Famous Brits pick their most-hated books

Agreed on the Harry Potter series, for different reasons. Didn’t read them in the original English but that doesn’t change anything. I read the entire series as bedtime stories to my eldest daughter and I got progressively more angry at the terrible plot holes and horrible, horrible personality of Harry. I discouraged my youngest from reading them and sold the entire lot to recoup some of the loss (although I will never get back the time I invested).
I think JKR created a brilliant story arch and a fantastic world of magic, but just not for me. If you disagree you can sit on a broomstick and tell me how you like it!


Wait What Reaction GIF

Says the man who wrote Atrocity Exhibition…?


I’ve read a lot of bad books, but most are terrible memoirs that almost feel like punching-down to drag into a “worst book” complain-a-thon.

I enjoyed roughly 80% of Cryptonomicon, and agree that Anathem is a high-water mark after Snowcrash, but for my money the absolute worst Stephenson is Seveneves. It does a lot of his worst tropes (leaning WAY hard on eugenics, limited/flat characters/archetypes, glorifying right-wing survivalist nut-bars), and fails spectacularly at the thing he’s known best for, describing technical concepts in an accessible, entertaining-enough manner. He spends something like 30 pages describing the future space-station, and has visual aids, and I still couldn’t grasp how it worked.


Just like Pete Tatchell.

The Bible is a collection of books, written by different people, so which one do you hate the most?

Leviticus was chosen by Ian McKellen, and is where Western patriarchy, homophobia and transphobia was codified, so maybe that?


And that was based on modern interpretations of Leviticus, primarily by Christians, discussing what was a Jewish text…


Yeah no the whole thing is shite


One that comes to mind is the short story Polaris, by H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft is famous for his racism, but I’m a big Lovecraft fan all the same because it only rarely shows up in any major way in his stories (a very unfortunately-named cat being one big exception). Polaris, however, features “squat, yellow creatures” that are made out to be some kind of hideous warlike goblins who dwell in the icy darkness beneath an ominously glimmering Pole Star… only for it to be revealed at the end that these inhuman invaders are “Esquimaux”, that is, Inuit people. Just… fuck you, Howard.


Reamde is much worse in all of these regards (except for the eugenics).

As for Cryptonomicon, I respectfully disagree. I like a long, convoluted story like that. But the series I enjoy most is the Baroque Cycle, which is basically Cryptonomicon on (clockpunk) steroids. He definitely didn’t just choose two or three cool concepts to base those stories around. More like 30–40 historic concepts.


I’m behind on my Stephenson (and I had been a completist, having read In the Beginning was the Command Line, The Big U, Cobweb, and Interface) but I agree with Penny Arcade about Anathem:

I loved the original Cryptonomicon, but every book past that has been torment. I choked down Anathema from about the half-way point, jaw set, lower teeth pressed hard against the upper, determined not to be defeated.

followed by

In place of the word Anathem - which is the actual name of a book by Neal Stephenson - I inadvertently typed Anathema, a word that means “someone or something intensely disliked or loathed.” We regret the error.

What drove me crazy with Anathem was how humorless the main character is, how he’s clearly less interesting than his friends. Knowing how NS can write, it’s obviously an artistic choice, but if I’d known how dour an affair it was all going to be I’d’ve picked some other way to spend my time.

Crypto isn’t my favorite (that’d be The Diamond Age) but I definitely enjoyed rereading it… as long as I skipped all the Goto Dengo chapters. Same issue, I guess.

1 Like

The protagonist is basically a medieval monastic novice. His personality is definitely a deliberate choice.

1 Like

We’re in agreement, but, his friends in the same boat don’t have that personality. I’d rather have spent more time with them.


I’ve tried several Martin Amis novels, hated all of them.


I loved Snow Crash and The Diamond Age!

And then the love affair ended.


Ready Player Two. The previous book in the series wasn’t exactly high art but it was decent popcorn fodder clearly written for someone in my exact demographic (white cishet male nerd who was a kid in the 80s). The second book just dragged on and on and seemed more concerned with reflecting on the casting choices of John Hughes movies than it spent on the moral and social implications of full-brain-upload technology.


what’s fun is when the participants are mentioned.

AS Byatt: Novelist

Belle Du Seigneur by Albert Cohen

It is the most narcissistic and pretentious book I’ve ever read; it’s so self-indulgent and its eroticism is sickly. It is dreadfully slow and it is far too derivative of Marcel Proust.

Joan Smith: Author

Possession by AS Byatt

It’s a kind of schmaltzy Mills & Boon romance dressed up with cod Victorian poetry to make it seem more profound, but there’s no emotional depth in it at all. It’s incredibly shallow and trivial.


I wouldn’t call “Infinite Jest” worst. Kind of disappointing since I liked his shorter essays.

But the classic people have the least need to read. It’s basically Stand on Zanzibar meets Gravity’s Rainbow and worse than either.


That isn’t as much of a threat as you think it is


JG Ballard, the king of obscurity, hates Finnegan’s Wake is obscure? I had no idea Ballard was so un-self aware.


There were two things about Cryptonomicon that really irked me. One was that Stephenson wrote a techno-espionage thriller that happed to include a literal wizard as a minor supporting character who was completely unnecessary to any part of the plot. Like if Gandalf just happened to have a cameo in a Tom Clancy story.

The second thing that bothered me was the idea that the protagonists had a clear moral claim on the Nazi-looted treasure buried by Goto Dengo’s unit in the Philippines. The book even casts Mr. Wing, the slave laborer who narrowly escaped the bunker with Goto Dengo, as some kind of villain just because he has the audacity to try getting some of the treasure for himself (and I guess because he happened to be Chinese?). The protagonists also seem to have no regard whatsoever for the historical value of the buried artifacts or respect for the victims buried alongside it.


For me, William Faulkner was the most unreadable famous author, but I can’t recall exactly which book it was that bogged me down too completely to finish. He kept trying to represent the way the characters actually pronounced English words with their southern accents and I haaaated that.