Famous Brits pick their most-hated books

A few come to mind for me.

I read an absurd amount of books and it’s an extremely rare occurance for me to drop a book before finishing it, even if it’s bad…

That said, heres some examples of me doing that:

  1. The Silmarillion by Tolkien. i’m a fan of the LOTR series and have reread them several times over. But this book i bounced off after just a few chapters. I found it much like reading a dictionary cover-to-cover level of boring… :confused:

  2. A Confederacy of Dunces. This is one i only read after stumbling upon it being referenced as a classic in many different places. Again this was a book i found a gruelling slog of a read, and i eventually gave up a few chapters in…


Same. I flung atlas shrugged across the room in fury, and when trying to read bukowski, I experienced similar disgust and the book met the same fate.

I found Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar so dreadfully dull, I thought there must be something wrong with me b/c not enjoying The Bard. [Mom assured me I was OK, and would enjoy reading Romeo & Juliet and Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I did.]

Some john saul horror novels were lent me, and I was horrified not by the story, but the shockingly bad grammar and pointlessness of the plot. I finished one, ever hoping it would get better. It did not, and the “twist” at the end would have been obvious to a glasses-less myopic a half mile off. I’d’ve thrown that one, and the other two I didn’t bother to read, had my stepsister not been the lender.

I found The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie tortuously dull. Curiously, it was assigned reading for English class at the private school when I was in 8th grade. tophat-shrug

A “friend” forced me to read a couple pages of flowers in the attic, after having told me all about it, raving about how great it was. I’d said it sounded awful, like a depraved and demented soap opera that I wouldn’t want to read, but she insisted the next time I visited her. She shoved the opened book into my hand, telling me I had to read this particular chapter. I somehow managed to choke down a couple pages. I handed it back and told her I would not continue. I was not interested, and it was most definitely not my cuppa as I’d previously said when she’d gushed about it. I saw an all too familiar series of emotions and feelings wash over her face. Shock, disappointment, pity, then the absolute conviction that I am not gifted, but actually profoundly stupid and without taste. I did not miss her when our friendship ended.

I crabbed about oliver twist and great expectations, and mom agreed. She told me to give A Christmas Carol a chance, and she was right. I very much enjoyed it. It isn’t 400 pages long, and doesn’t read like he was paid by the word, like everything else he wrote.


Portrait of a geisha. I think that’s what it’s called. I read it in the summer as it was assigned for a class I was going to take in fall and I did all the reading for lit classes ahead of time to free my schedule. Jesus Christ what exoticism. Nothing else about it was notable. Just a white man writing his weird fantasy about being a Japanese woman during the war… But… Why? Translators exist for a reason.


Heinlein has always been the turd in the Sci Fi punch bowl but Stranger in a Strange Land was truly awful.


The thing that threw me about it is that I went in hearing about how progressive it was supposed to be.

So I was surprised to learn that the lessons contained therein included:

  • Putting men and women on the same spaceship crew is asking for trouble.
  • People should just loosen up and have consequence-free sex with the author each other all the time. As long as it’s not gay sex, because that’s just wrong.
  • Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s partly her fault.
  • It’s fine to make a pretty lady’s clothing disappear without consent or warning as long as you make your own clothes disappear at the same time to make her feel less awkward. Especially when you’re trying to invite her to join your alien sex cult.
  • Actively conning society at large is another acceptable way to grow your alien sex cult too. Whatever gets more people into pews and/or beds.
  • Forcible detention is wrong but capital punishment is OK because reincarnation or something.
  • OK, so Valentine Michael Smith is “technically guilty” of statutory rape. Big deal, the authorities can never prove it.
  • The fate of humanity should really be left in the hands of one or two people who know what’s best for everyone because they have Martian wisdom or whatever.

I once tried reading Ratner’s Star by DeLillo, but I just couldn’t get through it.

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And that’s one part of the plot that made me so disappointed by the story. “Hey, let’s destroy uncountable historic treasures because I cleverly thought of this neat trick gold!”


My theory is that if we want to make sure that no-one ever wants to read Mein Kampf again, to condition society away from even the slightest frisson of it being “edgy” or “rebellious” or “a hidden truth” or anything of that sort of nonsense, the solution is not to ban it or make it unavailable, the solution is to make it compulsory in year 10 English.


Robert A. Heinlein - Starship Troopers

It’s one of the great dystopian novels of all time, up there with 1984 and Brave New World.
It beautifully shows the dangers of putting too much faith into the military and it’s associated values.
I especially love the that how the book never mentions why humanity is at war with one species of aliens at first, and then with another one. It doesn’t matter. If you limit power to those who have been indoctrinated into a militarist world view, war is what you’ll get.
You’ll also get some other atrocities on the side, public executions, a despicable attitude towards disabled people, general advocacy of violence towards children.

Only it’s not an ingeniously written dystopic novel, the author is actually taking it serious, and so, apparently, is a significant number of his readers.

I do love Verhoeven’s adaptation though.

(admittedly further down my hate-list, but somehow related)

John Scalzi - Old Man’s War

So after reading Lock In, I had Scalzi pegged as a progressive author. So I expected more from Old Man’s War than your regular heroes-kill-evil-aliens military scifi.
So I was cautiously optimistic about the initial setup: old people from Earth, which knows nothing about the galaxy at large, are given their youth back on the condition that they enlist as soldiers in intergalactic wars.
“Ah that’s a perfectly evil way to dupe recruits into fighting your dirty wars”, I thought, and read on, hoping for a later payoff.
Which never came.

It even had a truly Heinleinesque let’s-kill-off-the-pacifist-and-laugh-at-them scene.
I believe that was about the point when I stopped reading…


In all fairness his latter works were far more coherent and readable. Even though Cocaine Nights and Super Cannes are virtually identical in premise with a 20 year shift in tone.

There are a whole slew of books from this era glorifying a different form of self-destructive egotism in which the protagonist seems to glorify being utterly selfish in the guise of being a thoughtful examination of whatever pointless obsession they’ve chosen over caring for their children. This one left me absolutely enraged. You took a child across the country to work out your meandering existential crisis just to put them on a fucking Greyhound bus back home, letting them believe the whole time that there was another second leg of the trip with the father they never get to see? Fuck your motorcycle. I hope the engine explodes and burns your dick off.

Ok, boomer.


True I never could finish “Moby Dick” and I thought “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was the most boring book ever until I read “Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man,” but for me the crown goes to “JUSTICE IN THE WORLD OF KILLER WHALES” by Michael Kryder. It is a very bad novel in every sense of the word, and kind of fun in a Plan 9 sort of way. It’s a peurile eco-revenge non-thriller involving escaped performing orcas on the California coast, but that makes it sound more interesting than it is. The male characters get full names and pages of introduction each, the main female character is first name only for many pages, after her body is described in great detail and the author assures us that she is “a hottie”. There are several pages-long bulleted lists that describe the features of parks and boats, instead of writing about them in prose, you know, like a writer would do, plus raw hyperlinks in the printed text of the book to take you to a real-world web page that might better explain what the author is trying to say. Throw in a few completely inappropriate and out-of-nowhere hardcore sex scenes and graphic deaths, and you almost don’t notice that the dialogue is terrible and completely unconvincing. I’ve seen several so-bad-it’s-good movies, but this is the first novel I’ve seen in that unintentional genre.


Lousy books which made great movies:

Ordinary People: Mary Tyler Moore took a character who was pure selfish b—h by design and breathed humanity and pathos in it

The Graduate: Dustin Hoffman played his character with far more confusion and self effacement than the overly smug overconfident shmuck of the book

The Godfather: The less said about Sonny’s mistress’s “unique problem”, the better.

Jaws: Mafia subplot and Hooper’s affair with Mrs. Brody mercifully excised from the script.


Yes, but he does have some very dense works that aren’t particularly coherent…

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High Rise is probably his most famous in that vein. Granted it was meant as allegory, but it is still not an excuse.

Or maybe the one I mentioned, which is pretty incoherent… which is why I mentioned it and not his other works… I personally don’t find High Rise to be particularly incoherent compared to Atrocity Exhibition.


The Atrocity Exhibition is his most incoherent work, period. The only work from Ballard I just plain hated. Yet he is one of my faves. The Drowned World is the one I most enjoyed.


I’ll pile in with another Heinlein. In my case, it’s Farnham’s Freehold that hit the wall at a new high-disgust height.
I’d been one of those naive youths who thought that you should finish any book you’ve started, but this book was an early teacher that life’s too short to waste on bad books.


An inexplicable cosmic incident, followed by tedious mucking around for almost two-thirds of the book, in order to kill everyone down to seven and the start of the actual story, and by then I’m “meh.”


In no particular order:

  • I remember really hating Vanity Fair when I was forced to read it in high school. Can’t say why because all I remember is an endless wall of miniscule type blurring into infinity.

  • I have a love/hate relationship with the book Gerald’s Party by Robert Coover. I’ve read it three times because it seems like there’s something there that will justify the trouble of reading it, but I’m rebuffed every time. I gave my copy to my brother a few years ago. He’s smarter than me, maybe he’ll figure it out.

  • I’ll second @mikeR ‘s nomination of House of Leaves. Hated all of it - the digressive footnotes, the typewriter gymnastics, the plodding exploration of an interior landscape as devoid of features as the book was of interest. In Russel Hoban’s book Kleinzeit, the main character has a copy of Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War that he refers to as “his carrying book” ; he doesn’t read it, he just brings it with him everywhere so that people can see him holding it and make assumptions. House of Leaves would make a great carrying book. Still pisses me off to this day.