My worst books of 2013

I must say, this has been one of my best ever reading years – mainly, I suspect, because I keep stealing book recommendations from my lovely wife who knows my tastes (I am a tad vocal, I fear) and steers me away from the duds. And yet, it hasn’t all been stellar reads for me. And so, dear readers, brace yourself for what have been my top five most disappointing, dreary, and annoying reads of the year!


The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Ichtarowicz
If I was designing a book I was definitely going to like, it might have looked something like this one – coming of age, speculative fiction, strong female narrative voice, school setting, dystopia, cult-ish, character-driven, quirky premise, good reviews. A bit like the brilliant Never Let Me Go. And yet this book infuriated, disturbed and bored me in equal measures. Its technique of slowly revealing what’s happening is just too slow – and confusing and tedious. The characters who should have compelled me left me apathetic. The language annoyed me. The big reveals at the end had insufficient impact because I had ceased to care much. Nicely conceived, poorly executed.

Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Letham
This book about three generations on activists in New York City clearly had the self conscious, smug certainty of being a Great American Novel but instead it was unremittingly boring and wearyingly verbose. I couldn’t wait to finish it. I struggled to do so.

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
It’s just depressing when a long-awaited sequel to a very well rendered first book (and moderately well rendered second one) turns out to be rubbish. What was charming for Bridget Jones in her 30s was charmless at 50-something.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
This book just annoyed me with its complex attempted magic realism that doesn’t quite come off and my vision of the author patting herself on the back for her work of genius. What’s annoying is that it’s occasionally really good. Which makes me all the more let down by the pretentious rest of it.

Calling Dr Laura by Nicole Georges
I probably took against this memoir by a lesbian with family issues because it wasn’t the brilliant Fun Home by Alison Bechdel… Though to be fair if I’d read Bechdel’s sequel, Are You My Mother, this year instead of last, I might have had to put it on this list of disappointments too. Fun Home (also Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle) transformed my appreciation of graphic memoirs. I expect a lot. And Calling Dr Laura didn’t do it for me.


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