Why Some Books Suck

Why Some Books SuckTo be honest, I find it very difficult to start reading something and then to leave it unfinished. I’ve read a plethora of books that I didn’t like, because I either hoped that they would improve, or I had already invested too much time into them. But just because I finished something doesn’t mean that I would ever, ever pick it up again.

Sometimes I read unpleasant books to their ends in order to learn more about what I don’t like, so that I can avoid doing it in the future. Sometimes a book doesn’t turn out to be painful until you are already too far in. There are a number of reasons as to how books can go bad, and I want to explore some of them today.

We’ll start with the “I didn’t know the milk was bad until I’d already drank half of it” type of book. These books are jerks. The covers are usually nice, the back cover copy enticing and interesting, and the endorsements come from good sources. This is the kind of book that you pick up at the grocery store wondering how it ended up in the clearance pile until you get it home and start reading.

Then there are the “this is terrible but I can’t stop reading it” books. For me, this was the entire Twilight series. The whole time I was reading them it was like self-torture. But I couldn’t stop. I had to know what happened. I had to know if the story ever redeemed itself. These books are like dollar store chocolates—they are similar to something that you know you like, but once you take a bite you realize they’re cheap replicas of the real thing.

Next on the list are the ever painful “a family member recommended/gave this to me and now I have to read it” books. These usually come in the form of, “Oh, you vaguely enjoy non-fiction and politics?! Then you are going to LOVE your birthday present!!!” And because you are a good person, and because you are a book lover, you give it a try. But it is just as you expected and getting through it is like trudging through cement wearing overalls and a backpack full of bricks.

Oh, but let’s not forget the “this book looks pretty, and it’s expensive, so it must be good!” mistake. Also known as the “I paid too much for this not to read it” mistake. Yes, we’ve all been there. A beautiful hardcover calls to us from afar, and when we pull it from the shelf our hands tingle with anticipation. It is beautiful. It is expensive. And we must have it. Then we read it and find out that all that pretty paper just masked a whole lot of nothing.

Or the “I LOVE this author” splurge. I mean, if you liked all of their other books, why wouldn’t you like this one?! Well, because it’s not the same book. Because sometimes authors explore other genres and styles and it doesn’t always suit your tastes. Because now we have a book on our shelf that made us think differently about a favoured author.

What about the “THIS WHOLE BOX OF BOOKS IS ONLY $1!” decision? The one that gets you no good books, but that makes you feel as if you have to give all of them a shot anyway? Yes, that one. And will you ever learn from it? Probably not. Because who on earth could let a box of books escape them for only $1? What if there’s a first edition something or other in there? You never know. So you will probably do this over and over again.

See, all of these reasons are generally the fault of the reader, and not the writer. Every book out that has been enjoyed by someone, so it isn’t up to the writer to make you pick books that you will like. That’s all on you. It isn’t always easy, especially when you are a book collector or an avid reader. Books just seem to flock to you, and it’s hard not to welcome them with open arms.

Have you experienced at least one of the above? Do you have any to add? What was the worst book you ever read?

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20 thoughts on “Why Some Books Suck

  1. I read about half of “The Coldest Winter Ever” before I realized that it wasn’t going to get any better. And I read about seventy pages of “A Discover of Witches” before I realized it was adult Twilight and I didn’t want anything more with it. Usually though I’m able to put them down and stop reading them. I usually never give a thought to them afterwards.

    The Hunger Games though…I could not put that down. I had to find out how it ended. And it ended badly, in my opinion. I don’t even think I’ll see the last two movies, because I hated the last book so much.

    I hope if you ever read one of my books, I hope it doesn’t fall into any of these types!

  2. Yes, I’ve experienced all of these! I have been paring down my book collection and it still amazes me how many of them had bookmarks at a chapter or two in – that’s when I gave up because I’d found a more enticing book to read instead. I must say, my impulsive book-buying habits have been curbed since I started using a Kindle. I love the fact that I can read the first 6-10% of a book before deciding if I want to read the whole thing – and all before I’ve actually bought it, which is an improvement on my history with paperbacks! An improvement on my credit card expenditure too…

    • I suppose that would be the best thing about a Kindle if I were ever to warm to them. I have a terrible habit of having nothing to read, and instead of ordering books and waiting for them, I will grab something at the grocery store. Sometimes it turns out all right, such as with a bestseller or something, but often I regret my decision almost instantly!

  3. Heh. This amused me greatly. Terry Pratchett’s Raising steam was one of the few books I regret reading. Not a bad book, but it’s just..off. Being forgiving due to reasons doesn’t change the disappointment I felt upon reading it.
    Reader expectations are a problem. Go on Amazon and you find review after review of readers complaining that it wasn’t what they wanted it to be, as if it is the author’s fault they wanted coffee and got tea, while ordering tea. Very rarely is there any misrepresentation on the author’s side of things. So yeah, readers do need to manage their expectations better.

    • I’m glad to hear it. 🙂 I have actually heard many troubling things about Amazon reviews, both from fellow bloggers and successful authors. It seems like it can become a nasty place frought with trolls and bored individuals who have nothing better to do but leave lengthy negative reviews and nag at authors and other reviewers. When I buy online, I generally choose Chapters because the reviews aren’t forum based or as popular. I try not to let other readers affect how I feel about a book.

  4. Life is too short to read bad books 😀 If I don’t love it nowadays, I generally don’t finish it. Exceptions are:
    1. So bad I can’t look away
    2. Favourite author who has gotten complacent/lost mental facility/changed genre

    I agree about Terry Pratchett. Not his fault, but the last two of his books were decidedly subpar (by comparison with the rest of his books, not by general standards. By general standards, they were still pretty darn good.)

    • I think I have only left one book completely unfinished, and that was Moby Dick. I try to finish them so that I can learn about why I didn’t like them. That way I can seek to improve my own writing. Or at least add to my list of horrible writing practices. I have never read Terry Pratchett, but I mean to. I’ve heard he wrote some excellent things.

      • Oh, Terry Pratchett has written some INSANELY good things! The Colour Of Magic is his first in the Discworld series, but I wouldn’t start there. If I was you, I’d start around the Going Postal or Maskerade point, and then read as they come without worrying too much about series order 😀

  5. I start Twilight and I didn’t like it and I decide to give them away. I don’t waste time reading books that I don’t like. Another book I didn’t like and didn’t finish Marked and 50 shades….Don’t waste your time they are so many good ones.

    • I liked it at first, but then I just had to know what happened. I find that reading things that you don’t like also helps to improve your craft if you happen to be a writer. I knew I wouldn’t like 50 Shades, so I have purposely avoided it.

  6. I have that same habit, reading all the way through even if I don’t enjoy the book. I feel that I need to finish to fully judge. There had to be a reason or a meaning somewhere in the book.

    • Exactly! I always either hope that it will improve, or that I will learn something about it. I mean, it was published for a reason. I feel like I need to know what that was.

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