Recommending Books I Didn’t Like

orangutan list

Well, I’ve been a bit negative lately, so I thought it would be a good idea to try and turn things around. I was completely inspired by an amazing video by Elliot Brooks over on booktube to start recommending books I don’t like. And since I always say that other people might like books I give 2 bananas, I thought it was time for me to put my bananas where my mouth is and recommend some books I don’t like… or something that sounds less like I’m just stuffing my face 😉 And I’m gonna try to do it all while standing on one leg not insulting any of these books. Wish me luck!

love_in_the_time_of_cholera

Love in a Time of Cholera– an exquisitely written book with distinct characters- I just didn’t like it because I hate stream of consciousness- but if that’s your jam, I’m sure you’ll love it!

mrs dalloway

Mrs Dalloway– similarly, no one can dispute that Woolf was an incredible writer (her twists on imagery is second to none), but I just can’t stand stream of consciousness.

sun also rises

The Sun Also Rises– again, I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m not a fan of pared-down writing. In fact, I’ve spoken at length about how I think there’s a Fitzgerald-Hemmingway divide– people tend to like one or the other! So if you’re not a fan of Fitzgerald, chances are you’ll love this. Plus, even I, with my biases, can see that the characterisation is incredibly realistic and fascinating.

lonely hearts hotel

Lonely Hearts Hotel– oof it hurts my soul that I didn’t love this book, because O’Neill is a very talented writer- I’m just not her target audience. This may well be for people who love post-modernism.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian– there were a number of reasons why I didn’t click with this book: namely that I was too old for this middle grade and it felt too rooted in American culture for me to get- sorry! But if you are the target demographic, it’ll probably work for you (goodness knows the ratings on Goodreads suggest as much!)

dune

Dune– another one that pains me to admit I didn’t like! Dune is *classic* sci fi material- I just couldn’t get on with the writing style! But if you want interesting ideas, this is the way to go.

Watchmen_HC

Watchmen– I’ve never been able to figure out why I didn’t like this one (even though I thought Moore’s other famous graphic novel, V for Vendetta, was incredible). Perhaps if you give it a go it’ll work better for you- there’s plenty of people that’ll tell you it’s a classic!

Steelheart

Steelheart– this one is *super easy* to recommend because 1) I love Sanderson 2) it’s brilliantly written and 3) the plot is amazing. The only reason I didn’t love it is because I personally didn’t connect with the characters- but that’s no fault of the book! So, if you’re looking for a genius take on superheroes, you can’t go wrong with this!

magician's guild

Magician’s Guild– kind of cheating, cos I ended up loving this series- but that’s why I continue to recommend the first one even though I didn’t like it! It gets so much better!!

The_goldfinch_by_donna_tart

Goldfinch– I personally didn’t connect with this because of its length, but having read (and adored) the Secret History, I’m actually pretty keen to revisit the Goldfinch. Regardless of whether it ends up being for me or not, I think Tartt is a class act and worth reading.

communist manifesto

The Communist Manifesto– yeahhh I’m going there, cos why the heck not? I’m definitely not recommending that you become a communist, but I trust people to check it out for themselves and not take my word for it that it’s *bad* (looks like I failed at not insulting the books on this list 😉)

Gosh that was a challenging post to do! Do you agree or disagree with my choices? (I know I’m certainly questioning everything I’ve written here 😉) And do you have any books you didn’t like that you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments!

71 thoughts on “Recommending Books I Didn’t Like

  1. That’s a super intriguing blog post title!! 😄 And hey! I also adored Secret History and was quite baffled not to fall in love with the Goldfinch. 😂 But that’s just how it is, just like with music bands, there’s always an album you don’t like/get although you’re a fan. 😁

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  2. Thanks for your honesty in admitting that you aren’t the target audience for many of these books. I’m not the target audience for so many books, my list would make your list, list. Many years ago I taught a brilliant fourth grade student (that’s age 9 or 10 if you don’t know) who read The Communist Manifesto. He was very proud of having tackled something no one else had tried, but I seriously doubt he understood any of it. Sometimes the words are much smaller than the ideas presented.

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    1. Yeah I totally relate to that- I think there are loads of books I love, which I can see why others wouldn’t. Oh that’s really interesting- I’d definitely be impressed with a 9/10 year old reading the communist manifesto! (also thanks for the heads up with the grades, I never know what people are talking about when they mention them 😉 )

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  3. I believe I’ve read three books by Canavan, and disliked them all… but Dune I love 😛

    As to the Communist Manifesto… I’ve always been an anti-communist, and wasn’t impressed by the Manifesto when I had to read it at university, but… in the context of its times, was it so bad? I mean, the other side published some truly abhorred things at the time as well. Now, sure, it’s obsolete, but the evil of historical communism I would not blame on Marx. Wow, can’t believe I wrote that, I’m actually an admirer of the likes of Karl Popper, not Karl M. 😉

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    1. hehe that’s a pity! But fair enough. haha!

      I can understand that argument (and have heard it a lot) but I’m afraid I don’t exactly see it the same way. I think, for me, I was surprised by how warped a lot of the ideas in it were. I mean, I don’t hold Marx personally responsible for all the crimes of communism, but I guess my main contention comes from the fact I disagree with the (somewhat still popular) idea that communism/Marxism is a nice idea that doesn’t work- I think it’s a bad idea that will inevitably fail and cause untold misery- and I think the evidence for this is in the manifesto itself and the parallels you can draw between it and every incarnation of communism that has ever existed, across vastly disparate cultures. hehe sorry, that got a little ranty, didn’t mean that to happen 😉

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      1. For me, it is a mostly bad idea, but also an understandable reaction to the reality around him. Soon, it was proven that small, practical improvements are better than grand, unrealistic ideas. But confronted with XIX century capitalism I think I could become a communist myself. Not in Poland after our experiences with communism though.

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  4. Oops! Meant to include my favorite book to intensely dislike: “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Murakami Haruki. I hated feeling used by a story that wandered all over the place from one completely unlikely scenario to another, from one hateful or weird character to another. And I don’t like existential literature. Let me read the philosophy description instead. In fairness to the writer, I read exactly half the book, threw it away, and read a synopsis of the rest. Then I was totally convinced of how bizarre the plot and character arcs were, and realized my choice not to read the rest allowed me to read other books I found more substantial and engaging. As you note, I’m not his audience.

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    1. Ahh I’m really not into Murakami Haruki, so I can understand that! I don’t like that either! And yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense- I can see that he has an audience and get why, but he’s just not for me (incidentally, Norwegian wood, the book I read by him, nearly made it onto this list, but I thought I might save it for another occasion, especially cos I wasn’t in the mood to be nice about it 😉 )

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  5. I supposed I could recommend to others Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that’s supposed to be so darned funny and inciteful and ironic and whatever. Even loving British humor I loathed it. But if you like to like what people like then you may like it. That’s kind of how the “humor” hit me.

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  6. I really like this idea for a post! Steelheart is one of those books that I always recommend to people too because Sanderson is an amazing storyteller! But, it was also hard for me to connect to the characters (plus I’m not the biggest fan of superhero things 😬). My friend is a MCU nerd and was obsessed with this series after I recommended it to her, so to each their own 😄.

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  7. I’ve tried and tried to get into Love in a Time of Cholera but it just ain’t doing anything for me. Same goes for anything by Hemmingway….
    My list would include A Tale of Two Cities (given up on it 4 times now but ‘everyone’ seems to think its brilliant so it must just me me)

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    1. Yeah neither of those worked for me, so I don’t blame you 😉
      Oh fair enough! I really like Tale of Two Cities (for the central plot and because it has some beautiful writing) but it’s an incredibly flawed book and sags in the middle (which I thought was the generally accepted view!)

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  8. Oh! My! Goodness! You don’t love, adore and almost worship Dune? Well, I say! I guess we know who’s not getting any presents from Santa next Christmas 😉

    Book recommendations, or un-recommendations, are such a hard thing. Even people whose tastes are similar to mine, if they recommend something, I still always check other sources before diving in.

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    1. hahahaha! I know! I know!

      Yeah they really are- and the thing is, even if something’s great and everyone and their mother recommends it (as was the case with Dune for me) it can still not gel unfortunately. We just have to allow for the fact that everyone has different tastes, and that’s okay.

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  9. I hated Love in the Time of Cholera too. I’m so sick of literary fiction with child rape in it. Who decided child rape was fancy? I had to read so much freaking pedophilia to get an M.A in English Lit. It’s gross and one of the many reasons I don’t trust the whole idea of “literay fiction” and “classics.” The weirdest flipping tropes end up in these ivory tower reads.

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  10. I hated Love in the Time of Cholera too. I’m so sick of literary fiction with child rape in it. Who decided child rape was fancy? I had to read so much freaking pedophilia to get an M.A in English Lit. It’s gross and one of the many reasons I don’t trust the whole idea of “literay fiction” and “classics.” The weirdest flipping tropes end up in these ivory tower reads.

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  11. I love this idea! I think that we can find positive aspects even of books we don’t like. I don’t particularly enjoy stream of consciousness, either, or Hemingway’s prose, but I recognize that there are parts of the books that are well done. But…I loved Steelheart! 😀

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  12. I LOVED The Goldfinch, but I also think that’s largely because I listened to the audiobook. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it quite as much if I’d tried to read the paperback. For me, format definitely makes a difference.

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  13. I thought the Goldfinch went on a bit and I lost the point (but that’s just me scanning too mich). My daughter took it to read on the flight back to NZ and loved it. I wonder if this is because, being dyslexic, she read it properly and absorbed every nuance. She was full of praise when she emailed to say she’d finished it.
    As for the Communist manifesto – I haven’t read it either, but have always felt the basic ideals of Communism could have been better implemented. If only they’d taken into account human nature – excrement also rises. (It also seems to help reform when leaders have some knowledge and experience of ruling and don’t prioritise revenge over good government.)

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    1. Yeah I felt much the same. I do think that if I’d not felt the length of it so much, I’d have enjoyed it more. That makes sense! And glad she enjoyed it! I know so many people that did 🙂

      I see your point- and I used to think that communism was a nice idea that doesn’t work- but I don’t feel that way anymore. Having read the manifesto and read a lot of non-fiction on communism (like Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, the book that brought down the Soviet Union, which really exemplifies why the ideas of communism didn’t work and could never work) I don’t believe it could have been better implemented, because I don’t think the ideas in it are good. In fact, I think that collectivisation, state control and undermining family units are bound to bring about misery (all of which are advocated in the manifesto) And I think you make a good point about revenge- because that’s one of my fundamental issues with it- so much of it is predicated on resentment.

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  14. Dune is quite the marmite read. Personally I love it, but I know a lot of people who cannot understand why I would! I’m also a big fan of Watchmen, although it was one of my first graphic novels which might have biased me. And oddly, it’s one time the film changed the ending… for the better, imo!! o.O

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  15. Steelheart was my first Sanderson — and I didn’t like it, so for the longest time I thought I didn’t like Sanderson. (I have since read Legion and realized that I like Sanderson, just not Steelheart.) So it’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who didn’t like it.

    Also, based on my high school reading preferences, I’m on the Hemingway side of the Fitgerald-Hemingway Divide. 😉 I remember really liking The Sun Also Rises, though I want to re-read it (and The Great Gatsby) to see if I’m still on the same side of the Divide that I was before.

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  16. Great post! I haven’t read all of these. I do have a copy of The Sun Also Rises waiting to be read.

    I did like Dune, plus I recently found out that the giant sand worms in it were based on the Mongolian Death Worm, so you can’t go wrong there.

    It’s weird, many of your reasons for not liking the books were “the writing style is just not my thing” or “I just didn’t connect with the characters.” You should become a literary agent because that is exactly the kind of thing they say in their boilerplate letters rejecting authors’ offerings! 😀

    Finally, I completely agree that some books, though awful, ought to be read precisely because they are so dangerous. The Communist Manifesto is one of these. I once saw a book about the 10 most destructive books in world history (or worst books, or most dangerous books, can’t remember), and the Communist Manifesto was one of the ten, as was the Kinsey Report. Anyway, the author did NOT recommend that these books be burned or banned. Once they are out there, he said, their ideas are on the loose and the only good way to fight these bad ideas is to read them, understand them, and argue with them.

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    1. Thank you! Ah I’d be interested to see what you thought of that one!

      hehe that’s interesting!! Didn’t know that!!

      hahahahaha! well that’s good to know 😉 I think if I stuck to that all the time, I’d be really good at that 😉 (I also think that those boilerplate rejections are probably the most honest- because I’ve watched some agents going through pages and saying why they’d reject/keep going and a lot of it is entirely subjective!)

      Yes I very much agree with you. I would definitely put the Communist Manifesto on that list. And yes, I agree- books like that should never be banned. Not just because they need to be studied to understand history, but because we need to be able to argue against them again and again (I don’t think that these battles are ever fully won).

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      1. Yeh, maybe I’ll post about The Sun Also Rises when I get to it. Which could be a long time from now.

        Interesting that you’ve watched agents in action. I know them only through their blogs. 🙂 Yes, I do believe the “I just didn’t connect with it” is completely honest. After all, you’d have to love a book a lot more to advocate for it, than to just finish reading it!

        So true. We are fighting just such a battle now, over here.

        Best!

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  17. I love/hate Dune 😁 as in – I’m glad I picked it up, I loved the setting & ideas but the writing was kinda dry & I couldn’t connect with the characters. I would still recommend it too!

    And also it introduced me to that funky movie with Sting 😬

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  18. Watchmen is my jam! You would not believe how heavily that book influenced my life. I did a presentation for it in my US History class in high school, I saw the midnight premiere for its film adaptation, and I even wrote my gigantic college thesis on it.

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  19. I seldom finish books that aren’t for me, so I fear that if I recommended books I did not enjoy, they would all be those required reading books from my youth. I do, however, agree, that just because a book was not for me doesn’t mean it is bad, and I think it’s great to sit back and reflect on a book in that way.

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  20. I looked up The Lonely Hearts Hotel because of the cover. I mean, because it sounded interesting. Anyway, the blurb sounded amazing but when I read the reviews, oh wow it sounds messed up… heavy material there. Dune is on my TBR and I hope I’ll enjoy it, but thanks for putting in that bit about the writing style (so I’ll be mentally prepared). Interesting post!

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