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19 December 2008



Sadly, I read about half these books. I thought "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" was pointless; found "Edgar Sawtelle" tear-inducingly boring, heavy, leaden, and otherwise half-dead with ponderosity; "Against Happiness" just plain wrong; and "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" unable to induce me even to read the introduction after sitting on my table for four weeks.

I liked "The Geography of Bliss," though. In fact I think I read it specifically because you didn't like it!

Do you ever wish you knew ahead of time that a book would be dreadful, or would you read it anyway just to see if the opinions were accurate? I don't know; I'm trying harder to avoid iffy books these days, but I'm still compelled sometimes. It's like watching a traffic accident.

Hated Beginner's Greek by James Collins, way too snooty and pretentious for me even though it got rave reviews from NYT. I also could not finish the latest Anne River Siddons book Off Season. Normally she is one of my favorite writers, but I think her well has run dry. She's becoming too Nora Roberty.
I have to throw in a best of, that's just my upbeat personality getting in the way. I just did a MadReads about What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn. I think you'd like it CR.

This made me laugh a lot. I haven't read any of these books, but I do hate self-pitying memoirs.

I don't think I have any worst books of the year, mostly because I give up on books that I don't see any redeeming value for. I'd like to pre-nominate Joe the Plumber's book as one of the worst books of 2009 though... http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2008/11/the-joe-the-plu.html


I love that you hate Friedman as much as me. :) I'm hosting an international relations-y reading challenge for next year, and along with recommended books I'm totally going to say that people should avoid Friedman like the plague. And he is such a book whore!!

Ok, end rant. ;)

It's good to know that there are others who aren't impressed with Friedman. He's made a career of going around the world, forming dull opinions and theories and marketing them in a book with a simplistic title.

Someone's got to fact check him. I wrote him off when he wrote about cell phones in Tokyo and called them DoCoMo's. That's a brand. No one here would say what's your DoCoMo number anymore than we'd ask for someone's Veriozon number. (Keitei was the word he meant.)

It is impossible to go to another country and spend a week there and write anything more than a travel book. He's a terrible journalist and sadly, I don't think he knows it.

I'm glad you liked the list (and it's fun that we agreed on some of them!). Re: bad reviews and reading, I LOVE to pick up books that others have hated. I would always rather chance it with a book that someone had a strong reaction to--good or bad--than with a book that everybody just found to blah to even critique. I'm glad my hating "The Geography of Bliss" could help you find it!

I had "Beginner's Greek" home, loved the cover, but was so bored I couldn't continue past the first chapter. Amen, sister. And happy holidays right back at you!! P.S. I saw your review of "What Was Lost" and requested it from MADreads before I even read this comment. :)

I'm so glad I was able to provide some laughs. And I can't WAIT to put Joe the Plumber's book on next year's list. Thanks for the heads up!

Eva, Susan:
Can I just say I feel like you've given me my Christmas present early? I LOVE finding readers who have no time for Thomas Friedman. Slowly, slowly, we'll get the word out about his book whoredom, right?

P.S. Eva, you can rant here anytime. And I look forward to your international reading challenge!

"The Zookeeper's Wife." The introduction was fabulous. Then she discovered adjectives. I managed about a dozen pages or so and spent the whole time editing and not really reading. Finally admitted I could not see beyond the bad sentences to the story and gave up.

I have to agree, C.R. I thought McClellan's book was self-serving and awful. I remember when Keith Olbermann interviewed him, and I (and obviously Olbermann) thought it would be a great tell all. In the first chapter I knew that everyone was bad except the president and Bush. What a complete disappointment.

Wasn't it in Bowe's book where he debunked some of Friedman's "world is flat" theories?

Can I put out a shout out for Jennifer Bradbury's debut YA novel, Shift? If you like YA lit, start your new year off with this one!!!

Happy Holidays! And congratulations, C.R., on your successful new blog!!

Each Little World,
"The Zookeeper's Wife" is Diane Ackerman, right? I totally believe you on the adjectives thing, because I've never been a big Ackerman fan, even though she gets raves from all the critics. Reading her science writing, to me, has always been like a weird mix of science writing and greeting card sentiments--overly flowery. I likes my science more straight up.

I think "self-serving" and "awful" are both great words to describe McClellan AND his terrible book.

Hm. I will have to revisit Nobodies yet again. I don't know that he debunked Friedman, but I do think Bowe wondered about the ol' "a rising tide lifts all ships" philosophy that Friedman sells.

And thank you for the YA recommendation--I've been lovin' on YA books for the last couple of years so I'll definitely get "Shift." (And thanks for the congrats on the new blog. Let's hope this one isn't destroyed by my lack of technical know-how!)

Great, more motivation to give up Edgar Sawtelle... It's absolutely destroying my monthly average.

LOVED this list!

and I think I recall a dig on Friedman in Bowe's book but no details...

Here is my post about the worst books of 2008:

Let's hope 2009 is better!

I'll toss out "Breaking Dawn" by Stephenie Meyer (insert dramatic eye roll here)as the biggest fiction disappointment of the year.

For the new year, give up Edgar Sawtelle. You won't regret it.

Becky, I'm on my way over to check out your list right now! Glad ou liked the idea.

What, you didn't like the baby named Renesmee? What is wrong with you? You must love all of Stephenie Meyer's books or all the YA librarians will hate you--she's got teens reading, after all. :)

Did you read Barnes' book? Christopher Hitchens is not great but Barnes, well, he's pretty good. He's not angry and didactic like Hitchens and he writes about other authors and great literature and philosophy and there are some genuinely funny moments. Like the man who had his wife cryonically frozen and stored in a fridge in their shed and then was frozen himself some years later. Inevitably, there was a malfunction and the temperature rose and their son had to, as Barnes put it, "confront every freezer-owner's nightmare." I laughed out loud. Great interview with him in Maclean's: http://www.macleans.ca/canada/national/article.jsp?content=20081029_48767_48767.

Have a happy new year!

Actually, I've got a post somewhere about the Barnes book that I still have to put up...starting with how much I liked his very first line. I think he's an accomplished stylist, but man, I tried for at least 100 pages and couldn't get anywhere with this one. Then I read the last chapter too and still didn't feel any closure. So no, I did not read the whole thing, but I read a lot of it, and it just didn't speak to me.

Ironically, even when Hitchens is annoying me (which is pretty much all of the time now), I find him hilarious. I find his humor more accessible than Barnes's, but that's probably because I'm a fan of good un-subtle angry British humor--Barnes's feels more satirical, and I'll admit I've never really been smart enough for satire.

But I LOVE Maclean's (it is Canadian after all) and will read the interview. Thanks for the link!! And stay tuned--one of these days, if I can polish it up, I'll post about the Barnes book.

My worst book this year was "The Lace Reader." It was a book club pick. I coped by skimming. Gah.

Ugh, I'm with you. I was with the "Lace Reader" for the first few chapters and then it just got long....and it was so hyped, too. I'm afraid to pick up the "Potato Guernsey Society" (or whatever the title is; you know which one I'm talking about) book for the same reason. All hype and no substance is my least favorite kind of book.

I loved Guernsey . . . even though I too was afraid of the hype. I thought was wittily written with just enough poignancy. Plus, the setting/story was not your usual WWII fare (and I've been reading way too much of that). It's a great, not too long read. Just forget about the hype.

Yeah, I've got to get Guernsey. It popped up on a lot of Best lists too, so you're right, I'll simply have to ignore the hype (and I love the "not too long" reads, so that sounds good).

Hated Edgar Sawtelle. I should have read it with a blue pencil in my hand.

I'm with you. The worst thing is I think it could have been an okay book if it had only been about 200-300 pages shorter. I can't believe anyone actually had the time to read the whole thing!!

My nomination: Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl by Susan McCorkindale. NOT funny, NOT witty, NOT worth the paper it wasted.

As a real farm girl, I salute your calling out a title that is not funny and not witty. Thanks for the warning!!

Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl is THE funniest book out there. Babette, you are SO wrong!

Oh ho, the plot thickens. Nothing makes me want to read a book more than a disagreement about it.

I have to nominate the Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. I read half of it before I gave up. None of the characters were likeable to me, and I found it a slog.
I know it has got a lot of Buzz (agree with you that his tastes don't always match mine) and was a Richard and Judy pick in the UK, but just couldn't get through it. (Nobody else here seems to be interested either, as the ARP copy has been sitting on the corner of my desk for quite some time now.)
Also, I have Edgar Sawtelle sitting on my bedside table and am now afraid to dip in!

Thanks for the warning re: The Gargoyle. What a shame! It's got such a beautiful cover that every time I see it I want to try it--I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. A slog is never good.

Yeah, those Buzz choices rarely work out for me. Buzz and I must not share reading tastes.

Do give Edgar a try--if you're a dog person, that'll help, and let's face it, I tried it after I read Lin Enger's "Undiscovered Country," which is another redo of Hamlet, and you can only read so many redos of Hamlet in a year. I'd like to hear what you think of Edgar if you do read it!

Harry potter too long poorly written

I found this blog (which I love, thanks CR!) because I was looking for someone who hated The Lace Reader as much as I did. Yikes, I hated that book.

I read Undiscovered Country and as much as I love Hamlet, decided I best put off Edgar Sawtelle for a good while. Which is a shame, considering how much shelf space it occupies.

Well, I can't say that I'd ever suggest you pick "Edgar Sawtelle" up again, unless you are a really hardcore dog lover, as then it might still appeal. But I thought "Undiscovered Country" was the vastly superior book, at about half the length.

Nothing is impossible to a willing heart.

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The one that feels good, that feeling of hope or happiness or love.

I dislike his arrogant demeanour.

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I don't know how to react on your list because first, I am not familiar with the books you included here. Secondly, as far as writing is concern, I like Lee Israel as an author. I've read some of his books and enjoyed it to bits. Well, this is your opinion so I can't disagree with you. I just hope that you will also write about best books available.

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