The Worst Books in Existence

Worst Books Ever A while back, I had a post chronicling the three best books I’ve ever read.  So now, inspired by a fantastic post at World’s Strongest Librarian, I bring you the exact opposite of my earlier post:

A collection of books that, for one reason or another, I completely despise.

These are made up of books that I’ve tried to read and not have been able to finish.  Of books I have finished and found out what a colossal waste of time they were.  And books I loathe on principle that I will read just so I can have ammunition with which I can destroy them.

Books that I’ve tried to read and not have been able to finish:

Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk. The book had promise.  The premise was great.  And I love Palahniuk’s nihilistic post-modernism.  Unfortunately, after just a few pages, I had given myself such a headache trying to decipher the broken English that I just gave up and returned the book to the library.  Pygmy is a book that held so much promise, but due to Palahniuk having established himself as “the weird guy,” an editor somewhere gave the go-ahead on his experimental prose and published one of the worst books I have ever had the misfortune to read.  I’m just thankful that I borrowed this one from the library instead of buying it.

eye_of_the_world The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. Once upon a time, way back when Beej was a freshman in high school, his friends told him about this fantastic fantasy series called The Wheel of Time. Beej loved fantasy novels like The Lord of the Rings, so he eagerly went to the bookstore and bought the first volume in the series.  He was intimidated by the book’s length, but after his freshman year, he still hadn’t finished the book.  Years passed, and he would pick it up occasionally and get into the narrative again.  Eventually, though, the boring parts dragged on and on, and he decided that in order for him to live Happily Ever After, he and The Eye of the World would have to part ways.  They could still be friends, but Beej realized that Robert Jordan might be good at worldbuilding, but he sure wasn’t too good at making it interesting to read about.  The end.

Ulysses by James Joyce. Okay, technically, this one isn’t a “haven’t been able to finish” as much as it is a “will not finish for any amount of money or pride on the face of the earth.” When I was in graduate school, I had to read the first ten chapters of this book.  And I did.  After being subjected to paragraph upon unconnected, stream of consciousness paragraph, I swore I would never read the rest of the book.  And I never will.  Ten chapters is quite enough, and while I can intellectually appreciate the effort and academic reasons Ulysses is considered a “great work of literature,” I will never be able to enter into that conversation.  And I’m happier because of it.

Books I have finished and found out what a colossal waste of time they were:

the lost symbol The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. I loved The DaVinci Code.  I loved Angels and Demons even more than that.  So when The Lost Symbol was announced, I was excited.  Unfortunately, the book itself was so full of crap that “full of crap” can’t even begin to tell just how full of crap it was.  It wasn’t Brown’s writing style, either; that’s easily looked past.  It was the content.  It was trite and full of clichés.  Even the denouement of the novel made me literally yell “Bullshit!” at the speaker in my car when the audiobook got to a certain part.  I’m all about the willing suspension of disbelief, but sometimes an author asks too much.  And sometimes, Dan Brown, you can let that cash cow go.  If there’s another Robert Langdon novel, I’ll read the reviews first because The Lost Symbol was bad enough that I won’t subject myself to that again.

Beloved by Toni Morrison. The part about Beloved that makes me the saddest is that I think Toni Morrison is a very talented writer.  Song of Solomon will very likely make it onto a literature syllabus of mine at some point in the future.  Unfortunately, Beloved takes horror/ghost story conventions and makes them so that I just don’t care.  Yes, what happened to the slaves was terrible. Yes, literature needs to be written about it.  No, that literature does not have to be so dense and wordy that reading each paragraph is like chewing off my food.  And no, that literature does not need a moral/theme that beats me over the head at every turn.  I’m a smart cookie; I can figure it out on my own.

Gerald’s Game by Stephen King. If you know me,  you know I love Stephen King.  But that doesn’t mean he can do no wrong. In fact, he did quite wrong with Gerald’s Game.  I was intrigued by the premise: a man dies on top of his wife while are having sex, and she is handcuffed to the bed. Hilarity should have ensued.  Or at least, a very interesting story.  But no, all I got was an unsympathetic first-person narrator and a whole lot of daddy issues that ruined what could have been a perfectly fine horror novel.  What made it so bad was that it was completely unbelievable.  King’s strongest trait as a writer is making the ordinary person seem extraordinary enough to live through these situations.  The entire time, I was hoping that the main character would die so the book would end.  A classic example of a great idea ruined by a truly craptastic execution.

Books I loathe on principle that I will read just so I can have ammunition with which I can destroy them:

Twilight Book Cover The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. In case you missed the message last year’s Anti-Twilight Week was sending, I don’t particularly care for Twilight. Nor have I actually read the last three books in the series.  But I need to.  I am loathe to start because it will take time away from actual literature that’s worth reading, but I feel that as someone who feels so strongly against them, I need to have as much first-hand ammunition as I can to refute their worth with specific examples of just why they are harmful and subversive.  Heck, I will probably end  up reading The Host just so I can compare notes and hit it from all angles.  In a lot of ways Twilight is the book that I love to hate more than any other.  But that doesn’t mean I like it, nor does it mean that it’s worth reading.  But I will.

Am I being too rough?

Maybe I am.  But to me, these books sucked.  Bad.  As Homer Simpson once said, they are the suckiest suck that ever sucked a suck.  Don’t believe me?  Fine.  But just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What about you, dear readers?  What would you classify as the worst books ever? And why? Sound off in the comments!

Comments

  1. Longasc

    Shadow Kings by Michael Cobley. Basically, he might be a good critic of fantasy literature and fan of the genre, but as a writer he is pretty awful.

    Some of the later Drizzt novels by R.A. Salvatore. Especially when the sword singer gets into his philosophical mood and talks a crapload of bullshit.

    The Shannara series by Terry Brooks. Everything there what makes for a great fantasy cycle, but if you say the Wheel of Time starts out rather boring, this one is even worse.

    Steven Erikson / Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Cycle). Now this series often gets praise, and I really tried hard and read some 6 or 7 books, but I only liked two and then called it a day as, no matter how interesting the world itself was, I cannot get to like any of his characters or the style of the author.

    Right now I am having a hard time with “Underworld” by DeLillo. I do not even get it about what it is after some 200 pages.

    • You know, I’ve never read one of the Drizzt novels. I always meant to, but every time I started, I got sidetracked by doing something else and never got more than a chapter into them.

      But R.A. Salvatore will never get a vote from me since he was the one who killed Chewbacca. I’m the kind of geek that holds a grudge.

      I liked the one DeLillo I’ve read: “Libra”. I don’t know about any of the rest.

      • I like some of the Drizzt novels, but yes, some of the later ones are… underwhelming. And yes, Salvatore is on my Bad List for the New Jedi Order. In fact, all of the NJO authors are, with the exception of Michael Stackpole because even there, it seemed like he wanted to do things his way.
        .-= Tesh´s last blog ..Ecco the Demon Hunter =-.

        • The only part of the NJO that’s worthwhile–if you ask me–is when Ganner did his whole “I am the Force!” routine and became a Yuuzhan Vong legend.

          THAT was worth the price of admission.

  2. Nick Scott

    I have to totally agree with the Whel of Time sentiment. I actually made it through Eye of the World somehow, but the second book was even more boring. So, luckily, I quit while I was somewhat ahead.

    Gerald’s Game was definitely a tough read, but I chalked that up to reading it in High School. I recently went back and picked it up and….no, it’s just a bad book. And it’s definitely not that King can do no wrong; he’s had a few stinkers in his time (I’m thinking back to some of his eariler books, which could also be attributed to drugs/alcohol/etc.).

    On a side note: if you haven’t read them, check out the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. That series makes Wheel of Time look like amateur work. It gets a little preachy at points during it’s 11.5 book long series, but the character development is something all writers should aspire to acheive.

    • Yeah, I count Gerald’s Game in with stinkers like From a Buick 8. What I find most interesting with King is that he came out of that alcoholic/drug-induced stupor to put out some of the best work he’s ever done. I’m going to use “Cell” in a horror class when I get to teach it, and I think “Lisey’s Story” may be my overall favorite standalone of his.

      I haven’t read the Goodkind Sword of Truth books. And the main reason is that they’re fantasy. Shortly after high school, I experienced a fantasy burnout where most lengthy series bore me to tears. The Dresden Files fixed that, really, so I may have to give those a shot sometime, Nick. 🙂 Those are the Richard Rahl ones, right?

  3. As I Lay Dying is the most awful book I’ve had the displeasure of reading. It’s certainly not the worst book ever, but since there’s a cutoff where I simply won’t bother with a book, it’s right there at the terminal line. I only read it because I had to for a class… and I made it clear in no uncertain terms that it was an affront to literature when I did the report on it.

    …I don’t think the teacher liked me.

    • It’s this book:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/As_I_Lay_Dying_(novel)

      Even though the teacher didn’t like me, I remember getting an A in the class. I wasn’t lazy by any means, I just vehemently disagreed with her opinions on what constituted something worth reading.

      …this is the same teacher that forbade science fiction except for Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, which I read and similarly blasted. It was a silly book, basically sixties “free love” propaganda wrapped in a scifi shell.

      I don’t remember liking anything from that class, actually. I read it and gave honest, incisive critique… but I didn’t like any of it.
      .-= Tesh´s last blog ..Ecco the Demon Hunter =-.

      • I didn’t like “As I Lay Dying” either. But I did very much enjoy Faulkner’s other works: “The Sound and the Fury” and “Light in August.” I haven’t gone back to read “As I Lay Dying,” but I’m almost certain that I would now since it was an undergrad class that had no way of making me appreciate it.

        And a teacher forbidding SF? That bothers me. The idea that genre fiction has to be worse and less in-depth than “literary fiction” is an antiquarian idea that holds no water these days.

        • If I look back at As I Lay Dying, I didn’t mind (much) the narrative structure, which tends to get the lion’s share of the praise. I simply found the story vapid and characters insipid. I didn’t like any of them. Perhaps that was the intent, but none of them learn anything or better themselves, and that just doesn’t make for a story that I will care for.
          .-= Tesh´s last blog ..Ecco the Demon Hunter =-.

        • Oh, and yes, the SF ban was one of the things that made me rather… displeased with the class. On the whole, it came across more as a propaganda class than anything resembling literary analysis or actual education. That’s all too common in the education world, but that was one of the first classes that I really chafed against it. I learned *in spite* of the class, not because of it.
          .-= Tesh´s last blog ..Ecco the Demon Hunter =-.

          • I’ve had classes like that. I’ve been really blessed, though, in most of my studies that I’ve had really openminded professors. I’ve been able to do work on Harry Potter, Willy Wonka, Philip K. Dick, Stephen King, and Batman to name a few. I tend to avoid the overly pretentious, propagandizing teachers. If a class is “my way or the highway” in terms of literary interpretation, it’s the highway for me. That’s why I’m in this field to begin with, being able to read and find worth in anything.

  4. I’m with you on Wheel of Time and Twilight. I couldn’t finish either of them. In the Twilight series I read the first 1.5 books and then gave up. They are horrible, I can’t believe people read them. I have probably set down a book when half way through about 3 times ever. I usually want to tough it out and get to the end of a book. I just couldn’t do that with the Twilight series.

    On a side topic, I read the first book in the Dark Tower series and wasn’t that impressed. You keep giving it glowing reviews. Does it get better? Should I invest time in the second book? If you can sell me on it, I’ll give it another go.
    .-= Void´s last blog ..Pocket Legends is a MMO on the Go =-.

    • The first Dark Tower book is the strangest of them all. It was written when he was nineteen (hence the importance of the number in the overarching narrative–very meta), and as such, is the most standalone and least integrated of any of them.

      My favorites, by far are Books 2, 3, and 7.

      The series picks up when King finally realizes what he wants it to be; he didn’t know what that was in The Gunslinger, but found out very quickly in The Drawing of the Three. Keep going; you’ll find a lot to love by the end of the series. I think the Dark Tower is very much like most long series: a great premise and foundation, but lacking when compared to the depth and steady pace of the latter installments. See Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, and The Dresden Files for similar examples. 😉

        • Excellent! Personally, I found Books 4 and 5 to be the most lackluster of the series, and even they tell some fantastic stories. I just don’t like the pacing and structure as much as I do 2, 3, and 7. In my mind, 1 and 6 are just kind of there.

          I really need to find the time to do a re-read.

  5. Aden

    “The Eye of the World” exists in my house somewhere, or did at one point. I know that cover from my childhood and my uncle was a big fan of all things fantasy.

    “Ulysses” and “Finnegan’s Wake” I found both more bearable in audio format, which is funny because I’m not a fan of books on tape/CD. We just finished studying those and it felt like pulling teeth. I did enjoy the short story we read, but it was actually a story and not so much stream of consciousness and all that.

    How ever did I know “Twilight” would make this list? A feeling I guess! But hey, I respect that you read it at least. All the people that jump on the hate wagon without having cracked the book drive me nuts. It just gets worse from there and seriously, if you’ve heard about how nutso Bella gets in the second movie, yes, yes that does occur to a degree in the book. It’s both sad and a bit hilarious. The fourth book actually inspired dedicated fans to burn it and a large book returning effort. Also I’m curious to see your thoughts on “The Host” as it’s an improvement, but that doesn’t make it “good” exactly. I say this as I sit a yard away from them all in hardcover on my bookshelf. Shh!

    I can’t say all my least favorite books because at least one bunch I will be strung up for. I will say that I couldn’t finish “Eragon” and have this insane hate for it still. It’s sad because I love dragon fantasies, but this book. It read like bad RP logs. Then “Tess of the D’Ubervilles” was one of the most depressing books I have ever read. Maybe I’ll appreciate it more after having studied British Literature in school and experienced Thomas Hardy from a different point of view, but I wanted to burn it and go join a convent. So I traded it in for romance novels when I needed a fix. Yup, Twilight and romance novels. My dirty literary secrets are exposed!

    • I actually enjoyed “Eragon” and the third installment is on my list for the summer. I thought they were fun, if shallow, fantasy novels that combined a fan’s love of both Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. And seeing as how it was written by a fifteen year old, I was intrigued. The movie was Godawful, but I really enjoyed the first two books because they were light and fluffy at a time when I was being bogged down by a lot of external stressors.

      As for Twilight, I will never bash anything without reading it first. That’s unfair to it and makes me look like an uneducated fool. And because I’ve only read the first novel and seen both movies, I need to fully immerse myself in the series to have the kind of specific examples I will need to make it so that kind of fad doesn’t come again. I don’t have anything against Twilight fans, though; I have something against people saying there aren’t negative aspects of it and that it represents these perfect ideals of what teenage girls (and middle aged women in a lot of cases–TwiMoms: Google it) expect in their future mates. THAT’s what bothers me. And I can’t refute it without specific examples I can find only in the texts. 😉

      • Aden

        Well that does bring to mind one of my other least favorites, but again! I’ve just never been good with epic fantasy I guess.

        I respect you hugely for that honestly. A heads up, the second novel is more painful than the second movie. The only bright spot I found was the reappearance of Jacob and all of that business. Bella’s depression is just, well it’s like the movie. Most people that I know that have tried and stop do stop on “New Moon.” Don’t even get me started on TwiMoms. I went to their website once and they have specific rules to join that include an age limit. I get what they’re going for, but still. I’ve always felt like those were women who shied away from actual romance novels due to the connotations put on the genre by society. Twilight is some sort of safe territory because it’s YA.

        The abusive and extremely dependent relationship is exactly the right reason to hate Twilight. I know exactly what you’re talking about! It’s funny that the books were actually on the top 10 most challenged books last time I saw the list and yet I swear it’s not for that reason.

        • Yeah, I liked the New Moon movie, actually. Well, the parts that had Bella and Jacob interacting. They acted like two teenagers would have. There was none of the “we’re so epic and angsty” vibe that we get from Edward. But as soon as Mr. Sparkles came back into the narrative, there it was again, and the movie suffered for it. The keystone relationship is WHY those books are bad. Well, that and her Godawful writing style.

          • Aden

            That really was the best part of the book as well. I’m not sure who I place at fault, Bella or Edward. Both! It only gets worse, I’ll keep saying that. The last book just, I’m sure you’ve heard about it. The funny thing I’ve found about Edward is that I feel Meyer desperately wanted him to be one of those classic Bryonic heroes, and it just came off lame. He has it, yes, but he has the bad and frustrating side of it more than the “romantic” elements. Or at least that’s my feelings on the matter.

            • I say both! My problem with Bella comes in that she’s entirely unsympathetic, and a first person narrative only exacerbates that. At least in a movie, I’m not stuck in her head.

              As for Edward, she exaggerates the dark, mysterious, and brooding so much that he comes off as ridiculous. I’m fine with dialogue that sounds better read silently than aloud, but the stuff he says makes me cringe both ways. Lame!

  6. prenden2

    Books that I’ve tried to read and not have been able to finish:

    Finnegan’s Wake & Ulysses: Listened to some of both on my iPod, it felt like I was listening to a foreign language; one slip of concentration would throw off my train of thought. Also I’m not quite sure whether the (ENGLISH!!!) narrator was trying to pronounce some Irish words or just some obscure, archaic expressions. It’s a shame really, I’d love to get into the Bloomsday spirit in Dublin on June 16th but I just can’t wrap my head around it.

    The Bear and the Dragon (Tom Clancy) : I think I was expecting another ‘Red Storm Rising’ so this book really didn’t cut it for me. One of the few books I’ve never finished.

    Angela’s Ashes: Tried to like it, but it was just too depressing for my younger self to get into.

    Hyperion (Dan Simmons) almost made this category, thankfully it was the only book that I brought on holiday so I had to persevere. I can’t imagine not having read the Hyperion and Endymion series.

    Books I have finished and found out what a colossal waste of time they were:

    Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune: I know that this probably goes against the grain but I was absolutely none-the-richer for having spent a considerable amount of time reading those three books. I could never connect with him, doubly so when he became the Kwisatz Haderach.

      • I loved the first Dune book, and I have the next two queued in my audiobooks folder on my iPhone. I can see not being able to relate to Paul, but the whole political aspect of the novel got me. It was so well done and far reaching and intricate that I, personally, fell in love with the world more than the characters.

  7. Kruce

    I had to read Portrait of an Artist in high school . . . and have regretted it since. For much of the same reasons that you mentioned – but it might be more bearable in audio format. But I don’t think I’m willing to make the jump.

    To be a dissenting voice, I enjoyed the Wheel of Time (some books more than others), but thought that Terry Goodkind’s work was too single-character focused for 11+ books. Then a friend thought he (Goodkind) was a misogynist, and I haven’t been able to get that out of my head since. Maybe one day I’ll get back to it.

    The ones I couldn’t work my way through were the Illuminati and also Stephen Donaldson’s White Gold Wielder. Gosh, I tried so many times . . .

    • I dunno, having read The Dresden Files, I can very much appreciate a lengthy series (12 books, right now) based around a single character. There are others, sure, but it’s 1st person, so it’s all based around Harry Dresden. So the concept can work, though Goodkind might not have been as good as Butcher at execution.

    • Longasc

      I think Goodkind ruined the series in the late novels as he started to get preachy and rather pathetic about his philosophy, some variation of Ayn Rand’s objectivism.

  8. John A.

    LOL, you are like reverse Reading Rainbow, “Don’t believe me? Fine. But just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

    Seriously though, those are some awful books.

  9. I am sorry to hear you disliked “Beloved”. I haven’t read that one, but Toni Morrison is one of my favourite authors, and I refuse to believe any of her work sucked! 😀

    As for “Ulysses”, it’s unreadable, but I am not sure it makes it a bad book. Maybe it’s just… Well, unreadable. Speaking of which, what about “Finnegans Wake”?

    I agree about “Twilight”- we all love to hate that one!

    As for my “favourites”, the only thing that comes to mind is chick lit, any form of it. Will have to think about the unreadable classics.

    • Toni Morrison herself is okay. But there was just something about Beloved that rubbed me the wrong way.

      Finnegans Wake? I prefer my books to be written in a language. 😉

    • I feel you on Huck Finn. I think it’s overrated and doesn’t capture the unique Mark Twain feel that Tom Sawyer and the rest of his library has. I honestly think he was trying too hard to be poignant with Huck Finn and fell short of the mark.

      I haven’t read Shipping News. I did like the DaVinci Code, but it wasn’t mindblowing like so many people said it was. To me, it was fun. The Lost Symbol is nowhere near it. So if you didn’t like Code, then stay away from Symbol for sure.

  10. Gah! You didn’t like The Eye of the World? Colour me surprised! I’ll admit that it was tough to get into and incredibly slow but once it got going it was a great book. The next 5 or 6 books were also excellent but unfortunately after that they started to slow down considerably and I lost interest completely. Now I have no idea what’s going on and can’t remembered what’s happened. The lesson to learn? Writing a 13 part saga is a bad idea…
    .-= We Fly Spitfires´s last blog ..Lord Of The Rings Online Welcome Back Week =-.

    • I hated it, in fact! It was so slow and plodding and–in my opinion at least–didn’t do anything “new” with fantasy that hadn’t been done already. I never felt a moment of “well, this is where the story is going,” but instead felt that I was reading a 1000 page prologue to an exceedingly long novel I knew or cared nothing about.

      I keep hearing great things about the series, but I don’t know if I have it in me to ever try. My friend let me access his Audible account, and he has the first few in audio, so I may eventually give them a shot like that, but even there, they are 40+ hours each. It’s a bit daunting for something I have heard even the most rabid of fans say falls apart.

  11. Hannah

    In my time at 8th grade, we were forced to pick a book from the school’s library and take a quiz on it. One book in three weeks doesn’t sound too tough, but the Harper Hall Trilogy was enough to make me want to quit reading in general. In 7th grade I read Dragonsong, but was too brain-dead to even comprehend the book. In 8th grade, however, which I just finished, I decided to up my reading level. I saw a little book with the name Dragonsinger. I thought “Hey, I read the prequel last year” and picked it up.

    What a horrible mistake. It was quite possibly the most boring book I have read. The characters are bland and uninteresting, the plot is uneventful, and the main character is pretty much a Bella Swan with musical talents. Not only is she privileged compared to the rest of the girls, but she’s graceful, nice, and has pretty little tamed dragons who beyond praise her. Her musical talents of playing instruments and singing are so heart-warming that everybody that matters in the book loves her and she becomes the youngest music master in Harper Hall. The End.

    I tried reading Twilight, but gave up after two chapters.