Thursday, 8 July 2010

Critically Acclaimed Books I thought were awful

And some books I didn't even bother to finish. I have a pretty eclectic taste in books. I read widely. I don't read horror or porn but otherwise, pretty much everything else. Here are some books I personally think were pretty awful, overrated or just plain boring.


I've hidden one book in this list that I actually adore. So try and spot it! Sneaky or what?!

The Reader by Bernard Schlink - Bit boring and obvious. Why do people rave about this?

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black - Ultimately unsatisfying thriller set in the 50's (?) from John Banville

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - Clunky emotionally manipulative writing. Laying it on thick as over wintered paint. Dreadful

The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens - Some call it heart warming - I call it boring and predictable

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve - S'all right I suppose. Not mad on it. Wimpy main character difficult to identify with.

Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris - Who wants to read a book about office life? And what's with the first person plural anyway?

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth - Too cloying, sprawling and same-y Indian saga.

House of Sand And Fog by Andre Dubus III. Again boring. People are mean to me. Life's confusing. So what?

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson - couldn't even get to the end. Who cares what happens?

My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk - another rare book I didn't finish. Trying too hard to be clever to give this reader a reason to keep going

Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes - again with the too clever to make me care

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy - why couldn't they get over it and have a nice life? He has to lay on tragedy after tragedy.

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse - I wanted to like it but I found it badly written tripe

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho - what's with this one? Pseudo deep stuff. Crap

That'll do for now. Try and spot the one I actually loved.

Please feel free to disagree or agree. Add your own worst books in comments and I'll add them to the list.


Pure Fiction said...

Have to admit I liked The Reader a lot, but am in total agreement about My Name is Red, and I also couldn't finish Gilead. Also wasn't sure about the Alchemist at all - Not sure if I'd call it pSeudo deep crap, tho!
Haven't read a few of the others, but would A Thousand Splendid Suns be the odd one out?

Michael Farry said...

Well done. It always amazes me how easily poor books get the name of being great. Khaled Hosseini, he wrote Kite Runner didn't he. I though it was terribly, predictable and as you said about the other one, manipulative.

I read one book by Paulo Caolo or whatever his name is and thought it the worst book I ever read. Never would touch another by him. Colm Tobin's Brooklyn I also thought little of but appear to be in the minority on that.
No idea which is the one you love - though the Thomas Hardy sticks out a bit.

Totalfeckineejit said...

I haven't read any of those but I'd like to add 'Life of Pi' by the bloke that wrote 'Life of Pi'

Ellen Brickley said...

I'm guessing A Thousand Splendid Sons. No real reason!

I hated American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I found the main character lacklustre and wishy-washy, with no real desires driving him, the constant introduction of new main characters baffling and the revelation about the main character just didn't do anything for me because I didn't care about him. I feel there is an excellent book there but this is not it, and I was incredibly annoyed about it because all of my friends, to a man, insisted it was Gaiman's best.

I have since found one friend who agrees with me. I'm not exaggerating when I say it has brought us closer :p

Caro said...

Jude the Obscure is one of my favourite books so I'll go with that. I really liked a Suitable Boy as well though. I don't actually like Vikram Seth's prose but he still manages to create characters that stay with you (can't quite fathom it, honestly).

My worst books: American Psycho. Completely pointless. Couldn't finish it. Not impressed by arguments that its point is its pointlessness either.
My Name Is Kevin - No sympathy for any of the characters. Maudlin, clunky and predictable.

Domestic Oub said...

I'm thinking your fave is Thomas Hardy too. Thanks for the tips on avoiding all the rest. (Shows how badly read I am that I haven't read any of them... the shame..)

Anonymous said...

I'm going with Then We Came To the End as the one you secretly like. ;)

Claire Keegan's Walk the Blue Fields got raves, but I found it loaded with cliche and trying too much to be McGahern. Loved Antarctica though.

Unknown said...

I love reading lists like this to see what others like and dislike. I read The Reader at the hairdressers one day. I enjoyed it for what it was :/ I really agree with you on Kate Mosse - that started out okay but the characters got so two-dimensional that they flapped in the wind (of me riffling through the pages). The Alchemist I did like, way back when, but I can't stand the rest of Paolo Coelho's work and I have tried. Some people love his stuff, it's too didactic for me. They're the ones I've read on your list. Can't work out which is the one you love, but I'm thinking it might be Thomas Hardy too? I also didn't think much of Brooklyn, Michael - disappointed with it, is what I was. :(

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks for your comments. I haven't read Colm Tobin's Brooklyn and wasn't planning to.
I did like Life of Pi when I read it ...but I can easily see me in a different mood not loving it at all (if you know what I mean)
I did like American Gods at the beginning but found it dragged a bit.
I listened to There's Something About Kevin on CD in the car and I did get into it. It's a different way to read.
Haven't read American Psycho though feel I ought.

Nope, not Jude the Obscure. The relentless bad events ground me down. I wanted to step in and slap the characters about.

Anonymous said...

I'll also guess 'And Then we Came to the End' as you just ask two questions about it and don't say anything negative!

I also couldn't read 'My Name is Red'.

Other highly-rated books I didn't enjoy - 'Possession', 'Amsterdam', 'One Hundred Years of Solitude', 'Other Voices, Other Rooms', etc

Niamh B said...

Ah, poor Jude, I'll got for the splendid suns as your fake hate, have heard it was good, and it's in my "to read" stack, so I'm hoping it is!

Emerging Writer said...

I remember loving 'Possession' AS Byatt but nothing else by her. CAn't remember much about 'Amsterdam' - not necessarily a bad thing as I have a terrible memory. Also liked 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' but I was going through a SOuth American phase at the time (Aunt Julia and the SCriptwriter anyone?)
Never heard of 'Other Voices, Other Rooms'...

Catherine said...

Hmmm, not sure what's the red herring in there - perhaps it's jude the Obscure or Khaled Hosseini? It's refreshing to see someone breaking the taboo of actually disliking critically acclaimed books - I'm having that moment right now with The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt - a real life's too short one. And I agree about Gilead - we did it for book club and I didn't care. Likewise The Reader - overrated just for the controversy. Preferred the Kite Runner to the later one though I did like it. Paolo Coelho - read one of his about a failed suicide (Veronika tries to die I think it was) and it was trying too hard to be magically realistic and mystical - didn't go there again. Read John Banville but not Benjamin Black.Like Anita Shreve as a holiday read (a.k.a. a tad above chick lit) but didn't read this one. It's easy peasy comfort reading but I much prefer Sue Miller. Didn't read Kate Mosse. Have this one. There are many I gave up on once I decided it wasn't unforgivable to quit if bored. Far too many good books out there waiting to be read. I'm reading The Lacuna right now and would love to be in Dublin 19th to see her but won't be. So enjoy it!
All the best, Catherine.

Domestic Oub said...

I'm with you EW on Possession - I loved it - dublindave how could you not have liked it??

Ann said...

I have read or rather tried to read "The Children's Book," by A.S. Byatt. First time I have ever, ever cast a book aside without finishing it. Found it torturous and pretentious.
Life is too short!!!

Padhraig Nolan said...

just finished 'if nobody speaks about remarkable things' after a a strong recommendation. Nearly didn't finish it - found it tiresomely effected (though some beautiful writing. One of the few I couldn't finish was 'the diceman' - relentlessly indulgent regurgitation of a boring premise. 'The Alchemist' was given to me as a gift also - by a kind, spiritual and creative person - but its feeble mysticism stuck in my craw. In this case the act of giving was more beneficial than the gift itself! Philip O'Ceallaigh does a quite funny pastiche of Coehlo in his most recent collection - the last thing I expected to find there. I liked The Reader - but the plot was a little 'on the nose'.

Emerging Writer said...

thanks for all your comments. I'll do another post with the new suggestions.

Catherine and Ann, thanks for the warning. I'll not bother opening The Children's Book!

PJ, I have Philip O'Ceallaigh on my list to read. and 'feeble mysticism'! Spot on.

Ossian said...

I wonder why people keep on reading when they don't like what they're reading though? If I don't like it, I don't read it. Did you buy the books and want to get value out of them, was it just a sort of morbid car crash curiosity to see how bad they got, were they from the library? I'd suggest never buy books that are being raved about - they're nearly always crap. At least if I get them from the library and don't like them it's no loss. So support your local library. I do find that I get to the middle of a lot of books before realising that they're not actually going to get any better and giving up, but I'm not going to name names for the following reason. It's generally because they are great writers who have been forced by economic slavery to write tripe and call it novels. They should stick to short stories.

Emerging Writer said...

Those are good questions Ossian. Certainly I am getting more and more likely not to finish a book I'm not enjoying. Maybe it comes with the grumpy old man/woman getting older syndrome. Life's too short.
I do have that if everyone else likes it and I don't then I must be deficient somehow worry but I'm getting over it.
I do think you should name names though. If literary greats are writing tripe and calling it caviar, for whatever reason, why not let the 'emerging writers' have their day?

Ossian said...

I'm probably just not a good reader of novels. I can never understand how people read them so fast. My mother used to read three crime mysteries a week. Roddy Doyle has said he reads three new novels per week. It takes me several weeks to read one - I have to keep renewing them with the library! Annoyingly, I'm just reading Love and Summer by William Trevor and somebody else wants it, so they won't renew it. Do people just want to get a rough idea what they're about or what? I imagine some of the people on Newsnight Review just flicking through the pages and coming up with a load of opinionated verbiage for the show. They probably spend more time talking to Martha Kearney about it than they did reading them.

There is often a feeling about the middle of the book of "you must be confusing me with somebody who gives a (whatever)". Some of these novels could be reduced to haikus, I think, never mind short stories. In fact one haiku would cover several of them and save us a lot of time. Something like:

Luggage, lace, photos,
Blossom on the summer wind -
Somebody must die


Emerging Writer said...

Love the Haiku. YOu could start a trend

Emerging Writer said...

BTW, the book I loved?
Eimear and Dave got it.

Then We Came To the End

Loved it. So funny, so real. office live if rarely written about.