I just finished a book with hundreds of Amazon reviews that average 4.4 stars. It has thousands of Goodreads reviews: average rating 3.99. I’ve read multiple good longform reviews, and have heard good things from readers I know.
I hated it.
It wasn’t a bad book. But it wasn’t the book for me.
That’s a frequent reason for not liking a book, and that got me thinking: how many ways are there to hate a book?
I came up with 7. I’m eager to hear what you would add to the list.
7 ways to hate a book:
1. The book shouldn’t have been published in the first place.
Some people believe there are no “bad” books, only books that haven’t found the right reader. I disagree. Most books aren’t hopeless, but they needed a great editor, a thorough overhaul, or both before they saw the light of day.
2. You’re in the wrong place.
Sometimes a great book catches you in the wrong place. Maybe it’s over your head right now: you’re too young to appreciate it, you need to grow into it. Maybe you’re literally in the wrong location. Maybe your book is begging to be read at a desk, with a pen in hand, but you’re trying to read it by the pool, with a piña colada.
Maybe you’re trying to read The Fault in Our Stars right after a cancer diagnosis, or This is the Story of a Happy Marriage during your friend’s brutal divorce. The book isn’t bad, but the timing is terrible.
The right place, the right time: two underlooked criteria for loving a book.
3. Great plot, no style.
We’ve all read books like these: there’s a good story buried in there somewhere, but the painful telling turns what should be a pleasure into a slog.
There are so many ways the style can go wrong. A sampling:
• terrible, horrible dialogue
• awkward or nonsensical writing
• cliché-ridden plotlines and typed characters
• heavy-handed storytelling (my personal pet peeve).
5. Great style, no plot.
The writing is lovely but nothing happens. Ever.
6. The book is pulling all your triggers.
You have yours; I have mine. Some readers carefully screen out books whose plots revolve around scary stuff like sexual abuse. Some readers shun sex scenes and salty language. Some readers pass on plots that revolve around cancer, unjust accusations, or domestic violence.
If a book slips through your screening process and your trigger becomes a major plot point on page 187—you’re going to hate the book.
7. It’s just not for you.
This was my problem with the book I just finished. It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t for me. That’s okay. Maybe it’s the book for you.
What is missing from this list?
P.S. For an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five.