Are you tired of reading overrated bestsellers? Do you wish someone would tell you to read this not that? Find out which books are worth the hype and which to skip.
Four years ago when I just started blogging, one of my very first blog posts was a book list.
You might be saying “duh” now, but back in the day, I was a lifestyle blogger. Books were just a side interest which I decided to write about on a whim.
My sister read my post and told me it was AWFUL. And it was. I was trying to be too technical and erudite, which isn’t really my personality. Okay, I am a bit technical since I have a Mathematics degree.
With some work, my post turned into Don’t Buy the Hype: Read This Not That, my very first post to go viral (well, viral for a brand new blogger).
Now every year, to celebrate my blogging launch day, I create an updated read this not that. I take seven books I read recently and pair them with books you should read instead.
Obviously, it’s all a matter of opinion. You might not agree with me. But in my opinion, these are the overrated bestsellers you should not waste your time on.
Want more Read This Not That pairs?
I used to cap my list at 7 pairs, but now you have another option! Supporters on Patreon now have access to an exclusive extended edition of Read This Not That with four more pairs of books as well as a few more overrated bestsellers.
Slow Burn Sister Mystery
Long Bright River
Estranged sisters, Mickey, a police officer, and Kacey, a drug addict, live completely different lives in Philadelphia. When Kacey goes missing and drug addicts begin dying, Mickey becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her among the opioid-riddled streets. More a family drama than a gritty detective thriller, Long Bright River‘s slower pace draws you into Mickey’s world of being a single mom and police officer while the flashbacks build a relationship between the sisters.
In an imagined modern resurgence of the Troubles in Northern Ireland (which doesn’t match the political climate at all), BBC news producer Tessa spots her sister on the security footage of an IRA robbery. Suddenly Tessa’s world shifts as she is confronted with the fact that her sister is in the IRA. Asked to act as an informant, Tessa must decide where her loyalties lie, in this lame thriller that spends most of its time discussing Tessa’s anxiety-ridden thoughts, mostly about her baby.
Greek Secret Societies
The Secret History
A modern Greek tragedy, Donna Tartt’s debut novel details the moral fall of a group of students at a private Vermont college. Classics professor Morrow only admits a handful of select students to study Ancient Greek. After determinedly breaking into this close-knit group, Richard Papen is surprised to find a world of highly flawed characters losing their grasp on morality. Secrets, lies, betrayal, and eventually murder become justifiable actions as they slip further and further in their descent into evil.
When her niece’s roommate is gruesomely murdered, Mariana, a therapist still grieving her husband’s tragic death, returns to Cambridge University, her alma mater, to investigate. Quickly, she suspects Edward Fosca, the charismatic professor of Greek tragedy and leader of a secret society of female students called The Maidens. With a convoluted plot that has gaping holes and contrived characters, The Maidens strained to keep even a semblance of realisticness.
Husband + My Best Friend Drama
In 1974, Kate Mularkey becomes best friends with the cool new girl at school, Tully Hart. As Tully becomes a celebrity news anchor and Kate chooses to be a stay-at-home mom, their friendship full of love, jealousy, anger, and laughter will shape their lives over the next three decades. I loved the dynamics of the relationship between Kate and Tully, watching them renegotiate their friendship and struggle with their codependency as they each grew in different directions.
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
After being happily married for twenty years, Flora is shocked when she stumbles across evidence that her husband Julian had an affair a decade ago. With their daughter about to leave for college, Flora begins to question everything about their marriage. Good Company hits on all the middle-life crisis issues: marriage, parenthood, adultery, success, and the what-ifs of life, without giving any of the topics proper depth and leaves you with an unsatisfactory ending.
Book About a Book
Hell of a Book
Jason Mott’s contemporary novel showcases two parallel storylines. In the first, an unnamed Black author with frenetic energy and an unreliable memory sets out on a publicity tour of his latest book. During the tour, he keeps encountering the Kid, a possibly imaginary child. Along with this story, Mott interweaves the tale of Soot, a young Black boy with extremely dark skin facing injustices in the rural South. Mott’s creative narrative keeps you unbalanced, a conversation-provoking study of what it means to be Black in America. All I can say is that Hell of a Book is a work of art you must experience for yourself.
Jean Hanff Korelitz
A story so good you can’t help but steal it. Jacob Bonner was once a promising young novelist, but now he’s a down-on-his-luck professor struggling with writer’s block. When one of his students dies, Jake decides to use that student’s sure-fire plot. Yet, with success comes threatening messages that make Jake realize he got in deeper than he ever intended. With no red herrings and an obvious ending, The Plot bores rather than thrills, making you wish you were reading Jake’s sure-fire story from the book rather than the book you have in front of you.
Political Thriller by a Clinton
State of Terror
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny
Taking a page from her husband’s book, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton teamed up with acclaimed mystery novelist Louise Penny in a gripping political thriller that showed up his book in every way. Years of American withdrawal from the world stage have left a power vacuum that its enemies have been more than happy to fill. After a series of terrorist attacks, novice Secretary of State Ellen Adams, under the administration of her rival, must unravel a deadly global conspiracy. With believable characters and plenty of political machinations, State of Terror perfectly blends Clinton’s unique political insight into a Tom Clancy-esque plot that was a joy to read.
The President is Missing
James Patterson and Bill Clinton
Right after evidence is revealed that President Duncan could be a traitor, he goes missing. With a terrorist group threatening to infect all internet devices in the US, the President must take to the field to stop them while finding the traitor in his own cabinet. With overdone characters, a retread plot, and endless political rants, The President is Missing was not nearly as good as its bestseller status would indicate.
It seems like a chance of a lifetime when Lux McCallister and her boyfriend Nico are hired to sail two women to a remote Pacific island. Yet, when they arrive, another boat is already anchored there, piloted by a golden couple. The party of six gets along great until another stranger arrives and the perfect vacation turns deadly. With all the markers of the perfect guilty pleasure beach read – exotic setting, gorgeous people, complicated relationships, and over-the-top plot twists – you know it’s not realistic, but you get sucked in anyways because it’s escapist reading at its finest.
The Girl in the Mirror
Twin sisters Iris and Summer are practically identical, though Iris has always been jealous of Summer’s good luck. After Summer invites Iris to help the family sail to the Seychelles, Iris gets more than she expected when Summer vanishes overboard. How long can Iris deceive everyone pretending to be Summer in her sister’s not-so-perfect life? With a crazy soap-opera premise (the first child to produce an heir inherits the family fortune), The Girl in the Mirror stumbles with awkward plotting, slow storytelling, and predictable twists.
Crying in H Mart
Michelle Zauner’s bestselling memoir highlights the ups and downs of her relationship with her Korean mother – from childhood admiration to teenage friction and adult friendship. Zauner describes the challenges of being of mixed race, feeling like you don’t fully belong in either culture. Sprinkled throughout with lush descriptions of the Korean food that connected her to her mother and her heritage, Crying in H Mart is a heartbreaking account of the enveloping pain of losing your mother to cancer.
Ashley C. Ford
A coming-of-age memoir about growing up a Black girl with an incarcerated father and the path to truly understand and overcome our origins. While Ashley idolized her father she barely knew, her life was shaped by her quick-tempered and emotionally detached mother and mothering grandmother. As she ages, she eventually learns why her father is in prison and must reconcile her own identity with her family’s past. Although Ford is an excellent writer, she fails to ponder how her experiences connected to what other women and girls, especially Black girls, face or delve into why her mother and grandmother made the decisions they made.
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!
More Read This Not That Posts:
Definitely The School For Good Mothers and The Maid were overhyped.
The TSFGM started out so good, but ironically went down hill when the main character Frida arrives at the school.
The Maid’s main character was super annoying and IMO not so innocent after all.
I am a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon, but her last book was just not her best. I love the stories and characters so much, it was still a comforting read. I think she is about to wrap it all up with book 10, but that will be a while coming.
Agree with The Maidens. I still haven’t read The Secret History, though I own a copy. I’ll get to it one day. The reason I can easily agree is bc I read The Maidens & you know how there are “B Movies?” Well this was definitely a B book. Entertaining enough, but not quite up to snuff.
Good Company was forgettable.
I keep meaning to read Crying in H Mart. It fits the bill for Goodreads finalist on the reading challenge.
Currently reading The Christie Affair and it is not quite what I expected, so far, so hoping it will improve.
Also just read Violeta by Isabel Allende, whom I’ve loved in the past, but sadly it was just meh. It felt like someone had told the author: just give us what you’ve got & then was not edited well. Parts felt like summaries of the characters, that I’ll admit were colorful, but like author’s notes being developed still.
Thank you, Rachael, for your lists. I did not know about ONE HELL OF A BOOK by Jason Mott and will order it soon!
Absolutely agree on your this not that list (at least on the books I’ve read)
Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerrie Maniscalco
I don’t know how this much positive ratings this book has like 4.3/5 in goodreads. I read the first book of the series it was okay, I think. I didn’t have to skip a lot plus I enjoyed the environment. But this one was worse. I had to skip a LOT. It was really dissapointing. Don’t know how people are so positive about this. First onewas better.
Sally Mentzer says
I really enjoy your blog; and I think your “read this, not that” is very helpful! Sometimes I’ll change my TBR list based on your suggestions.
Karen Ivins says
I really appreciate this overrated book list! it helps narrowing down the field with so many books to read.. (I agree with you comments about Reckless Girls) Thanks!!!