Hating a popular book is no taboo.

I’ve been reading this book that qualifies as “popular”, probably the most popular among its author’s works. Readers raved about it in their reviews, and it had a high rating on Goodreads, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It can’t be that bad, can it? Boy was I proven wrong.

After my less-than-pleasant escapades with a number of bestsellers that lured me with their pretty covers and abundance of good reviews, you would have thought I’d learn my lesson, but nope. I walked in headfirst, expecting to read something that will blow me away. That was nearly two months ago. I still can’t bring myself to finish this book because reading it feels like a slow and painful death.

Are you perhaps curious about the book? I know I would be too if I had read a similar rant. My answer will probably surprise a few readers (maybe turn away a few followers out of indignation), but the book in question is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. *ducks to avoid any possible wayward tomatoes*

I recognize that Gaiman is loved by many, and that American Gods is critically acclaimed and all that jazz, but no matter how much I try, I cannot bring myself to get over the fact that I hate this book with the passion of a thousand fires. I don’t care about any of the characters, I don’t like how everything is all over the place, the epic long chapters bring tears to my eyes and the events barely capture my attention. Eventually I started to skim. You could skip whole paragraphs in the book and still understand what’s going on, not that I care.

It actually put me to sleep twice already. No lie.

It actually put me to sleep twice already. No lie.

Does that make me weird? Does it mean something’s wrong with me? No, I don’t think so. Popular books are still books, and as with all books, some will like them and others won’t. The fact that the majority likes American Gods doesn’t mean there won’t be some who absolutely dislike it. There are people who hate Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, The Hunger Games… books considered extremely popular by today’s standards, but disliking them doesn’t make the people any less literate.

Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. Some fans get pretty defensive and may even go after these haters. That’s unfair. I doubt they’d like it if someone came after them for hating a certain book. You like what you like, and it’s likely that nothing will change your mind. Maybe as a writer I shouldn’t be so vocal about my opinion of other books, but I was a reader before I became a writer, and that gives me the right to express my displeasure.

I’m not going to give up on Gaiman yet. I’ve heard good things about him, and I loved the movie Coraline that was based on his book, so I’m pretty sure I’ll end up finding something to like. In the meantime, however, I’ll persevere. I can’t stop reading a book no matter how much I hate it. I’m just lucky I’m not reading it alone because… well, misery loves company.

Have you read American Gods? Do you like it? Hate it? What other popular books have you read and disliked?

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45 thoughts on “Hating a popular book is no taboo.

  1. I definitely agree with you. There are quite a few popular books that I have disliked and it’s cost me a few followers or upset a persona friend/family member but I can’t help it if I don’t connect with a particular book. I read less than two chapters of 50 Shades of Grey and was repulsed by the subject matter. I had no connection with the “love” story of Twilight. I also (gasp!) didn’t care for The Catcher in the Rye despite it being beloved by many.

    • Agreed. Not everyone will like the same thing, so it’s silly to get upset over it! I read snippets of Fifty Shades and found it atrocious, and I don’t care for Twilight either. I’ve heard many things about The Catcher in the Rye, but I have yet to bring myself to pick it up!
      Thank you for your comment. 🙂

  2. JackieP says:

    Everyone can not like the same things, it’s just human nature. I haven’t read Gaiman, and I won’t read 50 Shades of Grey, nor have I much interest in Twilight. If someone wants to hate on me for that, they have a problem. A book reviewer certainly cannot like everything they read! so just be honest and your readers will appreciate that.

    • My thoughts exactly. 😀 With the amount and diversity of books out there, it’s impossible to assume that you will never come across a book you dislike!

  3. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hating certain books. I do think it’s wrong to refuse point blank to read books because they’re popular, though. Personally, I think if you’re going to hate a book…at least try to read it (or the first in the series, anyway).

    I’d suggest trying Stardust, for Neil Gaiman. I really enjoyed it, and Coraline, but I haven’t read American Gods.

    • Fair enough! I know some people base their opinions on what others think, and that’s not entirely fair. I wouldn’t speak negatively about a book without firsthand experience.
      I actually have Stardust on my To-Read shelf, though I think I’ll take a bit of a break from Gaiman before touching it. 😉

  4. So I’m not the only one who feels disappointed about American Gods. I too heard the hype, and though it wasn’t a thrilling read for me, I finished it hoping for a good ending. Sadly, it never showed up.

  5. Aww, sadface. I am one of those people who hype about American Gods whenever I get the chance to talk favorite books. In a way, it is a little disappointing to hear of somebody who’s read it and not liked it, just because it always feels good to know somebody else likes what you like. But no respect lost from this lurker. 😉 However, while a lot of the themes are revisited (again, and again, and again – in short, don’t read too much too close together) in Gaiman’s other works, none of them are really like American Gods. I’m glad to see you aren’t giving up on him yet (but even if you do, you’re still an excellent writer with an engaging blog – knowing that, if you wanted to defend even one of my most favorite books to hate, like, say, Twilight, I’d still respect your writing and enjoy reading your blog).

    • Aww, I’m sorry. =[ I know what you mean though; it does feel good when you come across someone who enjoys the same things. I have Stardust with me, which I’ve heard is nice, though I’ll wait a bit before reading it. And that’s really sweet of you to say, thank you! No worries about me defending Twilight though, haha, that would never happen, I promise.
      Thank you so much for your comment! 😀

  6. I got about a quarter of the way through American Gods and had to stop. It was a long time ago, so I don’t remember what turned me off, but I just couldn’t get through it. Other books I can’t stand that are popular? Hush Hush. Read it? There’s nothing particularly wrong with the writing style, it’s just that the characters drove me absolutely insane. I couldn’t stand them. And when the protagonist gets into a life-threatening situation and your reaction is “Oh man, I really hope they die”, then it’s time to put down the book and pick up something you’ll actually like 🙂

    • You gave up much earlier than me! I’m more than halfway through now, but it’s taking me a lot of effort to sit down and read it, haha. I’ve never heard of Hush Hush, but if it got such a bad reaction from you, then I’ll make sure to stay clear off. Thanks for the heads up (and the comment)!

  7. There’s nothing wrong with hating a popular book, Zen. I tried to read the first Harry Potter about three times and finally gave up! 🙂 It’s all a matter of taste…

    • Exactly! Even if many people rave about a certain book (like Harry Potter), it doesn’t mean that everyone will like it. Preferences differ from one person to another. =]

  8. Absolutely nothing wrong with not liking a book. I actually try not to read reviews of a book before I’ve read it, because for some reason, even if there are ten positive reviews and only one negative one, that one negative one will dim the excitement of reading the book for me. So I’ve basically given up reading reviews, or, to be more specific, I only read reviews or opinions of people I trust, as on blogs that I follow. Amazon, etc. … no, I don’t read the reviews there. Especially if I loved a book, because it hurts too much to read something less than positive about it.
    About Neil Gaiman… I started on American Gods, but didn’t get past the first fourty or so pages – it felt too much like Stephen King. Not that I dislike Stephen King, but… A book by Neil Gaiman that I liked very much was “Neverwhere”. Maybe it’s because I love London, but I was totally into that underground world he thought up in there. And “Good Omens”, which he co-authored with Terry Pratchett, is awesomely funny – if you like that kind of humour. If not, don’t read it. 🙂

    • I more or less meant the reviews they have printed on the covers of the books, you know, the ones that compliment the author and the book to no end. I don’t read too much into reviews on Amazon or GR for fear of coming across spoilers!
      American Gods feels so… pretentious at times, at least to me. I will take your word on Neverwhere, and I have actually read Good Omens. I’m a fan of Terry Pratchett, and his humour in the book definitely stood out. 🙂

  9. I loved American Gods, loved the play’s on words, names and mythology. Loved the overreaching themes and the strange and familiar settings. I find Neil Gaiman’s writing either really likable or really not. I know that if American Gods had not been exactly in my wheelhouse I probably would have found it arrogant and overwritten. 🙂 Little Big was one of those vastly popular books (and very similar to American Gods in terms of writing style and character base) that I hated all three times I tried to get through it. Everyone is entitled to their own taste. I just really appreciate knowing WHY someone really liked or disliked a book. It makes it easier for me to guess if I will.

    • I usually like mythology, but in this book it rubbed me off the wrong way. =[ And that’s probably true, because I do currently find it a bit arrogant, haha. I’ve never heard of Little Big before, but if you say it’s like American Gods, I’ll probably avoid it. And I agree with you; there are some people who simply bash the book without saying why they didn’t like it, and that really doesn’t help anyone.

  10. American Gods is the latest book I read by Neil Gaiman, and though I enjoyed it, I can totally see where you are coming from. The scope, the size, and – as you said – even the chapter lengths are quite imposing. The book that got me into Neil Gaiman was Coraline, which I read in junior high. Stardust and The Graveyard Book sealed my loyalty. I want to vouch for him because I think Neil Gaiman is so inventive and unique, but there are so very many books out there to be read, I don’t think you should subject yourself to something you don’t enjoy just to say you did it.

    • The chapters are really daunting! I like relatively short chapters because they allow me to take breaks. Stardust I will definitely try… though not directly after this one. 😉 I wanted to try Neil Gaiman because I’ve always heard good things about him, so I’ll try a couple more of his books before giving up completely, haha.

  11. I love Gaiman, but you already know that, so I won’t go on about him ;)…

    As hating popular books goes, I know exactly what you mean. Before university, I lived in an area that didn’t really read much except school setworks, so there wasn’t anything popular and therefore the books I read wasn’t influenced by other kids.
    I usually decided what book to read from what the cover looked like. Since I’m an artist and a very visual person, I feel that the book cover design add to the atmosphere of the book. Some people don’t realise how important it actually is these days. Anyway, if the cover gripped me, I read the first couple of pages to see if the words could grip me.

    As a result of the above events, when I got to university, people were surprised that I haven’t read popular books like Harry Potter or LotR. Many, especially my friends, were also surprised that I haven’t gotten into Game of Thrones yet. It’s not that I don’t like the story; it’s just that I can’t get myself to read it. It’s not really my style. In the case of GoT, there’s way too much detail for my taste. Detail is good, but there’s got to be a limit (we’re not in the 19th century anymore).

    Anyway, people are entitled to their own opinion. My friend, who used to talk badly about 50 Shades of Grey, has now read all 3 books and she is now totally in love with it. Strange, right? Books are like pasta sauces* – there’s a huge variety and something for everyone, and you can only really like or dislike it once you’ve tried it.

    Sorry for the REALLY LOOOOOONG comment (a lot of it is redundant), I just can’t stop writing sometimes :oops:. I wish I could write like this for my stories though. Anyway, enjoy your weekend! 😀

    *That’s a Malcolm Gladwell reference, by the way…

    • Hi, Dante! Yes, I know that, and you’re perfectly entitled to, haha. And don’t worry about the long comment! 🙂
      I totally understand what you mean about the cover. With so many books out there today, one needs to rely on something in their selection, and the cover’s the best bet. And I agree with you about details. I’ve heard a lot about Game of Thrones, but one look at all the descriptions and details and I’m turned off for good.
      The pasta sauces reference works! It is true, after all, nearly everyone can find a suitable book for them out there.

  12. I have to admit I often don’t get critically acclaimed books or films and I do have commercial, popular tastes – I love Twilight for example but that’s okay – we all like different things I think, would be pretty boring if we all liked the same!

    • Agreed! I often find myself enjoying obscure books more than popular ones. Just goes to show you don’t have to be a bestselling author to be able to produce good novels. 🙂

  13. I write romance, so at times I’ll read some of the best-selling authors just to see what’s so great about them. I find most of them atrocious–full of cliches, flowery, unrealistic language, and too much back story.

    As Stephen King says, “I am the literary equivalent of a McDonald’s Happy Meal.”

    Sadly, I find most readers prefer that level of reading.

    • I don’t read romance novels, and it’s because of what you stated. A real romance is nothing like those books, which is why I like to read general fiction that has romance. Everything tends to be more realistic then.
      I’ve never heard that quote before, but it sounds about right. =[
      Thank you for the comment, Tiffany!

  14. Ace Arcanum says:

    Well, popular books also have people who don’t like them. And books that aren’t that popular also have people who like them. The same goes for other kinds of artists and their works. It’s something that every artist should know.

    • True! It’s just that sometimes when you tell people you hate a particular book, they look at you like you’ve sprouted an extra head, haha.
      Thank you for the comment!

  15. I enjoyed American Gods, but my favorite is Neverwhere. I like his type of writing though.
    But you are entitled to your opinion! Dang, no rotten tomato throwing from me. 🙂 I usually get someone to look at me like I sprouted an extra head when I tell them how much I read! Not what I enjoyed or not.
    I didn’t particularly care for The Art of Racing in the Rain. Everyone seemed to like that force fed emotional junk. I was so mad at the book because is heavy handed about manipulating your emotions that I threw it down and didn’t return to finish it for weeks. Whatevs. People are all different. It is what makes us so dang interesting!

    • Haha, I’m glad you’re holding back on those tomatoes! I’m going to try Neverwhere and Stardust, so here’s hoping I like those better.
      And I haven’t heard of that book, but it seems like something I’d want to stay away from. D=
      Thank you for your comment! 🙂

        • That’s why I prefer reading books before watching any movie adaptations/reading the graphic novel versions. This way, the movie/graphic novel complements my experience with the book rather than make me feel something’s missing. =]

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