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The Worst Books We Read in 2015

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So we have done our top 10 best books of 2015 and I (Book Worm) felt it was then only fair to share our worst books of 2015. See which books made our list of worst books we read in 2015.

Book Worm’s List: I must confess that these are all books from the 1001 books to read before you die list and that is the only reason I bothered finishing them. To be honest I could have quite happily died without reading any of these books. I could even more happily slap whoever decided I had to read these before dying. Here’s my list:

Morvern Callar Alan Warner: ★★. Morvern Callar is the story of a young woman living in a remote Scottish village whose reaction to the suicide of her partner is anything but normal. Morvern is self centered, removed, uncaring, and as a main character lacked any appeal to invite the reader to share in her story. I always find it very hard to enjoy a book whose main character you cannot connect with at all, and this was no exception. I toyed with giving this 3 stars as there were some sections I thought were well written and seemed to hint that redemption for Morvern was possible. Unfortunately, these sections were followed by other sections where the author destroyed everything he had previously written.

Morvern has been called the voice of the 90’s I mean really? I don’t think everyone in the 90’s was into fringe music, orgies, indiscriminate sex, drugs and drinking to oblivion, but what would I know I only lived through them. If Morvern is the voice of the 90’s then I am officially disowning them!!

Vathek William Beckford ★★★. This is the story of the Caliph Vathek a dissolute man with obvious Mummy issues. When he meets a mysterious Indian who promises him magical weapons and knowledge in exchange for renouncing his religion and murdering hundreds of innocent children, the Caliph thinks, “you know what that sounds like a good plan with no downside so why not…”

Well, as every sensible person knows the only reward you are going to get for betraying every good principle in the world is a slow, painful death. And guess what the Caliph gets?? This was a relatively short novel although it felt longer reading it. While I didn’t hate it enough to give it 2 stars, it’s not a book I would recommend to anyone.

The Adventures of Caleb Williams by William Beckford: I gave this 3 stars because even though I enjoyed most of the story and the social commentary it contained, I found certain episodes to be repetitive and the story itself to be overlong. Unlike some of the others on my list this book was not disgusting. It was just meh.

The House on the Borderland William Hope Hodgson: 2 stars. I found this boring and incredibly similar to The Time Machine. I found the writing to be stilted and really I couldn’t care less what happened to the narrator.

Pricksongs and Descants by Coover. You can check out our reviews here.

The Story of the Eye by Bataille. You can read our reviews here.

Crash by J.G. Ballard. You can read the reviews here.

Jen’s List: Like Book Worm, almost all of my worst books come from the 1001 list. I will say that Book Worm is wrong about Pricksongs which came close to making my top 10 list!! Here’s my list of the worst books I read in 2015. I have listed them in order of how much I disliked them from least to most disliked book of the year.

10. Dr. Sleep by Stephen King: 3 stars. Sorry Stephen King fans. I will say that I didn’t hate this book. I just found it to be a major letdown after the Shining. Overly high expectations leading to disappointment is the reason this book made my list.
9. Arcanum 17 by Andre Breton (3 stars): Breton’s Arcanum 17 is essentially a long essay in which Breton muses about love, loss, war, feminism, and a number of other things. Inspired by the image of the Perce Rock in Quebec, he uses this vision as a metaphor for a range of topics. The book itself was barely larger than my cellphone and only 133 pages (with additional pages for an intro and other material) but it took me over two weeks to read. This is one of those books that I couldn’t read in bed for fear of falling asleep. In fact I fell asleep reading this on my couch, in my car (with my husband driving), and multiple times in bed. It’s well written and there is no question that the author is an intellectual powerhouse but it required such intensity of focus and concentration, that it felt like a chore.
9. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: 3 stars. Another case of a book that suffers from comparison to the prior book. It wasn’t terrible but it is not even in the same ballpark as To Kill a Mockingbird. You can read our reviews here. I enjoyed it more than Breton’s book in terms of plot, but the quality of his book was 100% better.
7. The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson: 3 stars. This book had many interesting elements. Unfortunately, it also had some long stretches of really boring content. Highly dated when tackled by a modern reader.
8. The Buried Giant by Ishiguro: 2.5 stars. I have never found an Ishiguro I love (I have liked a few of them) but this was the worst of the lot.   Awful dialogue and a blend of genres that ultimately didn’t work for me at all. You can read my review here.
6. August is a Wicked Month by Edna O’Brien: 2.5 stars. I actually don’t remember too much about this book. I don’t typically love her books. Too heavy handed with the messaging and often they feel dated. I gave this 2.5 but can’t remember exactly why. Never a good thing when you can’t remember the book. I do remember hating the ending.
4. Portnoy’s Complaint: 2.5 stars I appreciated some things about this book including the writing style and interesting premise. However, it was a bit obscene for my tastes, too many vivid descriptions of masturbation, etc. Roth is hit or miss with me. I have loved some of his work and hated others. This one was overly masculine, somewhat sexist, and not aided by the fact that I don’t care to read about the sexual development of teen/adult men.
3. The Piano Teacher by Jelinek: 2.5 stars. The 1001 list editors seem to have a thing for books with repulsive sexual content. Jelinek is a talented author. This book was written beautifully but I just hated the content. The first half was wonderful and I really liked it but then the second half devolved into an S&M bizarro scenario involving the protagonist’s need for humiliation and degradation and with horrible associations involving her mother.
2. Crash by J.G. Ballard (2 stars). Pornographic in a disturbing way (that was part of the point of the book). Ballard had a message he wanted to get across and he does so perfectly but it’s unpleasant to read. Sexual arousal related to death, injuries, and car crashes – not my thing.
1. And the winner (or loser in this case) goes to…The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille (0.5 stars). This book was disgusting. Crash was fairly disgusting too, but in the case of Crash, the brilliant writing somewhat redeemed the repulsive content. Nothing redeemed this book for me. I didn’t find it to be well-written and it was pornographic in ways that made me want to vomit. I shudder even now while I think about it. Some horrendous imagery has been forever seared into my brain. There’s an eyeball and it goes places no eyeball should ever go.

We want to hear from you! What were your least favorite books that you read this year? Have you read any on our list? What did you think? Tell us why we are wrong!

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kristel #

    Interesting list, I agree with The Piano Teacher, Crash and The Story of the Eye. All erotica or pornographic and disgusting.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 30, 2015
  2. Thanks for that list – I know to steer well clear of Eye. I love your unconventional insights into different authors too – I also find Edna O’Brien dated, but it’s something I’ve always felt I’m not allowed to say. Go Set A Watchman was on the radio, I listened to about 4 episodes and just thought it was so awful. It’s an academic curio, really, not a real book.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 30, 2015
  3. I couldn’t get through ‘Go Set A Watchman’ … How did this get published?

    Liked by 1 person

    December 30, 2015
    • Surprisingly, I’ve seen it made on to several “best of” lists. I don’t get it. I did make it through but found it rambling and not very good.


      December 31, 2015
  4. Tracy S #

    Story of the Eye is definitely my bottom of the list this year, too. Maybe of all time, but I haven’t read Crash yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 30, 2015
    • Crash is much better. Anything is tolerable after Story of the Eye. I think you warned me about Story of the Eye.


      December 31, 2015
  5. Jo #

    Agree with Crash – I didn’t bother finishing it, which is a shame because I do like other novels Ballard has written.
    The worst novel I read this year was The Circle by Dave Eggers – I’m getting angry just thinking about it now!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 31, 2015
    • I haven’t read any of his other books but I will get to them soon. Which would you recommend?


      December 31, 2015
      • Jo #

        I loved High Rise and The Drowned World. Empire of the Sun is also good, and is loosely based on his early life

        Liked by 1 person

        December 31, 2015
      • Thanks! I think Book Worm ha read and liked a few of his other books too


        December 31, 2015
  6. Your lists are not motivating me to read more 1001 books this year. I read six books this year that I rated two stars and four of those were 1001 books. However my worst book was not. That honor goes to The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg. It came so close to one star. Great subject (George Sand), but the worst snorefest writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 31, 2015
    • ha ha! Well to be fair, a large number of 1001 books also made it onto my top 10 list. It really is a mixed bag. I will stay away from Dream Lover.


      December 31, 2015
  7. Amanda #

    I hadn’t thought of making a top 10 worst reads of the year list, but I had as much fun with this one as I did with my top 10 best reads of the year list.

    1. The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
    2. Story of the Eye – Georges Bataille
    3. The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters
    4. How the World Sees You – Sally Hogshead
    5. The Stones of Florence – Mary McCarthy
    6. The Energy Bus – Jon Gordon
    7. Pricksongs and Descants – Robert Coover
    8. The Diary of a Nobody – George and Weedon Grossmith
    9. The Adventures of Caleb Williams – William Godwin
    10. American Pastoral – Philip Roth


    January 1, 2016
  8. I’ve never heard of some of these authors so how on earth did they make it into the 1001 list? My worst books of 2015 apart from those I couldn’t finish were The Offering by Grace McCleen and The Dictator’s Last Night by Yasmina Khadra


    January 3, 2016
  9. Interesting list. I haven’t read any of those but will eventually since I’m also (slowly) getting through the 1001 list. Crash worries me especially. I’m pretty squeamish so I can’t see myself liking it. Good thing it’s short.

    One of my lease favourite reads of the year has to go to The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger. I liked the weird start but ended up getting so bored and annoyed with the characters.


    January 4, 2016
  10. JoLene #

    My worst book was “Ghost of Chance” by William S Burroughs — the stream of consciousness ramblings just aren’t my thing.

    I also really didn’t like “The Vactioneers” by Emma Straub. It was a recommendation from a pod cast and fell very flat for me.


    January 9, 2016

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