The Worst Books

Everyone who reads has opinions about books. We all have our favorites. We also know what are generally considered good, and even great, books.

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And then there are the poorer ones – and we have opinions about those also, of course. Seeing all of that “writing advice” stuff for my previous post, I wondered about any “consensus” out there about the worst books. To try to ascertain that, I did what everyone does now – I googled.

So what are “The Worst Books Ever?” Lists of such books offered by Sparknotes, BookRiot, Goodreads, Reddit, Quora, Grunge.com, ListChallenges, and GeekForTheWin immediately tumbled out at me. I had a look through them and there were some consistent ones condemned as “the worst.”

I realized I had a blog post topic here, too. First, I decided I would stick to “entertainment” fiction. So I have omitted any obviously political tract “worsts.” (For example, Mein Kampf. Its Wikipedia entry is all you need to know about it. If its barely literate so-called author had not used democracy to destroy democracy and make himself dictator of Germany seven years after its publication, and then caused the deaths of at least 50 million people, his vicious and ugly delusional mess would have long ago been forgotten by now.)

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Also a book being disliked for some intangible reason(s) does not make it “bad” or among “the worst.” In particular it cannot be just about because its writer is unloved or controversial as a public personality. To be among “the worst” to me requires serious criticisms having been made about the writing itself: the book has to have been felt to have been badly written and/or to have a mass of style problems/shortcomings that excessively jump out at a reader.

Relatedly, I also chose to confine the list to books by well-known authors. (Although that book itself perhaps led to the author’s fame.) For if we are willing to include much-lesser-known books and authors, those various online “worst” lists include examples of those books too. However, to be truly among “the worst” I feel a book has to have also sold enough copies to have made a large, as well as distinctly negative, critical and public impression.

I have chosen as well to omit books that are more than a century old. Writing has changed a great deal and in particular so has English language usage. Therefore it is unfair to judge, say, Northanger Abbey – considered by many to be Jane Austen’s weakest book – by the critical standards of our day.

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All of that said, these are five books I felt to have been regularly-cited by creators/commenters on those sites above as among “the worst” books… books which may lead you to want perhaps to read them around other people only while concealing your identity:

The Casual Vacancy (J. K. Rowling)

The Tommyknockers (Stephen King)

The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)

Twilight (Stephenie Meyer)

Fifty Shades of Grey (E. L. James)

I have read, to be clear, none of them. I get the impression thanks to those lists that that is a good thing. LOL!

Note too interestingly that ALL of them have been adapted for the screen already – proof that book sales are all that matter: a book itself certainly does not need to be “great” to serve as the basis for television or a film.

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂

2 comments

  1. To be fair, I rather enjoyed The Casual Vacancy and Da Vinci Code, lol. But that’s before I got into writing proper. I suspect that a majority of the haters for these books are those who ‘know better’, because they write themselves. For casuals such as the younger me who was a beginner reader, sometimes the story matters more than the language.

    I suspect that if I reread Da Vinci Code today, that I’d dislike it though, lol.

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    • With “Vacancy,” I tried to separate the personal axe to grind that some seem to have with her as a public personality as opposed to opinions of the book itself, which got mixed reviews at best. As for “Da Vinci” too, I suspect a bit of personal dislike is directed at him given the book’s wild success mixed with the perpetual criticism it is really badly written.

      In the end, this stuff is always subjective we know. I don’t think too many quarrel with “Twilight” and “50 Shades” as horrible. I always think Rushdie’s comment on “50 Shades” being the worst book he had ever read that got published, that it made “Twilight” look like “War and Peace,” is itself classic.

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