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mrswho's avatar

What is the worst book you have ever read?

Asked by mrswho (1690points) March 1st, 2009

For me it has to be a tie between Johnathan Livingston Seagull (Bach), and The Awakening (Chopin).

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57 Answers

skfinkel's avatar

I loved the Awakening.

mrswho's avatar

@skfinkel Have you ever had a book that you couldn’t stand? One that wasn’t worth the read? I generally love books, but there are some that irritate me.

tennesseejac's avatar

Everyone Poops

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i am sure that i’ll want to take this back later, because i think the ideas behind the book are quite interesting (not to mention that i am infatuated with roark; he is so gorgeous in my mind). however, it’s been assigned for my AP english class, and has been making me miserable. i’ve never read something so depressing, lacking of hope, and overstated. ayn rand strikes me as a wonderful writer, but someone who would be an even better writer if she cut her damn book in half. i cannot fully express my aggravation with that book. i’m on page 300-something, the assignment is due tomorrow, and for the first time in my life, i went to the sparknotes website.

oy vey.

Blondesjon's avatar

I will probably be reviled for this, but, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

mrswho's avatar

@tiffyandthewall I read Anthem and while I liked her writing style, I didn’t like what she was saying though the book. I thought it was preachy and sort of promoting selfishness.

ella's avatar

i loved the fountainhead, but not until i re-read it in college. it made me miserable in AP english, too. ayn rand is probably a little verbose for the very young.. her atlas shrugged is as great a novel, and an easier read…

marinelife's avatar

Portnoy’s Complaint. I wish I had quit before the end.

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

Wow, I had completely forgotten about reading The Awakening in high school until now.

As for a book I couldn’t stand, I’d have to say Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. Everyone I know seems to have liked it, but for some reason it was like nails on a chalkboard to me. I’ve been meaning to reread it, but the bad memories make that so difficult.

Blondesjon's avatar

And The Grapes of Wrath…GAH!

tiffyandthewall's avatar

@mrswho yeah, i do like the way she writes (though i simply do not have time to read all of her descriptions of everything!!) but her actual philosophies…i think they’re pretty intriguing, though i (definitely) don’t necessarily agree with them.

Jamspoon's avatar

Angels & Demons is a real winner. I can appreciate that there is an audience for pulp fiction, but it was just so base. The ideas were interesting, the plot had promise (though it was obscenely similar to The DaVinci Code) but I couldn`t find many redeeming qualities in the writing or style of it.

It felt like it was trying way too hard to be cool.

Allie's avatar

The Red Pony… and that other one with all the stories.

ubersiren's avatar

Lives of the Monster Dogs.

marinelife's avatar

@Allie Hated The Red Pony. Not as literature, but it was so darn depressing and bleak. Life has enough bleak in my mind.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Allie – omg i hated ‘the red pony’ too!! it was soooooooooooooo sad!

mine has to be I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell though. God, that book was just miserable, as literature, as entertainment, as a pick me up—all horrible – anything of value that a book can be, that book completely failed at. it was just sooo bad!

aprilsimnel's avatar

Gone With The Wind. Awful, awful pulp, and that’s notwithstanding the abominable, hardly-concealed longing for the return of slavery days on Mitchell’s part. I was assigned to read it and give a report on it in 8th grade. I slammed it, of course. I got a B.

Darwin's avatar

“Twilight” is definitely in the running (but I couldn’t finish it).

“The Bridges of Madison County” and its sequel (couldn’t get past chapter one in either).

“The Clan of the Cave Bear” (great doorstop, though).

“The Scarlet Letter” (Aaaaauuuugggghhhhhhh!!!).

“V.” (college is supposed to be tough, not Hell).

“Scarlett” (The pseudo-sequel to “Gone With the Wind” and much worse).

“Mein Kampf” (Banal, repetitive, self-indulgent and boring).

There are others but I need to go suppress my gag reflex now.

Bluefreedom's avatar

A Fistful of Ego by B.H. Topol

SuperMouse's avatar

The Bridges of Madison County – Blech, blech, blech

The Bonfire of the Vanities – It was while reading this book that I realized I actually could stop reading a book part of the way through. Until I picked this one up I would have considered that blasphemy!

Light a Penny Candle I will never read another Maeve Binchy book again, not even the dust jacket.

The Screwtape Letters – A book club selection I had to plow my way through, hating just about every second of it.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – This one came highly recommended, now when that particular friend recommends a book I automatically cross it off my list.

fundevogel's avatar

The worst ones I’ve read through are the DaVinci Code and The Alienist. The DaVinci Code has to be the worst case of over-rated literary tripe I’ve run across and the Alienist was just so good at making interesting people and grotesque situations cutesy and inane.

After that I changed my “finish what you start” book policy and quit The Historian ten pages in.

The Man in the Iron Mask deserves a dishonorable mention, for stalling out at about page 60 and dragging on for another 200 or so. Boo. Every movie version is always better than this book.

Quaker City or the Monks of Monk Hall is a fantastically bad 19th century pulp, but as hammy as it is it reads too slow to get through (its fatty). It would do wonderful adapted to the stage though.

kwhull's avatar

Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses. That read like stereo instructions. Ugh.

Jeruba's avatar

I abandon the stinkers, sometimes by page 2; a worthy, well-regarded stinker I’ll sometimes stay with until the midpoint. but no farther. So my worst books would be the ones that I didn’t read.

Of the ones that I did read all the way through, The Celestine Prophecy would be high on the list but for the fact that parts of it made me laugh to the point of pain. Few intentionally humorous books have ever struck me so funny. That was its main saving grace.

There. Line me up against the wall with the Jonathan Livingston Prophet haters and fire at will.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Mein Kampf is quite possibly the worst book ever written. I couldn’t even finish it, and I read ALL of the Clan of the Cave Bear books. I can read just about anything, and have.

Jeruba's avatar

I had some laughs there, too, even though I felt bad about it because Jean’s books are so sincere. Shelters of Stone, an editor could have cut it in half with one eye shut. And that “Mother’s Song”—appalling. But I read it (them) all too.

augustlan's avatar

When I was a young teenager, and given access to all of my mother’s books I read a truckload of crap. Everything by Danielle Steele or Mary Higgins Clark pretty much tops my list. I could not for the life of me understand why they were best-selling authors. Oh, and all the Harlequin Romances. I had enough of the ‘bodice rippers’ to last a freakin’ lifetime! As an adult, I’m going to go with The Bridges of Madison County. Compelling story, elementary writing.

nebule's avatar

@Jeruba just as an aside Have you (or anyone else for that matter) read If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller..(Italo Calvino).?

MacBean's avatar

Technically, the worst book I ever read was called Endangered Species by Ronnie Tanksley. I have no idea how it got published. There were gaping plot holes, the POV changed in the middle of paragraphs, the verb tense being used changed in the middle of sentences, there were spelling/grammar/typographical errors galore… Ugh. It was awful.

And yet I still liked it more than I liked The Catcher in the Rye

EmpressPixie's avatar

I really adored JLS. However, I could not STAND The Red Badge of Courage. I had to finish it for school, but it was so bad and we all hated it so much our teacher ended up facilitating our not actually finishing it. She assigned us chapters in groups to present on. Including, of course, a timeline/summary thing. (I finished anyway—it was so out of character for her to do what she did that I was worried the test would cover bits the chapter presentations didn’t.)

bananafish's avatar

“Forrest Gump” by Winston Groom. Should’ve never hopped on that post-movie bandwagon. Let’s put it this way: Forrest becomes a pro wrestler, has an ape sidekick, and then becomes an astronaut. Terrible, terrible book.

Runners Up:

“The English Patient”
“The Grapes of Wrath”
and “The Red Badge of Courage”

bananafish's avatar

@Darwin – Of course you say “Twilight”. The backlash is fully underway. Same thing happened with “Harry Potter” years back. It’s the cool rebelious thing to hate the popular books. It’s so in, it’s out.

And Darwin, you know I love you, but I’d take all of you naysayers a lot more seriously if the comments were just that you didn’t “care for the book”, or that it’s “not great”... (because let’s face it – it’s no masterpiece, I just love the book as fun and enchanting).

But saying Twilight is one of the WORST books ever? Please. I’ve studied a lot of literature in my time, and trust me, although it certainly isn’t Shakespeare, it’s far from worst.

As a matter of fact, I think you give the book too much distinction by calling it the worst!

Darwin's avatar

@bananafish – I was forced to listen to parts of Twilight on CD during a recent car trip. It was dreadfully repetitive and badly written and the motives of the main characters were either unclear or unbelievable. I then also attempted to read the actual book and discovered that it was full of teenage longing for someone with an ice cold body with little to no action (I understand there is some action near the end but I couldn’t get that far).

I was unable to get into the book long enough to enjoy it – reality was suspended temporarily for me until shortly after the girl is saved by the vampire from being squashed by the van (truck? I don’t remember) in the school parking lot. Then I was unceremoniously dumped out into laboriously reading the same basic thing over and over. She wants him in spite of (because of) his inaccessibility, he maybe wants her or maybe doesn’t but is noble about it 90% of the time, some of his fellow vampires hate her, and no one understands.

I did not find the book fun and enchanting. I found it turgid, repetitive and unimaginative. The basic premise wasn’t bad, but the execution was awful. Even some of the worst Harlequin romances are more believable.

Harry Potter, in contrast, was wonderfully imaginative and allowed suspension of disbelief throughout. I also greatly enjoyed Eragon but not for what Hollywood thought was great. It was more about the journey to adulthood and learning to understand the motives of others than it was about battles.

In addition, the question didn’t ask for my reasons, just what books I felt were the worst. I interpreted that as being a listing of books I have read and felt were terrible. If you will note, I said that Twilight was “in the running” for worst book, not that it was the worst book. Also, the very fact that it is so popular adds to its problems for me because people like my daughter hold it up as an example of great literature. Jonathon Living Seagull was another such book – incredibly popular and incredibly hard to read.

Now I disagree with other people’s “worst book” choices, too, but I have tried to nit pick with them. I can’t say I enjoyed The Red Badge of Courage because of the subject matter, but I found it a compelling read in high school and couldn’t put it down. I also enjoyed The English Patient , and The Grapes of Wrath and The Man in the Iron Mask was definitely a favorite at one time.

I also have to say that my reading tastes have changes as I have lived. When I was in college I greatly enjoyed Ayn Rand’s books – I didn’t and still don’t agree with her philosophy but her passion was exciting. Also in college I first read The Screwtape Letters, another book disliked by a responder to this question. That is a book that I still enjoy and find wonderful satire in its pages.

Please understand, I had never heard of the excitement about Twilight when I first was exposed to it. Ever since, though, I have been puzzled by it greatly. I am not on anyone’s bandwagon. I truly believe this particular book does not deserve its high sales level.

Jeruba's avatar

@lynneblundell, no, I haven’t. Should I? or is that your nominee? I’ve never heard of it, actually.

nebule's avatar

well it could be…it started off so promising… the first paragraph is brilliant…“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade.” it goes on… But it gets really very complicated and so only got through half the book. I wondered whether i simply did not have the intelligence to read it a few years back and should try again. I reckon it could be great and thought you would have probably read it…because maybe that it’s so hard to read…might try it again… the could just be very badly written! lol

essieness's avatar

I read The Stranger by Albert Camus because from conversations with my English Lit major friend, it should be part of my repertoire. Well, I made it through it, but I just didn’t like it AT ALL (and yes, I understood it).

Jeruba's avatar

I notice that a number of people’s nominations are books that were written in a language other than English. Sometimes all you need is a better translation. Some translations concentrate on rendering the author’s original words as literally as possible, for study purposes, and others emulate the feel and sweep of the language, taking liberties with exactitude for the sake of conveying an effect. And some books are so deeply embedded in their cultures that you can’t read them without some background. It might not be fair to blame the books themselves and call them bad.

To me a bad book means shoddy work on the part of the author and not a mismatch between text and reader.

essieness's avatar

@Jeruba You have a point…

Blondesjon's avatar

Since we are trashing some classics here let me say that Great Expectations was a Great waste of my time. It wasn’t even required reading. I just like to jam what are considered classics into my head and see if anything sticks. It was simply the second most boring book I have ever read. (#1 is my wasted time with the Joads)

literary joke: I was reading in my study last night when Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, and Oliver Twist suddenly fell from my bookshelf…scared the dickens out of me.

Jeruba's avatar

And don’t we also have to recognize a distinction between “It was boring” and “I was bored”? I would wager that whether it’s the opera or the ball game, a sitcom or an epic poem, there’s going to be somebody who thinks it’s boring, no matter how many excited fans there are. By the time we’re in first grade we should have learned that people don’t all like the same things, but that doesn’t make the things we dislike bad.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

I was one of the only people I know who didn’t like A Sale of Two Titties, uh, oh, shit, I mean A Tale of Two Cities. I do like other things by Dickens, though, I just was frightfully annoyed by that one. I also was not a fan of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe or Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I read the entire bible once, and boy, did I feel the need to wash my hands afterwards. All that begatting makes reading the dictionary seem exciting. Song of Solomon was nice, but some of that other stuff is enough to put one off religion all together. Now I know why most believers cherry pick the parts they like; the rest of it is very disturbing.

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

@TitsMcGhee: A Tale of Two Cities was terrible, if only because it was so loooooong. I can blame Dickens though; if I were paid by the word, I’d write unnecessarily long books too. Things Fall Apart wasn’t my favorite either. Their Eyes Were Watching God must not have bothered me that much, judging by the fact that I remember little of it and have no sour taste in my mouth when I think about it.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Jeruba…Doesn’t the question itself ask for a personal opinion? i used i, me, & my not you, your, & yours.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra: I actually really liked Song of Solomon, but the Toni Morrison book, nothing Biblical. I tried to read to Bible, and it just didn’t work for me, haha.

@MrMeltedCrayon: Everyone was ranting and raving about Things Fall Apart and I just detested it.

eaglei20200's avatar

I Am The Cheese by Robert Cormier. Followed by The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. I’m a teacher and totally opposed to things like book-burning, but I might make an exception for I Am The Cheese; a more despicable, distorted, unnecessary view of the world I cannot imagine. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s supposed to be dystopian, but it’s beyond that.

I might have to add Left Behind, which I read because I wanted to see what it was all about. And I’m not a big Ayn Rand fan, either.

I love teaching The Awakening because so many students find it so annoying—but of course it’s not the book, it’s the protagonist, who is the most pathetically self-absorbed character in literature, however bad her childhood may have been.

Blondesjon's avatar

@eaglei20200…The Left Behind series is great if you read it for what it is…a work of “what if” fiction.

Darwin's avatar

The first book in the Left Behind series isn’t bad. It is at least reasonably interesting. However, by the time you get to book 3 it becomes a chore to continue reading it.

eaglei20200's avatar

@Blondesjon @Darwin Sorry, but the writing in Left Behind is more execrable than the premise, IMHO.

Darwin's avatar

@eaglei20200 – The writing isn’t particularly good, but it is on a par with the rest of the superficial supermarket fiction.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Darwin & @eaglei20200…I take it the two of you don’t read in the bathroom. The Left Behind series is a perfect read under these circumstances. In fact that is a poll question in and of itself. What is your bathroom library comprised of?

Darwin's avatar

@Blondesjon – Actually, yes, I do read in the bathroom, but typically my choice of reading matter whilst there is the New Yorker.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Darwin…Same difference.

Darwin's avatar

@Blondesjon – Ah, but the New Yorker has cartoons!

La_chica_gomela's avatar

plus,if you run out of TP, you can wipe your butt with either of them just as easily!

filmfann's avatar

@Blondesjon The Prophet? Kahlil Gibran? It’s a masterpiece! It just washed over my soul as I read it.
If you hated it, maybe you should find the parody of it, called The Profit by Kellog Allbran.

Blondesjon's avatar

@filmfannwow. you are really not going to like my review of the little prince then.

GracieT's avatar

@bananafish, I think that you are correct about Twilight not being the worst book ever. Every book in the series is progressively worse. It cannot be the worst. There are three after. I started to read it because some of my friends were going to read it, and I wanted to stay current. However, the writing became continually worse. I actually read two or three chapters in Twilight. By the time I reached the fourth book, I just read the first, middle and last page in addition to the titles of the chapters. I do not think that I missed anything!

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