On a slightly more negative note than yesterday’s post, these are the books I disliked the most in 2019. They may have had problematic elements, I may have found them boring, or they may have angered me in some way. I still own six of them (although they will most likely be off to a new home before long), but four have already been unhauled. Similar to the favourites list, I will display these books in descending order, going from the book I disliked the least, to the book that was my worst of 2019. As always, let me know your opinions, if you think I should give any of these authors another chance, or which books you stumbled upon and found odorous in 2019.
10. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Despite this being the winner of the Women’s Prize in 2019, I simply couldn’t get on board with it. The amount of unchallenged abuse within the pages is extraordinary and to me, totally negates the message about institutional racism in the justice system. Roy hurts his wife, and the people around her, and even suggests he could rape her if he wanted to – it made me feel uncomfortable that the book appeared to be normalising this type of behaviour. Tayari Jones’ writing was strong, so I would consider reading more from her in the future, but this isn’t one I would particularly recommend.
9. Vox by Christina Dalcher
The concept of this book was utterly intriguing – women only being permitted to speak one hundred words a day is a terrifying thought and I genuinely thought this could have been a favourite had it been executed better. The tension is built well and the writing is well researched and informed, but the ending really spoiled it for me, and I felt thoroughly disappointed with what had the potential to be a five star read. Furthermore, the comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale irritated me to no end, it seems as though every dystopian book involving the extreme oppression of women is immediately related to Margaret Atwood and it stifles the genre, leaving no room for individual expression. I would recommend other books such as The Power by Naomi Alderman over this one if you are interested in social commentary surrounding the patriarchy.
8. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
I remember reading this when I was younger and thinking it was pretty average back then, but upon my reread of it, I realised just how mediocre it is. The writing is overly simple, the repetition is overbearing and even irritating, distracting the reader from the actual plot, which also happens to be somewhat ridiculous. Every man ever just happens to fall in love with our main character Juliette, who doesn’t actually appear to have many personality traits, and spends the first chunk of the book being silent. It makes me uncomfortable that young adults are being taught here that women ought to be quiet and obedient in order to be desirable. The book had no redeeming qualities that make me want to continue with the series, although I’ve heard Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore series is better, so I may try those instead.
7. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
I had heard people rave about Doris Lessing’s writing previously, so I was eager to sample it. However, I believe I started with the wrong book, because I was left feeling sorely disappointed. The mother hates, mistreats and abandons her son and then expects the reader to think she is an excellent person for retrieving him from the institution later. I assume the book was making a commentary on motherhood and social expectations surrounding it, but it fell extremely flat for me. I’d still read another of Doris Lessing’s books, maybe The Golden Notebook, but I could not possibly recommend this particular one.
6. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
I think part of the reason I didn’t read too many classics in 2019 was because I started my classics journey with this one and was consequently put off. This is foolish, but I did thoroughly dislike this one. I found the protagonist to be somewhat incompetent and whiny, making all the most inappropriate decisions. Furthermore, there didn’t appear to be much depth to the story, things happened just because and none of the characters particularly appealed to me. This made reading this book take much longer than in should have considering the short length and I felt extremely disappointed. I may pick up more Henry James in the future to see if it was just this book, but I’m in no great hurry.
5. Moonstomp by Tim Wells
This one was simply overwhelmingly underwhelming considering the bizarre synopsis. I adore punk music and I adore werewolf stories, so this should have been the match made in heaven, but instead it read like the diary of a seedy teenage boy discovering sex for the first time. Sexual encounters were described with repetitive emphasis on details such as the colour of the woman’s underwear and most of the main character’s problems were solved with some level of violence. The werewolf aspect of the story wasn’t particularly fleshed out either, leaving a lot to be desired. Despite the book’s incredibly short length, I found myself feeling bored and rushing to finish. The writing style is overly simple, and I don’t think I would read anything by this author again in the future.
4. Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
I expected this to become one of my favourites of the year, and with a promising start, delving into a fictional account of Mary Shelley’s life, I was excited. However, the story quickly descended into a transphobic, uncomfortable mess. The main character Ry, is transgender and comfortable with his identity, but is constantly misgendered and belittled by the characters around him. The sex obsessed and quite frankly, abhorrent Ron Lord consistently makes degrading comments to Ry and the women in the book, at one point assuming Ry must fancy him because he is attracted to men and making comments about Ry’s genitals. These moments made me feel increasingly uncomfortable, especially as there wasn’t really any challenge to these behaviours – everyone seemed to get along like they were all best friends, despite the power dynamics at play. This was my first Winterson book, and I have to say, if they are all as ignorant as this one, I would be reluctant to read any more. I cannot understand why this has received such fantastic reviews when the author makes such a blunder in representing a whole group of people.
3. Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
This is a fictional account of Truman Capote’s life from the perspective of his ‘swans’ – a group of women he essentially collected throughout his life. The concept of the book is interesting, with the swans forming a type of chorus throughout, discussing Truman’s qualities and flaws amongst themselves. However, the book is simply far too long. The writing is overly indulgent, feeling very much as though the author was being paid per word and there is not much substance to the story. If you like reading about arrogant socialites sitting on a yacht and stealing other people’s partners, then perhaps you might like this, but I think it could have been much better had it been cut in half. I had to resort to the audiobook just to get through the latter half and it was a wholly uncomfortable experience.
2. The Pisces by Melissa Broder
I will be honest here, I hated this book. I’m surprised there is a book I hated more than this on this list, but we’ll get onto that in due course. The Pisces follows Lucy, who is the most abhorrent human being I have ever read about in my life. She is abusive and manipulative towards the people around her, including her ex-boyfriend and sister. She is cruel towards her sister’s dog, despite promising to take care of him – the dog by the way, which is her sister’s most revered companion. If there being a severely dislikable main character isn’t enough, there’s also the explicit descriptions of Lucy’s sexual encounters to contend with. They are unnecessarily graphic, with one part describing how Lucy gets period blood all over her sister’s white sofa and being totally accepting of this. This not only further highlights Lucy’s lack of respect and increases my conviction that I hate her as a character, but it also suggests to me that the author is attempting to use the shock factor to her advantage, but it just annoyed me. I didn’t understand why there was a random mermaid man, and I just wanted the book to be over. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the writing style all that much either, so I don’t think I would read any of the author’s future contributions to literature either.
1. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
You can see by the review above that I really disliked The Pisces, so what could possibly make me so annoyed that it surpassed it into first place on my worst books list? Could it possibly be that this book is dry and outdated, boring to read with nothing particularly profound to say? Or could it be the fact that Nietzsche is the most misogynistic and arrogant author I have ever read from? Take your pick, but I’m certainly in no hurry to read this ‘esteemed’ philosopher again.
I haven’t included Book Depository links for these books, because I don’t recommend them, and wouldn’t want to endorse them.