SURVEY SAYS: What's the Worst Book You Ever Read?

March 24, 2011 ( - This week’s bonus question comes from a reader:  “What’s the worst book you ever read/bought? 

I also asked readers what they did with that book after they were done with it?”  Surprisingly enough, there was a consistent theme running through this week’s responses.  

Before we get to the titles, I also asked readers if they had managed to finish that worst book – and most, 57.8% – said “no.”  Just over a third (35.6%) said they had finished it – while the remaining 6.7% weren’t sure.

I also asked what readers had done with those books when they finished with it (whether they actually finished reading it or not).  I gave readers three options (four, if you count “other”), and of those options, the responses fell out as follows:

22.2% – gave it away

17.8% – threw it away

13.3% – put it away

Now, as diverse as those responses are, it also leaves nearly half (46.7%) unaccounted for – and that, as you might expect, is the group that chose “other.”









So what did those “other” options turn out to be?  Well, some apparently burned the book, others gave it back to the person they got it from, and others said they had put it away with the intention of throwing it away – but just hadn’t gotten there yet.

But the most common response in the other category – roughly three-quarters of them, in fact – said they either returned it to the library, or donated it to the library.   

So, what ARE those books, anyway (you might want to watch out for them on the library shelves, after all)?  

I thought you'd NEVER ask....  


We had fiction:

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich (Is it plagarism if the author cuts and pastes from his/her own work? Seriously whole sections of Sizzling Sixteen were lifted from the author's prior books and given some, very little, cosmetic surgery. Unfortunately the author didn't steal the good stuff from herself. I put the book in my book case to remind me to not buy some authors' books on faith, but to read the reviews, especially the Amazon reaaders' reviews before I purchase their output.)

The Horse Whisperer, not because the book was bad but the ending was terrible.  I still remember how irritated I was after giving up a day to finish the book and it comes out like that! Yuck.

I hate to admit it because he's one of my favorite authors, but Tick Tock by Dean Koontz was TERRIBLE. I kept thinking it would get better because Koontz is usually great, but it just got worse.

Norman Mailer's The Castle in the Forest.

Choices Meant for Gods

The DaVinci Code - so full of half truths and out right lies that I couldn't finish it.

The Woman in the Box

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud

The Deer Park

Paula - a Memoir (P.S.) by Isabel Allende

John Kennedy Toole's A Conspiracy of Dunces - and what's worse than it was the worst book I ever read is that so many people apparently like it!  It was a recommendation from my friends at Amazon based on what I had purchased (and enjoyed) before...

I don't know if it was the worst book, but after 25 pages of "Harry Potter I", I couldn't take it.

Snow White and the Russian Red

one of those Robert Ludlum things - maybe "Bourne Conspiracy" or something?

Pet Cemetery

Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb

Cold Mountain

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. 

We had non-fiction

Unrestricted Warfare

Something about conversations with God - the guy claims that God reinvents himself constantly.


There were some in biography/autobiography:

The Audacity of Hope

Julie and Julia

"John Adams" by David McCullough...not one of his better offerings

Remembering Herbie: Celebrating the Life and Times of Hockey Legend Herb Brooks 

There were, of course, “classics”:


To Kill a Mockingbird.

I would have to say it is a toss up between two I was forced to read in school: Silas Marner (could anything be more depressing and why on earth would you make a kid read something like that?) and Moby Dick which, as an English Major I had to read in both high school and college. Interestingly, I never did read more than about a quarter of it and got an A on the test both times. YAWN.

Little Dorit by Charles Dickens

I've probably blocked out all the bad ones - but my guess is that they were textbooks of dubious value.

History of the Peloponnesian Wars.

Where the Wild Things are.  I'm sure my 3 1/2 year old loves it, but to me it makes no sense. 

And while some couldn’t quite remember the title, the memory “lingered”:

"I can't remember the exact title but it had something to do with finances and tax planning.  Bought it back in 1996 to help me file my taxes (in the days before TurboTax was widely available). It was purported to save you ""thousands"" on your taxes.  In the end, I didn't learn anything from it I didn't already know.  It was such a thick book, and I'd paid so much for it, I felt obligated to keep it for a number of years.  Best thing I did was donate it to Goodwill and take a tax write off for it 😉

But the truly WORST book I'd ever read must have been a compilation of happy endings one of my students (from my past life as an instructor) wrote.  She rewrote every sad (but realistic) ending of a short story, movie or play so they all ended happily and presented that to me for extra credit in a composition course.  I was a bit taken aback as I hadn't asked anyone to do anything for extra credit, and I suspect she'd been holding on to this tome hoping someone would ask for it.  I read it, offered some advice, gave it back.  It was horrible... I remember how she rewrote Shirley Jackson's ""The Lottery"" (a truly chilling short story) to end happily with kids tossing daises at the lottery winner and laughing about it all being a joke.  She had more than one ""Dallas"" ending where someone woke up and ""it was all a bad dream"" (A Tale of Two Cities...yes...she did that to the Dickens' classic).  Why did I actually read it?  Well, I guess I felt a professional obligation to do so at the time.  Were I in the same situation today, I'd probably look at one page, make a comment, and toss it back.  Oh well" 

But for most readers, the worst book they ever read….well:

I don't remember the title.  It was so bad I put it out of my mind.

So bad I can't remember the name but it was a popular author.  I can't imagine why though.

I can't remember a book I really didn't like. If I can't get into the story within 50 pages I stop reading it.

It's hard to say what the worst book is that I ever read only because the book was not worth remembering!

If a book isn't good right from the start, I don't finish it.  Too many good books out there and too little time!

All books that I just couldn't make it through are tied for worst.

It was so bad I've pushed the name from memory


These, however, were my favorite “worsts”:

"Ha ---I'm sure it was a textbook!  Can't wait to see the list so I can avoid them.

Ten years ago, my husband felt sorry for a self-published author attempting to sell his novel at our local bookstore, so he purchased a copy.  Styled as a murder mystery, the novel (the title of which we have thankfully forgotten) attempted to be salacious by gratuitously detailing almost every sort of sexual taboo known to man.  My husband made it about four pages into the book before becoming nauseous.  Coupled with the poor writing and grammar, it made for a really unpleasant read.  To this day, neither of us has ever been willing to purchase a self-published book again.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  It's also the longest book I've ever read, and it doesn't even have a happy ending!

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who cited “The Wideacre Trilogy by Phillipa Gregory.  The synopsis made it sound like a Gone With the Wind type of romance.  Turned out it was more like Paris Hilton set back in the 1800s and sleeping with her brother.  About 15 hours of my life the author owes me.”

 Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!  And thanks for the “warnings”!