Assorted Books

Don Levy’s Hall of Shame: Least Favorite Books

In recent blogs, I posted three sets of favorite books over the years as well as my favorite books that I read in 2018. I thought it would be fun to talk about my least favorite books. Not every book I read is one I can recommend. All of these books are ones I finished but I didn’t care for. For every Bleak House, there’s a Mansfield Park, my least favorite Jane Austen novel. I didn’t include books that I didn’t understand like Mrs. Dalloway or Steppenwolf. I haven’t checked my ratings of them on Goodreads, but I think there’s more to reviewing a book than assigning a number from 1 to 5. These books are in no particular order and I’m not interested in ranking them from worst to best. So here we go:

The first book is probably too easy of a target but Fault in Our Stars by John Green is an obvious one to start with. I read it because I wanted to see the film. I wound up hating it so much I refused to see the film. It’s basically the story of two teens, Hazel who is battling cancer and Augustus, who is in remission. I imagine if I was Green’s target audience, a 13 or 14-year-old girl, I might have at least enjoyed it on some level. There were two major problems I had with the book. First, there is a plot twist that a seasoned reader, you pick up on early in the book. More importantly, Augustus and Hazel go to Amsterdam to meet her favorite author and while touring The Anne Frank house, he gives Hazel a kiss. That rubbed me the wrong way. Was it a way to show off how immature Augustus was or was there another reason? I admit I saw a while back on YouTube a video of Green recommending books, and one was e.e. Cummings ‘ only novel, The Enormous Room, so there may be hope yet for him.



Mill on the Floss by George Elliot. I know this book is considered a classic and I hear the book by Elliot to read is Middlemarch. This book had 3 x’s against it:

  1. The dialogue is written in dialect, which makes it harder to read.
  2. Like some Victorian Literature, there are slow parts to the book. Unfortunately, there is no way to fast forward a book.
  3. Lastly, the out of the blue ending that seems to change the fortunes and misfortunes of the characters. I’m not giving up on Elliot yet, though.

On the Road by Jack Kerouc. There are some books like Catcher in the Rye or A Separate Peace that are best read in your teens or 20’s. I think I read it in my early 20’s and I was disappointed. Of course, it didn’t help that I thought the novel was going to be all the people he meets when driving cross country. I expected him to meet farmers and eat in small-town diners. Basically, what I remember is Sal Paradise (Kerouac’ s alter ego) leaving his druggy friends in NYC to hang out with his druggy friends in Denver, where he seems to have a bromance with his friend Dean Moriarty. I was shocked when it was made into a movie. I thought the book was essentially plotless and I couldn’t see it as a film. Truman Capote famously said of it, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” I’ll leave it to you to decide.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach. I read the book after seeing the 2011 film. The film is a delightful, witty story of British senior citizens who move to India to live in a hotel catering for seniors. The idea of living in a hotel in my senior years appeals to me and I loved the movie with Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. The book, however, is very disappointing. Where the movie was funny and heartwarming, the book seemed dour and sad. The dirty old man in the book has no redeeming qualities. The other characters seemed bland. I think I liked the film sequel better than the book.



The last book on this list is Zulika Dobson, or an Oxford Love Story by Max Beerhom. It was a book I had on my shelves of years. I thought it was a comic novel, and the book starts off well when Zulika, a famous female magician, stops in Oxford to visit an old uncle. She meets a student there, the Duke of Dorset and I thought it was going to be a romantic comedy. You think that eventually, the Duke will fall in love Zulika, and he does, but since she seems a bit cold, he decides to declare his love for her by drowning in the river during a rowing competition. Not to be outdone, most of the Duke’s classmates also agree to drown themselves to prove their love for Zulika. I don’t want to spoil the ending but this book made me scratching my head. I have a British friend on Instagram who explained that the book is a satire of Oxford. Maybe being American, I didn’t get that.

In the same journal that I wrote my top 10 book list, dated 8/23/99, I list my least favorite books which include A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch, Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis, V by Thomas Pynchon and Jailhouse by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of my “Hall of Shame”. What are your least favorite books? Do you agree with me or did I miss something?