Have You Ever Thrown a Book Across the Room?
I’ve belonged to several book groups over the years, and some time ago one of my groups started a new book that I hadn’t helped select. I began reading and quickly pegged it as a Really Bad Book.
Not that I’d tell anyone, of course. (Just you.) But I couldn’t stop thinking about how poorly the book was crafted, how I would have edited, how cheesy it was. Normally when I read for enjoyment, I’m fairly good at turning off my internal editor. But not this time.
Then I found out that Really Bad Book had been out for almost a decade, was a perennial strong seller, and had even been made into a movie (direct to DVD). Clearly others had a different opinion than I did.
How can this happen? How can such a badly written book (in my opinion) go on to such success?
It happens all the time—there are lots of books that you or I would consider badly written but sell boatloads of copies and even become movies. I struggle with it, as I know many of you do. I drive myself crazy wondering why I can’t sell some of my clients’ fantastic books when that stuff is getting published.
But then I have to take a step back and remember why I’m in this business in the first place. I love books. I love writing and I love writers. It doesn’t mean I have to love every book specifically; but I love the fact that there are so many different people writing so many different books. It takes all kinds, right?
And besides, I’m just one person with an opinion. Who am I to judge? Some of the books I love would undoubtedly be called Really Bad by others.
I’m so glad I have the freedom to choose which kinds of books to read, which ones to represent…and which ones to pretend don’t exist!
As for the
Really Bad Book Book That Did Not Appeal To Me, I tried to change my attitude and read it with as little judgment as possible, but I found it difficult. I couldn’t read more than a third of it. So for that particular book group meeting, I stayed unusually quiet, knowing if I opened my mouth I’d probably regret it.
How do you deal with the fact that there are so many books that you think are BAD? Does it cause you any frustration? Resentment? What helps you put it all in perspective? (Please don’t name any books in the comments.)
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent. An earlier version of this post ran on my blog in 2009.
[…] so far this year at the time of writing this.) In her post about reading as part of a book group Have you ever thrown a book across the room? literary agent Rachelle Gardner also seems to favour keeping quiet, and that’s in […]
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>Yes, but maybe not because why others have. The book I threw across the room was Angela’s Ashes. I’m not saying the book was bad by any means. My aunt had told me how great it was and how much I really needed to read it. By the time the third child died (I assume this is not a spoiler as this is an older book) I had had enough! Life’s too short to read such sadness. Don’t get me wrong, I love tragedy…but only if there is hope. And, I simply cannot find pleasure in children suffering.
>I was given a boatload of books about grief and loss after my husband died of cancer when I was 42. One in particular was very popular but it made me crazy. The author's "significant" loss was superficial to me and the book included all these simple formulas you were supposed to follow and then everything would be just swell. After reading about 2/3's of it, I cut it up into tiny little bits. That really helped.
Years later I read Jerry Sittser's "A Grace Disguised" and that book was amazing. Much of it read almost like poetry. It's the only book I would recommend for anyone experiencing any kind of grief or loss.
>Consider the Crows by Charlene Weir. Wanted to throw that book but I actually paid money for it, so I couldn't. 😛 It was just… a bad book. Uninteresting. I know some people must've liked it, but I'd picked it up to read something I wouldn't normally… Yeah, bad fiction. It was one of those books with an interesting cover and summary that just disappointed me so much I had to skim to the end. Bleck.
>I thought those books were called wallbangers.
>There is a very famous book (published 1922 – say no more) that I've tried a dozen times to get my head around. To me, the author simply fails to engage the reader. I know I'm not alone, but a million plus readers would disagree. Sometime a book doesn't work no matter how much you'd like it to.
>Ah, yes, the infamous book tosser. That would be moi. Since buying my Kindle, though, I've found that clicking "remove from device" is almost as satisfying. Not quite, but almost.
What frosts my turnip is bestselling authors who have apparently become so popular (or so diva-tastic) they never receive the editing they need. I've given up on several of them, authors I used to read and enjoy whose work I'll not bother with now because I know there will be too many bad sentences and even plot holes that should have been fixed but weren't.
>Such self-control, I'm very impressed!
>Yes, I've read many Really Bad Books. I started one just recently in fact, by a highly praised and well known suspense author. But his pov hopped around so much within scenes it drove me crazy, and I couldn't continue. Too bad, because the premise was good.
I try hard to chalk it up to people getting lucky or me just having a different opinion. But as an aspiring author, there are days when it's frustrating to see how many Really Bad Books are published by traditional houses.
>Reading this made me smile. Funny how I just sent you something about this very thing. Great minds think alike…or, maybe, it's our relationship (client/agent). You complete me.
>In over 50 years of reading, there have been a lot of books that I've wanted to throw across the room, or feed to the dog. The only ones I really want to get rid of fast are the ones that are highly recommended by a friend or someone I trust to know what they're about.
I've come to some conclusions over the years: 1. Not everyone likes the same things (which is a good thing). 2. Even bad writers have friends (some don't have good editors, but they have friends). 3. Just because its highly touted and critically acclaimed doesn't mean I have to like it. 4. Just because I like it doesn't mean everyone will. Finally, no one forced me to buy or read the bad ones. The only one I have to blame for a bad experience is myself (this one's hard to swallow).
I will probably continue to find unreadable books that are well received by others. But I will also probably continue to find virtual gems that no one else appreciates.
>There are books that are praised (by the literati) as being superbly written and deep with meaning and are cataloged as topshelf literature. I have some of them in my "I'll get back to them later" stack. I couldn't finish them (and probably never will). At the same time, I have read books that have been dissed by the critics and the writers and the wannabe writers as being poorly written and vapid. I've read them in one "page-turner" sitting. Even though the book entertained the heck out of me, I never mention to my writer friends that I liked "said" book. I would totally lose credibility.
>I used to read voraciously when I was younger (some say I still do) but there are a couple of authors I just can't 'get into'. I don't bother even looking at their books.
Other fiction that I don't bother with – anything to do with dragons or King Arthur.
I may miss the odd gem, but there are plenty of other books out there…
>As much as I hate spending time on a bad book, I actually find them useful. After I read a really poorly written book, I feel more confident about my own writing. I’m currently reading a book that’s one of the worst I’ve ever read. Compared to that horrible book, my stories are a bit better.
>As a writer who spends hours every day working on revisions, reading books on how to write and how not to write, I get cheesed-off (my blog comment friendly term) when I see the following annoying things in "bestsellers" and "critically acclaimed" novels:
-sagging middles (ugly on people and books
-dopey female characters
-boring and unsympathetic characters
-gaping plot holes
-many really and totally and excessively used adverbs that truly do not need to be there
-a line by line account of what the author did with the huge advance he received for a book nobody will want to read five years from now
>I throw books across the room all the time, not because they are bad, but because I have ADHD. Only a book that grabs me in the first page and continues to hold me on every page is going to keep me reading. I've chucked the best, but it's nothing personal.
>I threw one by a NY Times best selling author across the room and will never buy another of this author's books again. Why? Because this author can't be trusted by me. Author took the easy way out and didn't take a stand on the story's issue. If an author takes on a tough subject, they should have the fortitude to take a stand one way or the other.
And no, the issue wasn't a pro-life one.
>While I've never thrown a book across the room, I have read a few, or started to read a few, that I knew just weren't my cup of tea and either recycled them or stuck them on a shelf somewhere. I really think it comes down to preference. Like any artform. I just had this proven to myself when I read a review today of my favorite book. It only received a 2 out of a possible 5 stars and the reviewer had a few paragraphs worth of things that in her opinion the author had done horribly wrong. This is honest to goodness one of the best books I've ever read! So I'm definitely going with preference on this topic.
>Very seldom do I get to read for just pure fun (but of course, I do.)
Most of the books I read have been for review (for magazines,) but one magazine I review for the editor doesn't want me trashing a book (with specific instructions this last round.) Sigh. So this last round I have to get creative on a book that was Really Bad (in.my.opinion.)
Sometimes creative writing is done under the cover of truth. I have some Southern roots so I'll probably just say, "Well, bless this author's heart!" a lot.
Only once have I actually thrown a book. I was sooo mad he killed off a character I really loved early in the book–but really, the book did get better, but I disagreed that this character should've been killed. Gack.
>When I began seriously writing longer fiction I quickly stopped being judgemental. It didn't take me long to figure out how hard it is to write any kind of book. Even though I might sometimes be puzzled as to why a book is a big seller, kudos to anyone who can get from chapter one to chapter 12 + and make any kind of sense.
I used to feel obligated to finish a book once I'd started but now I'm very comfortable about putting it aside and finding something I enjoy instead.
>There are quite a few books I have picked up and didn't like. I tend to either force myself to read them or set them aside (however, I have never thrown a book). Usually I try to figure out what really bothers me about the book. Why do I do I feel the way I do about it? Then, being a writer, I endeavor to avoid those same things in my own writing.
>There's a short list of books I haven't been able to finish. There was only one that nearly went flying across the room. But it was a library book, so I refrained.
>There are too many good books out there to waste time forcing myself to finish a bad one. Sometimes, it's not the writer's fault. Maybe I'm not in the mood for that particular genre, or I'm distracted or 101 other reasons. I'll give it another chance but after strike two, it goes in the donation pile. Chances are, it's better loved somewhere else.
>I can't put a book down once I start it, so I will finish a book even if I hate it.
I try to figure out why I hate it. By the point I've figured out the 5 or 6 style choices that are irking me, I'm about halfway through. At that point, I start thinking about how I would write it differently.
Once I've finished it, I donate it to a book giveaway, or send it to Goodwill where some poor soul will only pay a few dollars for it.
(Though I did throw one book down in disgust, and it was made into a widely popular hollywood movie as well. I've only done that once in the last 300 books I've read.)
>As a writer who is trying to break into the publishing industry, it frustrates me to no end to see books being published that aren't that good – especially when I feel that my manuscript would really be enjoyed by readers as something fresh and new (in my unbiased opinion:)!
>I bought a couple of books in a series (used!) because I just knew I'd love them as they were modern takes on some classics that I adore. They were horrific. And the author has written dozens and done quite well.
What did I do? I STOPPED READING THEM. And I donated them to my church library. Clearly someone out there likes them. Maybe someone I go to church with will, too. I used to finish every book I started (except Ulysses–no one really reads all of that), but no more. If it stinks (in my opinion) I move on. And I try to follow my momma's advice and say nothing if I can't say anything nice.
>I can't read a book without analyzing it anymore. There have been several books that I thought were poorly written. I tried my best to get through them anyway because I feel that I always have something to learn. I did read one though that I gave up on half way through…something about an alien monster underground that came up periodically and ate young guys genitals off leaving them for dead. The book was promoted as a crime fiction. Not sure what the author of that one was thinking of.
>I threw a Danielle Steele book across the room because she had reached the point where her books were formulaic and just plain annoying. Yes, it's annoying that bad books can get published and many good ones don't, but mostly it gives me hope because I always believe that people really DO want good books. I think they do. I hope they do….
>It's all subjective and maybe someday somewhere my story will hit the right agent/editor at the right moment it will be golden. So I guess it gives a taste of realism for what it's going to be like for me someday. (hopefully. :-))
>Eh, I think most people have those books that they consider "guilty pleasures."
But it raises far more pressing questions about the state of our society when one looks at books that are best sellers and notice how many celebrate utter depravity. That is what worries me more; not such much the quality of writing, but what the books that are selling are saying.
>Different books appeal to different tastes in reading. The only thing that ever really upset me was when an author I like to read, wrote a book that I loved and then the second book was really the same book in a different pov.
I was seriously looking forward to the second book and when I started reading I kept thinking, "This really sounds familiar." Go figure. Didn't work for me and I was disappointed.
>I only remember once ever actually throwing a book but there have been many times I was tempted.
I hope this doesn't come out wrong but the only time it really infuriates me is if it feels like the author is just phoning it in.
There are always going to be books that some people like and others don't and we're the better for it, I believe. But when a book reads like little effort was put into making the story hold together (either abandoned plotlines or messed up timelines or things that just don't make sense to the story), that's when I want to toss it at something.
>I'm like you. I generally stay quiet about it because if I open my mouth, I'll get into trouble.
>Erm, would this book happen to be Twilight? Lol. Personally I have thrown two books–"My Sister's Keeper" and "Eldest." I liked both, but both had extremely frustrating endings…Anna dies and Murtagh gets turned into a bad guy. I'm surprised I didn't break anything when I threw Eldest–it was the hardcover edition and everything…I completely sympathize. 😉
>If I'm reading a book that doesn't appeal to me for a bookclub or to review, I will finish it … but if I'm just reading it on my own, I probably won't finish it.
And when others love the book I didn't even like … I try to ask what they like about it to see if I missed something in it.
I review some books I read on my blog … some I buy, some I'm given a copy to review. Sometimes when I don't like a book that I was given a copy to review, I struggle with how to write the review. I try to write a kind, but honest review … and maybe ask my readers, if they liked the book, what did they like about it.
>I've read a few of those. One was a YA series — poorly written, but I could see why it would appeal to so many teeny-boppers out there. Another was a historical romance novel. I HATED it and couldn't read hardly any of it. The author would suddenly inject their opinions into the story, which annoyed me. However, I know a lot of people who would enjoy that little writing quirk and think it funny. To each their own.
>I would have to agree with Anon. who said that they book they would most like to throw across the room (this was after many revisions) was their own. I also want to toss my characters when they don't want to do what I want them to.
>I believe we had this discussion several weeks ago when you posed the question about quality of self-published books vs. traditionally published books. There are good and not-so-good in both categories. I chalk it up to a simple fact: We're all individuals with unique tastes and preferences. We see different things in every book, movie, TV show and work of art. What may appeal to you may not appeal to me. And it also depends on what's going on in our lives. The message in the book may be what appeals to you, not the way it's crafted.
We often have this discussion in my writers' group. Our conclusion? There will always be books that we question how they ever got published. We only need to concentrate on being true to our own writing and making it the best quality possible.
>I used to get very frustrated and resentful about all the bad books that were being published when I couldn't get a bite for my own much better books. But I finally just accepted that all through history, the majority of people have actually preferred inferior entertainment to genuine art. Genuine art challenges you, and a lot of people don't like to be challenged; they just want to be titillated.
So now I accept the fact that I'm not writing for the masses, so I don't need to care about what they like. There are enough people like me in the world to give my books a modest but discerning audience.
Also, it encourages me to remember that once in a while, a truly fantastic book such as Peace Like a River becomes a bestseller. So the masses do have some sense, after all.
>Mostly, I don't believe in abusing books, but one popular one was SO bad I obtained a paperback copy, just so I could literally kick it around the living room whenever I got really P.O.ed.
>I think there's a difference between a book that's just not my thing and a book that's poorly crafted, but in today's society, English skills have taken such a dive that if an author provides interesting characters and a plausible plot, even if it's not Charles Dickens, it's possible that a huge chunk of the population won't even notice. In fact, they're more likely than not to be favorably entertained.
For my own enjoyment, I read what I want, and I don't throw it even if I don't like it. I usually check books out of the library first, only buying the ones I really like. If a purchased or gifted book disappoints later on, I donate it to the library. Somewhere out there is someone who will like it.
>I don't recall throwing a book any books, but, like others here, I give a book about 75 pages to get "good" before I slam it shut and loudly announce, "I can't do this!" Even if there's no one there to hear me.
I don't get frustrated as a writer as much as I do as a reader. I am finding it increasingly difficult to find good books to read in my favorite genre. I feel like I've cheated out of a great reading experience when I've been seduced by an exquisite cover and description, and then I find the actual story to be blah, bland, cheesy, and formulaic. The perspective it gives is that it helps me define my own writing goals.
>When I saw your topic in my dashboard, I immediately thought about Moby Dick. You asked us not to name titles, but I think Mr. Melville will never know. Besides, plenty of people like his book, and voicing my opinion won't hurt him. Then I saw Kathryn's comment before mine, which also mentions Moby Dick. I won't be calling her Ishmael!
>Yes, I've thrown books across the room before. : / Definitely gives you an idea of how subjective the world is, which is a beautiful thing. Even some of the "greatest" books of all time still don't resonate with everyone, so I guess there's comfort in that. (Sorry, Moby Dick…)
>When I was twenty, there was a romance author that I loved. She wrote this amazing sci-fi romance series. I read it through twice and then bought every other book she had ever written. I loved every single one.
Two years ago (28) I picked that sci-fi series back up, excited to relive a story I loved so much. I couldn't even get through the first chapter. The writing was bad; the dialog was WORSE. The male characters were all completely misogynistic. She hadn't done even an inkling of scientific research. She kept confusing the terms galaxy, solar system, and universe. It was awful. My literary palette had evolved and there was no going back.
It wasn't an isolated incident. The more I learn about story craft, the harder it is for me to find something that I can get lost in. Mostly I chalk it up to taste. Every novel has a target audience. Occasionally though, I find something so bad, so terrible, so poorly written, that I have to wonder if their editor just gave up on them. Those are the books I want to throw.
>Yes, our book group just chose one that was just too hard to muddle through. The New York Times Book Review made the book sound interesting, even fascinating. I tried to read it, I really did, but I just couldn't. No throwing, I just put it down, sorry I had spent good money on it! And yes, Sierra, I agree.
>Judging a book "good" or "bad" is so subjective, but I admit,I have done it. I, too, have wondered how some novels have gotten published…I think we all have. I guess for me, books that have no redeeming literary value whatsoever are the ones that are riddled with profanity and cursing. I've picked up a number of "bestsellers" over the years only to be sorely disappointed by the profanity inside.
>I actually did throw a book across the room once. I think it's because I came to emotionally invested in the characters. First they fall hopelessly in love. Then by some cruel twist of fate, after they marry, they find out that they are actually step-siblings. As if that wasn't enough of a wrench in the works, the hero dies! Ugh…I still get an awful ache in the pit of my stomach when I think about it. So maybe it wasn't a bad book…maybe that makes it just a sad and memorable one.
>Yeah, I've literally thrown a book or two against the wall for wasting my money and my time.
I was tempted to throw the book I was reading last night, but I didn't. I loved the first 3rd of the story and ended up reading the entire book (I usually finish what I start in one sitting unless the book is really awful). But after the 1st third, I was dissappointed. Then I got angry.
I liked the heroine, but she was too young and immature for the hero. I kept saying aloud to the hero, "You deserve better!"
I skimmed through the pages to get to the end, and I was warning the hero the entire time. Obviously, he was thinking with the brain between his legs, but the author also did a great job fleshing him out that he was dark and lonely and adorable.
After reading, I felt sorry for the hero. NO HEA for him, poor man.
Lesson from the book? Perfect H/h chemistry doesn't mean H/h are a perfect match.
Mostly though, I learn from the wonderful books I've read. Each time I read one, and there are so many books I love, I tell myself, "I want to write a book that will make someone smile and gush over it like I'm doing."
>If I remember my Latin correctly,
"De gustibus non disputandum est." This just about says it all.
>I loved this post 🙂 yes, I've thrown a book across the room. Never mind why.
If I'm reading for my own pleasure, I won't finish it… however, if I am reading it to learn something professionally, I grit my teeth, apply chocolate, and slog on.
My tastes don't apply to all the readers out there. If people like this – this – this THING, then there must be something to it. I can identify that something, figure out how it works, learn, and move on.
And I've learned to distinguish cruddy writing and awful characters and stilted dialogue from the ability to tell a story. I've noticed that some readers will forgive the rest, as long as the story carries them forward at the pace they are looking for, and gets them where they expect to go.
>I usually dismiss Really Bad Books with a shrug and mutter, "Well, at least I learned how not to write. Oh well. Someone had to like it to get it published."
Unless it's a well-known author. Then I think, "I will never count on just my name to sell books. That's ridiculous!"
>Generally I put them down after the first page. (unless, of course, it is one of my own first drafts,) Reading is my joy.
>I rarely get stuck with a "bad" book because I read so quickly that I can stand in the bookstore and read the first couple of chapters before I commit to buying.
I only got sucked in once. The book had a great beginning, but the rest of it was horrible. I finished it because I couldn't believe it wasn't going to get better. (And because I can usually finish a novel in three hours – I wouldn't invest any more time than that).
I couldn't bring myself to throw it across the room, but I took it back to the bookstore and said "I hated this book. I want to return it."
And I couldn't believe it, but they actually took it back. Maybe there is such a thing as a truly "bad" book, because they agreed with my opinion.
>I've only thrown one book across the room in my lifetime. I was in high school and it was taking me an absurdly long time to read this particular book that came in at a wimpy 200 pages and should have taken about four days. Now, I simply return a book to the library if I'm not enjoying it. If it's a book I own, I pass it to a friend or donate it to the used bookstore at the library.
>Very funny about the Kindle, Connie.
My friend and I share books. We use "throw against the wall" as code for a bad book, meaning one that's not well written–with poor grammar and head-hopping, mostly. It's shocking how much of that gets to the bookstore shelves.
Recently I've been reading for market research and I read two bestsellers from the last ten years. The first was great. The second, not so great, was an obvious rip-off of the first. Both were made into films, the first a blockbuster hit with stars, the second…not. But the second author has written a series of popular sequels.
Having read the better one first, I couldn't get through the pale imitation of it. I asked my friend if she wanted to read it. "I already threw that one against the wall," she said.
>I've read many books that either have a cheesy/overused story line or characters, horrible writing, or both. And honestly, I can't continue reading these kinds of books. Not really because it makes me frustrated, but because I want to spend my time reading novels that grab my interest and will ultimately leave me satisfied but wanting to read more – not one that will make me wish that I never read the book in the first place.
I guess what helps me put things into perspective is the fact that other people love those books that I can't stand. When it comes down to it, the fact that others have read the book and enjoyed it is all that really matters.
>I have been known to throw a book or two. Normally they are "How to Write" books though. Those that have the authors bragging about their history, their acheivements, their opinions on genres and topics. So annoying.
There have been some instances in the past where I got so frustrated or annoyed with the beginning of the book because it didn't draw me in, didn't do anything exciting for me. Some I have put down for months before returning to them. Often time once I get back the awkward, first time writer introduction the book got good. My favorite character I've ever read came from such a book so I make it a point of reading at least 50 pages, try for 100.
Most of the time when I'm reading a Really Bad Book I am okay with it. I'll put it down, walk away. Everyone is allowed their tastes. Sometimes I get so frustrated becasue the author themselves seems so awesome and talented but I can't read their work for the problems. Disconnection from characters, bringing people up who are never explained, Big Giant Plot Holes and such. I get really annoyed at that. Books that could be so good but didn't spend enough time in editing. That's what makes me mad. I work my butt off and get rejected and problems I've been called out on again and again are now in published works with popular authors. That's when I get upset and frustrated. But mostly, I'll throw the book, get it out of my house, and pick up something new. Let everyone else read Really Bad Book.
>One in particular, I not only threw across the room, I set it on fire and then ran the remains down the garbage disposal. This book is a runaway bestseller, hailed as a classic; yet to me it was just a thinly veiled celebration of pedophilia and no, I didn't get the symbolism. Sorry, Mr. Nabokov.
>I reviewed a really bad book. Maybe, like you said, others would like it, but I thought it was poorly marketed, poorly put together, and well written. Yes, I really did say well written. Talent was not the issue. Story was…
>What I resent are the Snookie's of the world who are able to get a bestseller for doing nothing. Not that I think all celeb books are bad, but you know who I mean…the ones who hire a ghost writer to turn their vapid thoughts into a bestseller within a month, because who cares how bad it is, if their face is on the cover it will sell. There are so many writers out their struggling to get published and it's a shame that they are overlooked by the industry in favor of these idiots.
As far as bad fiction books go, I try to remember that even the worst book was someone's baby at some point. I think about how the author must have struggled and worked to not only write it, but get it published. That tends to diffuse my frustration enough to keep the book throwing to a minimum.
>When I read a book that does not hold my interest, or that I want to keep rewriting it does help offset the many authors who I read and know I can never write like that. (All my favorite authors of course.)
>I agree with the very first comment on here! It encourages me when I read bad writing … if they can get published .. so can I! I love seeing books in the store that are so ridiculous … surely my book can sell more than that weird photo book of cats wearing clothes, right? Stephen King wrote about this in his memoir – the first time you read something and you say hey, I know I can do better than this. It really gets you moving!
>Thank you Rachelle, for making sure names aren't named. 😀
I have a standing rule on my blog re critical remarks. Contructive, and polite or not at all. 😀 Not quite the thing I learned in kindergarten but close lol
I'm mulling it over, and I think you may have inspired a blog post for me. Thanks!
As to your question, if a book is a classic, selling well over the years, than somethings in there. As a writer, it would behoove me to find out what it is, even if I had to read it a second time. I want to write so I can reach the public. While good grammar, punctuation, etc, can help, it's not the be all as many have stated.
>Truth is, I don't have to finish the RBB (Really Bad Book). I'm free to finish it, throw it across the room, or stash it on my shelf and try it again later.
And I have to remember that, as an author, some folks may consider my book a RBB. I certainly hope not. But may I treat all authors with respect. (And I know at times I haven't. There, confession is good for the soul.) The author of the RBB may be a really nice person who is learning the craft just like me. So may my grumbling (and book throwing) be done with a dash of grace. We're all in this business together!!
>A "bad" book is just another opportunity for critique and analysis. I just read one of the slowest, preachiest books in the history of the universe (probably I'm exaggerating), and my analysis of it caused me to ponder who the author's audience is. She's clearly preaching to the choir, but half the choir's not going to like the preaching. However, her message is absolutely vital. Couldn't she reach a bigger audience if she cut out the pedantic prose? Maybe, just maybe her audience IS that part of the choir who will appreciate her book. Maybe they need the inspiration/the nudging/the affirmation in an upfront absolutist way that doesn't hide itself behind story and imagery.
>There are a few things that will make me not read a book. Too much scenery and background stuff bores me to tears. Also, a man shouldn't treat a woman like crap until he discovers that she's pregnant with his baby. If I'm not impressed after thirty pages then I will skim through the rest or toss it aside.
A friend lent me a book recently, a historical romance where the author decided she was going to have the heroine raped throughout the entire book. Aside from that, the woman wound up married seven times because her husbands kept on getting killed or dying. It smeared the HEA for me. I gave it back to my friend. Days later, I inadverdantly purchased a book by the same author. Again, the heroine was raped and passed around throughout the entire book. I had it. It now sits in my garage, ostrocized from all my other books, where I can eye it with disdain before heading out to work in the morning.
How is it possible that a book like that gets published? Different tastes for different people, I get that, but yuk. A romance should promote the feeling of falling in love not make me want to smack the author around. Still, it does give me hope for the future and getting my story on the shelf somewhere and not in someone's garage.
>I have two T.A. jobs right now, so I grade a lot of papers. When I come across a frustrating book, I have to keep myself from writing "w/c" for "word choice" all over the page. Once I get frustrated enough, I give up on the book and analyze my reaction to it. Why didn't I like it? Once I figure that out, I tackle my own writing to see if I did the same thing.
>I coordinated my RWA Chapter's Published contest, and this lesson was brought home to me. For the same book, one judge gave it a ten, saying she'd just found a new author to follow. Another judge gave it a two out of ten score.
This was a published book! I hope to remember this when I get published and get my first bad review!
>I remember this so clearly, because it's like a stake through my heart to throw a book in the trash.
twice I've thrown a book across the room in dissapointment that it was so bad. Both books I was under obligation to review, and I did review them both, and they both ended up in the trash. One was self pubbed, the other traditional, and now I have the sequel to the traditional pub'd book to review, and I am plain afraid of it.
why did I judge them as bad?
the first one had all this lovely foreshadowing (you didn't know what was happening, but you knew it would be BAD) and decent character dev. when the bad thing is finally exposed, it's something that was never alluded to, even the teensiest bit, and suddenly the main characters find out they aren't who they think they are and everyone's personaly completely changes. It was seriously like reading two books that had nothing to do with each other.
the second one was straight, non-stop potty humor, for about 500 pages, and it just did nothing for me. so that, I suppose, was just personal taste.
>I'll admit it. I have even read books written by authors I know and respect, gotten part-way through and said, "How did they ever get this published?"
My wife has told me, "I sent a book to your Kindle today. It's one of the best things I've read in a long time, and you really need to read it." Somewhere around chapter two, I began to pray for my Kindle to die.
It's hard to read for pleasure when you're a writer. Once in a while, I'll hit on something that's both marginally crafted but hyper-compelling. It makes me ignore the craft gaffes, absorbing me into the story. When I finish that book, the story marinates in my mind for days, and I'm hard-pressed to remember all the craft issues in its pages.
And when I'm finally ready to move on from that book, I am reminded that the finest craft in the universe can't make a bad story good—but a great story can cover a multitude of craft sins (although my dear agent will certainly uncover them if I don't).
It's all about the story.
>I read a lot of genre fiction, and in general, most of them don't get the "Bad" mark from me. About once every 2 or 3 years I'll read one that I really hate, and the more I immerse myself in all things writerly, the more I'm able to put my finger on the exact reason I didn't like a book. This happened recently with a freebie I'd gotten on my Amazon Kindle–and even though I finished the book, I was able to pinpoint throughout the various stages of the book what I didn't like.
I also do book reviews for a Christian children's site, and in the year I've been doing that, I've yet to come across one book that I really, truly loathed. Most books (both that I review and read for leisure) fall somewhere between the ho-hum and the good.
I can't say I get overly frustrated or resentful towards published books on that end–I do keep in mind that everyone has their own tastes, and while I may not understand why it got published, someone saw some glimmer in this book/writer that got it where it is.
>I usually force my way through the book looking for redemption all the while praying someone someday doesn't have to utter the same prayer over my book! 🙂
>Once while commuting on a bus I came across a line that read something like; ‘She looked at me with eyes that said, “Thank you kind sir.”’ I was so disgusted with the writing I tried to toss the book out of the open bus window. The book bounced off the windowsill and landed back in my lap.
I picked up the book again and continued reading from that point. I eventually enjoyed the story so much I bought the DVD trilogy starring Mat Damon. That is when I learned, occasionally – good story trumps bad writing.
>I get frustrated when I spent my time & money on it. But, honestly, as far as my career/book/chances, I've always felt that it's nothing to do with me. I can't believe it's an either/or and that because they've been published, I have less of a chance, or they stole my spot.
If anything, someone who has read that and then comes across my (better) book, will be that much more impressed with mine. 😉
>I think if you are in an industry you subconsciously read something and identify the flaws because that's what you are trained to do.
The general public reads something a most likely doesn't notice those flaws. I read one popular series because of the non-stop chatter about. I couldn't believe how awful the writing and grammar were – and the characters – cheese so thick it could make you sick but everyone else LOVED it because of the romance. they said the intensity reminded of them of their first love and transported them back to that stage.
Same goes for movies, foods, music, etc. Some award winning movies leave me scratching my head. My daughter loves clam chowder – I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. I could live on watermelon but it makes her gag.
Different strokes for different folks – so on and so on and dooby, dooby, dooby.
>Having an MA in literature, I ran across things I didn't like all the time. It's just the nature of the beast. The amount of literature out there is staggering, and not everyone is going to resonate with particular authors/styles/content.
One of my professors proclaimed to me (for it was one of those awesome truths that must be proclaimed) "The three greatest English writers are Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer. At best you'll only like 2 of them." He was absolutely right, even though these works have transcended time to be the greatest works of literature we know. It doesn't matter.
We know what we like, and that's it. We tend to gloss over the flaws of what we like, while the flaws of works that don't resonate with us jump out.
>I admit, I tend to get on my high horse when I read what I consider to be a really bad book. My husband gets an earful of my self-righteous ranting about how unfair it all is, woe is me, etc., etc. He's a patient guy and occasionally will tactfully point out that such and such book sold 1.8 million copies. That usually shuts me up.
>My favorite is when I find a really rotten one. I read one that was disgustingly popular and I thought it had to be good. After 100 pages, I could've wiped my ass with it. In that moment, because it was so god awful, I knew I had a better chance. Because if this slop can get published, so can I.
>I really enjoyed this post. I always wonder the same thing about books that I don't like. I, too belong to a book club and I see the women outside of the book club. We all were reading a book, but none of us could get through it. So, we decided to change the book. When that happens on my own, I usually stop reading it and go back to it another time. I don't give up on it completely.
>When I get a painful critique back, before I get to work I take a break and go read a best seller. I always find things in them I've been told will keep me unpublished. I don't use them as an excuse to write poorly, but to remind myself I don't have to be a "perfect" writer to be published either. I have to write something that connects with my reader and fo the very best I can. Besides, perfection in writing is not possible. Read writing blogs. Many contradict each other about what's good writing.
>I don't typically make it very far into a book that doesn't interest me. I stuck with one book through about 100 pages because everyone I knew, including my book club, loved it. Around page 100, I decided life was too short. I attended that book club meeting for the wine and food. 🙂
The only thing that makes me want to literally throw a book or slam it shut is a bad ending.
>I have found very few bad books among those I've read. The ones I would consider "bad" are typically novels from the 1940s and 1950s, when expectations of the reading public were different than now. Today, as I read a book, I'm usually able to turn off my internal quality editor and focus on the story-telling aspects. The worst books I find today are 1) health books, almost all of which are poorly written, poorly edited, and often poorly produced; and 2) political books, often rushed to the market in response to hot news.
>We all know puzzlement when a Less Than Stellar book is doing really well, or an author is popular and we don't see why. When I have that reaction to a book, I try to pick it apart at a couple levels. First, despite what I may think is weak, what is the author doing that does appeal to reader? And second, even in the weak elements, what can I learn NOT to do so that someday people will not be throwing my book across the room.
>I don't know that I've ever thrown a book unless I was trying to hit someone with it, but like Josin, I did have the impulse to throw a book away once, and I did.
Usually, when something doesn't fit in my life, I try to find someone it would work for. But I decided that this book, which came to me through a friend, was never going to enrich anyone's life and would probably make it worse. So I did what I thought best for humanity!
However, besides that one book, which we'll call a perverted type of fan fiction, I cannot think of a book I've read that did not have some redeeming quality. Every book that I can remember had something I learned or that made me feel stronger and more prepared to face my life outside its pages. That's why I read.
Then again, I don't know that my inner editor is that well-developed. 🙂
>I've never taken physical action against a book, but I've slammed a number shut in my life. I have definite opinions about music, about art, about movies and TV, and about books.
But since I'm not in competition with Justin Bieber I don't get upset when I hear him sing and realize that his work has sold in the gazillions. However, I do get my feathers ruffled when I see books that sell like the proverbial hotcakes when my writing is a lot better (in my opinion). I guess it's all in the perspective.
>Well, I try to read the whole thing (there've been a couple instances where I just couldn't) and I try to see the positives. But then I plunk it on my shelf and don't recommend it to anyone. I might not read another book by that same author.
>Hahaha. Bad books are like ugly jeans: obviously someone keeps buying them and creating a market. I engage in silent protest by not finishing the book and not recommending it, but I can't make myself post negative book reviews on my book blog. I can't handle imagining the writer stumbling across it.
>Hmmm, what bothers me is the term "Bad Book".
Who defines bad? It's undefinable in the context of liking books.
That said, I've read some books that just BORED me silly, LOL, or I guess you could use the word bad if a book was full of typos and stuff.
But I'm a really picky reader and when I don't like a book, I think of why I didn't like it but then I try to think about the person who wrote the book, how much they love their characters and their plot, and how I wish I could've liked it.
Then I put the book away, return it to the library, give it away, etc and forget about it because there are so many other books that I know are Wonderful and I've got to go find them. 🙂
>Thinking on this one. I tend to be a peaceful puter-downer, not a thrower. But I do put a book down if I find it that bad. I think that’s the key word…bad. Some people are turned off by ugly grammar while others scoff at a weak plot. If there’s a character that grabs me, I’ll usually stick with it.
I can relate with Alaina’s comment. I’ve come up with a 50 page rule for myself and sometimes I don’t even make it that far (often based on unrelated things, such as my mood or stage of life). I’ve been known to pick a book back up and give it a second try. I also agree with Alaina in that I love a good twist, something to make a book fresh and unique.
I think it’s cool how you encouraged us not to list any books and that you chose to stay quiet during your book group meeting. Speaks to your character.
(Wonder how I answered this back in 2009.)
>After 100 revisions of a manuscript, I'm usually ready to throw my own book across the room!
>I've done this twice. The first time, I did it because the author had done an outstanding job of making me believe in the character, love and trust him and then on the LAST PAGE the author undid every part of my reason to trust. I haven't read her since, though she was a a favorite.
The second time I did it because the author made me absolutely adore every character in the book and then on the last page, you find out something terrible will happen to one of them – and you will never know who. I threw that book across the room, then picked it up, hugged it and have re-read it so many times I have multiple copies to replace the previous, worn editions. That book is by Guy Gavriel Kay and I use it as my template on how to end a novel because I CANNOT stop trying to return to my literary friends and make them live again, if only for that brief span of time they have left.
>I would never throw a book across the room. My parents instilled a fear in me of such actions.
Does anyone remember the little nerf type balls that when you threw them they sounded like breaking glass? I never bought one, but I imagined it and wow. The tension immediately left my body.
I could hear it, but it didn't get me into trouble. =)
>Hmm. That reminds me that the only bad thing about a Kindle is that when you're reading a really bad book, you can't throw it across the room.
>Oh, yes. This happened a while ago with a particular book that everyone was reading and raving about. I had my own personal reasons for not wanting to read it, but a friend pressed it into my hands one day and there I was… To my credit, I did give it the old college try. I did my best to put aside my own personal convictions and try to see things through the author's eyes. Unfortunately I didn't make it through Chapter Three. The writing was awful. Truly terrible, and as a frustrated author racking up a good share of rejections at the time, I just couldn't continue to read it. Apparently being able to string a sentence together in a way that makes sense is not always a pre-requisite to your book becoming a best seller.
>Reading with the writers eye is different. I still like my favorite authors. But I do a lot of reading now as an influencer that are not always my favorite genre.
Just as I had to learn I don't have to clean my plate, I don't have to finish a book I do not enjoy.
After a time I get to literally craving a new Iris Johanson book.
>Ditto what Carol said.
>I think the expectations of the general reader are less than that of those of us who want to produce books, so I can see that some not so great books might be popular just because they have a story that resignates with the reader. What isn't so clear to me is how these books manage to make it past the people who claim to be filtering this stuff out.
>This post got me thinking…not about bad books….but about frustrating ones.
Maybe it was the whole wanting to throw a book across the room comment.
This book wasn't bad. It was well-written with believable, likable characters. But it was frustrating as all get-out. There were parts where I wanted to chuck the book across the room. Yet I kept reading. Just to appease my own frustration.
This got me thinking – what's the difference between creating tension for your reader and creating frustration? Is it okay to frustrate your reader?
I think I might write a blog post about this.
>I think of this topic as "the elephant in the room" – ie, everything I've read about publishing tells me that it's so hard to get an agent, a publisher, etc. – but then, I see so many books out there that aren't that exciting or interesting. I find myself wondering how they ever found an agent or publisher? I'm glad you addressed this, because I've been wondering about it a lot lately!
>I so agree… I find myself often wondering how some books get through the publishing process at all – let alone find readers… But there again beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and someone must love these bad books??
>I think this all shows how subjective the publishing business is! There are always going to be good books, and those that are better or worse. But we all have such different tastes that I just move on if I really can't finish a book (which is not very often).
My husband loves the books of a very well-published UK author, yet many other people think they're not very well written. He doesn't see that, as he loves the page-turning stories and the interesting information he picks up on the way. So I tend not to bother about the ones that make it through – they often sell well. I'm more concerned for the good books that get away.
>The only book I have thrown across the room(and would have ripped up and burned if it hadn't belonged to someone else) got that reaction because it was too good. It was 1984 and when I read that last line… Well to quote Ibsen "The horror, the horror". George Orwell got me a good one.
>Rachelle, your sense of humor slays me! ☺
As for picking up “bad” books … I really try not to do that. But yes, I have read very “bad,” very popular books before. It took me a month to get past the first chapter of one of these. When I finally picked it up again, I was armed with a weapon: my red pen. Yup, I red-lined the sucker, because turning on “Track changes” has made me forget how to edit the old-fashioned way. Everything about it was silly. Sort of like Jessica Simpson perfumes with their cloying cupcake notes are silly. The plot itself had potential (if you’re into that kind of thing …), but it should not have been let out of the gate that soon.
I’m careful about describing books as “bad.” There are several books that are written flawlessly, yet they can’t hold my attention for love or money. No one can argue that the authors of Classic Literature are good writers. But I can’t read some of these books without feeling as though I’ve been hooked up to a Benadryl drip. They’re still brilliant.
I do believe that books reach a point at which they are both objectively and subjectively bad. Defining that point is where we run into trouble. When it comes to creativity, everyone is afraid to “dash the writer’s dream.” But I can tell you what made me a better writer: being told point blank by my first creative writing instructor that what I’d written was “utter crap” and learning over the course of a semester why it was in fact Really Bad.
>What people like is very subjective. My own book has proved to be something of a marmite book, as we say in the UK – you either love it or you hate it. Critical response has varied from someone saying it is a classic that they will keep by their side forever to someone saying that it is 'rotting from the inside.'
>I am very picky about the books I read, if I am not into it by page 50, out it goes. This is not to say that they are poorly written persay, just to me they don't resonate with the way I read or interpret.
The thing that drives me the most crazy is when I see all the copycat type books. It's like, be origonal… I think this frustrates me more than something that has bad grammar or slow dialogue. There are so many things to write about that when I see a romance novel about a woman who has fallen for the crazy town cable guy, and a few months later someone else comes out with the same story, it's like really??? Couldn't he at least have been a pilot, or wacky store owner. Something different… Okay, I am ranting. But this does frustrate me just a wee bit.
Therefore I only read what catches me, and isn't something I have just read by a different author. No judgement, just not my cup of tea. I am sure that my novel will liked by some, and hated by others, and that is okay. We don't have to like everything in order to have respect for the hard work that was put into it. 🙂
>I think fiction is just like any other industry: the more you know about it, the harder you are to impress.
I have books on my shelf I adored three years ago. Since studying fiction craft I struggle to get through them. I still love the characters and the story – it's the stupid writing that's frustrating me.
But that's okay. I wasn't less smart, less talented or less valuable when I loved those books. Just less experienced.
Don't bag people for liking books you can't stand. They enjoy them. The author has found their audience – something I hope and pray I can do some day.
>The only times it bothers me that a book isn’t as good as I’d hoped is when I bought it or received it for a review and don’t want to finish it. It seems wasteful to spend money on a book and not read it all, and I don’t like to write negative reviews. Other than that, I just don’t finish reading books I don’t enjoy. People look for different things in a book, and I’m aware that my taste isn’t the same as everyone else’s. I’m fine with that.
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>I have the same attitude as Sierra. It boosts my confidence that there are not-so-good books out there. It makes me think, “I, too, have a unique place in the publishing industry.”
>I always try not to get angry when I read a really terrible book, but somehow it lurks at the back of my mind. When I get really depressed and down about my own work, I can take comfort in the fact that if that really awful book could get published, then my books definitely have a chance if the right person sees them.
>I usually chalk it up to awesome opportunity. Call me silly, but if Really Bad Book can get published, surely there is someone out there that can see the merit in my stories. I then put the book back on the shelf and cleanse my pallet with a favorite author. And then there is always that nagging feeling that I really can get through the New Testament in 90 days and so I pick it up again and read the Gospels for the fortieth time. That will change your perspective on writing among other things.
>There are a few books that were so bad I couldn’t finish them; usually it was because I didn’t like the characters at all. If I don’t like the characters, I know I won’t like the story, even if the plot is good. When I’m browsing for books, I often do that thing that Kate Hudson did in that Alex and Emma movie. I peek at the ending, because the ending helps me decide whether the book is worth reading. More often than not I don’t end up buying the book because I didn’t like the ending.
>I would tend to agree with your assessment that the book was probably bad. Writing, like many forms of art, does not always award success based on talent or skill. Oftentimes in the arts, people are rewarded for their persistence, or worse, for the connections they have. The book in question may have been by an author with the right connections.
>I work in a bookstore… so yes, I see MANY books that I just wonder, “How did that get published?!” And then it flies off the shelves. I realize that my opinion is different from everyone else’s, but sometimes books just aren’t very good. Sometimes I think the populace needs to learn more about writing and storytelling, because they don’t know what’s good and what’s bad. But then I think, isn’t that the point? If they buy it, and read it, and tell their friends to go buy it, then there must be something worthwhile there right? …Well now we’re getting into a discussion about human nature and innate intelligence, and that’s not the question you asked. In brief, yes, it does frustrate me. A great deal. (And kind of scares me that one day someone will feel this way about my book.)~Tara
>I didn’t used to resent it much, because I always found so much great stuff out there. I could just ignore the bad. But nowdays it seems the bad stuff is actually pushing more and more of the good stuff off of the fantasy shelves. There is still great fantasy, but one must wade through a lot more of the bad to find it.
>I have literally thrown a book across the room–but it was for a good reason. At the end when the heroine died, the author gave me a Bible verse! A Bible verse didn’t make it all right! I wanted the heroine to live! But before I threw it, I saw the sequel’s teaser chapter and within a few hours, I had to pick it back up again (the story/characters were that well done) and lo’ the author made me happy, I went back to the Bible verse and saw what she was doing with it, so I quickly bought the next book. BUT, none of the other times I’ve wanted to throw a book across the room was it for that “good” of a reason.:)But I agree with Sierra, they give me hope that if they can get published, so can I.
>There’s a particular popular series that I bought because I’d heard good things about it and it was on sale at Wal-Mart. The first book was okay, but nothing spectacular, IMO (and this was a genre I LOVE), the ones that came after were worse. My first impulse was to throw them in the trash, but I don’t like the idea of trashing books. So, I packed them up and donated them to the library.
>It’s even worse is when the Really-Bad-Book has been referred to you by a close friend or family member and you just know they’re eagerly waiting for you to gush about how much you love it too.While I often have a love/hate reaction to different books, I never get frustrated or angry at how/why that book sold. Millions of people may love the book I hate, but that doesn’t mean my opinion is any less valid. I think it’s okay that the nature of loving books, writing and writers comes with the same ups and downs of loving anything else. For example, I love my dog, but I still think it’s disgusting when she licks my hand, but many people have no problem with it and even encourage her to *give them kisses*.We are spoiled in that we have the freedom to read just about anything, and the choice to decide if we like it or not. Like all freedoms, we don’t always like what other people are doing with it… but we can’t do much about it.How boring would it be if everyone liked the same kind of stories? Sometimes diving into something you wouldn’t normally read opens a whole new world.
>I almost threw my sister’s nook across the room. There is just a certain type of love triangle used in YA novels that bugs me to no end. The other book I read that had a similar triangle in it still bugs me over 6 months after finishing the book. I know others may like the whole “bad boy” with a mysterious soul connection winning the girl over the nice friend that has always been there but I hate it. Nice friend needs to win over the “bad one” and I need to find that book.I know not everyone is going to agree with me on what counts as a good book. Guess it’s good to have a wide selection of different stories for everyone to read.
>This might sound horrible, but I approach it with the same attitude I have toward dating (“well, if she can get a guy…”). It gives me hope that if they can succeed, surely I can do it too.