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Terrible Reviews of Great Books: The Grapes of Wrath


There is no such thing as a universally loved book. Each month, we’ll feature a book from Time’s list of the best 100 English language novels of all time. From the nasty to the snarky to the downright absurd, we’ll highlight some of the strange reasons why some people hate these great reads. This month we’ll be taking a look at reviews for The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was published in 1961 and is considered to be one of the greatest literary works of the 20th century. I didn’t really appreciate Steinbeck as a teenager, but as an adult I have rediscovered his writing, and have become enamored.  I have not reread this particular book as an adult although I do hope to do so for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge this year (challenged book category). The Grapes of Wrath is considered by many to be the Great American Novel. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940, the National Book Award in 1939, and was cited as one of the primary reasons for Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize win in 1962. Modern Library ranks it as 10th greatest English-language novels of the 20th century and it is listed on numerous best of lists including from Time, BBC, Le Monde, 1001 list, and more.

The book has 4,436 customer reviews on Amazon. The average rating was 4.5 stars and only 4% were 1 star reviews. Most of those 1-star reviews were complaints about formatting issues rather than about the book. In fact, to date, this is probably our highest ranked book that we have covered for this feature. Here’s a sampling of 1-star reviews (my comments in blue):

NOTE: I did not edit for grammar or spelling. All reviews were copied exactly as posted on Amazon. You can read all 1-star reviews here.

  •  just a depressing story, they should have picked from hundreds of other books for the eighth grade
  • You get wrapped up in this family and there is no happy ending, you travel across the country which gets bogged down for a while then at the end it just leaves you angry because the story just ends. If this were a Shakespearean play it would be a tragedy. I real let down, I will never get those hours back. This is why no one reads Shakespearean tragedies, I guess.
  • I did not think this was appropriate for an assigned book for teenagers. It was trashy. If we expect great things from our children, we need to select stories that will inspire and encourage them, not expose them to sex and bad language. Someone wrote this on the Internet.
  • I should have known that a book you can buy togehter with Cliff’s Notes is going to be boring. I read “East of Eden” and thought it was great. I was hopeful that “Grapes of Wrath” would be just as good. No luck. It’s dull as heck. I don’t see how this is thought by many to be Steinbeck’s best. Call me crazy but I’m pretty sure you can buy Cliff Notes together with East of Eden
  • I was forced to read this book and I could deal with the slowness and chapter 3 was completely pointless.
  • I thought this book was overrated and disappointing. The plot was undeveloped and lacking and the characters were not lifelike. A criticism I often hear about Steinbeck! 
  • I could barely get past a whole chapter about a turtle crossing a road!! This makes me want to reread the book asap.
  • It is a very dusty, depressing book. Perhaps a house cleaning is in order?
  • I’m giving this one star because I can’t give it zero, or negative stars. It takes the Lord’s name in vain on a regular basis, and I do not believe that a Christian (who wants to live a life pleasing to God) has any business reading it. I absolutely can’t believe that this book is routinely assigned to high school students with the pathetically lame excuse that “It’s a classic”. There is one thing his book is good for – it tangibly exemplifies some of the reasons why so many parents have pulled their kids out of public schools.
  • this book’s story is down right aweful. sure there is a lot of symbolism and meaning behind it. but the entertainment value of it is nothing. the book is just a long mellow story of a series of unfortunate problems for this poor oregon family. Oregon. Oklahoma. Potat-o, Pot-a-to, let’s call the whole thing off. 

We want to hear from you? Did you read this book? What did you think?

Coming up next month: Gone With the Wind 

Want to read more? You can check out our past Terrible Reviews of Great Books:

The Great Gatsby
The Catcher in the Rye
The Lord of the Rings
Nineteen Eighty Four
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lord of the Flies
Animal Farm
The Catcher in the Rye

19 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nia #

    Not only do I really need to get round to reading this book, but I’m intrigued by chapter 3 now and what it did to offend a reviewer 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    January 30, 2017
    • Lol, I believe chapter 3 is what the other reviewer referred to as the turtle chapter 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      January 30, 2017
      • Nia #

        Wow, Chapter 3 is getting some hate! Though ‘turtle chapter’ is the cutest insult ever.

        Liked by 1 person

        January 30, 2017
    • Most off the wall sign seen among the 100,000 or so thoughts expressed in poster form at last week’s Women’s March in DC?

      “I like turtles”

      I’m thinking of making that my sign for the Science March, but first I’m going to have to re read chapter three.

      Liked by 2 people

      January 30, 2017
      • We should meet up at the scientist march. Or one of the many other matches that we seem to need as he demolishes all the issues I care about. Since I work for the federal government and support myself largely with research grants, my schedule will probably be complete clear soon.


        January 30, 2017
      • Tracy S #

        Remember me while you’re marching- of course, it’s my seven days on for work. I’ll be thinking of you and continuing to badger my congresspeople to do the right thing.

        Liked by 1 person

        January 30, 2017
  2. John beckvold #

    The comments in response to the reviews are the highlight of this entire blog.

    Gimme a break both states start with “O”!

    Liked by 1 person

    January 30, 2017
    • Why, thank you 😊. It’s the highlight of my week to put it together


      January 30, 2017
  3. Tessa #

    It was a 5-star read for me. LINK to my review on Goodreads:

    Loved your “asides,” Jen

    My response to the penultimate reviewer ….. “What about Jews who want to lead a life pleasing to God? Or Christians who do NOT want to lead a life pleasing to God?”

    Liked by 1 person

    January 30, 2017
  4. And I hear the author was a SOCIALIST! How un-American can you get. We simply cannot expose our teenagers to this sort of thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 30, 2017
  5. Jeank #

    How dare Steinbeck write a “dusty” book about the Dust Bowl.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 30, 2017
    • Anita #

      You win the best comment award, lol! I did love this book and have read it three times.

      Liked by 1 person

      February 1, 2017
  6. Hahaha, I’ve heard that this was a “love it or hate it” kind of book, which surprised me because I loved it. I actually really like John Steinbeck.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 30, 2017
  7. Diane #

    This book is still on my TBR list. None of the negative reviews have deterred me:) Always look forward to these posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 30, 2017
  8. Tracy S #

    That undeveloped plot won the Pulitzer and two Oscars for the director and the actress who played Ma. Hmm…
    It is one of my all time favorites. Love the snarky comments, Jen!
    Love to the turtles!!

    Liked by 1 person

    January 30, 2017
  9. Book Worm #

    This is one of my favourite books ever I love Steinbeck and to the reviewer who mentioned East of Eden I do agree that is a fantastic book it is my favourite Steinbeck

    Liked by 1 person

    February 2, 2017
  10. Sean Daly #

    I loved the turtle crossing the road and Steinbeck’s description. However, I found the southern dialogue “you’ll darn get whoop’n far it” horrible to get through as the book was thick with dialogue. Many of my friends and my dad adore this book, it is strong Realist fiction. I find southern US English sloppy and don’t want to read 100’s of pages of it in literature. Faulkner bothered me for the same reason. I’d give it a 3.


    May 22, 2019
  11. crys #

    please more terrible reviews of great books 😥


    April 22, 2021

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