Are you tired of reading overhyped bestsellers? Do you wish someone would tell you to read this not that? Find out which are the most overrated books and what to read instead.
Have you ever stood at a bookstore debating between two books? You’ve been hearing about both of them, but you are not sure which to choose. And you can only choose one because, you know, bills and such.
Or maybe you’re browsing through Target and see that book that everyone seems to be talking about. Should you buy it?
Unfortunately, just because a book is extremely hyped, don’t mean it’s actually good. And no one wants to waste their money (or time) on overrated books.
So how do you decide?
That’s where I step in. Every year, I create my annual read this not that list. I pick the seven most overrated books I read the previous year and then pair them with seven books to read instead.
Will you agree with my picks? Maybe. Maybe not.
I figure it’s my duty as a book blogger to share my opinion and start the conversation. And if I save you from picking up a terrible book, you can thank me later.
Second Chance Stories
The Midnight Library
In the Midnight Library, there are two books – one book for the life you’ve lived and one for the one you could have lived. After attempting suicide, Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library. Now she must decide which book to choose from. What if she had made different choices? Would her life have been any better? All of us have regrets, and by allowing Nora the possibility to redo her life, Haig does a brilliant job showing how we can never predict the outcomes of our choices. A thoroughly enjoyable read that intimately talks about the pain of depression and second-guessing has on our life.
The Book of Two Ways
When Dawn Edelstein is in a plane crash, her last thoughts are not of her husband, but of a man she hasn’t seen in fifteen years. When she miraculously survives, Dawn has a choice to make. Should she return to her husband and try to work out their marriage? Or should she run away to Egypt to pursue a man and a degree that she left behind? If I could describe The Book of Two Ways in two words, it would be mind-numbingly dull. While Picoult isn’t my favorite writer, she’s usually at least entertaining. From the start, Picoult drowns you in information, and it’s not even interesting information. A far cry from Picoult’s usual fare, The Book of Two Ways is at the top of the most overrated books right now.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
As a therapist, Lori Gottlieb spent all day helping others with their problems. Yet, when her longtime boyfriend unexpectedly broke up with her, she found herself on the receiving end of therapy. Gottlieb’s memoir is top-notch with exceptional pacing, slyly weaving in explanations of therapy within the fascinating story of Gottlieb’s therapy sessions. You’ll quickly become attached to finding out what happens to her patients – a narcissistic tv producer, a dying newlywed, and a depressed senior citizen. A great book that highlights the importance of discussing mental health.
Although ranked at the top of her law school class, Christie Tate kept fantasizing about suicide. Her therapist Dr. Rosen recommended she join his weekly psychotherapy group session where he promises that if she shows up and is completely honest, her life will change. With its constant stream of sexual situations, Christie’s tell-all memoir probably told a little too much. However, the biggest issue with Group is the cringe-worthy ethically questionable practices of her therapist.
Fifty Words for Rain
In post-World War II Japan, Nori, the illegitimate daughter of a Japanese aristocrat and a Black American GI, is hidden away on her grandmother’s estate to conceal the family shame. All Nori knows is the attic she is confined to until she meets her legitimate half-brother, Akira, a boy who shows her the world contains so much more. This complicated story about shame and the need for acceptance would be a perfect choice for your book club and will give you plenty to discuss – especially that ending.
The Henna Artist
Fleeing an abusive marriage, Lakshmi rebuilds a life for herself as the most coveted henna artist in all of Jaipur in the 1950s. A confidante to the wealthy women of the town, Lakshmi is known as a vault of secrets. When she is unexpectedly made her sister’s guardian, Lakshmi’s carefully constructed world is thrown off-balance. Joshi plays up the exotic setting of India but doesn’t make any attempt to give you historical context or prod you to think deeper on women’s rights. The cliché storyline – a woman realizing that true freedom lies in not being tied to the vagaries of the wealthy – was utterly predictable. Overall, it’s a feel-good fluffy read that missed its opportunity to truly make an impact.
The Night Swim
Rachel Krall, the host of a popular true-crime podcast, gets more than she expected when she reports on a rape trial in a small town. A mysterious woman named Hannah is stalking Rachel, leaving her notes begging her to investigate the death of Hannah’s sister twenty-five years ago. Could that cold case be connected to the current trial? Captivating from start to finish, the coverage of the rape trial gives the feel of a good legal thriller, keeping you wondering how the jury will decide. Add in the cold case, and you’ll be guessing how the two cases connect.
Reporter Camille Preaker is unsettled by an assignment that sends her back to her hometown. For years, Camille has avoided her hypochondriac mother and her charming but manipulative half-sister. When two preteen girls are murdered, Camille must investigate their deaths while not letting her past experiences affect the story. Flynn loves toying with the shock factor of her novels, but Sharp Objects took it to an even higher dark and sexualized tone. With a slow pace, a protagonist who continually makes idiotic choices, and a predictable ending, I suggest you skip this psychological thriller.
The Joy Luck Club
How well do you know your mother? In 1949, four Chinese women, all recent immigrants to San Francisco, gather together weekly to play Mahjong, chat about their pasts and hope for the future for their daughters. This tale of mothers trying to pass on their wisdom to their American-born daughters who don’t truly understand them will make you want to learn more about your own mother.
The Last Story of Mina Lee
Nancy Jooyoun Kim
Margot Lee has always struggled to understand her mother Mina, a Korean War orphan and undocumented immigrant. After Mina’s suspicious death, Margot begins to dig into the life of her single mother. Contrasting Mina’s first year in Los Angeles with Margot’s present-day discoveries, The Last Story of Mina Lee tells the split narrative of an immigrant family. While Mina’s backstory had plenty of dramatic events, the story in the book was particularly bland. You’d appreciate the themes about immigration more if Kim didn’t beat you over the head with them over and over throughout the story.
The Starless Sea
Graduate student Zachary Rawlins stumbles upon a mysterious book full of fantastical tales, only to find himself in the narrative. He follows hints to a secret library, preserved by guardians intent on protecting it. From there he finds himself swept into a magical mystical world. With a story this complex, you might not be able to settle for just one reading.
The Glass Hotel
Emily St. John Mandel
After the success of her novel Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel’s newest novel was one of the most anticipated books of 2020. Mandel starts you off with a teaser – a woman falling into the ocean with a few flashes along the way. Then she slowly unravels a story of Vincent, a hotel bartender, and Jonathan Alkaitis, a rich financier running a Ponzi scheme. Although her writing is exquisite, both haunting and soulful, the story drifts along without a central message to anchor it.
In grad school, Phil Knight had a crazy idea that Japanese running shoes could overtake the domination of the German company Adidas. He partnered up with his former track coach to help design innovative shoes and traveled to Japan to bring this crazy idea, now known as Nike, to life. Following the ups and downs of the journey that built a billion-dollar company, Knight’s memoir will hook you in with a band of eccentric characters and an underdog story with excellent narrative pacing.
Sophia Amoruso went from a life on the margins – a school drop-out dumpster diving for food and surviving on shoplifting and odds jobs – to the founder of one of the fastest-growing retail companies, Nasty Gal. Amoruso’s book is part memoir, part career-advice, and part inspiration for girl bosses. Her jack-of-all-trades approach to genres means she’s a master of none. Since you can find better business memoirs, better career advice books, and better inspirational reads elsewhere, #Girlboss is one you can easily pass over.
What are the Most Overrated Books You Read This Year?
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my Read This Not That list? What overrated books would you add and which bestsellers do you think I judged too harshly? As always, let me know in the comments!
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Carrie @ Season It Already! says
Oh how I loved The Henna Artist and can’t wait until I can read Joshi’s sequels. Now I’m curious about the book you suggested instead to find out why it might be better. 🙂
The Henna Artist wasn’t necessarily bad, it just didn’t have the depth I wanted. I think I wanted it to be more discussion-worthy than I felt it was. You really should check out Fifty Words for Rain, though!
I love The Henna Artist and I am already reading the Joshi’s sequel and I really like it. I read also The Fifty Words for Rain. It was very interesting story coming from Japan. What a different culture and system of values, so foreign to westerners. I think I would not suggest to read one or another. Both books are well written, engrossing, full of surprises. Both are opening your horizon and enriching you intellectually and emotionally.
I added the entire list of Read This to my Christmas list. The top 5 were already in my TBR and the last 2 I had never heard of but will hopefully be reading soon
Jasmine davis says
The Henna Artist is also on my TBR