The CLUNKERS of 2014

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The CLUNKERS of 2014

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Dec 25, 2014, 11:33am

For the 9th year in a row, here's the place to post your "clunkers" of the year: the books you just couldn't get through, the ones you threw across the room, or the books you finished but really disliked. Go ahead, tell us how you really feel! :-)

Post one or several and tell us why it gets your vote as a clunker.

Worst of 2006

Worst of 2007

Worst of 2008

Worst of 2009

Worst of 2010

Worst of 2011

Worst of 2012

Worst of 2013

Remember, one reader's clunker is another reader's treasure!

Dec 25, 2014, 1:58pm

I'll finish a couple more books before 2015 rings in, but they won't sink to make this list:

The American Home Front, 1941-1942 by Alistair Cooke. I'm afraid the original decision not to publish may have been the right one. Though it gave me small slices of Americana of the early 40s, there was not enough there to sustain it.

Iceland's Bell by Halldor Laxness was a desperately grim view of Iceland during that period. Having read others by the author which I enjoyed, I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn't.

Palisades Park by Allen Brennert is a fiction book that very much wanted (and needed) to be a non-fiction book. It failed at both. If it hadn't been a book club read I wouldn't have bothered to finish it.

Edited: Dec 28, 2014, 4:32pm

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella. Why I thought I would like it is the main question for me. This book made it into my "officially unfinished" collection. I only have 5 of those. Fewer than 1% of my books on LT make it into that category.

Dec 25, 2014, 11:41pm

>2 whymaggiemay: I tried reading Halldor Laxness' Independent People several years back, but found it too depressing to continue. You are definitely not alone in finding him grim.

Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs was really poorly written, I thought. I didn't enjoy it. Nor did I like Connie Willis' Bellwether, although I'm usually a fan of her work. I simply could not get into The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and gave it up as a lost cause.

Dec 27, 2014, 9:42pm

I could not for the life of me understand all the hoopla around these recently published books:
Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Unfortunately, I read way too much of each (between 100-200 pages) thinking surely something would come along to redeem it. Nothing did.

Also, I thought an ER win Boy, Snow, Bird which got some good reviews was awful. Couldn't finish it.

Dec 27, 2014, 10:16pm

I had about three books that I really couldn't finish this year

Better than Fiction : True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers compiled by Don George
The Song Before it is Sung by Justin Cartwright
The Dark Road by Ma Jian

Books that I actually made it through (just) but really weren't to my taste were

1. Quiver by Peter Leonard
2. Shadowmancer by G.P.Taylor
3. Bonelandby Alan Garner
4. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
5. The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

Edited: Dec 28, 2014, 9:07am

Logan's Run by William F. Nolan
Awful. I finished it partly because I was hoping it would get better, and partly because it wasn't a long book.

I decided to read this based upon my enjoyment of the campy/cheesy movie by the same name. This book is totally unlike the movie. Much of it is not only poorly written, but terribly dated. Although I finished reading the story, I did not enjoy it.

Firmin by Sam Savage
I really wanted to like this book, and parts of it I did. For me, Firmin was uneven. It started well, but got bogged down with never-ending soliloquies, picked up some with Firmin's change of residence, and finally slid down a maudlin slope. Disappointing.

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Mildly amusing, but not enough to keep me reading to the end, DNF (did not finish).

Dec 28, 2014, 12:58pm

Finished but don't know why.

The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Catch by Taylor Stevens
The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje This was a book club book. The 3rd we have read by this author and I hated all of them. I won't read another by him.
Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk
Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler Olsen I am done with this series as it is so poorly written(or translated)
Just What Kind of Mother are You by Paula Daly

The really, really bad ones are discarded after 30 to 50 pages and I don't keep a record. But I will start in 2015.

Jan 10, 2015, 1:38pm

7 fuzzi

Firmin made my Clunker list a few years ago. There was so much potential for that story!

Jan 10, 2015, 1:40pm

The worst book I read all year was The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. It was ironically the least interesting thing I read in 2014. And as an added burn I bought it new in hardcover which I rarely do.

Jan 10, 2015, 4:23pm

My four bottom ratings of 2014 went to these:


The Curse of the Pharaohs (Peabody 2), by Elizabeth Peters (review)
Miss Buncle Married, by DE Stevenson (review)
Opium, by Colin Falconer (review)


Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century, by Sean Patrick (review)

But those at least I stayed with until the end. Here are 15 of the 18 books I ditched, some in under ten pages and some a quarter or even halfway through. My 2014 reading thread (here) explains at least some of them.


The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry
Go with Me, by Castle Freeman, Jr.
Imprimatur, by Rita Monaldi & Francesco Sorti
The Stress of Her Regard, by Tim Powers
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
A Burnable Book, by Bruce Holsinger
The Ten Thousand Things, by Maria Dermoût
The Lobster Kings, by Alexi Zentner
Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse
My Real Children, by Jo Walton


Agatha Christie: An Autobiography, by Agatha Christie
The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg
A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind, by Robert A. Burton

Jan 11, 2015, 5:32am

It's always amusing to find one's favourites on the list of other people's clunkers! I find myself thinking "they're wrong!", and that only my opinion is the right one!

Jan 11, 2015, 9:15am

>10 PaperbackPirate:, agreed. I liked parts of that book, but as a whole...?

>13 ahef1963: I see that too, and think "Really?? You didn't like it??"

The only BAD comment is "I don't like reading..." Aarrgghh!!!!!

Jan 11, 2015, 1:20pm

>13 ahef1963:
>14 fuzzi:

I too see a couple of my favorites listed above. And I know the ones I didn't like are on some 'best ' lists -

The Fault In Our Stars
I also didn't like Green's Looking for Alaska.
I may give up on Green though I still have An Abundance of Katherines on the TBR shelves.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
I think I just don't like to read about people dying of cancer.

Too weird and no satisfactory resolution. Not sure I care enough to read the sequels.
And I love science fiction . . .

Jan 11, 2015, 3:00pm

I know I have some people's favorites on my "worst" lists, and vice versa, and of course we have to forgive each other for those disparities.

Aside from the infinite variations in taste, there also tends to be this for me: that what makes me dislike a book and what makes me ditch one are often very different things. I might drop an otherwise sterling book because it's written in the present tense or because I don't like the name of a major character. Sometimes I'm just in the wrong mood for it.

If I see a book all the way through, there's something in it that holds me, despite what I may perceive as flaws.

Some of my most severe reviews go to books that I rate in the midrange--books that I really wanted to love and that I felt disappointed by somehow. Expectations figure large in those results. And that's one reason why so little about our ratings can actually be objective. It's all so very personal. Hence the extremes of favor and disfavor.

Jan 12, 2015, 12:11pm

>11 PaperbackPirate: - The Interestings was among my most uninteresting reads of 2013. Disappointing all around.

>15 nrmay: - The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was among my "meh" reads of 2014. I had so much hope for that little book; oh well.

>16 Meredy: - Character names, tone, and my mood/timing are also reasons I've abandoned what are in all probability wonderful reads. They just simply weren't wonderful *for me.*

Jan 13, 2015, 11:03am

So very disappointed in The Secret Place.

Edited: Jan 13, 2015, 3:24pm

>15 nrmay: and >17 grkmwk: : I was underwhelmed by The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, but I have a friend who constantly recommends it to people because it was "charming." So? It had no real depth, and I almost dropped it several times but for the fact that she'd praised it so highly.

Jan 14, 2015, 8:52am

I actually finished reading my worst book of the year – what I mean is, there were four books I didn’t finish that were better written. It was:

Rebellion by Ken Shufeldt -- Just awful. After a quarter or third of the way into the book, the author begins to brush over major events, battles, time, and characters with no detail. No kiddin’, almost as bad as my satiric example: “We sent some units over there to cut them off and fight. Six months later after we rested we sent some units over there to fight them again.” Shufeldt bit off a big chuck of subject and outlined it. What I can’t believe is TOR published it; didn’t someone over there note that it was just an outline, or at least read like one?

Jan 14, 2015, 9:32am

>15 nrmay: If you mean Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, it should really be read (if you want to) all three parts as a whole (as it is now being published). I can't promise you'll be more satisfied (because it stays weird) but some things are explained or elaborated on.

For me the major disappointment was The Seventh Miss Hatfield. I was drawn in by time travel, and scared away (although I finished) by lack of/bad editing. It read more like bad fan fiction than a good book. I also gave The Bone Season two stars, although I can't even remember two months back to say exactly why.

Edited: Jan 14, 2015, 4:27pm

>21 divinenanny:

thanks for the tip. I'm now inclined to finish the rest out of curiousity . . .
Just put a hold on Authority at the library.

Feb 19, 2015, 7:05pm

I think I finished every book I started to read and didn't find anything that was really bad. All the same, Five Great Short Stories by Anton Chekhov was a dud. I've read a couple of Chekhov's plays and he just doesn't do it for me, but this collection included The Lady With the Toy Dog which I'd heard was one of the greatest stories ever written. It isn't.

Nathan Filer's The Shock of the Fall was another book I was glad to finish.

Feb 22, 2015, 11:35am

I didn't have anything I quit reading (I'm sort of compulsive that way), but my lowest rated were:

Puddnhead Wilson by Mark Twain finished but glad to be done and get it off MT TBR.
Road Dogs - Elmore Leonard - Hadn't read anything else by him. Wasn't impressed with this one.

Feb 22, 2015, 5:03pm

>24 streamsong: I haven't read either of those.

I have read Elmore Leonard's Three-Ten to Yuma, a collection of short stories, which I liked.

Feb 22, 2015, 5:25pm

>23 cappybear: I forgot to mention A Severed Head, my first and probably last foray into the work of Iris Murdoch. Really irritating.

Feb 25, 2015, 12:32am

>17 grkmwk: grkmwk: So with you people about The Interestings - anything but, I agree! Yet I am sure it had good reviews somewhere....

Feb 25, 2015, 1:38pm

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. . .it's never a good thing when the climate setting of a novel sizzles more than the plot as it does in this case.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman. . .the reader grows tired of a Ghanian boy waxing on and on about the sky, rain, running, puppy love, and “gangstas.” As bildungsoman, it wears thin. Besides, I get extremely annoyed by the device of having a secretly dead narrator. Read 50 pp, skimmed the rest until I got to the expected end.

The Sea and the Silence by Peter Cunningham. . .another broken romance tale, full of the usual tragedies. A banal story that is only different from all such unhappy marriage stories for its opening device and non-chronological structure.

Roman Games: A Plinius Secundus Mystery (Plinius Secundus Series Book 1) by Bruce Macbain. . .historically, mildly interesting; novelistically, not so much. There is little vividness in the writing which at time is overwhelmed by pedantry.

I read a lot of books in '14, so I don't think a handful of clunkers makes for a bad reading year.