There are 7 ways to hate a book.

There are 7 ways to hate a book.

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

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
• wordiness
• 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.

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177 comments | Comment


  1. Anjanette says:

    This is a great list, Anne!

    One thing I appreciate about your reviews is that you give lots of information for your readers to use to decide if they will like a book. Amazon and Goodreads reviews are such a mixed bag for me, because so often someone has a strong reaction to a book that is not especially useful without knowing much about where they might be coming from as a reader. It must be maddening for authors too– I cringe at one star reviews that say, “This wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t for me,” without saying WHY. Makes me wonder why they felt compelled to review the book at all!

  2. Kayris says:

    Usually 6 or 7. I hated Gone Girl. I don’t care for thrillers or anything really twisted. So then I read Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little and hated that too, so I have since avoided anything billed as “the next Gone Girl.”

    Sometimes I’ll dislike a book if I can’t relate to the characters at all. I don’t have to LIKE the characters, but if I can’t see their POV at all, that’s usually a bad sign. I just finished Just One Day by Gayle Forman and couldn’t relate to either Allyson or her mom. My mom would never even consider picking out my college major and classes for me and Allyson is so spineless…I gave it a three on Goodreads because I liked the ending.

    • Esther says:

      I also hated Gone Girl. So many people loved it, but I could have totally done without it. And spineless characters–especially females–drive me nuts!

      • Molly says:

        I was hooked to Gone Girl right up until the end, but the ending is what killed it for me. Not a single character had the slightest redeeming value, and there wasn’t even the tiniest room for any hope that things could be better.

  3. Jamie says:

    I agree with Janet on hating the characters! If I can’t find anything redeemable and worth rooting for in them, nothing else about the book matters.

    I would like to nominate “whiny, obnoxiously ego-centric author” and “flatly not true / ignorant, propagandist lies” as vital subcategories of Books That Should Not Have Been Published in the First Place.

    I think another valuable category might be “not as advertised”. I find it incredibly irritating when a book is labeled and marketed as one genre, but you crack open the cover only to find that its really something else entirely.

    Thanks for the great post!

  4. kimmie says:

    It’s #6 in a series that should’ve stopped at 5….AND the author changed POV to a character you didn’t like in the previous books. I got through 10 pages. 🙁

  5. Ariel says:

    There’s a particular book I hate partially because of triggers but partially because it was basically the opposite of what I was expecting. I would expect a book called “City of Dark Magic” written by the obvious pseudonym Magnus Flyte to at least have some fantasy elements, but instead it was all drugs and gritty realism. If I had any idea what it was really like I would never have picked it up, and my expectations are a big part of why I HATE it.

  6. Addie says:

    Another one would be: if its predictable

    This is exactly why I didn’t like Gone Girl… I could see where it was going the whole time so I could not understand why everyone else liked it… it was so predictable to me so it felt like a waste of time reading what I already knew was going to happen…

  7. Natalie says:

    What about when the narrator has such an annoying voice that you just can’t listen to it for a whole book? I had to give up a couple of books last year for that very reason. That may be a subcategory for #2 or #7, but I think it deserves its own category.

    Oh, and you asked what’s missing from the list? A category #4 is missing from the list. I only see six reasons, not seven, to hate a book.

  8. One of my triggers is pregnancy and infant loss and unfortunately for me, that’s part of a ton of books but rarely is that part of the main storyline. It’s more of a minor incident within the book, so it’s often not mentioned in reviews or summaries of the book. I never know it’s going to be there, until I read it. Pregnancy loss is much more common then we tend to believe, so I think it’s good that it’s in a lot of books, I just wish I had some forewarning. Last year I was reading The Help and Anne’s House Of Dreams simultaneously, and came upon the miscarriage/infant loss parts within two days of each other. I’d heard so many people talk about both those books and none of them ever mentioned that it contained loss. I had just had my second miscarriage not long before and it was just too hard to deal with. I wouldn’t have avoided the books forever, but I would have read them at a more emotionally stable time. Too bad there isn’t some kind of online database that categorizes the common triggers subjects in books so we can see which ones to avoid.

    I also don’t like certain books because of their format. I tend not to like books that are in letter format. And I couldn’t read The Book Thief beyond the first chapter or two because of the weird subtitles and overall format. I’m was too distracting for me.

  9. Yes, now we must all know which book you are referring to!

    And, #6 is my biggest factor. I have a list of things I won’t read about, and I certainly do screen books beforehand. It’s either because I find the topic disturbing or because it just seems so trite!

  10. One of my triggers is in a book that is currently very popular and recently made into a movie. I stopped reading after my trigger occurred, and I know tons of people who finished loved the books. I want to ask them, “But how did you get over THAT?”

    I admit to feeling guilty when I hate/dislike a book that others passionately love. Sometimes, I refrain from giving those books a GoodReads rating because I don’t want others to feel bad about their love for a book. Conversely, I am constantly shocked to see a book I adored given a two or three star rating. Punch in the gut!

      • Kayris says:

        Or when someone gives it a poor review and the reviewer is obviously clueless. My favorite children’s book is The Yearling, and it drives me bonkers when people, usually teens, haven’t grasped that it’s post CIVIL WAR and not one of the world wars.

  11. Erica M. says:

    #1 is usually what does it for me. I picked up a book that sounded interesting. It had dragons, after all! But there were some very obvious grammar problems, the viewpoint jumped from character to character too fast, and their voices weren’t even unique enough to tell apart. The only information I could find on the publisher was centered around this book, so I suspect the author self-published, but didn’t want to admit it and didn’t want to hire a good editor.

  12. This is a great list. I think you’re right and it can so subjective. I think often for me it comes down to my mood at the time. But, as you said, certain things are almost always going to be hurdles for me – really unlikable narrators, a pompous omniscient style, plot twists that feel forced, “cardboard” characters, etc.

  13. Jeanne says:

    Bad editing more than anything else gets to me, I also don’t like it if there is an excessive use of foreign language terms, which necessitates constant cross-referencing.

    That being said, I haven’t hated a book in a long time, until “To rise again at a decent hour” (the book I started my year with). Finished it, but hated it and can’t understand the Booker shortlist!

    P.S I really like the 5 verdict paragraph.

    • Anne says:

      I haven’t read To Rise Again at a Decent Hour but consider myself duly warned. And I’m sorry to hear you hated it—it had such a good title! (That’s exactly the kind of thing that leads me astray!)

  14. Allison says:

    Great list! I would add:
    When a book starts out amazing, but tanks less than a third of the way through.
    Usually I press on, hoping for more brilliance, but am disappointed, leaving me hating it! 🙂

  15. Kym says:

    Oh, number 5 is a BIG DEAL for me. All these books that critics rave are “gorgeously drawn” and “tautly plotted”, even things that are “a deep study of the human psyche” (I’m using quotes, but please understand it’s for effect)….I CAN’T STAND them. If a person steps off their front step, tell me where they are going, don’t flash back to their childhood and write three pages about it. I cannot stand this type of book.
    And, apparently, I have no strong feelings about it at all. 🙂

    Also, you know we’re all dying to know, Anne. What was the book?

  16. Leah says:

    I completely agree that some books are just plain BAD.

    It’s interesting you’re discussing this – another blog I follow recently posted about disliking/hating books and it made me sit back and take a look at what I’ve been reading lately. By now I’m pretty confident in my tastes. I know what I like, I know what I don’t like, and I tend to avoid picking up novels that most likely won’t work for me (dystopian novels, for example).

    Your second point happened to me earlier in the month, though on the opposite end. I had just finished Stephen King’s latest and, while I absolutely loved it, it took a LOT out of me and let me feeling mentally and physically drained. I needed something so totally different from King and found it in Shari Goldhagen’s In Some Other World, Maybe. That was definitely a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right kind of mindset. I’m sure I would have still enjoyed it had I read it any other time, but I picked it up at the perfect moment and it worked.

    Great plot, no style is what I have dubbed the Matthew Pearl Effect. After a few attempts at getting through Pearl’s novels, I realized the problem: they have AMAZING premises, but terrible executions. Each time he releases a new book I want to read it – it always sounds so great! – but I have to remind myself that behind the pretty plot lies a book I will NOT enjoy.

    • Anne says:

      “They have AMAZING premises, but terrible executions.”

      I find this sooo frustrating! It feels like such a waste of a brilliant idea.

      • Courtney says:

        That’s a perfect description for “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” It had SUCH potential, and then was SUCH a disappointment! I wouldn’t have wasted my time if I had known it was just someone playing copy and paste. 😛

  17. Rachel says:

    Last night I was reading Cutting For Stone in bed before turning out the light–I’ve been loving it so far, and I think all the characters and the writing is just wonderful.

    (I don’t think this is any kind of spoiler since it happens within the first 50ish pages and you know both babies are going to make it because just reading the book jacket tells you they are the main characters, but just in case–possible spoiler ahead?)

    I got to the part where Sister Mary was delivering her babies, and Stone, in a panic, decides he should basically perform an abortion to save her life, and in great detail tells how he will accomplish this and how the tools work and what exactly will happen to the baby’s skull and body when he does . . . and I just couldn’t. If anything out there is a trigger for me, and a total book dealbreaker, it’s reading about terrible things happening to babies. I cannot handle it. I put the book down and couldn’t fall asleep for 2 hours because I was so upset over it. Now trying to decide if the worst is over and I can continue, or if I’m too upset over that passage to keep going!

    • Shauna says:

      Oh, keep reading it! I agree, that was a very disturbing scene, but Cutting for Stone deserves every positive superlative. I say this even though traumatic birth is a major trigger for me. It was SO GOOD!

      • Rachel says:

        I think I’m going to be mad at it for a few days, and then come back to it and just skip ahead a few pages to make sure the birth is over with. I’m too mad at it to continue now, but I’ll be cooled off enough in a day or two to pick it up again 😛

        • liz n. says:

          That’s how I ended up reading it. I didn’t devour it nonstop, but occasionally had to put it down and sit with what I’d read before I could read on. In the end, I really enjoyed the book and loved how very real the characters felt.

        • Anne says:

          Oh no! I have heard such good things about that book and it’s high on my to-read list. I’m thankful for the warning but so sorry you had to experience that.

          • Donna says:

            Love this post, Anne! I’m with you on #2. I liked Pride and Prejudice in high school but I am re-reading it this winter. I am interested to see if my perceptions have changed since then.:)
            And with regards to Rachel’s comment, I couldn’t make it through Cutting For Stone. I really tried, but I felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. I sold my copy to the used bookstore yesterday.

  18. Bea says:

    I actually read The Fault in our Stars a few days after my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It probably wasn’t the best decision, but I’d been on the library waiting list for almost a year, and of course it came in that week…..

    I’ll agree that it was a good book. But I have no plans to see the movie.

  19. Heather says:

    I’ve been reading The Brothers K because it was mentioned in one of your posts and it has glowing reviews. I’m only 50 pages in and so far I’m just not into it. It’s a long book and a big time commitment, but I recently came across this article about why we shouldn’t be reading books we don’t like. I’ve always been one to finish a book once I’ve started it, but I think that I am starting to realize that I need to make time for other books (I have since put down The Brothers K and am reading The Martian which I love). I’m just wondering why you finished the book if you hated it? Do you too feel a need to finish a book once it is started? I’m also curious to find out what book it is. I do plan on continuing with the Brothers K, but if I still don’t get into it then I will put it down for good.

    • Anne says:

      I’m on page 150 of The Brothers K …

      I finished it because: 1. I kept waiting for it to get better and 2. I wanted to be able to report back to you all on it! At least it was the kind of book I could read quickly.

  20. Jeannie says:

    I agree with all of these, Anne! My 8th (and maybe this overlaps with your #1) would be “I Just Don’t Buy It.” The other day I was talking with a friend about a book she’d read called The Umbrella Mender about a drifter who (wait for it) mends umbrellas. Sounds like something set in Victorian London — but in fact it’s set in Northern Ontario, present day, on a First-Nations reserve. It’s just not a believable scenario.

    I also wanted to comment on what you said about This is the Story of a Happy Marriage: the TITLE might be off-putting to someone whose friend is divorcing, but since that’s just one essay among many in Patchett’s book (and since it isn’t at all braggy or sanctimonious), the book itself shouldn’t be. Maybe that’s another for the list, actually: “Turnoff Title.”

    • Holly says:

      Yes I agree with the “I Just Don’t Buy It.” Or books where obviously an issue should be explored or at least acknowledged and the author just pretends it’s NBD. Like I just read Francine Rivers latest, and a foster child falls in love with a boy that was for 5 plus years of her life her foster brother. Nobody objected to a sibling relationship turning romantic??

    • Kayris says:

      My mom is like this with movies. She hates Pretty Woman because “that would never happen in the real world.”

    • Anne says:

      Ah, that’s a good addition, Jeannie. One of the last Anna Quindlen books I read had a big plot twist in it, and I was all ‘oh, that isn’t even believable.’ Wasn’t true for the character.

      My addition to the list is probably lame to all of you but true for me: set in a World War.

      There, I said it. So many book jackets snapped back shut after catching the setting.

  21. Morgan says:

    Fabulous list, Anne! (Heavy handed storytelling- blergh)

    I don’t like books that leave me hopeless. I can handle sad parts/endings or somewhat depressing tones, but books with no light at the end of the tunnel…nope. I slogged through The Fault in Our Stars but was sorry that I did so after finishing, even with the “plot twist”. Catcher in the Rye, couldn’t even get halfway. However, I love Wuthering Heights and The Bell Jar (both labeled depressing by many readers) but I think the redeeming factor is that there was a sliver of hope/hopeful ending.

    Also the weird formatting/nonsensical writing is a biggie for me. This is the reason that I couldn’t finish 1,000 Gifts and why I am now having to force myself through The Book Thief (the story is picking up in TBT, at least).

    • Anne says:

      Uh oh, The Book Thief is on my stack right now …

      I’m with you on the hopeless factor. I don’t like books where the plot or the characters have zero redemptive qualities.

  22. I might have missed this, but a bunch of dialect is a turn off for me.

    I nodded my head so hard when Anne Lamott said to be very, very careful about writing in dialect. Occasionally it can work, but most of the time it doesn’t.

    • Dana says:

      Same here. I could not read The Help although I tried probably 5 times. The dialect drove me crazy and keep pulling me out of the story. Also when the author does not use quotation marks in dialogue, but uses dashes instead.. It is so distracting to me that I cannot keep the story in my head. It’s a small thing, but there you have it.

      • liz n. says:

        This is one reason I find some of Cormac McCarthy’s books to be tedious. He doesn’t use quotation marks and tends to get wordy. I feel like I’m trying to dig my way out of quicksand comprised of too many words, and where did the dialogue end, and why did you use eight words to describe the leaves when you could have made the point more strongly with two or three?

    • Anne says:

      I’m with you. (Although I do love Tom Sawyer.) I just heard someone say recently that sometimes the dialect-heavy books can be great as audiobooks, but I haven’t tried that myself yet.

  23. Another thing that can cause me to dislike a book is the author’s “voice” or tone. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with the content (or the author), just that the way they put things rubs me the wrong way. I don’t like being patronized or lectured, even in a nonfiction book. (I don’t listen to many audio books but I can imagine I would be even more sensitive to this problem if a narrator’s actual voice grated on my nerves.)

  24. liz n. says:

    I don’t know what category this peeve of mine would go under, or if I’m even going to explain myself very well, but I will try…Books that make you feel like you wasted your time. Maybe major questions went unanswered, maybe the ending didn’t suit the storyline, maybe the writing was bad, maybe the characters were awful…Sometimes, I recognize that I am, in fact, wasting my time with a book, and don’t make myself finish it. Other times, I spend the length of the book trying to figure out what other people love so much about it, and realize that I just wasted however many hours or days reading a piece of crapola. Two books that immediately come to mind: “Lady Chatterly’s Lover,” my hatred for this book having been voiced many times over! It was one I read more than once in an attempt to figure out just why people gush about it, and every re-read was a waste of my time and brain power. The other book I hate with a degree of hatred usually reserved for classroom bullies and perpetrators of crimes against humanity is “The Devil Wears Prada.” Bland writing, whiny brat of a main character, barely fleshed-out characters…I could go on forever with all the things I despise about this book! I actually felt a bit angry after reading that one. I felt cheated out of a good relationship with a book!

    • Sara K. says:

      Yes, I agree! Not every book needs to be mind-blowing, but if I’m going to spend many hours reading it I sure hope I feel like it was worth my time in the end!

    • Liz K. says:

      I felt the same way about the Devil Wears Prada. Add to that Julie and Julia and The Nanny Diaries. All interesting concepts about people living in New York, going about their lives, interacting with the rich and powerful. All three were kind of on the forefront of the great-blog-idea-maybe-doesn’t-work-for-300-pages genre. Of course, two of them are novels, but read as very thinly veiled memoirs. Just bland, as you say.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, yes. I HATE it when a book makes me feel like I wasted my time. (Because I could have been reading something better!)

      Cracking up about The Devil Wears Prada as a crime against humanity. 🙂 Okay, that’s not exactly what you said, but it sure is funny that way.

      • liz n. says:

        I will, here and now, state very clearly that “The Devil Wears Prada” is a literary crime against humanity.

    • Courtney says:

      I actually enjoyed The Nanny Diaries. But I think that was a case of right time, right place. When I read it I was currently nannying, so it made my job seem better.

  25. Kate says:

    Editing mistakes and poor writing drive me up a wall, but if the plot is good enough I can usually finish the book. What I can’t get past is unnecessary violence or cruelty that’s just there for the sake of shock value (“The Dogs of Babel” is a good example), completely unlikeable characters, or nonsensical plotting.

  26. Katie Pritchard says:

    My biggest pet peeve with books is not enough closure. Especially in series’. Drives me nuts. Why would an author go through all the trouble of publishing multiple books and then never offer any resolution for their characters, the plot, or their readers?! A few years ago, this happened to me- a series I had loved came out with the final book and at the end I wanted to throw the last book across the room! Every character in that book was left hanging. It was a very “artsy” ending. And I swore I’d never read anything by that author again. I’m not talking about having a series ending in a way you don’t like, or even an author killing off the main character. I’m talking about really, no ending at all. Bleh.

    Also, I can’t stand #5 either. I finally let myself off the hook with this one and won’t finish the book.

    • Anne says:

      I hear you. I’m okay with ambiguity (though I know many readers aren’t). But I hate it when a book just doesn’t have an ending. (I’m reminded of The Telling Room.)

  27. Tim says:

    I’m reading one that is a #3 right now, but the story is good enough o keep me going through the clunky dialog and needlessly wordy descriptions.

    For #5, I vote Remains of the Day. In fact, it should be the poster child for #5.

    • Jeannie says:

      Tim, you’re killing me here! What’s so genius — and so pathetic — about TROTD is how the world around the main character IS hurtling forward so quickly (politics, war, racism, genocide, aging, romance), while he is obsessed with polishing silver and making sure dustpans don’t get left on the stairs. IMO it’s a work of brilliance. But … I probably haven’t converted you yet, have I. 🙂

  28. Violence and cruelty, and false accusations do it for me. And honestly, I’m not into can’t -put-down thrillers. I kind of like books I can put down, given the way my time and life is structured right now. Maybe if I took more 12-hour plane trips! I tend to find #1 a huge problem in the non-fiction world. Someone gets a book contract because he’s in the news, or running a successful company, but then we find out he has absolutely nothing to say beyond what he’s said. There was no reason for that book, but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone.

    • Anne says:

      I didn’t have the blog-turned-book-deal on my mind with category #1, but I should have! I have read too many books that started as 2000 word blog posts and should have remained 2000 word blog posts.

  29. Janet says:

    I totally agree about the character in Eat, Pray, Love, if I could have snatched her out of the book and smacked her I would have. It always surprises me when someone says they liked this book, she was beyond annoying.

    • Robin says:

      I’m glad someone else also feels this way about Eat, Pray, Love. The woman was just annoyingly self absorbed. I kind of liked her in Italy but the more she moved on the more I just couldn’t wait to finish the book and be done with her. Because we were reading it in my book group I knew I needed to give it/her a chance but, in the end, she lost me.

  30. Angela Mills says:

    I definitely have a trigger and I can’t take kids being abused. I never finished Jane Eyre. I just recently read a book that I liked, and it kept me up all night finishing it. Then I went on Goodreads and people either loved or hated it. What was interesting to me is that I agreed with a lot of the points the negative reviewers made. But I still liked the book! The bad reviews almost made me question of I liked it after all because they made such good points. In the end I decided that I could admit it’s flaws but I still enjoyed it. Reading bad reviews has become something I do regularly now because I have a novel in progress and I know I’ll need a tough skin when it comes out. All of my favorite books have their 1 star reviews. It’s inevitable that someone will hate my book. I’m still getting used to the idea 🙂

    • Anne says:

      On the other hand, I just heard Seth Godin say he hadn’t read an amazon review in three years.

      “The bad reviews almost made me question of I liked it after all because they made such good points. In the end I decided that I could admit its flaws but I still enjoyed it.”

      I like this perspective.

  31. Stacey says:

    Great list! It is only in the past few years that I have been comfortable putting down a book midway through. And I still can’t do it with super popular books. For example, I hated Gone Girl but just couldn’t figure out what everyone else loved. I read all the way to the end and still don’t get it! And I have to venture a guess… Was it Station Eleven? I loved it but I just have a feeling you didn’t?

  32. Liz K. says:

    I can’t stand plots based on misunderstandings, particularly in relationship-centric books. She likes him, but she’s sworn off liking anyone. She was hurt before, no one could possibly love her. She must resist, she can’t be honest. He’s attracted to her, but how can he remarry? His divorce/the death of his wife/his avowed bachelorhood/his commitment to his daughter demand that he avoid the attraction. Yada yada yada for 3/4 of the book, and I’m thinking, ‘You’re attracted to this person, adore this person, will inevitably embarrass yourself in public for this person, but you haven’t had a basic conversation about your past, your thoughts, or your inner workings?’ If these characters would just have a conversation about these things, we could avoid the whole part of the book where a misunderstanding drives them apart, destined for their own personal grief, until a rainy day or a bad date drive them back into each others’ arms. I guess I would call this the never-ending pining book.

    • Liz K. says:

      I also dislike the marital-reality books, where the couple has been married forever and has grown apart, or some event that they never faced ‘stands between them’ and she’s restless and adventure/business/the big city calls. When I read these or the aforementioned miscommunication romances, I wonder why can’t the couple create a solid, honest, communicative bond, and face the major plot points together, as a functioning team? Even in young adult and children’s literature it’s difficult to find a functioning set of parents. Pet peeve: non-functioning interpersonal relations as main/only plot point.

      • liz n. says:

        Both of your comments here hit home with me. When the plot only works because of a shallowly contrived reason for the main characters to not make any reasonable attempt to do or be or have better than the awful situation set-up they have, I get aggravated. Especially when I’m supposed to believe that a strong-woman character type “can’t” say what’s on her mind for reasons that don’t fit anything in her persona…nor can I stand the obvious set-up (like in “The Devil Wears Prada”) of the male romantic partner actually being a jerk but, oh, you never saw it coming, except for the “subtle” ways the author hinted at his hidden chauvinism. It isn’t that there aren’t women who feel trapped in marriages or that there aren’t couples who can’t seem to find ways to actually become a couple…it’s that the books that try to tell these stories are often sophomoric in the telling.

        • Liz K. says:

          I’m going to add another thing here: The Repetitive Glorification of the Hero. I liked Outlander. I recommended it to a couple friends, but I haven’t managed to get through the second in the series, and as much as I like Jamie and Claire, I’m somewhat bored with everybody fawning all over Jamie all the time. And then he keeps being beaten up and nearly killed. I just can’t see how I can sustain reading 7 loooong books about how great Jamie is (although this kind of contradicts my earlier assertion that it’s hard to find loving couples, because Jamie and Claire find love relatively easily and become a solid team early on). In stories like this, the plot often turns on the characters just trying to find a bit of peace but constantly being assaulted. I find myself thinking, ‘Not ANOTHER redcoat holding a gun to your head!’ I guess I don’t like cliffhangers much and I’d like the author to give the characters a break now and again.

          • liz n. says:

            Oh, just you wait…Jamie Fraser makes plenty of mistakes and gets taken down a notch a few times…usually by Claire. Any more than that, I cannot divulge without giving away major spoilers!

          • Liz K. says:

            So you’re saying I should keep going? If I really look at why I’ve stalled, I think it’s because I know the battle is coming up, and I don’t really want to face another Jamie/Captain Jack face-off with a detailed description of the really bloody battlefield.

          • Kelli says:

            Oh, Her Fearful Symmetry…. I don’t have very many triggers – I can take language and sex scenes, can’t do graphic rape or graphic violence or any kind of violence toward animals – but sometimes a book just weirds me out and there’s usually no warning which books will do that. Her Fearful Symmetry and The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian both did that for me. Double Bind so much (because of the ending, and only the very ending) that I haven’t read any of his books since then.

          • Liz K. says:

            Funny you should say that! I couldn’t remember the title of Her Fearful Symmetry, so I looked it up on Amazon. (I’ve only read the first chapter or so.) While I was there I noticed that it has an average of 3 starts and people seemed to be saying, “beautifully written, but then goes off the deep end in the second half.” It’s a long book, and one I wouldn’t mind removing from my list if it’s not going to be phenomenal, so I read the spoiler reviews and woah! Sounds really bizarre! I guess it fits in category 1.

  33. Hannah says:

    I’ll add one: if the book has no depth, I’ll most likely hate it. In other words, if it fails to make me think–or feel–after I close it, I’m not going to recommend it to anyone else. To me, reading those two-dimensional kinds of books is like eating Cheetos, fun for a moment but worthless afterward. I want a book that seems as if it’s been lovingly put together, over time, with attention to details and that addresses at least some of the bigger, deeper questions of life. If it seems like it was cranked out in two months and run through a quick in house edit, no thanks. I want to feel that somebody bled for it.

    • Anne says:

      “If it seems like it was cranked out in two months and run through a quick in house edit, no thanks. I want to feel that somebody bled for it.”

      Yes to this. I have better things to do than read throwaway fiction.

  34. Kayris says:

    I thought of another turn off. I don’t speak French and don’t have the foggiest idea how to pronounce most french words, so I dislike books that have a lot of bilingual characters with French sprinkled throughout the book. It makes me feel like I’m missing something or stumbling mentally.

    • Anne says:

      I just read Americanah, but I did the audiobook version. I HATE it when I don’t know how to pronounce the character’s names (this drove me crazy with Hermione, in Harry Potter, and Briony, in Atonement, before there were movie versions of either). I can’t relate to them if I can’t say their name right. For Americanah I was grateful that I didn’t have to wonder how to pronounce the names of the Nigerian main characters—although I did look up a plot description online so I knew how to spell their names.

      • liz n. says:

        After trying out “Her-me-ohn,” “Her-me-oh-nee,” “Her-mine,” and “Her-min,” I ended up calling a friend who is from Bordeaux and asking him how in the heck her name is pronounced. He laughed and said, “Air-my-nee, but you know it’s mostly Brits who give their daughters that name.” Then came the films, and she’s been Her-my-nee ever since.

  35. Erin says:

    One for me is when the book doesn’t really end. I hate when I finish a book and then have to wonder, well then what happened. I guess this stems from my love of “happily ever after.”

    Related: my favorite books are ones that cover most (if not all) of a characters life.

  36. Dana says:

    I agree with your categories..I would add the following: Great writing, great story for over 3/4 of the book and then the author mails in the ending…so disappointing. I felt that way about The Goldfinch. So much promise and then it falls flat. It makes me feel like I wasted my time.

    Several posters mentioned characters. I have to have a character that is compelling one way or the other. I need someone to cheer for OR root against but I cannot be ambivalent.
    I also want characters that are human and well rounded, not just a cliche. They need faults and weaknesses and even contradictions.

    I also do not care for books in which the author is demonstrating his/her vocabulary or their clever way with a thesaurus. There’s a way to use rich vocabulary that is appropriate and then there’s just showing off.

    Another way is to read a lot of hype and blurbs about a book and then wondering if I am reading the same book as the commenters….so much hyperbole with nothing to back it up.
    I felt that way about A Sudden Light by Garth Stein.

    • Anne says:

      I honestly can’t remember how The Goldfinch ended—and it hasn’t even been that long since I read it! I might be proving your point. 🙂

  37. Tiffany says:

    I have a real problem of reading teen lit through the eyes of my kids (ages: 13, 12, and 11). I find teen lit filled with sarcasm and foul language and teen sex. 3 things that I’d like my kids to avoid. So, I have hated some books that are probably really great, or at least have some content worth a really great discussions, because I don’t want my kids reading that stuff. I’m learning that my kids can’t be kept in the bubble for long (haha), and that I need to let them learn about the world and to make their own conclusions about things. I would rather be on that path with them, than have them sneak this literature and miss out on the conversation. Anyway…that’s where I’m at lately.

    • Anne says:

      “I have a real problem of reading teen lit through the eyes of my kids.” Ohhhh. This is making me cringe! I completely understand how that would be HORRIBLE.

  38. I find these days (last 3 – 4 years) a lot of bloggers-turned-book authors, and I’ve only read one or two that I felt deserved to have their blog voice turned into a book voice.

    I keep finding these books and I buy them because all over the place, they are the next greatest thing and then I read them and…………. not.

    Now, I loved The Nesting Place despite Laura Vanderkam’s review of it (which I thought was very, very harsh), and I loved Shauna’s Bread and Wine.

    A few others were just ok, but most I felt don’t translate well to a book.

  39. Leigh Kramer says:

    #5 gets me EVERY TIME. I then avoid those authors like the plague, no matter how much everyone raves about them.

  40. Phaedra says:

    Ridiculous repetition. Don’t keep telling me the Exact. Same. Thing. chapter after chapter. I call this ‘filler’ and it’s pretty much my number one pet peeve. I end up yelling ‘edit already!’ at the pages. It’s not just fiction. Non fiction, self help-y type of books are terrible about this (Brene Brown, Daring Greatly? Yeah, I’m looking at you!). A good theory or an idea that they try to stretch from 30 pages to 300 makes me want to stab my eyes out and I end up hating the book overall even if, at first, I was enjoying the ideas/story.

    • Liz K. says:

      Hear! hear! What’s that great old quote about how most novels ought to be short stories, and most short stories ought to be a handful of paragraphs? I find it so strange when the story seems to be wrapping up and there’s still 40% of the book left.

      • liz n. says:

        And then you do the thing where you flip through those last pages, figuring it must be the end note “thank you’s” or a preview of the next book or something, because what in the world is left to tell??

        On the other hand, the heartbreak of nearing the end of a really good book and realizing there are only 40 pages left.

        • Phaedra says:

          Haha. Yes. I am allowing myself to give up on some of these finally. If I’ve skipped ahead, and I’m skipping ahead when I’m bored, and seen more boring repetition instead of an ending already? Done.

  41. kimmie says:

    I agree with the “I just can’t read about this”. Father let’s teenage son drive “the rest of the way home”. He hits a girl jogging along the road. Father decides they aren’t going to tell anyone they did it. WHAT?!?!?!?!

  42. Tessa says:

    I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only one who avoids books because of triggers! So many people recommended Redeeming Love to me and I finally read it, but I simply cannot read sex scenes because I’m too visual. I finished the book but after the first sex scene I’d stopped enjoying it or hoping to enjoy it, and it took a few days to recover. It makes me sad that I have to miss out on wonderful plots and characters and messages because of a couple scenes that could be alluded to as opposed to described in detail. I’ve had to return more books than you’d think because of this, books that were wonderful otherwise.

    • SoCalLynn says:

      After hearing friends rave about Redeeming Love for years, I finally read it. I Not because of the sex, but I just did not like the main characters. It’s a good thing there are so many other books to read.

  43. Erin says:

    I recently came across a book by an author I love and realized 50 pages in that I related to the character a bit too much and I didn’t want to see her go through really challenging stuff. I would put this in the ‘hits too close to home’ or possibly a book where I feel judged.
    My pet peeves in books are when the ending is rushed. The author does a great job of pacing and then bam the last 20 pages everything happens.

    • Anne says:

      A giant yes to the “too close to home” category. And I’ve read too many books that belong in that “terrible pacing” category!

  44. Courtney says:

    I agree with a lot of what’s already been said, and with what’s on the list. I don’t read books or watch movies that I know feature sexual violence. For that reason I’ve avoided ‘The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’ despite rave reviews, and had to turn off ‘A Clockwork Orange’ about ten minutes in. There’s nothing that can make a book “OK” for me if there’s sexual violence. It’s not that I think people shouldn’t write about it, but I just can’t handle reading it myself.

    Another thing that makes me hate a book is when common “triggers” or “scandalous” material is added purely for shock value, and doesn’t actually contribute anything to the story. I felt this way about the constant sexual references/jokes in ‘Wicked.’ By the time I got to the end I was convinced the book had been written by a 13 year old boy! It also falls into the category of books with a great premise (telling the story from the Wicked Witch’s perspective) that massively fail to deliver. I recycled it rather than let it fall into the hands of another unsuspecting victim!

  45. I think nothing actually happens is what makes me hate most of the books I do (so #5). Or sounds like it is literary fiction and then ends up to be entirely too much like a romance novel. (Mrs. Poe, anyone?) Maybe an other category should be Too Many Coincidences. The plot is just unbelievable beyond reason.

  46. Kayris says:

    Ooh! Another one! I can’t stand it when an author is obviously using the book to pontificate about his or her political views.

    In “Dust” by Patricia Cornwell, she inserts her character into the crime scene at the Sandy Hook school shooting. I was so offended by this I could barely believe she thought this was a good idea. My mom, upon reading this, closed her book and returned it to the library. Anyway, she doesn’t write about the character AT the scene, but there’s plenty on how she feels having returned from the scene, and it’s clear who Cornwell blames.

    In her most recent, it’s not as in your face, but the issue is the Boston Marathon bombing and the death of a police officer at the hands of the bombers.

    I find it very off putting.

  47. Beth says:

    As other people have mentioned, characters can be a big reason to hate the book–there are some where the story is interesting, the writing style is good, but the characters are so unlikeable that it’s hard to care about how things turn out! I also get caught up on font choices sometimes–I recently read a book that sounded so interesting, but the periods were in the shape of diamonds instead of normal periods and I couldn’t get past that.

  48. Courtney says:

    I hate when a series ends with to be continued.

    I also dislike books written like a television show (Dan Brown, I’m looking at you!). I made it through 2 of his books, and then couldn’t handle his short attention pan any more.

    I also dislike when people won’t name names. Not just you Anne, but a recent discussion came up and no one would say the names of the books they were bagging on. Seriously?!?!? Just because you say it wasn’t to your taste does not mean I’m not going to check it out.

    Personally, I hated the Happiness Project. I made it 2 chapters. I hated the condescending attitude, and the constant “I know it seems I have it easy, but really I don’t”. Me thinks the author doth protest too much. I tried to pick up her second book, and couldn’t make it past the intro.

    • liz n. says:

      Awhile back, I read “The Last Templar,” which had a great opening, but then ended up reading like a movie script, and not even a good one, at that. As it turns out, the author had been either a writer for television or film… It was one of those books with a great concept but failed execution.

    • Anne says:

      As for naming names … that’s a tough one. I seriously considered running a post about my LEAST favorite book of 2014 (because I have one and it wasn’t a close contest). But a real person wrote that book, and I don’t want to display that on the internet for all to see. I’m much more comfortable naming names in a balanced review, as opposed to saying I flat-out hated something!

  49. Maryalene says:

    I just finished The 100 Thing Challenge, and it might possibly be the only book I’ve read that clearly falls into category #1. Talk about a boring, strange and self-absorbed book! I bet Harper Collins regretted giving that guy a book deal.

  50. Beth says:

    I just wanted you to know that I am favorably referencing this post in my blog within the next few days. I am drafting the post now and I hope it will be ready for posting tomorrow. Thanks!

  51. Molly says:

    In terms of fiction, I’d say a huge factor in me liking a book or not depends of the element of hope the author injects (or doesn’t). I read for escape mostly, and I can’t stand to spend time reading books that leave me feeling worse about the world/characters/mankind than when I picked it up. That’s not so say every book must be rosy, but there must be some ray of hope. It’s why to this day I have never liked The Firm or Gone Girl. For that matter it’s why I will likely never finish Songs in Ordinary Times. Certain authors will never grace my bookshelves for this reason. I refuse to be let reading be depressing.

    • Anne says:

      “I’d say a huge factor in me liking a book or not depends of the element of hope the author injects (or doesn’t).”

      I relate to this.

  52. I’m very late to this post, but I JUST finished an audiobook that fits category 1. Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin’s memoir…until very very recently (an injury and lackluster performance at 2016 trials and Olympics), she never struggled in her life. She achieved pretty much continual swimming success and had a wonderful personal/family life…which is great for her, but just wasn’t interesting reading. There wasn’t much of a story.

    Separately – I’ve read a book that felt like it should’ve been a short story, but was stretched into a full length novel (Work Like Any Other).

    Great post!

  53. Robin says:

    I just finished a book I disliked so much I went straight to the trash and dumped it in. Sometimes a book is just that bad. I will add a category – or a warning would be more appropriate – beware the self published book. Some self published books can be wonderful but even more of them have a reason for never being accepted by a publisher.

  54. Molly says:

    I hate books with places or characters referred to with multiple names or in very unfamiliar ways. Count of Monte Cristo and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee both are on my hate list for this reason.

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