It is finally time… for me to complain about all the books I did not like this year. I actually read quite a few books this year that I didn’t not enjoy all that much. If you’ve been keeping up with my reading experiments, you probably already know about most of the books on this list. Definitely do not want to read this many one-star books ever again, so I will definitely be figuring out how to fix that for next year. But for now, you get to hear me rant about the ten books I liked the least this year.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I know, this book is kind of a big deal. Even if you haven’t heard of any of the other books on this list, you’ve probably heard of this one. And it has been on my TBR for ages, so I was glad to finally cross it off my list this year. It popped up for a reading experiment early on this year, so it was the perfect opportunity to force myself to read it. I was expecting some philosophical, existential fable-type story. Not my favorite thing to read, but they’re okay once in a while.
What I was not expecting was that animals would meet their brutal demise in this book. I haven’t seen the adaptation, but I knew enough about it that I was aware there would be a tiger. I was not aware, however, that the tiger isn’t the only animal on that little boat in the beginning of the book (not sure about the movie). And I know tigers have to eat, but I could not handle the graphicness (and slowness) of the tiger’s mealtime. Absolutely not for me. It turned me off this whole book and there was nothing that could have saved it for me.
The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison
That exact same reading experiment brought me this gem (said with the utmost sarcasm). Absolutely nothing in the synopsis of this book gave any clue as to what this book really is. Which is Sherlock fan fiction. Or, more specifically, wing-fic, which I only know is a thing because of this book. Basically, it’s Sherlock but set in the 1800s and Sherlock is an angel fighting demons. Which already sounds like something I probably wouldn’t enjoy.
And then you factor in the fact that it’s fan fiction. Which I do not have a problem with at all (I don’t personally enjoy reading it, but don’t judge people who do). My problem with the fan fiction-ness of this book was that it was very badly edited into novel form. My understanding of fan fiction is that it’s generally serialized and not heavily edited (correct me if I’m wrong here). And this just felt like something that came straight off of Wattpad and got printed by a publisher.
I kind of hated the story (I’m a huge Sherlock fan, and this ruined it), and the writing was not the worst, but it’s like this book was missing an editor. Which one would assume would be involved since this was published by Tor (which is a big-name in the publishing world). Can you tell I’m still mad about this book? Because I kind of am. But it is not the book I hated the most this year.
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
This book is what happens when the author assumes all of their readers are complete morons. Because not only is everything in this book explained to death, it still doesn’t make sense. Like, I was bored… but also confused and slightly angry? The premise of this book was actually kind of cool. A detective attends an engagement party at a hotel I the Alps that used to be a sanatorium. And there’s a mysterious figure in a plague mask wandering around in the storm outside and them people start dying.
You would think a detective would be all over solving murders and everything would be exciting and thrilling. At least, that’s what I assumed. But that would have required the author to put some faith in her readers and understand that it’s super annoying when it takes the “detective” in the story like five pages longer than the reader to figure out that the dead body in the pool missing fingers might be a murder victim. Yeah, I did not like this one.
The Duke, A Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley
For Valentine’s Day, I decided to do a reading experiment I’ve been considering for a while and read seven books in seven days – since it was Valentine’s Day, I went with romances. And because I wanted to read more diversely this year, I decided to read only romances by black authors (click here to read the whole post). And while there were a few books in that experiment I really enjoyed, there were also a few pretty awful ones. Including this book.
It’s about a woman who poses as a male servant to save her child from his new guardian, a mean, old duke (he’s not that old, but definitely grumpy). Not super up my alley, but it had pretty good diversity with characters of color and disabilities (the duke is wheelchair-bound). But I hated so much about this book. Partly the fact that the duke called his servants – including our MC – “minions”, and I could not get that image out of my head. Partly because this book literally uses the phrase “fleshy congress” (I had to read it, so you do, too). And if that was not creepy enough, there’s also the breastfeeding fetish. This was a hard no from me. I would like to forget having ever read it, so we are never ever speaking of this book ever again.
Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon
For the same experiment, I thought it might be fun to include one romance written by a man. Because I don’t think you see that very often. Plus, I liked the idea that this was a m/m romance written by a male LGBT+ author. And it’s about a book club, so all great, right? Yeah, not so much. Where this all went south for me was when the love interest, who is a bookseller, shows up uninvited to the MC’s house for his book club (after having made fun of him for his reading tastes). As an adult in their 30s, my first thought was “oh, hell no” followed by “RUN, you moron”. Stalking is never cute, sorry.
I tried to justify this one to myself a little bit. Maybe it’s for a younger audience and I’m just too old and jaded for this book. But you know what? I kind of think this romanticized some toxic behaviors and I didn’t like the thought of younger readers internalizing that, either. So as much as I wanted to enjoy this, there were just too many red flags.
For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing
If any of you have watched the Gossip Girl reboot and thought maybe it was a little creepy/weird, and kind of not okay, that the adult teachers where fueling the very teenage drama, that’s kind of what this book felt like. It was just a bunch of adults acting like immature teenagers. I didn’t totally dislike the plot, but I had trouble with this book because I hated the characters. I don’t think they were supposed to be completely likable, but I have to care about them a little bit to want to keep reading. That did not happen here, unfortunately.
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This book and For Your Own Good are the only books from this list to also be featured on my most disappointing books of the year list. Because this was one I was really looking forward to. I loved Gods of Jade and Shadow, and thought Mexican Gothic was pretty good, so I thought it might be fun to read something different from Silvia Moreno-Garcia. And this was really not my thing at all.
I absolutely appreciate that Silva Moreno-Garcia branches out and tries new genres. But there’s something that can be said for knowing what you’re getting with an author. And I personally don’t think that all of her books are going to be for everyone. The three that I’ve read have been so wildly different form each other, that it’s hard to believe they’re by the same author.
Obviously, this one was not the book for me. I didn’t care for the story or the characters or really the writing in this one. Which was such a bummer because I know Silvia Moreno Garcia can write books that I love (not that she is or needs to be writing for me). But I really just want more of Gods of Jade and Shadow.
Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman
It might be just me, but I really do not enjoy reading about people cheating on each other. The synopsis says this is “sexy” and “fun” neither of which are words I would use to describe this book. It’s basically the last couple left in a group of married friends (the other two couples have divorced) and in order to not get divorced, they decide to open their marriage. Which goes about as well as you think it might.
I really did not like this book. Everything that happened in it was just the result of people being stupid and choosing the worst options for every decision. I can’t imagine anyone finding this fun to read, because it just was really not enjoyable for me. And I’m going to stop talking about this because it’s making me annoyed all over again.
The Once and Future King by T. H. White
This is one of those books I have been hearing about for years. The cover of the copy I had (until I got rid of it) claimed that this book is “The World’s Greatest Fantasy Classic”, so it just felt like something I should look into. And then when I read the entire Harvard summer reading list, I got the opportunity to read this masterpiece.
And I hated it. It is supposed to be a children’s book (I got strong Harry Potter, but from the 50s vibes). But it not only features a cat getting boiled alive, but a very racist hawk. This book did not age well at all. And I can’t imagine being okay with a child reading this book. It also really wasn’t that fun of a read even when you set aside the racism and cat boiling. Absolutely hard nope from me, and I sincerely hope this “classic” goes away.
Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
And I saved the worst for last. I only read this book for the reading experiment in which I read Drew Barrymore’s favorite classic novels. This one intrigued me, because she loved it enough that she made it the book her character in 50 First Dates reads every single day. And this book is supposed to be about love and whatever. So I was very surprised to discover that this was the most offensively sexist (and gross) books I have ever read.
This book is the epitome of “men writing women” and I could not get past it. My blogger friend Kat also read this book (for a reading experiment in which she read some of Sebastian Stan’s favorite books), and we both agreed that it is an absolute red flag for anyone to say this is their favorite book. It’s that bad.
Seriously, if someone says this is one of their favorite books, just run away. I do not get it at all, and I would like to permanently erase this book from my brain. Unfortunately, the phrase “folds of saltmeats and peach” is burned into my brain (and yes, that is referring to exactly what you think it is). Did I mention this book is also racist? Yeah, it’s actually the worst and I’m angry that I read it.
And that is it for the worst books I’ve read this year! If you liked any of these books, I’m sorry for shitting on them – but we can’t all like the same books. Unless of course you enjoyed Still Life with Woodpecker, in which case, you should maybe stop reading my blog and go rethink your entire life.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post! What was the worst book you read in 2021?
And check out my bookshop, where you can buy books and also shop my curated collections of my personal favorites AND all of the books I’ve read for my reading experiments. Or you can just buy whatever books you want to. I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, and you get to support your choice of indie bookstores – it’s a win all around!