October 29th, 2011 / 5:25 pm

Worst book you have ever read? Read all the way through? OK, then, so fuck worst. That’s a lollygag word. It can’t be worst, because you learned something. Something to note/avoid/admire in its essence of awfulness.

Anyway, book you just threw at wall?



  1. John Minichillo

      Never was a fan of On The Road.

  2. ryan brei

      The repetition of the word worst made that word seem really strange to me.

  3. michael

      I’m like halfway through 2666 and I sort of want to set it on fire, except it’s from the library. Someone please tell me it gets better after part 3.

  4. Ryan Sanford Smith

      Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. One of those books everyone I know loves but I didn’t find an ounce of creativity in it, much less anything else worth noting. Every gesture was lazy, every breath was stale. 

  5. Don

      It’s worth it.  Keep going.

  6. Maxwell McCabe-Lokos

      2666 is one of the best books I have ever read. I agree that On The Road is crap, but I like it when I was 14. But I picked it up since then and laughed at how bad it is. I actually threw Sabath’s Theater by Philip Roth across a room.

  7. Maxwell McCabe-Lokos

      2666 is one of the best books I have ever read. I agree that On The Road
      is crap, but I liked it when I was 14. But I have picked it up since then and
      laughed at how bad it is. I actually threw Sabath’s Theater by Philip
      Roth across a room.

  8. Emma

      I threw Anna Karenina at a wall. Someone’s going to boil now

  9. raj

      Book I couldn’t finish: John Bayley’s The Red Hat. Related in first-person, the protagonist is set up as a very clever and confident, if somewhat naive young woman who is traveling abroad. 
      This narrator proceeds to have a sexual relationship with a man who is probably a spy. Dude reads like a psychopath. Every gesture announces he’ll surely kill her. She does not seem to grasp that being with someone dangerous puts her in danger, nor that being in danger should give somebody pause. She blithely goes on, spinning reveries about dark mysterious strangers and how exciting it is to have affairs and solve mysteries, etc. Basically, none of it any makes sense unless seen as coming from someone who doesn’t conceive of rape culture or being genuinely vulnerable, who therefore can’t keep his character from sounding insane, nor the light pulpy tone from seeming gross and abhorrent. Also, the character talks a lot about looking androgynous? Oh my lord, who cares.

  10. elizabeth ellen

      the last thing i wanted to throw at the wall was a One Story story. but i was reading it on the kindle, so throwing wasn’t really an option, unless i wanted to have a sort of punk rock moment in my kitchen, and i couldn’t really muster the energy or passion for that. i don’t typically keep reading a novel if it’s boring or awful. i give it fifty pages. but the One Story story was going along *alright* and then toward the end was this dreadful scene i call an “mfa”ish scene (though probably that’s too easy a gripe), in that it was not at all realistic, would never have happened in “real life” or even in this fictional story (in my opinion), but i suppose sounds clever to those who like that sort of fakery. i found it maddening that it was included and, frankly, thought less of the One Story editors because of it. 

  11. elizabeth ellen

      what about you, sean?

  12. Leapsloth14

      It is a sausage word, almost moist. I love the word, moist. One little word, yet so many people I know it makes them shiver.

  13. Leapsloth14

      I dont boil but only want to hear your response as to why you threw that somewhat iconic book? Vent a bit.

  14. Leapsloth14

      Hey now! I might answer. The again I ran a fast 1/2 marathon this morning then started drinking, early, so might very well not. BUT. Your nuanced answer may lead me to a different answer–the moment you’re locked into a story then the moment you got thrown out. Eject. A different post. But that moment is big.

  15. Sks

      Scorch Atlas. Felt like I was reading Trent Reznor’s teenage diary.

  16. Michael

      James Franco’s collection. Felt like I needed to read it if I wanted to talk shit about it. 

      Of course, he’ll be appearing in the Winter Ploughshares.

      Life isn’t fair. 

  17. Clarence L'inspecteur

      Let The Great World Spin made me understand how “great writing” can be the exact same thing as “bad writing”.

      And I was like, will he really fall in love with the girl who got his brother killed? Yup.

  18. Bradley Sands

      Maybe Armand Schwerner’s The Tablets? I had to read it for a class. It was the only assigned reading that I never finished as a student. I think the vast majority of my classmates didn’t finish it either. I think I can only really qualify books that I’ve read for school as the “worst books that I have ever read” because if something is really bad and I don’t NEED to read it, I will stop reading it pretty quickly. And I’m not going to judge how bad something is based on a few pages. And yeah, as far as the worst book I’ve read all the way through, I have no idea. But Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior is a contender (another book for class, but wasn’t too painful to read in its entirety).

  19. Brandon O'Connor

      Kafka on the Shore by Murakami. Should I like it because it challenges a reader’s expectations of clear narrative and final resolution? Nope.

  20. UGH

      Pride and Prejudice, Wolf Face (Matt Hart), Sweet Nothing (Nate Pritts).

      I stopped going to Poets Forum because of how bad Sharon Olds is now.

  21. Robert David Roback

      Witz by Cohen and The Instructions by that other guy. More bearded white dude thinking they are showing the world how big their dicks are, not realizing that all they are really showing is how saggy their balls are. Yeah, we get it, you’re a couple of smarties. Good for you. Get in line.

  22. Michael

      I think you just about summed-up most of what’s considered “postmodern.” 

  23. M. Kitchell

      i’ve actually never finished a murakami novel.  shit is dumb.  one of my friends forced me to read his entire short story collection and that shit blew.

  24. Mungscum


  25. Ester

      The Possession by Annie Ernaux. The single biggest shit-pile I’ve read in the last ten years…ever since I read The Alchemist by that fake Gilbran guy Paulo Coelho. It was recommended by a very sweet friend of mine, so I gave it a try. I’d never heard of Coelho and reading that con-job book made me dry heave. He must laugh his ass off every time he checks his bank balance.

  26. ker

      I found Wuthering Heights pretty shitty. I can never get past the first page without starting to wonder what’s on tv. That never happens with any other book but this one.

      Cormac McCarthy’s The Road also bores me, to be honest. I like most everything else by the man, though.

  27. Andy Linkner

      “The Cave” by Saramago was my only foray into his work–won’t do that again.

      Also, just couldn’t at all get into Djuna Barnes’ “Nightwood”.

      Ones I couldn’t  finish were Jachym Topol’s “City Sister Silver”  and Canetti’s “Auto-da-Fe” and the 2nd volume of Musil’s “The Man Without Qualities”.  It’s looking like I’ll never get around to finishing Joshua Cohen’s “Witz”.

  28. 479

      I don’t read books anymore. I’m a Quaker. We don’t believe in books. 

  29. MLillie

      The Sot-Weed Factor.

  30. Dan Vierck

      Mary Oliver’s Poet’s Handbook. I read it for a Craft and Theory class where we covered both poetry and prose. As something to shake my fist about, it was incredibly valuable – and don’t we all need things to shake our fists about? And I ended up with a delicious paper about Kurt Cobain’s lyrics about nature and also how he banked on the sound (over the meaning) of his words.

  31. John Sakkis

      worst novel: Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace. 
      throw it at the wall novel: The Teaching Of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way Of Knowledge worst poetry: All Of Us: The Collected Poems Raymond Carverthrow it al the wall poetry: Allen Ginsberg Collected Poems 1947-1980I read them all the way through, not for classes, I read them all the way through because I’m compulsive. it really sucks. it really sucked. 

  32. Craig Ronald Marchinkoski

      stopped reading that one too. after three failed attempts, eventually finished _wind-up bird_. was happy when it ended. purchased the new one on friday. for some reason. not sure really. maybe i just wanted to spend the money. it looks pretty. 

  33. Craig Ronald Marchinkoski

      stopped after the second book. but book three keeps staring at me. one day. 

  34. Craig Ronald Marchinkoski

      _only revolutions_ by danielewski. was like reading hemingway writing finnegans wake 

  35. adrian

      The Pale King. I bought it during my lunch break the day it was released (April 15), took it home, and eagerly started reading it after work. 100 pages in (my personal stopping point for door-stop novels that aren’t going anywhere), I couldn’t read it anymore, and had to put it down. I thought it very tacky that Karen Green (Wallace’s wife/widow) decided to publish it. It obviously wasn’t finished, wasn’t ready, and therefore was in no condition to be published. Despite Michael Pietsch’s predatory editing, it was just no good, and his Editor’s Note felt self-congratulatory and masturbatory. I believe David Foster Wallace would have hated TPK in its current form. It was obviously bothering him that he couldn’t finish his follow-up novel to IJ, his depression was becoming worse, and well we all know the rest. The man was ill, and I am disgusted with myself for having participated in what amounted to a rape of his memory. I love the man, I love the books he approved for publication, but The Pale King sucked, and it should have never been published. Karen Green made money from her husband’s death and suffering. Now she can go off somewhere and continue being an “Artiste.” The book, like her, will be forgotten. I wish I could eradicate it from my memory. I hope David Foster Wallace finally found some of the peace he was so desperately searching for. RIP.

  36. Matt Rowan

      Ah damn, I hate your glib portrayal of Adam Levin’s novel, man. Shit’s loaded with good stuff, even if, like most of those writers who write for distance, it gets a bit digressive. Anyway, counterpoint, The Instructions ruled. 

  37. Guilie Castillo

      I could not, for the life of me, finish Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress.  Not that it was worth trying, mind you, but I was short of reading material that particular month (I live in an island) and that was what the Universe chose to throw my way.  Couldn’t do it.

  38. Matt Rowan

      Walker Percy’s “The Moviegoer” and Jonathan Safran Foer, like, just generally. What’s JSF supposed to be, anyway? Like, annoying? This is my glib contribution to a very glib line of query, which I is fine. I like glib. I like writing the word “glib.” But I’m gonna stop from this point forward. Thanks

  39. Matt Rowan

      Man, I hated that book. And hate is a strong word, right? 

  40. Alban Fischer

      Please don’t hit me: Never really liked Against Nature or Day of the Locust. Hated The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, too. I found Remainder to be a total slog the whole way. Still want to read C for some reason, though. I think anyone who can read Zachary German is Hercules.

  41. Matt Rowan

      Oh and also Palahniuk. His stories’ film adaptations are often tolerable for the mere fact of that obnoxious, gravelly-throated, hyper-masculine-seeming first person narrator being limited or shelved entirely.

  42. Craig Ronald Marchinkoski

      i thought your comment said _against the day_. finished against the day. but wasnt impressed. ive read some z. german online (eat when youre hungry). i found it easygoing shit. shit=stuff. stuff=there. there=not bad or good. z. german sounded about what aaron cometbus’ son would sound like in my head if aaron cometbus had a son and aaron cometbus’ son wrote, or whatever. what little i have read by z. german, i found entertaining.

  43. Craig Ronald Marchinkoski

      im pro-hate with you on that one

  44. adrian

      Not to mention, for all of his narrators’ male bravado, Palahniuk is a big homo. I imagine he’s a bottom. Umm, Choke, anyone? Nyuk nyuk nyuk…

  45. deadgod

      If, after a couple of pages, I thought ‘hemingway writing finnegans wake’, I would keep reading.  Relentless-portmanteau in Hem’s dainty paws?  –cool.  ‘hemingway writing absalom, absalom’?  –okay:  blech.

  46. Laura Carter

      Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye. I think Catcher in the Rye is worse, but the content and theme of the former are just pitiful. At least that’s what my idealistic high-school self thought. Since then, I read little fiction and have never really been wont to dislike a book of poetry, since it’s easy to take a little here and there and like the individual poems.

  47. Alban Fischer

      Canetti’s Auto-da-Fe did irritate the piss out of me. Strangely, though, I couldn’t stop reading. (But then, I rarely quit a book–even when I hate it.) I wanted to bitch to friends about it, but kept censoring myself. The book does that to you. The Recognitions was kind of the same thing for me.

  48. Craig Ronald Marchinkoski

      the idea was/is hemingway would be trying too hard to be someone he aints = blexplotation

  49. Alban Fischer

      Yeah, everything after Gravity’s Rainbow is a steaming pile of shit. Vineland certainly one of the worst books ever written.

  50. Craig Ronald Marchinkoski

      mason & dixon wasnt a complete toss. but vineland? that was just plain and dumb. didnt even bother with inherent vice.  

  51. judson

      just read the first 80 pages of inherent vice before putting it down. painful. cringe-worthy.

  52. deadgod

      Oh; I was thinking ‘trying to become something he ain’t yet’.

      –in which case:  give ’em enough rope, maybe they’ll sail a ship or climb a high thing . . . or weave a tale, blechstempore-like.

  53. NLY

      The last book I was forced to put down out of sheer distaste was something I believe was called The Monsters of Templeton.

  54. OneNightStanzas

      “Her Fearful Symmetry” by Audrey Niffenegger.  I left it in a doorway, I hated it so much.

  55. Craig Ronald Marchinkoski

      or hang em where it counts

  56. barry

      lolita sucked dick… in every sense of it

  57. Helen

      Oh! Me too! now break…*PHILOSOPHY MOMENT*

      Haven’t been able to pick up any of his others, because I am horribly judgmental. 

  58. Tatertots23

      Wicked by Gregory McGuire, or something like that. 

  59. Tatertots23

      Most writing is about showing how big your dick and/or clit is, but at least the postmodernists tended to be pretty funny and interesting. 

  60. Michael

      Yeah, whatever you say. 

  61. mimi

      i’m likin’ ‘glib’ too, now that i see you writin’ it  
        seems a fine companion to ‘twee’ (elsewhere recently on hg . . . )

  62. alan

      How dare you?

  63. alan

      Word. I’ve never got past the second page of one standing in a bookstore. [edit: I don’t know how this reply got separated from the comment it is in reference to]

  64. Joanie

      god i fucking hate ginsberg too ugh

  65. krysbeau

      Look Back in Anger was dumb.

  66. William Owen

      I’ve yet to actually make it all the way through Wind-Up Bird. Not sure whose fault that is yet. I’ve got another round or two before I can tally up the ringcard.

  67. William Owen

      The Alchemist. I could not understand why this book published when we have so many books by Calvino that do everything in Coehlo’s book twice as hard and twice as good. It felt like some saccharine melodramatic expression of holiday wimsy like what they publish around this time of year in the lead up to the holidays.

  68. deadgod


  69. deadgod

      on tenterhooks:  blechstravaganza

  70. Jon Cone

      Anything by Henry James. 

      ATLAS SHRUGGED was terrible, awful. A combination of Harlequin Romance prose and Wagner opera. Truly awful. 

      THE FLOUNDER by Gunter Grass. It was the only book around for miles. I felt compelled to read something, so I read it. I hated it from the first page. As I would read a page, I would tear it out and throw it away. Near the end I had a paperback cover and a single page. I didn’t bother to finish it. Christ, it was boring. 

      BEING AND NOTHINGNESS by Sartre. This isn’t my story but I wish it was. (Imagine it is.) I’m on Cape Breton Island, it’s summer. I’m trying to read that book, but I find the going impossible. I’m at the beach, pissed off. I throw it into the Atlantic and leave the beach. Two weeks later I visit the same beach. There is, BEING AND NOTHINGNESS, on the beach, even the Atlantic couldn’t tolerate its bombast. The Atlantic threw it back! 

  71. G Pinch

      I’d never read any Roth and it felt like a gap.  Read Everyman by Philip Roth.  I thought okay, go easy, an old duffer here, flagging powers etc.  Try some prime Roth.  Picked up American Pastoral (is that prime?)  It’s so literal, and so burdened with excessive detail but for all that not realistic at all.  It’s like it was ghost written by Tom Brokaw.  Can’t finish it.  Just can’t.  There’s the one scene where his daughter’s comrade tries to seduce him.  Bonkers.  I tapped out.


  72. gust van xand

      Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

      i ripped my copy in half when i was done with it

      it was for a class

  73. Leapsloth14

      Ok, most re-told fairy tales. I have tried several times, with a couple anthologies, and I don’t like them. I stopped Infinite Jest pretty early. Hmm…I almost put down Child of God but returned and finished it but it just really seemed minor to me. Students keep giving me Watchman. I start it, put it down. Every time.

  74. davidpeak

      i’ve read wuthering heights more times than any other book. considering the story is told within a narrative frame, i’d recommend pushing forward–at least until you get introduced to young heathcliff. it gets pretty great after that. 

  75. Brooks

      Remainder was totally a slog, but it stuck with me for weeks afterward… maybe that means it was worth it?  I still want to read C also, but I’m kind of dreading it at the same time…

  76. Brooks

      DFW left a large portion of what became the published manuscript out where it could be found for a reason.  That’s fine if you didn’t like The Pale King or thought it was unfinished, rushed, etc.  I certainly don’t think Karen Green deserves your ire.  I’m personally glad that it was published. 

  77. Brooks

      I’ve made two attempts at 2666 and stopped both times about 3/4 through part 3. Not that I wasn’t enjoying it – but that events in my life took over and I stopped reading for a while.  If I spend too long away from a book, I can’t just jump back in the middle – I have to start over.  I’m not thrilled about starting 2666 for the third time :)

  78. tedrees


  79. Darby Larson

      where the sidewalk ends by shel silverstein. its pretty much for kids. unless you’re like 6, don’t bother with it.

  80. Raaa

      i’m six ill have to chek that out thx

  81. Henry Fry

      If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Calvino made me want to paper cut my eyeballs with the edges of its pages so that I could no longer see them. But I didn’t finish it, so maybe it picked up.

  82. Shannon

      There have been a few. My Antonia, I read it but only remember how much I loathed it and wanted to set it on fire. One of Camille Paglia’s books. I’ve never made it through it hits the wall around page 25. I just recently tried to read Pride and Prejudice and I wanted to pee on it.

  83. Maxwell McCabe-Lokos

      Ginsberg is awful. So are most of the beaters.

  84. Ester

      Just goes to prove the old cliche that one man’s paper cut can be another man’s absolute lightning bolt of joy. I’d say I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t worship Calvino, but that would sound patronizing. Myself, I’d seriously consider having a limb amputated if it’d mean that from then on I could be recognized as the author of just about any of the man’s books, especially Invisible Cities. (I know that’s not the Calvino book you mentioned. I’m drifting.)

  85. tortietabbie

      The Last of the Mohicans. Cooper makes me want to smash things with my hands and set them on fire.

  86. Brandon

      Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story super sucks, which was really disappointing.

  87. Hunkydory834

      I once asked a Literature professor I greatly admired to recommend a book to take on a long trip and he suggested Bleak House. So I bought it and pretty much hated every word, but somehow managed to finish it (although I finally started skimming and even skipping pages toward the end).

      The only book I’ve literally thrown across a room was the Secret History by Donna Tartt. I snapped after a few too many references to a character named Bunny. Damn….

  88. Dole

      I can’t remember reading a book that I hated.  I don’t know, it seems like I am good at picking books that I like.  If something that I suspect I will hate gets a lot of press, for example “The Art of Fielding”, sometimes I read a few pages online just to confirm that my radar is working.  

      In college I read halfway into a few magical realist books and decided they weren’t for me. 

      The only thing I wanted to throw across the room recently was the Clive Barker film “Lord of Illusions”.

  89. NJ R

      Tom Robbins’s Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. I gave it the old fifty-page treatment, then immediately dropped it into the nearest trash can. I’d never felt so abused.

  90. Surprise.NY

      James Thurber’s Lanterns and Lances. I had no business reading that in the first place.

  91. G Pinch

      In terms of career trajectory, Pynchon is the literary equivalent of Weezer.  

  92. krysbeau

      As long as we’re talking about poor writing, I’m going to nominate some of the definitely over-the-top ways people have described their anger at whatever book it was that displeased them.  Just saying what it was that you didn’t like, I think, is much more effective for getting your point across than all this hyperbole about wanting to set a book on fire and shit.  We get it, we get it. Your literary taste is so acute that anything offensive to it sends you in a frenzy of anger beyond the confines of ordinary discourse.  

  93. Theknife

      this is written by the same genius who wrote “Look Back in Anger was dumb”?

  94. Bob Lopez

      The Unnamed; Visit from the Goon Squad; After Dark

  95. mimi

      i recently read VftGS, a quick read, i kept thinking to myself ‘haven’t I read this exact same book before?’ it’s a formulaic rehash of so much of what is ‘out there’ right now i can’t believe it has been touted as it has   

      and i could not stand all of her Inept Adjectives and Awkward Metaphors! there was one on every page  terrible!  but i read the book, i finished it, because a good friend liked it very much  arrrgggghhh!

  96. krysbeau

      Haha, obviously the only thing I like is being mean on the internet.

      re: Look Back in Anger, though, have you read it?  Did you like it?  It has historical significance insofar as it was one of the first British plays with decidedly working class themes/settings, but other than that I thought the way it seemed (by my read) to try to build a parallel between capitalist oppression and oppression of masculinity by women was lazy.  Not to mention expecting a reader to have sympathy for a man living at the tail end of the British Empire because he can’t go off and engage in imperialism to give his life broader “meaning” is incredibly juvenile.  It would be different if it was plausible to read the play without the indication that Osbourne felt that Jimmy was correct in all his feelings of persecution from the outside world, but since the play is pretty much autobiographical, I’m going to risk falling into the “intentional fallacy” and say my read takes the author promoting the same views as Jimmy.  Also, I just do not care for preachy literature one iota.

  97. Laryssa

      Yes! And, with all the hype I heard about that book, I thought I was the only one who felt that way.