Alexandra and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Books

In his Newbery Medal Acceptance speech for The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman discussed that there wasn’t a difference in what he read, whether books were considered good or bad. To him, there were no bad books or stories, just stories that he liked. I want to agree with Mr. Gaiman, however, there are some books I just can’t get through. It’s not the length of the book that prevents me from finishing the story, but the content.

My bookshelf contains a balance of classic American and British Literature (stories published from the regency period through the early 1960s) and Gothic family sagas, young adult, and an undeniable amount of books with or about cats. Below is a list of books that will not be taking up space on my bookshelves.

Bad Read: The Cat by Edgar Allen Poe

I was having a painful night. My tendonitis had flared up, so I decided to rest my wrists and listen to audiobook. I picked The Cat because I was hanging out with my own kitty, Dora. I closed my eyes and listened to the narrator talk about how much he loved his cat. I petted Dora and he purred and then the story took an awful twist. The narrator claimed he became a drunk and attacked and mutilated his feline companion. I grabbed my phone and paused it right there. Nope. No more story. I did not want to listen to this anymore. I thought this would be a different kind of story, I don’t know what I was thinking choosing Poe.

Read This Instead: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

Dewey is left in a library return box on a cold night in a small town in Iowa. The book is filled with anecdotes about Dewey’s adventures living at the library and all of the lives he touched.


Bad Read: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This novel was depressing and confusing. Here is an author who is known for his wit and it’s completely lost on this book. Overall, I found the book offensive. It wasn’t the homosexual undertones (which caused such a controversy when the book was first published), it was the characters’ machismo attitude. I took a step back to consider if this was hyperbole or if the author was employing a device of sarcasm. As I read on, it didn’t seem like Wilde was being sarcastic, the novel seemed hateful, and frankly, I was bored. I didn’t feel like this book was inspiring or entertaining or in any way improving my life.

Read This Instead: If you insist on reading Wilde, then I highly recommend The Importance of Being Earnest.  If a Victorian and depressing novel is your style, then skip Wilde. For a dark and moody read, pick up Great Expectations by Charles Dickens or Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Either book will put you on an emotional roller coaster. Queue your Morrissey playlist and keep your tissue box nearby.


Bad Read: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 

This book sounded like it would be an amazing adventure read. Here was a story created around odd and amazing historical photographs. Were these children ghosts? Circus performers? From the first chapter, I was not impressed: our main character is bored and brooding, his grandfather is regarded as mentally unstable, and the teenager manages to convince his dad that they need to travel to an island oversees, where he intends to discover the truth behind his grandfather’s babbling. The story is unrealistic and takes an enormous amount of build up before anything exciting happens.

The best part about this book is the creepy house discovered on the other side of the portal, but it isn’t long before the story returns to a confusing and unbelievable mess where children battle imaginary monsters. Finally, we reach the conclusion, or so you thought. It’s actually a cliffhanger for the next book in the series, which I will not be reading. 

Read This Instead:  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. The story focuses on one particularly peculiar child, who wanders into a graveyard after becoming orphaned and targeted by a mysterious killer. Raised in the graveyard, the child explores the only world he knows and adopts the craft of the ghostly inhabitants. 

If you like the idea of exploring other worlds through a portal, then I recommend the classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland  by Lewis Carroll. 



Other Bad Reads 

Fifty Shades Darker  by E. L. James

Did Fifty Shades of Grey really need a sequel?


Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore contains a mild love story, which tapered off and went no where. The rest of the book is a jumble of programming jargon and frequent trips to Google to solve reading puzzles. I’m a writer and a reader, not a programmer. The most frightening thing about the book wasn’t the the weird typography cult running the bookstore, but when I turned off my bed-side light, I could see the book was glowing! I don’t need nightmares, so I threw a blanket over this book.


The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson

It may have been the strong Victorian language, but I had a difficult time staying interested in this story. 

Drink of Choice: Chai tea latte


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