Well, I did my favorite books quite recently, so it seems fitting to have my lease favorite books too. Being honest, I think I might have a harder time picking least favorites. Thankfully, most of what I read during college was of my own choosing and I rarely had to read something I didn’t like.
But, with 117 books across four years, there’s bound to be some books I didn’t like. So, here are my 10 least favorite books from Fall 2016 – Spring 2020.
Like my favorites, I have reviews for most of these. I think the only one I don’t have a review for is the one I didn’t actually finish for class (don’t tell my professor).
10. Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy.
I disliked this book so much, I don’t even have a review of it to look back on to explain why I disliked it. I never finished the book, only read enough to answer the questions I needed for class. That should be a good indicator that it was not a good book.
Pretty sure the whole point was to discuss how a utopia can be as problematic as a dystopia and that the two aren’t actually as far apart as we think or realize. I can’t be sure though, cause I never finished the book. And I barely remember anything except really disliking the fact that I had to read this. I struggled through it the entire time and still couldn’t understand the point of it when we discussed it in class.
There’s a part of me that wishes I remembered more of it so I could explain why I dislike it, but I can’t and I’m glad that I don’t remember it that much. At some point, I think there was a thing about the main character wanting to marry a seventeen-year old girl, but I could be making that up. I just remember really disliking the main character and pretty much everything in this book.
9. The Odyssey by Homer.
Let me be clear, I strongly dislike this book because Odysseus is a pain in the ass. He is the reason I don’t like the book. He is the reason for pretty much everything bad that happens to him in the book. And he literally sleeps with every woman he comes across, save for maybe one.
Until this book, it had been ages since I was so bored while reading that I fell asleep. I did that with this book. Twice. It was so bad I had to listen to the audiobook and read the physical book at the same time so that I could understand what was going on. Thank goodness for the person before me who wrote one-sentence summaries at the bottom of each page about what happened on each page. Had it not been for them, I might never have gotten through the book.
I get why it’s a classic and I get the good points about it. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. Reading it allowed me to better understand the “hero’s journey” trope and why it impacted literature in the way it did. I had better class discussions about adventure and heroes because we read this book first. But I will never get over how much I despise Odysseus.
8. Darkness All Around by Doug Magee.
I read this for a readathon sometime during my sophomore year. I had gotten it really cheap from Book Outlet (no longer shopping with them due to their racism), and was interested because it was a mystery set in Pennsylvania. Sadly, there was very little about this that was interesting.
One of the clearest memories I have is of being offended by the book. For pretty much everything. The book was racist and sexist, and it used mental illness to create a bad guy. It literally says that mental illness is the reason someone became a brutal murderer. The more I read it, the more I was upset. No idea why I kept reading it, probably so I could give a clear reason why I disliked it, but I struggled through the book and left it feeling so angry with the author and the characters.
The way each character was portrayed in the book, you’d think the writer could make at least one of them a decent human being. Nope. They were all bad. The women were stereotypes, the men were misogynistic. It was all-around awful. I don’t regret much, but I do regret spending my time on this book when I could have read something else that I would have liked better. Now, the book remains on my “Unwanted” shelf until I can find a place to donate it to.
7. Morning Star by Pierce Brown.
Having read the entire trilogy and still not really known what it’s about, I think that kind of sums up why I dislike this book so much. I listened to the entire trilogy because I struggled to read the physical book. I was constantly lost and could never keep track of the characters. I don’t think I remember any of their names now.
Maybe the premise just wasn’t my cup of tea. Maybe it was a bad example of sci-fi. This series is what made me think that I didn’t like sci-fi. Turns out, I do like sci-fi, just not this trilogy. I felt like everything was badly explained and that no matter how much we learned, I never understood how it applied to the world. The color system didn’t make sense to me at all and I could never get a handle on what they all meant. Though I know it’s common for fantasy and sci-fi writers to throw you into the world and explain as the story progresses, I felt like the explanations only made me more confused and that I was missing something before the books even started.
This last book in the trilogy was my least favorite. It took me months to finish listening to it and when I finally forced myself to finish it, I was lost again. The only thing I remember about the ending is that someone’s head gets cut off and rolls down the stairs. Other than that, you could tell me anything and I’d likely say “Yeah, that sounds right” because I remember nothing but frustration.
Do I think this trilogy deserved the hype it got? Not really. I never understood or saw it. I think that Brown is a good writer, but I also think that this book failed to make me feel like I could understand what he was trying to say. Will I ever read the other books? No. Do I recommend this? No. If someone would like to offer me an in-depth explanation of why this has so much hype, please do so. It might allow me to finally understand what other people see in this trilogy.
6. The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich.
I’m gonna be super upfront and say that the romance did NOT do it for me. I love a good enemies-to-lovers trope and I think that when done well, it can be really enjoyable to see two characters slowly fall in love. But in this case, it was not done well.
The whole premise with Love Interests makes a ton of sense, but the romance did not. I will stand by my belief that if the two guys weren’t so horny, the romance wouldn’t have happened. I don’t believe for a second that they liked each other as people, they only liked each other because they were both hot and the “sexual chemistry” was great. It wasn’t great. They were really awkward and weird about it. Parts of them “falling in love” also felt very homophobic, which was strange because this is a male/male romance that’s supposed to be entirely about going against what everyone expects and following your heart. But the lack of chemistry between the boys and the intense focus on everything physical made me cringe. Maybe this would have been better with significantly fewer mentions of arousal and less fixations on each others’ abs.
On top of the bad romance, the plot was badly written. Half the time, I would forget there was actually a plot until we got a glimpse of what was supposed to be happening. And then the ending was suddenly super intense after nothing in the book indicated that things were going to get serious. The entire time, I was waiting for something to happen, and then the ending came so suddenly with all these big plans and massive consequences and people doing things that were wildly out of characters.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the intention of the book was great. At a time when LGBTQ+ romance books weren’t very prominent, this came out at a good time. However, I found the execution of the book entirely lacking and I think the romance could have been a lot better if they boys actually knew something concrete about each other and it wasn’t all about physical attraction. The ridiculous hormones of their relationship felt more like fan-fiction than anything else.
5. Lie to Me by Jess Ryder.
I had heard some good things about this and downloaded it as an audiobook. Only a few chapters in, I got really confused and didn’t know where this was going. Not in the good way that mysteries are supposed to make you wonder how everything ends up, but in the way that I wasn’t sure why people were giving this good reviews.
The jumping back and forth between perspectives was ultimately what frustrated me the most. We had multiple timelines and perspectives going on, and it took me several chapters to realize who was in what time period. Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t remember why there are two timelines. I think it had something to do with a sketchy death? And there might have something about reincarnation? I don’t entirely know. My review will explain it better than I can right now.
What I do remember of the book was that everyone was annoying and frustrating. There was a romance in the past timeline that was so incredibly abusive and problematic, and the guy ended up murdering a bunch of students? I think? He had a lot of anger issues and no one ever thought that was a problem. And someone might have been gay but they kept denying it while also trying to pursue a LGBTQ+ relationship? And the present timeline felt like it had very little to do with anything else. OH! And someone’s supposedly dead mom was actually alive and hiding somewhere in Europe and that revelation had absolutely nothing to do with the end of the book.
Basically, this book was a hot mess and I don’t get the hype around it.
4. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore.
This was required reading for my entire freshman class. Our Common Core reading, I think it was called. And I don’t think I entirely got why this was as important as it was made out to be.
The book itself is fine. It’s not terrible, but it’s also not great. The writing is clearly from someone who hasn’t been trained, but that’s not a big deal. The point, I think, was for us to see how two people with the same name could so easily go down completely different paths and have different lives.
The thing about the book was that it never felt like there was really a conclusion. Yes, we did hear about where the two men ended up in life, but that didn’t feel like an ending. The book didn’t reach me in the way I think it was supposed to, and it didn’t make a difference when we went to a panel where the author was supposed to speak. Unfortunately, he dropped out at the last minute due to some kind of scheduling thing and someone else came in his place. We didn’t get to ask him the questions we wanted to, and for me, that felt kind of pointless after we were all made to read the whole book.
3. Artemis by Andy Weir.
I’ve heard great things about Weir’s writing since The Martian came out. When a friend and I discussed buddy reading, we picked this book as one of our reads. He read it first and enjoyed it, I struggled through this.
The book is very…it feels like a man writing what he thinks a woman is like. And the woman being the main character of this, was very much a male fantasy. Someone who could talk engines and science and could fix things, someone who thought about sex and became aroused around the only attractive male character. It was a man’s version of a woman, and I didn’t appreciate that.
The science made sense. I thought it was well explained. The problem I had with the book is that no one is likable and the characters made it a chore to get through the book. Normally, I can push through something I don’t like, but this took a few months to finish because I couldn’t get over how annoyed and frustrated I was the entire time.
Do I think that makes Weir a bad writer? No. I’m still interested in picking up The Martian and I think I might enjoy that more because it’s about a male character and there’s not much interacting he can do with other people. This book just frustrated me and I really didn’t like it.
2. The Submission by Amy Waldman.
Okay, my whole review about this book was a rant. A rant I’ve had many times with my friend, Kammy, who took the class with me. We actually became friends because of how much we both hated this book.
It’s the characters. It’s entirely the characters’ fault that I don’t like this. No one, not a single person in this book, is likable. There’s one character who starts out being likable, but who he becomes at the end of the book is so out of character and it made no sense. Everyone else was awful. The men were terrible and were always thinking about how they could give themselves the most advantage in any situation. The women were only used a sexual gratification for the men. It was a hot mess.
The plot, while discussing an important topic, seemingly failed to do much discussion around it at all. Most of the book was centered on the characters and not the importance of the matter at hand. The end of the book also undid everything the book was working toward. And the way it ended was with someone still holding a grudge after years. Why was there a grudge? Because the character made the wrong decision and blamed it on everyone else and couldn’t get over it, so she passed it on to her son.
So many thing about this book were problematic, but I think the worst thing about this was the men. Every one of the men wanted to have sex with this one woman who was supposedly so gorgeous that any man would only think about sex when she was around. Oh, yeah, she’s a grieving widow. I might need to mention that. And yet, all the men wanted to sleep with her and one of them frequently talked about very problematic fantasies regarding her. It was so bad. If you read my original review of this, you’ll see examples I’ve quoted.
Though I think the intent behind the book was really great, I think it entirely missed the mark. I don’t know if anyone in my class liked this book. The only positive thing about this is that I got a friend out of my hatred for this book.
1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
Ah yes, one of the most well-regarded sci-fi books in recent years. A classic about classic video games. The book I’ve continued to lower my rating on as time goes on.
This book is meant for old white men. There, I said it. It’s by a white man, meant for white men, and so many things about the main character are problematic. His arrogance, his entitlement, his tempter tantrum when “the girl of his dreams” didn’t see him the same way. For goodness sake he threw such a tantrum that he blamed her for him getting fat because he ate his feelings after she didn’t say “I love you” back. His declaration of love was so uncalled for, any normal girl would have responded the way this love interest did.
While I think that there are many things about this book that opened up the exploration of VR and video games, it ultimately fails to do anything more than reminisce about old video games. It glorifies those who know the references and can understand the old video games because they played it. And it snubs those who haven’t played those games or don’t know the trivia around it. I felt so alienated while reading this because I felt like it was my fault for not being a white old man. Sure, a girl is the first to solve one of the riddles, but she becomes nothing more than a love interest for our obsessively possessive main character.
Everything this book was trying to achieve, I did Warcross did better. I will stand by that for the rest of my life.
Wow, that was a lot of ranting and frustration in one post. My apologies. I hope this was still somewhat enjoyable for you to read.
At the end of the day, I did learn something these books. I learned what I didn’t like and what not to do as a writer. So if anything, I’m at least glad I got that out of these books.