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Terrible reviews of great books

one star reviews

There is no such thing as a universally loved book. Each month, we’ll feature a book from Time Magazine‘s list of the best 100 English language novels of all time. From the mean to the funny, to the downright absurd, we will highlight some of the strange reasons why some people hate these great reads. See what we picked for our first book.

kill a mockingbird

For our first book, I thought we’d feature one that most people have read: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I personally loved this book when I was in school. I read it again as an adult and still loved it. It has almost 8,000 reviews on Amazon and only 2% of them are 1 star. Many of the naysayers complain about having received the wrong book or the wrong format but there are some gems among the reviews: people who didn’t understand the book, angry students forced to read it for school, and some who raise legitimate critiques.

Below are excerpts from some of my favorites with my comments in blue (you can read all of them here):

  1. “I would be reading it, hoping that soon there will be that twist, but even when I got to it, the story kept being slow. To me, this book was drawn out, dry, and a waste of my time.” True, Harper Lee is no M. Night Shamalan.
  2. I” do not enjoy reading speech in dialect. Why not just write in normal English?” To hell with trying to be genuine and use language that fits your book’s content. If it’s not written exactly in the way I speak, I hate it. And, what exactly is “normal English?”
  3. “Wasn’t that excited, liked the movie better.” Says that kid in school who always watched the movie to write their book reports.
  4. “I hated this book the first time I read it years ago. Was stupid enough to buy it again and had to make myself finish reading it. Then I promptly put it in the garbage can. So much for that!” I applaud this reviewer for acknowledging that they only have themselves to blame.
  5. “In my opinion, there was too much dialogue and the story moved too slowly to keep my interest.” I personally hate books with too much dialogue. I like my characters mute.
  6. “It was the same old, same old plot. Maybe Lee originated it, but that doesn’t matter.” Actually, if she did “originate it” then that it’s not the same old plot.
  7. “The title says it all.” That it’s about killing mockingbirds? “I was forced to read this book in the eigth grade, along with Romeo and Juliet and Things Fall Apart. Before you get on my case, let me just say this: the book is boring. Say what you will, but this never picks up. It starts out with Scout talking about how her brother once broke his arm. Who cares? The book’s most exiting part is extremely confusing, and don’t tell me I’m stupid; I have an IQ of 140.” Hmm, call me skeptical. “I personally prefer books that have something called action, such as Michael Chricton [sic] or Stephen King novels.” Now I’ve moved beyond skeptic.
  8. “This is was a pitiful book with little substance except for those people out there who are so racist that they will support things just BECAUSE it promotes other races…which is really prejudice…” Yup? To Kill a Mockingbird – legendary racist propaganda!
  9. “All the book consists of is a middle-class family in the south with a few weird neighbors. I mean come on. Who really cares about a little girl that goes around the neighborhood doing things like spying on her albino neighbor. If that makes a book a classic, shame on you. Atticus against all odds is always fair and never makes anyone mad. He deals with all disputes perfectly. A wee bit too good to be true.” This person will probably really like Go Set a Watchman.
  10.  “I find no point in writing a book about segregation, there’s no way of making it into an enjoyable book. And yes i am totally against segregation.” I hear you friend. I’m also totally against segregation. Who wants to read about stuff like that? It only brings you down I personally like to ignore all things that make me sad.
  11. “If your gonna write a book, give more detail please. I’m getting so fed up with it i just got the cliff notes. By the way, DO NOT BUY, because if i find it in your house i won’t think to kindly of you.” My guess is that if you see my bookshelf, you’ll hate me for more than just owning Mockingbird. Or perhaps you’ll just hate me for my spelling abilities…

We want to hear from you. Have you ever given any 1-star reviews? If so, for which books and why?

34 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great idea – these are so much fun… πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    October 28, 2015
  2. Cathy #

    Loved these “one-star” samples! Loved YOUR comments even more. Thanks for this great twist.
    Cp

    Liked by 1 person

    October 28, 2015
  3. This is a great post! Love the reviews, and your comments. I can’t wait to read more of these!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 28, 2015
  4. This is a great new feature – I look forward to more. And I’m part of the minority that does not like To Kill a Mockingbird, but I’m fairly certain I could write a more coherent negative review than these!

    Liked by 2 people

    October 28, 2015
    • Yeah, I have no problem with negative reviews but if you’re going to write a 1-star review it should be a solid review. I’ve read some really compelling negative reviews of this book. I’m sure yours would be a thoughtful one.

      Like

      October 28, 2015
  5. Tessa #

    Love this new feature! Someone on Goodreads commented about TKAM that “Atticus raped MayElla” … started a flurry of WTF comments which just totally distracted from any sort of real dialogue about the book (but it was entertaining to read) … LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    October 28, 2015
    • Ha ha! I just read that Amazon plans to sue people who write fake 1-star reviews. I find them funny but they are not good for authors or people who are looking for useful information.

      Like

      October 28, 2015
      • What?! I wonder what they’ll do for all those fake 5 star reviews

        Liked by 1 person

        November 1, 2015
      • Nothing probably. They don’t care about those because they don’t stop people from buying the product

        Liked by 1 person

        November 1, 2015
  6. I have given one-star reviews, and it is always for books that I was unable to finish. If I cannot finish it, I cannot recommend it. The most recent book I could not finish and gave a one-star rating was Fatal Beauty by Nazarea Andrews.

    Liked by 2 people

    October 28, 2015
  7. Jo #

    Great idea! Enjoyed reading through the reviews above, and your response!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 28, 2015
  8. JoLene R #

    My inner-snark loves this new feature! When I’m on the fence about choosing a book for my bookclub I read a couple 5 star and a couple of the 1 star reviews. There are some pretty funny ones out there.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 28, 2015
    • Love snark! I have too much of it for my own good

      Like

      October 28, 2015
  9. This is such a hilarious and fun post! Some of these comments made me think that the people who wrote them never actually read the book… Such weirdos…

    Liked by 1 person

    October 28, 2015
  10. what a fun post in a guilty pleasure sort of way. I could never give a one-star review of i didn’t like a book. taking into account the effort and angst that goes into writing a book, one star seems unusually cruel and, on some level, vindictive. if you don’t like a book, put it down. there’s no gun at your back. those chronic one-star reviewers on Amazon need to get a life!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 28, 2015
    • In over 700 reviews, I have given only one 1-star review and that was for Story of the Eye because I found the content repulsive. However, I almost never give lower than 2 stars for the same reason – the effort and time that people dedicate to the creation of the work.

      Like

      October 28, 2015
  11. Birdsong got half a star from me. I loathed its mawkish sentimentality. I was angered by Faulks’s misappropriation of history. Whenever a friend says they’re reading it, I tell them to read All Quiet on the Western Front instead. I hated Charlotte Grey as well. It didn’t make me angry, though, so got a full star.

    What Maisie Knew also got a single star, as did The Lovely Bones.

    One star books usually get a one line review from me, because why waste any more time? I stretched to 5 lines for What Maisie Knew, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    October 28, 2015
    • Ha ha, I actually liked Birdsong but I can understand why you didn’t. All Quiet was a superior book but I didn’t hate Birdsong. I did not like Lovely Bones either. I didn’t hate it but wasn’t a book I recommend

      Like

      October 28, 2015
      • Lots of people do like Birdsong. I know I’m in the minority. In theory, I should love it – I’m a modern historian, I have a family interest in the Great War and the experience of the soldiers – but it really doesn’t work for me.

        The Lovely Bones felt pointless to me. Again, I know plenty of people who are moved by it, including one whose reading opinion I respect. She lent me her copy and it was awkward when I gave it back!

        Liked by 1 person

        October 28, 2015
      • I didn’t care for The Lovely Bones either – – so you aren’t alone on that one.

        Like

        October 29, 2015
  12. I am definitely going to enjoy reading these!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 29, 2015
  13. Oh, you all have the BEST ideas for blog posts. This whole thing just cracked me up.

    Liked by 2 people

    October 29, 2015
  14. I always sample the one star reviews both for books that I love and when I’m on the fence about reading a book. Quite often they are precisely the reason that I go ahead and get the book. Often the objections are entirely on political or ideological grounds. You probably wouldn’t be surprised at the content of most of the one star reviews of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Apparently if a book does not toe the line with your own firmly held beliefs it must suck.

    When a review if particularly mindless I take it one step further and check out the reviewers other reviews. Needless to say I seldom find much common ground with them. One of my favorite gems came from a panning of Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres in which the reader objected to the “nudity”. Nudity in a decidedly non-racy literary novel about a dysfunctional farm family in Iowa? I remain baffled, so much so that I leafed back through the book trying to figure out how I missed all those salacious bits. They weren’t there. Incest, child abuse, infidelity, and other assorted nastiness, check, but these things did not trigger the one-star review. Apparently in that reader’s mind literary figures should all be never nudes for the course of the novel.

    Liked by 2 people

    October 30, 2015
  15. Brilliant idea for a feature! Looking forward to more, this was so funny πŸ˜†

    Liked by 1 person

    November 3, 2015

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