Worst Reads of 2020

Since I read with such relish, it’s only fitting that those that don’t suit my taste are spewed forth with vehemence. Below are my 10 least favorite reads from 2020. Prepare for my version of bookish vitriol.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Precious Ramotswe has set up the first ladies detective agency in Botswana. She gains clients through her cleverness, wisdom, and unassuming personality. She solves a series of mini mysteries over the course of the book. Primarily, that was why I disliked it. I prefer books where the events are all tied together in the end, but these events seemed to have little to do with one another. It rambled to me. What I did like was the insight it gave me into Botswanan culture.

Calming the Storm by Melanie D. Snitker

My reading challenge for 2020 had a category for “books from a genre you don’t typically read.” That’s a hard one for me, because I love reading from almost every genre. EXCEPT romance. So I downloaded an indie Christian Romance book to fill the blank. This story centers around Rachel’s quest to win custody of her niece. Brandon offers to marry her to strengthen her position, saying they can annul the marriage once she has full custody. The writing was fine, but the plot was too contrived and awkward. Not a fan.

The Christmas Bargain by Shanna Hatfield

Another space filler for my 2020 reading challenge. I downloaded it years ago as a freebie from Bookbub. Ironically, the plot was quite similar to Calming the Storm. Philamena’s drunkard father offers her to Luke as payment for a debt. Initially disgusted, Luke ends up accepting in order to keep her father from selling her to the owner of the  local saloon. Another marriage of convenience turned to true love! It got me thinking, perhaps overthinking, why these types of scenarios show up so frequently in christian/clean romance. Personally, I think it allows the characters to fall into bed with impunity the moment they declare their love for each other. I derive this argument from the frequent heavy breathing episodes between the two budding lovers before they depart to their separate suites. Ah, romance…

The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha by Ravi Zacharias

It’s funny, but I remember loving his series when I read two installments from it earlier in my life. This year I read the rest and I found them poorly done and sadly one sided. This book is supposed to be a conversation between Jesus and Buddha about the differences in their beliefs. I believe one of their biggest issues is that Zacharias was not a fiction writer. The voices of all the characters in the dialogue sound the same. I could tell it was just Zacharais’ voice carrying on a three way conversation with himself about why he chose Christianity over other religions. It was awkward and ineffective.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

This classic is the tale of Indian Brahmin Siddhartha’s search for meaning in life. I found it uninspiring. Nothing in it struck me as very wise and meaningful. Maybe it’s my worldview? Or perhaps it all just went over my head.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Two strikes Ms. Flynn. I tossed aside Gone Girl four chapters in because the narrative voice of one of the characters grated my nerves. I gave this one a try because my therapist mentioned it in one of our sessions. Note to self: just because your therapist mentions something, doesn’t mean you should try it. GOOD MORNING TRIGGER WARNING! There were too many passages that reminded me of my relationship to my birth family. The book utterly wrecked me for a week. Even aside from the effect the book had on the still raw trauma of my past, there is something wholly uncomfortable about this book. It felt as though she wanted you to be uncomfortable the entire time you were reading her story. It was emotionally taught and full of scenes that either were or bordered on obscene. I think I’m done with her books forever.

Horrorstör: A Novel by Grady Hendrix

In my experience, horror leans one of two ways: psychological or gross. This book was the gross variety. I do not like the gross variety. I picked it up because the thought of a haunted Ikea intrigued me. They feel simultaneously homey and impersonal; a cozy warehouse. Horror often plays on the uncanny nature of things, so it seemed a good subject. However, there was far too much excrement and bile and wet muddy blood. Plus the general story was formulaic and uninteresting to me.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

I have little patience for Christian nonfiction writers who write books about how to live a godly life with little to no scripture included. Perhaps Ms. Niequist had more wisdom to share than I give her credit for, but nothing in the genre of Christian Living holds weight for me without, at the very least, scripture references in the footnotes. This book was all about feel good religion and full of the author’s droll personal stories.

Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? by Gary Thomas

This book could have been so good if it had only been what it said it was. I fully believe the premise that marriage is a journey of sanctification and not meant to satisfy our deepest personal longings. The christian life is a journey of sanctification (Romans 6:1-23), so any relationship we hold is another way for God to make us more into His image. This should doubly stand for a relationship that is a reflection of Christ’s love for His Church (Ephesians 5:25-32). I was utterly flummoxed, then, when Thomas spent his book telling personal stories, instead of expounding on the innumerable scripture passages that prove his point, with much more force and weight than his awkward stories did. His advice was also tremendously one sided (male) and his jocular stories bordered on patriarchal. With so much potential, I was tremendously disappointed.

p.s. to Ms. Niequist: see how easy it is to put in scripture references? Just saying…

My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir by Noelle Hancock

Hooray! Noelle takes a year off to max out her credit cards doing things that scare her in the all important effort to find herself. Okay, wonderful. Bully for you. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a rich white chick with enough emotional and financial security that her parents can clean up after her year of trapezes, fake airplane battles, shark cages and Mount Everest. And to blame it on Eleanor Roosevelt who spent most of her life using her money and power to help other people, not party hard into the wild, wild night. This book was such a waste of my time, especially in a year where I read many biographies of people who gave up so much for the sake of others or spent their life speaking out for the oppressed.

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