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Published on March 4th, 2010 | by Ronan


Broken Spine #22 – Unbroken Spine

Something different for this instalment of Broken Spine. As you may have read, today is World Book Day, a celebration of reading. A lot of us are avid readers, and make our way through many books each month. However, with so many books out there, it’s hard to find the right ones. Previous editions of Broken Spine have tried to point you in the direction, but for Broken Spine #22, I asked the twitter masses for their opinions on books to avoid, so called #crapbooks.

YawnTwitter had plenty of suggestions, but I’ll start off with my own, which set the ball rolling. The worst book I’ve read recently, and one to definitely avoid is Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea. It sold more than 800,000 copies in the UK, and was a big seller in America too; something which did nothing to help cancel out those stereotypes O’Connor tries to circumvent. It was a good premise – set on a famine ship – but having the narrator be an adulterous Dickens wannabe undermines the accuracy of any of the writing. In fact, Dickens himself appears in the story, and is given ideas for Oliver Twist from one of the book’s shady characters. It’s a trite, pseudo-historical poorly-written Paddy & Mick story, that is sure to appeal to visitors of Ireland’s brand new Leprechaun Museum.

Another question I asked was “When reading a crap book, do you give up halfway, with the spine unbroken, or continue to the end?” Sometimes a book is so bad, you can’t read on, but with Star of the Sea, I forced myself to get to the end. Thus no-one could then offer the comeback “But you didn’t even finish it”, when I told them how it’s possibly the worst book I have ever read.

My other-half, Gill, is quite a voracious reader (much more so than I), getting through over a book a week, and had plenty of #crapbooks to offer. Recent horror stories include The Heretic’s Daughter, in which nothing happens throughout. It’s recommended to fans of The 19th Wife, but to compare them is like telling fans of Citizen Kane that they’d really like Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow.

Another terrible book Gill has read is The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which features the worst ever second-person narrative. Yes, second-person. There’s even a section that says “Oh, is that your phone ringing?” No, it’s not my bloody phone ringing, I’m reading a book in bed, who the hell is going to ring me now?

Torn pages

I also got heaps of recommendations on books to avoid from both my and @culch_ie‘s twitter followers. Here’s some of the best (or worst)…

It’s often the mainstream, bestsellers that are the worst, according to SeamusKeleher: “Tom Clancy books, give up on most,lot of pages building up the background to the story, only finished Rainbow Six.”

CurlyDena and HarryPigg both suggested books from Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. CurlyDena said “The second book in the Millennium Trilogy (closely followed by the third) – overwritten, overly complicated & poorly translated.”

MJ003 went with an obvious pick: “Dan Brown’s new one, The Lost Symbol. Full of annoying pointless detail. Clearly written for easy screenplay adaptation. Yawn”

Sarxos disliked one of the alleged classics “I stopped reading Atlas Shrugged after 70 pages. Could not continue”

NiamhSmith is someone else who makes themselves suffer by not giving up halfway through: “The Dice Man. Hated every minute of it. Still read to the end”

BrianMLloyd showed that an otherwise good author can have an off-day: “Read Custer & Crazy Horse on flight to NYC. Had me out like a light in 10 minutes. Written by Band Of Brothers author”

JenLucy chose a more niche title to avoid: “Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Got a lot of hype when it came out. I just wanted to throw it against the wall.”

MonsterIE also brought attention to the fact that it’s not only fiction, but there’s bad non-fiction too: “Joe Kinnear’s biography!”

David Maybury pointed me in the direction of his blog, where he’s chosen the three worst children’s book titles.


What awful books would you recommend avoiding?


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About the Author

Music blogger turned book/TV blogger. Avid follower of the Irish soccer team.

6 Responses to Broken Spine #22 – Unbroken Spine

  1. Keleher says:

    http://www.bookcrossing.com is about leaving books in random places for other folks to find, not sure its a fair destination for crapbooks 🙂

  2. Darren Byrne says:

    I also suggested that awful piece of predictable drivel, The Secret Scripture. Never have a I read such hammy writing, with a ‘twist’ I saw coming from the blurb.

  3. Keleher says:

    The last book read by the former Dublin Twook club, I only got several pages in before our review of the book. I did read Sebastian Barry’s ‘The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty’ .. the author writes sad stories alright. I have not picked up the book again, sounds like its not worth the time there Darren.

  4. Sweary says:

    I HATED The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was such shocking glurge … with the extra added fun of long passages describing in great detail how to make paper by hand. ZZZZzzzzz.

    Generally, I’m really good at putting down awful books, but I was in hospital when I read The Time Traveler’s Wife, and had nothing else to do but press on with it!

    It was my fault, though. I was expecting literature from jumped-up chick-lit. Why do I have to be so up myself?!

  5. Efa says:

    I just finished Her Fearful Symmetry Audrey Niffennegers next book. I hated it! I hated all the characters! Just awful but I did finish it!

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