of the whole book... that, and the fact that we can supposedly be protected from such malicious influences if we buy Goldberg's tapes.

9. The Sun Also Rises
by Ernest Hemingway

I had to read this book in high school. It's put me off Hemingway for life, I think. All I can remember is some guy feeling sorry for himself because he didn't have a penis. I think there was some stuff about bullfighting in there, too.

This book exemplifies one of my pet peeves about much of what I had to read in school. It's all from the man's point of view, dealing with men's issues. We girls were forced to read books like this, but god forbid they'd ever make the boys read Sense and Sensibility or Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret so they could see things from a woman's point of view. Sure, we did read some books about women, but it's telling that whenever a woman showed up in our reading curriculum, she was raped (Tess of the d'Urbervilles), killed (Of Mice and Men), or portrayed as an adulteress (A Doll's House).

8. Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas: Further, Further Confessions of Georgia Nicolson
by Louise Rennison

Don't get me wrong... I loved Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging when I first read it. It was like a Bridget Jones's Diary for the teen crowd. Georgia's voice was witty and funny, and her descriptions of her family and friends were hilarious.

However, by this third book, the "-osity" thing was getting old and I was tired of reading about a girl who was, let's face it, a bitch. She was cruel to her friends, stupid, completely ignorant for someone her age, and also a bit of a racist. As a social commentary for adults, all that might have been okay. But I thought it was all pretty appalling for a teen read.

I can't believe there are something like ten Georgia books out there now. Do people like reading about mean girls that much?

7. Driven
by W. G. Griffiths

I picked up this book thinking it looked interesting... not realizing that it was Christian fiction (our local library is like a minefield for that sort of thing). I wasn't crazy about the possession elements of the story (I thought it was going in a different direction at first), but what really puts this book on my "bottom 10" list is the fact that it's a very shoddy piece of literature. From my review back in 2002:

Okay, I'll admit that, for a while, this book had me hooked. I managed to look past the distracting rhyming adjectives ("bruised and confused", "wired and tired"). I tried to look past the fact that Reverend Jesse J. Buchanan suddenly became Reverend Samuel J. Buchanan (was there a legal name change we weren't made aware of?). But how on earth did Gavin survive being impaled with "a jagged piece of wooden decking, ugly enough to slay a vampire" without any medical attention? In fact, a few minutes later he's snuggled up with his girlfriend, trying to decide where to go on vacation! Was the editor asleep?

Changing character names and continuity problems? Now I'm wondering if there was an editor at all!

6. The Explosionist
by Jenny Davidson

I think I said it all in my review. This was truly one of the worst books I've ever read. And I'm still pissed off about all the time I spent slogging through it.

5. Blue Moon
by Alyson Noël

I also said pretty much everything about this book in my review. It was little more than a badly written Twilight wannabe, with a ridiculous representation of the Law of Attraction and quantum physics. Boyfriend locked his door? No problem... just "manifest" yourself a new one that you can open! Oh, and don't forget to make a VW Beetle appear out of thin air.

Give me a break.

4. Elsewhere
by Gabrielle Zevin

I do have to give the author credit here. She was one of the forerunners of the squick-worthy teen-girl-gets-jiggy-with-old-man genre that seems to be so popular in YA literature these days. But I'm not sure if that's necessarily a good thing.

My problem with Elsewhere was that the afterlife just wasn't very interesting or imaginative. The characterization was horrible; the author was writing about teenagers, but she obviously doesn't know any. They all talked like grannies. Add in the talking dogs and the much-older love interest, and this was a recipe for a book that I could never love.

Girls, just because a guy looks young, it doesn't mean it's okay to enter into a romantic relationship with him. Especially if he's already married.

3. Spellbinder
by Helen Stringer

I didn't actually finish this one, but I'm counting it since the reason that I didn't finish was because it was so bad.

I didn't realize it when I wrote my review, but there's actually a word for the thing that bothered me about this book. They're called "said bookisms", and that's basically when the author goes out of their way to avoid the word "said". As a result, the characters laugh, hiss, growl, whisper, scream, and giggle their words. That's not so uncommon. In this book, however, we're treated to "said bookisms" that don't even make any sense because they're silent actions. Characters in Spellbinder grin, shrug, or glance their words.

And, making the whole thing worse, is the fact that this is a middle-grade book. I learned a lot of grammar from the books I read growing up. If Spellbinder is the sort of thing today's kids are reading, we're going to have a lot of kids who don't even know how to write a correct sentence.

2. Breaking Dawn
by Stephenie Meyer

Come on. Do I really need to explain this one?

I wasn't really anti-Twilight until I read this last book in the series. And then... Wow. I just can't get past the implied pedophilia, the rampant sexism, and the fact that there's absolutely no climax. Breaking Dawn is made of fail... and it's too bad, because it didn't have to be that way. But Stephenie made her choices for her characters, and I guess we just have to deal with it.

Doesn't mean I have to agree, though.

1. Joseph Andrews
by Henry Fielding

This was required reading in my first-year university English class. It has stood out in my mind since as one of the worst books I've ever read... or, rather, tried to read. I never got past the first 20 pages (but I still managed to write a passing essay using Coles Notes!).

All I can remember about this one was that it was stilted, old-fashioned, and mind-numbingly, excruciatingly, spectacularly boring. I hated that little paperback, and I would have burned it if I hadn't been living in residence with very sensitive smoke detectors. Forcing poor, unsuspecting English students to read it is just cruel.


  1. I agree with everything but Elsewhere. I didn't hate it.

  2. Wow! Elsewhere was one of my favorite books. . . I can't believe you hated it that much. I don't know if I could pick 10. I can easily pick 1, though. The God of Small Things. Worst. Book. Ever!

  3. So glad to have you join us for this week's Top Ten Picks! :D
    I pretty much agree with everything you said! Though I don't think Elsewhere was that that bad, it wasn't really anything special for me, personally. Oh and I get all excited when I see Breaking Dawn on the list. Actually, most of the ones that did their own list has it. Hmmm.. I wonder why ;)

  4. haha thankfully I have only read breaking dawn, Ive enjoyed reading your reviews for some of the others.

  5. Breaking Dawn just came out translated into Dutch this week! My bf is going to buy it next week and I am going to buy it in English. I am hearing all of these negatives things about the book and what I'm hearing I seriousley don't think I am going to enjoy or love it. But I am going to read it, as it is the last in the amazing series. :)

  6. Good picks...I didnt like Elsewhere or Blue Moon (terrible) I did like Breaking Dawn and only because it was fluffy, sappy and brain candy.

  7. I actually like the Georgia Nicolson series. I think it might have to do more with Dave the Laugh than Georgia. She was quirky and hilarious for the first three books but her antics lose their charm after a while. I still love Dave, though. xD

    Oh, how could I forget your review for The Explosionist? Even though you hated it, your way of expressing your dislike was very eloquent and made total sense. Elsewhere's on the list? I haven't read it yet but it seems like such a good book D: I have yet to read Breaking Dawn...which is ironic because I own the book in spanish and english, lol!

  8. I was going to do the post but then realized it would make some people mad at me because I would have to include Moby Dick, Twilight, Ulysses, Pride & Prejudice and a few other favorites.

    I just could not finish any of them.