In advance of my annual “Year in Reading” summary, I thought I’d post a list of the books I read this year that I liked least. Or, more accurately—the books that disappointed me the most. Because reading isn’t just about what you like—it’s about what you don’t like, too.
Inclusion on this list doesn’t necessarily mean the book is bad. There are titles here which are very good—they just weren’t my thing. Some titles make this list because I had hoped for more from them. Other titles are on this list because I genuinely believe they’re poor work.
This is not a definitive ranking. Titles are listed in alphabetical order by author.
Half a King
(Del Ray, 2014)
You know how I just said that not all the books on this list are bad? This is one of those. It’s really very good. It’s solid fantasy from a skilled and popular author, with competent world-building and interesting characters. It’s just not my thing. Ironically, this is one of the titles I recommended most often to other people this year.
The Heart Goes Last
(Nan A. Talese, 2015)
I feel bad disliking a novel from Margaret Atwood. But this clearly isn’t her best. Her writing style is as masterful and delightful as ever, but the characters are all rather despicable and the plot has holes like Swiss cheese.
Into the Guns
William C. Dietz
You know how I said some of the books on this list really are poorly done? I was mostly referring to this one. I hate it when people deride a work of art by saying, “I could do that!” I always want to answer them: “But you didn’t!” Seriously, though—I was a better writer than this when I was in 8th grade.
The Forgetting Moon
Brian Lee Durfee
(Saga Press, 2016)
This is one those books which isn’t bad… but it’s not very good, either. I like the characters and I was genuinely invested in what happens to them. Everything else about this novel is generic and uninteresting. Also—I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but this one screams “trying too hard”.
Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves
This is another genuinely good book. I would have loved this novel when I was in middle school. But I picked it up expecting a Neil Gaiman book. It’s not.
This novel is so good, but it would have been even better if the author didn’t insist on forcing it to be a dark, gritty riff on “Alice in Wonderland”. The story and characters deserved more freedom to stand on their own.
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
(Random House, 2015)
Rushdie’s position in the pantheon of our greatest living authors is assured. This novel isn’t what put him there.
Avengers of the Moon
Steele tries so hard to revamp old-fashioned pulp scifi for the present day. He comes really close, too, and this book is a lot of fun. But audiences today aren’t like they were during the Pulp Era and this kind of story doesn’t quite fit now. I’m sure some readers will absolutely adore this book and I can understand why.