“People who have half a mind to write a book – unfortunately do!” -- Anonymous
Even the best authors can produce some real clunkers. Although these 10 are arguably great writers, steer clear of these books, listed in alphabetical order. (Some of these appear on my Goodreads reviews.)
Judy Blume, Wifey
Celebrated children book author Judy Blume’s 1978 work for adults seems desperate to distance itself as far from children’s books as possible. The unsympathetic protagonist, caught in a boring marriage, decides to have an affair. This theme has been much better done by other writers. The numerous sex scenes are blunt, chilling and embarrassing instead of sensual.
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
This highly-acclaimed 1929 novel about the fall of a Southern family is confusing, unsatisfying and depressing. It was written in a Faulkner’s stream of consciousness style, but novels like As I Lay Dying managed to make this style compelling and comprehensible.
Dick Francis, Hot Money
Francis became more famous as a mystery writer than as a champion steeplechase jockey. Most of his mysteries are examples of how to write a mystery, but this 1987 offering lacks the grim but hopeful reality of British horse racing that appears in the majority of Francis’ works. There are too many characters and a sudden ending to make this a satisfying work.
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
Franzen has earned accolades for his works, including this very long 2010 novel. Told in different character’s voices, this novel fails for being too patronizing to the reader. Symbols and metaphors are explained at great length by the characters. The novel is much too long and cutting out those explanations would save the reader’s nerves.
Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Although this novella won the Pulitzer Prize of 1954, The Old Man and the Sea is responsible for a generation of readers to hate Hemingway. This is a shame, considering that most of Hemingway’s novels are full of quirky dark humor and three-dimensional characters. Unfortunately, this novella lacks his sense of humor and character development. In modern times where animal suffering is cringe-worthy, readers may find themselves rooting for the fish.
Stephen King, Insomnia
The master of this 1994 thriller starts strong and then keeps on stumbling in this bestseller. Although this was publicized as being a novel that can stand by itself, it makes numerous references to King’s Gunslinger series. This is incredibly frustrating for anyone who hasn’t read a Gunslinger book.
Dean Koontz, Cold Fire
The basis of a good horror story is that the plot must be believable. In this way, the reader wonders if the premise could actually happen. This is sadly missing in Koontz’s 1991 offering, Cold Fire. The female protagonist, a reporter, seems to be the most intelligent human being that has ever lived in order to figure out just what is going on to a seemingly miraculous man.
Wally Lamb, The Hour I First Believed
Lamb creates vivid characters and compelling plotlines, but The Hour I First Believed (2008) breaks no new ground. It contains dozens of pages reproducing interviews and news articles about the Columbine school shooting. Readers already overly familiar with the Columbine shooting will find these long passages tedious. This novel so similar to Lamb’s previous I Know This Much Is True (1998) that you have to wonder if he plagiarized himself.
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
McCarthy’s 2006 short novel won raves from Oprah Winfrey and from many critics. However, the main plot line – what happens in a post-Apocalyptic world – has been much better in Stephen King’s The Stand, in John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids and about 100 other science fiction short stories.
John Steinbeck, Burning Bright
Although technically this is a three-act play, it’s more of a three-act circus. Published in 1950, Steinbeck’s experiment of writing a novella in play form fails. The characters have bizarre dialogue, as if they are trying to speak in pretentious poetry. Each act includes the same plot structure and characters with the same names – but other than that, these acts have nothing to do with each other. The first is set in a circus, the second at a farm, the third on a boat and the finale in a delivery room. It makes for disorienting reading.