Ever read an overhyped bestseller? Do you wish someone would tell you to read this not that? Find out which ones are worth the hype and which to skip.
Have you ever read a New York Times bestselling novel and wondered, That was terrible! Who the heck likes this book? And some books aren’t exactly terrible, they’re just … meh. Do you wish someone would tell you to read this not that?
Luckily for you, I’m willing to let you learn from my mistakes. Let me be the trailblazer who reads anything and everything. Take my advice on which hyped books are worth your time and which books to avoid. Because finding time to read is hard enough in our busy lives, don’t waste your precious time on overhyped books.
I seem to fall for it again and again. Excitement sets in as I read a book that has gotten lots of attention, and then the inevitable disappointment occurs when I realize the book is yet another letdown.
They say you have to kiss a whole lot of frogs to find that prince charming. Sadly, in my experience, this saying is also usually true when it comes to books. I feel like I waste my time reading so many hyped books that turn out to be duds. Just because a book is a best seller doesn’t mean that it is well-written.
If you’re always looking for a good book like me, then look no further. Last year, I read 55 books in all – that’s a total of 22,934 pages! Here are 14 books I read last year – 7 that are worth your time, and 7 that are not.
The Orphans of Race Point
I think this is one of the best-written books I read last year. Set in a Portuguese community in Massachusetts, young Hallie Costa forms a lifelong bond with Gus Silva after the murder of his mother. The story follows them through the ups and downs of their lives – going in directions I certainly wasn’t expecting. I particularly liked how this book examined the balance between the good and evil that lives within each of us. Patry Francis showed that life is complicated and doesn’t always end how we expect. The ending will leave you feeling hope for the future and make you reconsider the true meaning of soul mates.
Never Let Me Go
I see lots of recommendations for this book, and I’m not sure why. The book starts with carer Kathy H reminiscing about her childhood at the English boarding school Hailsham. You know something is off about these kids and this school. Right off the bat, I realized what the big mystery was. I won’t be a spoilsport and ruin it for you in case you do decide to read it. What annoyed me most was that none of the characters truly showed any spark. Literally everyone just seemed to accept their fate, which seemed rather unrealistic to me. By the way, I love his book The Remains of the Day. Now, that is a book worth reading.
Book Club Favorites
The Things We Wish Were True
Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
If you like Liane Moriarty’s books, you should give this book a read. I think Whalen is the better writer of the two. Set in a small town in North Carolina, a near-fatal drowning at the local pool ties a group of neighbors together. However, each person is carrying their own secrets, and, as in most good novels, all those secrets connect them in unexpected ways. As the tangled web of lies begins to unravel, the characters must learn to accept their mistakes and forgive the mistakes of others. If you want a quick read or need a book to suggest for book club, give this one a chance.
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
I was excited to read Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s debut novel. It rose to #2 on the New York Times Bestseller List and had such a great premise. The four Plumb siblings are about to inherit “The Nest,” a small trust fund their father left them that has blossomed into a gigantic windfall. However, their mother uses most of the funds to hush up one brother’s reckless scandal. Let the trouble begin since the siblings have been counting on the long-anticipated inheritance to fix their poor decisions. After a promising start, the story is executed poorly with side stories that don’t add to the overall narrative. There are just so many better books to read to waste your time on this one.
Books About Drowning
Everything I Never Told You
Set in 1970s Ohio, Celeste Ng’s debut novel starts with the drowning of Lydia, the beloved daughter of James and Marilyn Lee. As the family struggles with her death, the author takes you deeper into the cracks and flaws of this mixed-race family. It is a poignant character study into the dynamics of a family where all the parents’ unfulfilled hopes are pinned on one child, to the detriment of all. The story unfolds masterfully. By the end, I was in tears for these poor children and the damage that had been done by their parents’ selfishness. Celeste Ng’s writing is exquisite, and I’m putting her second book, Little Fires Everywhere, at the top of my to-read list.
Into the Water
The Girl on the Train with its brilliant use of the unreliable narrator, you’ll probably be disappointed in Paula Hawkins’ second novel, Into the Water. Set in a small English town infamous for its “Drowning Pool,” this novel centers around two recent drownings that may or may not be suicides. As the police investigate, the secrets of all the characters are slowly revealed. That’s when you realize, you don’t care. Their secrets aren’t that great, and the characters tie together poorly. Then the author decides to add a random mystical layer that feels forced. I recommend you pass on this one.
Girl at War
I read this book cover-to-cover on a 3-hour flight and loved it. Historical fiction can be so much fun to read when you feel immersed in the time period. In her stunning first novel, Sara Nović tells the story of Ana Jurić, a ten-year-old girl whose life is upended by the start of the Yugoslavian civil war. The glimpses of modern war from a child’s perspective were fascinating. Yet, Nović doesn’t just cover the tragedies of Ana’s childhood. She jumps ahead 10 years as Ana returns to Yugoslavia to confront the ghosts of her childhood. With beautiful observations and a riveting storyline, you’ll be glad you read this book.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Who doesn’t love a novel set during World War II? Recently, there have been some brilliant World War II novels – All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale, to name a few. In comparison, this novel fell flat. The story follows socialite Mary as she strives to help the war effort, fights against racial prejudice by befriending a black boy named Zachary, and falls into a love triangle with best friends Tom and Alistair. The author wrote this book to honor his grandfather’s service in Malta during the war. By far the best part of the book was the section where Alistair was stationed in Malta. If only he had written an expanded version of that section; that might have been a great novel.
Before the Fall
A private jet flying from Martha’s Vineyard to New York City crashes into the ocean. The sole survivors are a young boy who is now the sole heir of his parents’ extensive fortune and Scott Burroughs, a down-and-out painter who just happened to catch a ride. The mystery of why the plane crashed unfolds masterfully and keeps you engaged. But the beauty of this book is that it is more than just a thriller. It’s a commentary on the consequences of our 24-hour news cycle and the desperate need to know everything right away. This was one book I could not put down.
When I saw Michael Crichton had a new bestseller, I knew I had to read it. Well, I shouldn’t have. There was a reason why Michael Crichton didn’t publish this while he was alive. Dragon Teeth is a story of student William Johnson caught between two competing paleontologists, Othniel Charles Marsh and Edwin Drinker Cope, who are willing to go to great lengths to sabotage one another. I didn’t realize the story is based on real people until the end of the book. It’s not factual enough to be a true history, but not as thrilling as you expect from good historical fiction. Save your time and just read the Wikipedia article about Marsh and Cope. It’s basically just as exciting.
The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons
Though the title is the book equivalent of click-bait, the book itself was extremely interesting. The subtitle, “The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by Trauma, Madness, and Recovery,” would be more appropriate, though much less catchy. Sam Kean teaches about the various parts of the brain using compelling true stories that temper down the science-heavy segments to make the book more relatable for the general reader. He expertly weaves the storytelling while not skimping on the science, giving you a fairly in-depth basic primer on the science and history of neuroscience.
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Jared Diamond won a Pulitzer Prize for this book about how civilization has been shaped by geography and environment. Many of his points are extremely compelling … the first time. And then he repeats them, over and over and over. I listened to the audiobook while on a long road trip, and, by the end, I knew exactly what he would say next. His analysis of the evolution of human societies is solid and thought-provoking. If it had been half the length, I would have recommended it. But my suggestion is to save yourself the effort and just read a detailed book review.
The Book of Joy
The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Do you feel like joy is missing from your life? In this book, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu met together for a week with Douglas Abrams to teach you how you can find lasting happiness in a changing world. These two holy men discuss the nature of joy, the obstacles to joy and the foundation you need to find joy in your life. From the start, the love that these selfless men have for each other is apparent – they truly are best friends. Funny and enlightening, this book will leave you with a desire to find joy within yourself.
The 4-Hour Workweek
Who wouldn’t want to work only 4 hours a week? I would love to travel more and was curious about how other people afford to travel full-time. What I discovered is that if you lie, make excuses, and basically sell your soul, you too can be like Timothy Ferris and have a 4-Hour workweek. Keep in mind that Timothy Ferriss is an arrogant, narcissistic jerk. You really really don’t want to be like him. The question is do you want a selfish life or a selfless life? So if you want fleeting pleasure, follow the ideas in The 4-Hour Workweek. If you want lasting happiness, you should read The Book of Joy instead.
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:
Agree with you about “Never Let Me Go” Couldn’t believe I drove all the way to the Library to get it much less wasting the time to read it.
Bahaha. That’s the perfect description. I absolutely LOVE his book The Remains of the Day, though.
John Croteau says
I agree, enough said, But what do you think of Joyce Maynards work? I did not come across her name is your work. What has she got ot offer for enjoyable reading?
Catherine Retford says
I have to agree that Into the Water was a huge disappointment. I will, however read Celeste Ng’s bok as I’m sure it will be much beter.
The Book of Joy is really great! Totally recommend it especially now!!!
If only I had read your review of “Never Let me Go” prior to downloading it from the library. I keep reading and reading hoping it would get better but it never did. At least I didn’t waste any money on it.
I totally agree about Dragon Teeth. Although I wish he had finished that one, because I think it could’ve been a great book if he had.
Sally Newendyke says
I agree with you so often! I especially liked your choice of The Children of Race Point! I don’t know of any talk about this or anyone who has read it! It probably meant more to me because I have been to Race Point many times. I also like your choice of Before the Fall!
If you loved The Children of Race Point, you should also check out her newest book, All the Children are Home. She is such a fantastic writer!
Rod Weston says
Amazing website!! I am so impressed! I’ve already added several titles to my TBR pile which was tottering dangerously already. I was a bit disappointed that one of my favorite authors, Bernard Cornwell, was not listed in historical fiction. Also David and Leigh Eddings were missing from fantasy, as well as Robin Hobb. But I must admit that all the reviews I have read on this wonderful site are inspiring and I have agreed with the reviews of the books I have read.
Jennifer Tapler says
Great post! I didn’t even finish Into the Water – just stopped. That’s how uninvested I was in the story and characters. But I loved Everything I Never Told You!
As an avid reader, so glad to have come across this site. Time is too precious! If I don’t enjoy it after the first 50 pages, that’s it.
The first 50 pages are generally “the hook”.
Very good that you give honest reviews, both positive and negative, those being your personal reviews. Thanks so much.
Anne Green says
I agree about books that are over-hyped (and also movies and TV shows). I tend to avoid them like the plague because I like to form my own opinions about them. That said, book appreciation is very subjective, and often one reader will love something that another hates. For example I loved “Never Let Me Go” and thought it was brilliant!
Oh, I completely agree that reviews are subjective! Ideally, I would have the exact same taste as each of my readers, but of course, that’s not possible. Sometimes I hate a book that most people love and I love a book that most people hate. I love hearing other opinions about books in the comments!