Lists, Reviews

Why Didn’t I Like That? A Top Ten List

Sometimes a book that should be perfect for you, that everyone insists that you’ll love, falls flat. That sticky situation is this week’s top ten list: books I should’ve love, but didn’t (as hosted by The Broke and The Bookish). I warn you, it could be a controversial list. There’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, a Booker Prize winner, a beloved Stephen King classic, a book written by a Hollywood legend, and a runaway bestseller that everyone LOVES (except me, of course). I do still like a few of these (okay, maybe only number one) and I can appreciate literary merit without enjoying a book (Wolf Hall). Although I didn’t care for them, two of these books have fabulous titles (please try and beat Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, I love books with great titles – maybe not the book itself, but you know what I mean).

Books I Shouldve Liked

10. Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen. I feel like you either love Woody Allen or you don’t. I fall more towards the former than the latter. I read Side Effects and Without Feathers and loved them. Then I read Mere Anarchy and the love wasn’t there…
9. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. What a fantastic title. I liked this Boston based memoir, but I think I went in with my expectations too high. Plus, it was made into a film starring Robert DeNiro (Being Flynn), not a bad thing.
8. Cell by Stephen King. I don’t like cell phones and modern technology often irritates me (we’ll ignore the fact that I have a blog, an iPhone, an iPad, and a Kindle). Although the premise of Cell was very appealing, ultimately it didn’t work for me. Not surprisingly, I own the hardcover anyway. I am nothing if not loyal.
7. The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank. I might’ve liked it more if they stopped calling her the modern, female Raymond Carver (DO NOT use those words lightly publishing industry), but it just didn’t do it for me. Another great title though.
6. (Insert any title) by Dean Koontz. I feel like I should like Dean Koontz books and I thought Phantoms was decent, but on the whole I do not enjoy him.
5. The Fourth Hand by John Irving. All that I can tell you about this novel is that there were lots of hands. Not good John Irving, not good. (That’s a tough thing for me to admit.)
4. Carrie by Stephen King. This is the book that started it all for many people. I’m just lucky I didn’t read Carrie first, my love affair with SK books might not have started (and that would be very sad indeed).
3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I think it says something unsavory about my mind that I had this novel figured out by 1/3 of the way through.
2. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Please realize its inclusion on this list is not saying Wolf Hall is bad, it is simply saying I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. From the awards and hype surrounding the novel, I expected Wolf Hall to be a divine gift from the literary gods (Seshat? Momus? Is there a god of literature or storytelling…?).
1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Again, this is not to say I don’t think it’s very good, because it is. It’s haunting, memorable, and won the Pulitzer Prize (and I cannot tell you how pleased I am that The Orphan Master’s Son took home 2012’s award). I love the explanation McCarthy gave about it being a love story for his son. However, I think I found this book slightly disappointing because I read it shortly after McCarthy’s amazing epic Blood Meridian. After Blood Meridian, The Road just fell a little flat and felt destined for a film adaptation. I don’t really like reading a book with the movie in mind. Still a very good book that people should read, just make sure you pick up Blood Meridian too.

So what did you love more or less than you thought you would?

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  • Lianne @

    My initial impression of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall was pretty muted; I think I was also expecting literary fireworks or something from the way that everyone was praising it. I re-read it some time ago and I think I understand a lot more why it won all the awards that it did–and now I’m excited for the second novel to arrive in the post today xD

    My TTT

    • Rory

      I understand the literary merit of it, I just don’t really like it. I haven’t bothered to pick up the sequel, though I might if you give it rave reviews, it has certainly won it’s share of awards.

  • Bonnie (@missbonnie13)

    Why did I forget Wolf Hall? That book and I should have straight up lovers but I don’t think I got past 25%. At the time I blamed it on the poor narrator since I went the audiobook route but I’m not sure I would’ve done much better in print. I think the Egyptians also worshiped Thoth as he was the “inventor” of the written word. Very neat though, I’d never heard of Seshat or Momus. 🙂

    • Rory

      Wolf Hall…meh. I just don’t like it, but I hate Sense of an Ending too, so maybe the Booker Prize and I just aren’t meant to be as of late.

      Odd fact: I have a thing for languages. I’ve taken Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and Egyptian Hieroglyphics, though only really Spanish and Italian stuck (and bits of Latin). When I took Egyptian Hieroglyphics, I thought it would have more on the deities of Ancient Egypt, the class was a bit of an disappointment for me (though I can still read some of the symbols, so I guess it was a success…?).

      • Bonnie (@missbonnie13)

        It’s funny, me and Booker Prize winners (and even the occasional nominee) do not get along. I’ve only read a handful of books but I didn’t care for any of them. Especially Life of Pi.
        When I was a teenager I had major plans to attend the University in Cairo; I wanted to be an archaeologist. Egyptian Hieroglyphics sounds like an amazing class… reading some of those symbols still is quite a skill, I think. 🙂

        • Rory

          One of my undergraduate degrees is in Archaeology. Let me tell you how useful that is…

          I had big plans to be the next Indiana Jones.

          And now I’m a librarian – where did I go wrong?

        • Rory

          And if you haven’t read The Sisters Brothers, it was one that made the Man Booker Prize shortlist and is excellent. It lost to Sense of an Ending, which probably fuels my hatred for that book.

      • Bonnie (@missbonnie13)

        I haven’t read Sisters Brothers yet. I downloaded the audio but didn’t care for it so I’m going to have to try again with the physical book. The Night Watch, The Little Stranger and Fingersmith (by Sarah Waters) have all been nominated for the Booker Prize. I’ve read her other two novels and loved them so I have high hopes for those at least.

  • booksaremyfavouriteandbest

    I agree with selections 1, 2, 5 and 6. Wolf Hall one of the few books I never finished (but my book group LOVED it). As a result whenever I hear about Bringing Up the Bodies and any of the million prizes it’s won I’m just all “Blah, blah, blah…”

    Had I done a list this week (too much work on, no time) my headline title would have been Eat, Pray, Love – couldn’t stand it. Hated it. And yet the number of people who’ve said to me “Ohhhh…Have you read Eat, Pray, Love? You’ve GOT TO READ IT!”

    Haven’t read Gone Girl yet (yes, am only person in the world who hasn’t) so will let you know…

    • Rory

      I just think ‘not again…’.

      I hated, and I mean truly hated, Eat, Pray, Love. I hated the movie too, though I couldn’t tell you why I even bothered to watch it. I see Elizabeth Gilbert’s name and cringe and I’m sure she is a perfectly nice person.

      Gone Girl, I just wasn’t impressed. Of course, given the hype, I was expecting to be amazed. I also think my mind is a bit darker than the average reader, so perhaps I just didn’t find the material particularly shocking. I’ll be curious to know what you think.

  • Christine @ BookishlyB

    I agree with the Irving book- I think I’ve just accepted I like his “early stuff.” And I’m afraid to read Gone Girl for that reason- hype makes me suspicious. I did love The Road, though, but I haven’t read Blood Meridian (I need to read more McCarthy!).

    • Rory

      The Road is good, but Blood Meridian is truly his magnum opus. Gone Girl definitely is not as good as all of the hype, but nothing ever is (it would be impossible, I think).

      I am an Irving fan, the only two that really fell flat for me were The Fourth Hand and In One Person. As far as his recent work goes, I really like Last Night at Twisted River, though I agree there’s little chance of any of his newer work topping The Hotel New Hampshire or A Prayer for Owen Meany – it’s just that good.

  • Angie

    Whoa whoa whoa!! Carrie? Wow I AM surprised. One of King’s all time favorites for me. And I also really loved Cell.. a lot. Now Lisey’s Story.. yuck..that’s my first and only did not finish King book. Duma Key.. way yuck! I have been hearing a lot about Gone Girl and would like to give it a shot.

    • Rory

      Lisey’s Story I’m ambivalent about, though I enjoyed having a well written female lead. I liked Duma Key. The only one I can really say yuck about is Gerald’s Game and that damn handcuff scene. Cell was about 60% enjoyable…

      Gone Girl I found predictable, but I feel like only one who thought that, so you very well might enjoy it.

      My personal favorites: IT, The Stand, Dead Zone, Bag of Bones, and The Dark Half. I found The Long Walk to be quite compelling in regards to the Bachman books.

  • ChrissiReads

    I’ve only read one on this list which is Gone Girl. I loved it but I know it pretty much divides opinion. I’ve been tempted to read Wolf Hall, but something about it keeps putting me off.

    • Rory

      I found Wolf Hall to require a lot of effort (which is not a problem), but it didn’t pay off for me in the end. I’ve yet to attempt Bringing Up the Bodies…

  • Annabel Smith

    I’ve only read 2 of these – The Road, and Gone Girl. I loved The Road but I accept your feeling that despite being his most famous book it is not his best – I haven’t read Blood Meridian – *adds it to list* Re: Gone Girl – I’m amazed you worked out where it would lead – I had no idea. I thought it was great fun, although when you got to the end and thought about the beginning again it didn’t quite make sense. And it was more of a farce than a realistic work by the end. Not worthy of the Women’s Prize, so i hope it doesn’t win.

  • Bibliotekit (@bibliotekit_kit)

    I enjoyed Wolf Hall, but I wasn’t blown away like I kind of expected to be (probably because of all the hype before I got around to reading it). I feel like it might be one of those to go back to in a couple of years and re-read – it was quite dense and I imagine there’s a lot more to discover even on a second or third read. Gone Girl I thought was excellent – I had an inkling about where the story was going, but I was still surprised when it went that way, if that makes sense! I have read a couple of Stephen King books, but they were more recent releases (relatively) – one was okay, and one I DNF’ed, but I would like to read some of his more ‘classic’ stuff – any recommendations welcome! 🙂

    • Rory

      For classic Stephen King, I would go with The Stand, IT, or ‘Salem’s lot. You can’t go wrong with those three, if you are looking for something a bit shorter, The Dead Zone and Different Seasons are very good. One that is particularly disturbing, but still very good is Pet Sematary.

      Gone Girl, for whatever reason, I just knew what would happen and then was disappointed that I predicted it.

  • A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

    I did like Wolf Hall more than I thought I would but I thought there were too many characters and can understand why people might give up on it or not like it. I thought I would like Capital by John Lanchester but found the cliched characters quite annoying!

    • Rory

      I thought I would love it given it’s a time period I enjoy reading about, but it just wasn’t for me. I was fascinated by the historical aspect of it though, so I’ll give it that.

      I haven’t read Capital and I don’t know that I will be doing so now. 🙂

  • angelicreader

    Great List! Not surprised by Wolf Hall at all 🙂

    Thanks for sharing.

    My TTT

  • Liesel

    Great list! The only one I’ve read is The Road and I loved it! Of course, it was the first McCarthy novel I ever read, so that might have something to do with it. I have Blood Meridian sitting on my shelf. Guess I really need to pick it up, huh? I also have a Dean Koontz book on my shelf, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Oh, and Carrie. Yeah I totally get it. Technically I’ve never read it, but I’ve read numerous excerpts and know a lot about the nuances of the plot. i am a King fan, but I have no intention of picking up Carrie. The premise was just never one that appealed to me. Great list. 😀
    My TTT

    • Rory

      Pick it up. That’s all I have to say.

  • Words for Worms

    I started reading Wolf Hall. It was slow going so I put it aside and haven’t picked it up again. I’m ashamed.

    • Rory

      Don’t feel ashamed, feel proud that you saved yourself the hassle while I spent a week slogging through it. There are too many other good books to read.

  • Charleen

    I feel irrationally triumphant every time I hear someone say they didn’t like Gone Girl (which happens very rarely, of course). I haven’t read it, but I read another book by Gillian Flynn (Dark Places) which… it was good writing, but I just hated the characters. And I guess I read too many books for the twist to be actually shocking, so… yeah, I figured Gone Girl would just be more of the same.

    • Rory

      Two get the characters in Gone Girl (at least the two leads), you really have to search through the dregs of humanity and those with no moral compass. I don’t need to like the characters I read about, but I prefer to at least care about the plot or person in some manner – none of which happened for me in Gone Girl. It was sort of like “I don’t like you and I really don’t care about your marriage”. However, the writing was good. Gillian Flynn is writing a YA book next, so it sort of end my reading of her books. Nothing against YA, I just prefer adult themes and content.

      • Charleen

        Yeah, I guess I could have phrased that better… it’s not just that I didn’t like the characters. I don’t have to like the main character to enjoy a book, but I need someone or something to invest in. Good writing alone doesn’t do it for me.

        I’m curious about her new book though… I hadn’t heard that, and she’s definitely not an author I would have pegged for making the jump to YA.

  • Book Blather

    Gone Girl is one of those books where people have been raving about the twisty ending – I’m sorry that wasn’t the case for you.

  • picturemereading

    I have heard that Gone Girl was good but I am never sure if it is for me..I am thinking not though! LOL

    • Rory

      It’s good, but it wasn’t for me and I don’t know if I’ll be reading any more Gillian Flynn. It seems to be a love/hate book.

  • Jessica

    Gone Girl is one of those books that are hit or miss. I LOVED it, but I can understand why some people hate it. Ugh Dean Koontz…I avoid him like the plague. LOL

    Thanks for stopping by Literary, etc. 🙂

  • rubybastille

    I tried to start reading Stephen King in 8th grade because I wanted to be edgy, I guess? The only one I managed to complete was “Insomnia” and I’m still not sure what exactly happened. All I remember of it was that people had colorful auras streaming out of the tops of their heads.

    And I need to try “Blood Meridian”…I liked “The Road” even though reading it felt like slowly twisting a corkscrew through my heart, and I keep meaning to read more McCarthy and not knowing which to pick.

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