I remember starting a thread on a forum once, in which I asked other readers if they disliked a particular best-selling novel as much as I did—A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick.
It turned out not many had read it, but someone else started another thread about how much she disliked The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. Many jumped into the conversation, claiming they also didn’t care for the book.
The reason I bring this up is because I happen to have picked up “The Time Traveler’s Wife” from the library this week, and I’m about a third of the way through it. So far, so good—although I don’t think it’s one I’ll be praising from the rooftops or anything.
Best-Sellers I didn’t like
A novel can’t be all things to all people. Here are some of the best-selling books I just didn’t get:
A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick. The story didn’t have me convinced, and I found the writing extremely repetitive.
Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. I read it this past summer and found it…well… poorly written and kind of boring.
Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. This is one I thought I’d love, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe I just wasn’t that interested in the subject matter.
The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. When I picked it up, I didn’t realize this book was a sequel. Perhaps I would’ve liked it more if I’d read the first book, The Shadow of the Wind. It wasn’t horrible, but I found it extremely long and a bit corny.
Fiction is subjective
One reader’s trash is another reader’s treasure. No two people will enjoy all the same books, and even like-minded individuals will differ in their opinions of certain stories.
However, we as writers should be able to look at a novel and recognize what factors led to its popularity, whether we enjoy reading it ourselves, or not.
Take “Twilight,” for example. I didn’t like it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand why it became a best-seller. Let’s face it: teenagers love vampires and romance. Put them together, and the rest is history.
…the one question that aspiring writers should never ask themselves when reading a book is, “Do I like this?”
Whether we like a book or not is irrelevant.
Instead, Bransford advises that we consider whether the book meets the goals set out by its author.
Not everyone will love your novel
It’s easy to look at a best-seller and say we don’t care for it, but it’s difficult to realize that no matter what we write, or how well we write, someone will think the same about our work.
And that’s okay. You can’t please everyone.
If you check out the Amazon.com reader reviews of the best-sellers I didn’t like, you’ll see that all of them do have a high number of four and five star reviews. That means somebody enjoyed them—in fact, the majority of readers did.
What best-sellers made you snore?
Which best-selling novels did you dislike, and why? If you need inspiration, check out:
- The New York Times Best Sellers
- Top 40 Best-selling Books of the Decade
- Bestsellers of the Decade—Fiction
- Best Books of the Decade—People’s Choice
Also, on a more positive note, which best-sellers did you love?
Some of my picks are Life of Pi, by Yann Martel; A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon; The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy; and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
Join the discussion
Bruce H. Johnson says
“Liked” and “disliked” feedback have very little meaning to an author. Why the reader liked/disliked it has a lot more meaning.
Subjective reviews/feedback are usually not useful, especially from non-writers.
However, if Orson Scott Card sent you an email, “The middle kinda sags a bit; might want to take a look at it,” is extremely useful.
The tighter or more specific the genre you are writing in, the more you’ll get, “I didn’t like it” from John Doe. You don’t try to please all the people all the time.
Exactly–some people love what other people hate, so as long as the majority of people love it, you’re set!
Most recently, Eat Pray Love. Not crazy about book at all. Couldn’t get through it. Liked the movie, or at least most of it, though.
I actually haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but I would like to. Thanks for sharing!
Tanya Bell says
Eat Pray Love hit a home run for me, but my reading partner (whom normally shares my love of most every book we share) could not get through part 1. We discussed it and decided it was the subject matter, not the writing that put her off. Being somewhat older than I, she has already done the spiritual self discovery thing, whereas I, in my early thirties with two small children, am right in the middle of self discovery. That being said, I reluctantly went to see the film this past weekend (reluctant because I was afraid the movie would not come up to scratch) and although Julia Roberts does a beautiful job, and the scenery is amazing, the film does does have the same WOW factor that the book does. There is a certain depth that is lost in translation. I found the same with, The Time Travelers Wife, loved the book but the movie barely scratched the surface. My advice when it comes to film adaptions is as always, read the novel before seeing the film!
Justin Cronin’s “The Passage”–one of the few times someone can make vampires completely, excruciatingly boring. But hey, I envy the fact that he doesn’t have to worry about paying for his daughter’s college education 😉
Gee, I thought “Twilight’s” vampires were kind of boring, too! Haven’t read” The Passage,” though.
Mallory Snow says
It’s so hard to come to terms with the fact that not everyone will love my writing. I know it, of course, but I hate it!
That said, I didn’t care for A Reliable Wife. I didn’t even finish, actually, but I’m not much into Gothic novels. I didn’t like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre either. I did LOVE The Time Traveler’s Wife! It’s my favorite novel of all time! I’d love to hear what you thought once you’re finished.
You didn’t like Jane Eyre???? How can that be? 🙂
To be honest, “Jane Eyre” is one of my favourite books of all time! “Pride and Prejudice,” and “Wuthering Heights” are both on the list, too.
Just goes to show how subjective all literature is.
Charlotte Rains Dixon says
I loved The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, thought the second one in the trilogy was a snore. When I got to the part where he introduces a whole new cast of characters in excruciating detail halfway through, I hurled the book across the room–metaphorically at least.
I haven’t read it, Charlotte, but I do dislike books that have dozens upon dozens of characters, especially if those characters have foreign names. It’s too hard to keep track of them!
Vanessa Monaghan says
Eat,Pray,Love – I never understood the hype. The first half was okay but I skimmed the rest of it.
Twilight definitely made me snore–150 pages of whining Bella and that was it for me. Maybe you have to be nostalgic for your teenage years (or be a teenager) to appreciate it. I tried a couple of pages of DaVinci Code and Harry Potter but neither grabbed me.
On the other hand, I just finished reading The Secret Life of Bees, and quite enjoyed it.
I guess on the flip side of “not everyone will like what you write” is “there’s probably someone else who will…”
Although I can see Nathan Bransford’s point, I do think it’s valuable to assess whether you like a book or not. CS Lewis said he wrote the books he wanted to read – I think it’s very important to like you own stuff, so I think it can be helpful to assess whether you like what you’re reading and why or why not. Though, of course, you won’t like everything!
Suzannah – first, I am so glad to have found your site! I love fellow writers — especially when they aren’t afraid to be themselves.
As to your post — God, where do I BEGIN? The Time Traveler’s Wife. Hated that one. No idea where / when I was on any given page. I agree with you on the Reliable Wife — couldn’t get into it. Apparently, I need to avoid books with the word “wife” in the title. Ha.
Thank you! I’m glad you found the site, too 🙂
I’m about 2/3 finished The T.T’s Wife, and I think it’s good, but could use a whole lot of stuff cut out. There’s a lot of unnecessary information and even whole scenes.
OK I have two big time best seller snore material (for me, at any rate)
Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo…
Could not get into Dune . I read the first five pages and felt excruciatingly bored. Read half of the first Harry Potter book and culdn’t imagine reading more. Charles Dickens’ books…I find myself at times falling asleep because of the story iwthin a sotry concept.
Ann Elise Monte says
The first Harry Potter book is definitely the worst. I loved the series when I was younger and recently reread it. I did find the first boring but enjoyed the rest again.
I thought I was the only one who hasn’t read any Harry Potter books.
Christopher Jackson says
I really, -really- don’t get the hype surrounding The Alchemist. I had heard so many amazing things about it being a life-changing, beautiful story, but I found it incredibly boring and terribly written, one of the most disappointing novels I’ve ever read. I persevered and did read the whole story, wondering whether I just wasn’t ‘getting it’, but no… it was awful. All of the characters are so one-dimensional, and the storytelling just seems lazy. Even read as a modern fairy tale, I don’t think it works.
Awww, and that was on my “to-read list.” 🙂 I’ll try it out and let you know what I think!
Hi Suzannah. Great Topic. Time Traveller’s Wife also left me wondering .. is it me or is it the book. I decided it definitely wasn’t me. 🙂
I have been looking at your old topics, they are fantastic. Looking forward to seeing you often. I have also added your link to my blog – just at its baby stage. See ya.
Thanks, Mary! Still not finished The T.T’s Wife, but I’m sort of hovering between liking and disliking it. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it, either. 🙂