This week, we’re asked to name the types of books we dislike.
I generally stay away from anything that involves explicit gore. So that includes horror, a lot books set in war zones, and the gritty mystery/suspense books. I’m not sure why, but perhaps it’s because there’s so much horror in the news that I choose not to read about it for leisure. I’m not particularly a fan of paranormal stories, but I’m not sure if I dislike them as much as I’m not comfortable thinking about zombies, ghosts, and extra-terrestrial beings.
There isn’t much else that I won’t indulge in reading from time to time. Mystery, suspense, memoirs, travel books – I love them all. I remember a short time (before I started writing) when reading romances bothered me. And then I realized it wasn’t the genre I disliked, it was the rather common device used by some big-name authors in which the big strong hero basically abuses the heroine for half the book. That’s not romantic to me. Fortunately, there were enough others writing strong yet likeable heroes that I kept reading the genre.
But there’s another kind of book that I dislike reading no matter what genre, and sometimes it’s hard to identify these books until you start reading them. Put bluntly, I dislike any book that’s not well-written. With self-publishing becoming easier and more popular, it seems that I’m finding more and more books that should have had more fine-tuning than it got. I have several friends who have self-published, and I know that they put in considerable effort and pay reputable editors to make their books the best they can be. But every now and then I’ll read one that contain one or more of these annoying traits:
Books that contain glaring grammar and punctuation errors. I was asked to read and review a book for an author who said she couldn’t afford to pay an editor. After reading it, I wanted to tell her she couldn’t afford not to. Publishing a book is putting yourself in the public eye. If I’m playing in a concert, I take care with my appearance and prepare by practicing my music. I don’t want to sit on the stage and play a bunch of wrong notes. If I’m speaking to a group, I prepare my presentation and rehearse it ahead of time. I try to anticipate questions that people will ask. I research and double-check my facts to make sure what I’m saying is accurate and up to date. So why would I want to release a book that hasn’t been read and re-read by people who are trained to catch errors that readers will inevitably find?
Stories that don’t have a compelling central conflict. They don’t go anywhere and don’t hold my interest. I read a book that had an interesting premise: a groups of quilters had a deadline to complete a certain number of quilts in time for Christmas. I assumed that something would happen to complicate things and put the quilters’ project in jeopardy, but that didn’t happen. The quilts were all completed in time, with no problems. One of the quilters fell in love and her romance progressed just swimmingly. I was bored silly. I think sometimes people confuse a premise with a conflict. Life for our characters should not be smooth sailing. Even in fairy tales, there’s always the villain, whose job it is to keep the hero from finding his way to the princess.
Stories with a premise I can’t get behind. When I read a book, I generally finish it, even if I don’t like it. But there was one that I could NOT make myself finish. It was about a young west coast city girl who’d been told she was born in Texas, so she assumed she could move there and become a wrangler. Really? I’m supposed to be sympathetic to a girl who’s that naïve? I’ve read other books with premises that were strange, but this one was the most bizzare.
So these are the things that make me dislike a book, regardless of genre. What makes you close a book and stop reading?