My Least Favorite and Most Disappointing Books of 2020

Happy Friday, guys!

Now that you already got my favorite books of 2020, I obviously have to follow up with my least favorites! Because, let’s be honest: Sometimes, it’s just so satisfying to rant about all the books that ended up letting you down 😁

As always, I will be splitting this into two parts, starting with the books I genuinely hated and continuing with my most disappointing reads. The latter are stories that I didn’t altogether dislike (or even enjoyed), but that ultimately still let me down because I expected so much more from them. Which, if you ask me, can be even more frustrating than simply hating a book. If something has potential and squanders it, that’s often way more upsetting than a book just being bad all the way through!

To be fair, though, I was actually really lucky this year. I ended up enjoying most of what I read, and, for the first time since I started doing these posts, I did not have a single one-star read! Of course, that could just be because my standards went downhill after discovering the awfulness that is Heart of Darkness last year, but I don’t think so… Even the worst books I read in 2020 had at least one redeeming quality. So compared to my rants in the previous years, this one might be actually kind of moderate πŸ˜‰

Anyway, let’s get started! Unlike my favorites, I didn’t manage to come up with a definite ranking for these, so as a rule of thumb: The closer the books are to the top of these lists, the bigger my dislike/disappointment.

πŸ™„ Part One: My Least Favorite Books of 2020 πŸ™„

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

(read in April)

Rudyard Kipling’s Kim is, apparently, “one of the greatest spy stories ever written”. Just google the novel, and you’ll find that phrase in various prestigious newspapers, in book reviews, in papers on literary criticism… And I’ve really got to wonder – did all these people praising the book to the skies actually ever read Kim??? Because if I had to classify it, it would be as “one of the most boring books ever written”! Seriously, NOTHING happens in this!!! It’s over 300 pages of a boy and an old geezer walking along a road and philosophizing about life. Even the spy plotline was so “engaging” that I seriously struggled not to fall asleep. The book’s only redeeming quality – and the sole reason I still gave it two stars, not one – was its portrayal of India. The setting was so well fleshed-out, and I learned so much by reading this! I just wish there had been an interesting story to go along with it πŸ™„

Englisch Unterrichten by Engelbert Thaler

(read in August)

I absolutely detest this book. The title translates to ‘Teaching English’, and it is THE go-to textbook if you’re studying English language education in Germany. Which also means I had to memorize it for my exams πŸ™„ Like I said, it’s extremely relevant.

The problem is – I don’t think it should be. For 90% of the stuff in here, I’d say if you don’t already know this intuitively, you have no business being in a classroom. Because if you can’t figure this stuff out by yourself, how on Earth are you going to deal with the spontaneity of a room full of kids?

Like, did you know what might cause problems for students during comprehension exercises that involve watching video clips or movies? Well, let me enlighten you with this wonderful excerpt:

Auditory features: background noise, poor sound quality, multiple speakers, people speaking at the same time, use of unfamiliar accents, people speaking too quickly, complex syntax, elaborate style, abstract topic, argumentative and expository text formats (e.g. documentaries), long film

Visual features: lack of coherence, non-linear presentation, information given only implicitly, many scenes containing sex or violence

Relation between sound and image: great language density (a lot of language per scene), little visual support for spoken text, lack of correspondence between sound and image

Relevance: topic of little relevance for students, topic unrelated to their interests, reality

Methodology: lack of accompanying teaching suggestions, lack of didactic or thematic relevance

Thaler, p. 171-172

Who would have thought, right? πŸ™ˆ Most of this book was dedicated to stating absolutely common-sense information as if it were the biggest revelation ever, and, if that weren’t enough, you’d better remember all of it verbatim and who first said it.

And before you say something like, “But Naemi, that’s hardly the book’s fault, is it? Afterall, it’s just covering what the curriculum says will be on the test.”: Well, the guy who wrote this book had a big hand in writing that curriculum, too. Why not teach us something worthwhile instead? Why make us memorize all of this absolutely useless information word for word?

The only good thing about this book: I guess it was well-structured, and the lesson examples were moderately helpful.

The Two Noble Kinsmen, King Henry VIII and The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

(read in August and March)

While I am absolutely obsessed with Shakespeare’s collected works overall, I do have to admit that my favorite bard also wrote some pretty shitty stuff. So here’s a shoutout to my three least favorite Shakespeare plays πŸ˜…

The Two Noble Kinsmen – absolutely boring. I don’t know why Shakespeare thought we needed yet another version of this story… I already thought it didn’t have much depth to it when I read “The Knight’s Tale” in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and the play dragged it out into an even longer, but definitely not better version.

King Henry VIII was also a big disappointment. I mean, this guy had six wives! He started a major religious conflict that has hugely shaped our current political landscape! And yet, none of that really made it into this play. We only get to see two of the wives – Katherine of Aragon was pretty much the only thing I liked about this – and the Reformation basically isn’t mentioned at all. Instead, this consists of hardcore flattery and sucking up to the monarchy. I mean, I get that you wouldn’t want to get on their bad side, Shakespeare, but was this really necessary?

And The Taming of the Shrew... Don’t even get me started. Somehow, the interesting frame narrative is completely abandoned halfway through the play, just so we can spend even more time with all these wonderfully misogynistic themes. Even if you think this is a parody – can someone enlighten me as to why this is supposed to be funny?

And that was it for the books I really didn’t like last year πŸ˜… So let’s move on to the disappointing ones!

πŸ™„ Part Two: My Most Disappointing Books of 2020 πŸ™„

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

(read in July; full review here)

In all honesty, The Silmarillion could probably have also gone on my “least favorites” list. It was absolutely tedious to get through, info-dumped like nobody’s business, was incredibly black-and-white in its portrayal of good and evil, had some of the blandest characters ever, and was terribly misogynistic in its treatment of the female ones…

But I just couldn’t bring myself to put a Tolkien book on there! Not when I love The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings so much! Not when I adored learning all of this background information on Middle-earth! The world-building in this – absolutely fantastic! But yeah – story-telling-wise, not so much…

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

(read in March)

If you know me well, you’re probably aware that I am an absolute sucker for hard sci-fi set in space. I mean – just take a look at some of my favorite TV shows: Star Trek, The 100 (excluding season 7), Lost in Space… 😊 See any patterns there?

And this book? The world building and all the spacey stuff was beyond cool! There was science, there were politics, lots of action! I should have loved it!

And yet, I didn’t. Because, quite frankly, it had next to no character depth. The writing style was very detached, so that even the two narrators felt more like types rather than real, actual people. And the female characters were even worse. There were hardly any of them at all, and the ones that were present were these incredibly smart, flawless and super-beautiful women that mainly served the purpose of having male characters lust after them. Overall, I just wasn’t a huge fan πŸ™ˆ

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

(read in January)

Ooh, this one hurts particularly badly… Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is one of my absolute favorite books, so when I heard that she had a new novel coming out, I was obviously beyond excited! And when I started reading The Starless Sea, I was entranced. The mystery! The college setting! The books! The writing! It was all sooo, sooo good, and I was sure this would be a five-star read for me.

And then I hit the last quarter of the book and things just got weird. Like, really weird. Maybe I just didn’t appreciate all the meta-ness properly, but if you ask me, this is the second-most-disappointing ending I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. [First place, in case you’re curious, goes to The Fate of the Tearling, which I am still, years later, extremely bitter about. 😑 ] Although I can see how people might like it, I just wasn’t a fan at all, and it tainted the entire book for me. So yeah, unfortunately, The Starless Sea was a bit of a letdown.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

(read in August)

I had pretty much the opposite issue with this one as with The Starless Sea. The ending? Absolutely phenomenal! But oh boy, the beginning… At first, I was hopelessly confused for a hundred pages, then hopelessly bored for 200 pages, and the characters were, even by Dickens’ standards, absolutely flat and stereotypical.

Overall, I’d still say I enjoyed this, but I just don’t see why some people call it one of the greatest classics of all time. Dickens has written so many better ones! Yes, the writing is brilliant and the last few chapters are pretty epic, but still, I found this one to be a little underwhelming…

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

(read in July)

This book wasn’t bad at all – in fact, I did enjoy reading it. But the thing is, I didn’t love it, either. And after falling head over heels for Margaret Rogerson’s Sorcery of Thorns in 2019, I was kind of disappointed. While Sorcery of Thorns had originality, plenty of subplots, and really interesting characters, this one was just … bland. There were no subplots. “Girl gets kidnapped by fae prince” is a story I’ve seen several times by now, and this book didn’t really add anything new and interesting that grabbed my attention. It was a nice, quick read, but that’s about all I can say about it.

And that was it for this year! I’m very sorry if I offended any of your favorites πŸ˜… Feel free to come to their defense in the comments, since it’d be great to have some reasons to appreciate them more! Or, if you agree with me, do join in on the ranting! I’d love to know your thoughts either way!

Also, if you haven’t had enough yet and would like to check out how mean I was during previous years, you can find those posts here:

39 thoughts on “My Least Favorite and Most Disappointing Books of 2020

  1. ahaana @ Windows to Worlds says:

    ahahahah it’s always fun to rant; i feel you there πŸ˜‰ so i haven’t had the misfortune of reading ANY of these books, though a ton of them are on my ginormous tbr!! i’m sorry to hear you didn’t like the starless sea, and an enchantment of ravens, because though i haven’t read them, a lot of others love them, and they do sound interesting!! as for a tale of two cities i HAVE read that – and i don’t get why people call it the greatest classic of all time either!! dickens has so many other better works, and though it wasn’t bad – it’s definitely not his best either!!

    i also had a ton of fun going over your 2017, 2018, and 2019 posts haha πŸ’–πŸ’–

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Thanks, Ahaana! I’m glad you enjoyed all my ranting πŸ˜‚ And I relate so much to having a ginormous TBR!

      Also, I do get why some people might like The Starless Sea and An Enchantment of Ravens more than me. They weren’t bad books at all, but just fell very short of my expectations πŸ˜… But who knows – you might end up liking them more than I did πŸ˜‰ So if you think they sound interesting, I wouldn’t give up on them just yet!

      And I’m so relieved someone agrees with me on A Tale of Two Cities πŸ˜… The way everyone was raving about it, I thought it would be amazing, so I felt even more disappointed when it was just alright… I guess tastes just differ πŸ˜‚

      Thanks for stopping by and checking those other posts out! I’m glad you liked them! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      😁😁 Well, to be fair, I didn’t think An Enchantment of Ravens was awful, either. I did have fun while I was reading, but I didn’t really take anything away from it… I mean, it pretty much only had a single plotline and I guessed almost everything that would happen very early on πŸ˜… So yeah – overall, I’d say it’s extremely predictable and that you probably didn’t miss out on much by DNFing it πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ But I don’t mind that I read it, either. It wasn’t as traumatizingly boring as Kim, for example 😁

      Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Hmm, maybe it isn’t used in all of Germany and just Bavaria then πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ After all, we always do things a bit differently here (#Überheblichkeitskomplex, was Bildung betrifft) πŸ™„ But everyone who wants to pass their Staatsexamen here has to read this wonderful masterpiece. I don’t think you’re missing out on anything, though!


  2. Angela says:

    The Starless Sea is one of my favorite books but I kind of get what you might be feeling about the ending. It got a little…murky at times. For me the overall story makes up for it but I can see how it definitely isn’t for everyone.
    I haven’t read anything else on this list other than the Taming of the Shrew and now I know to avoid it all. πŸ˜‰ lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I’m so happy you loved The Starless Sea! I definitely see where you’re coming from – the writing and the whole concept behind this book were just amazing! And I do think the ending fit with the rest of the story – I just wish Erin Morgenstern had taken a different, “more realistic” route… This ending just really wasn’t my cup of tea πŸ˜… But I’m really happy other people liked it! And I’ll certainly be reading whatever Erin Morgenstern writes next, so hopefully I’ll enjoy that more! 😁

      And yeah, I don’t think you’re missing out on a whole lot by not having read any of the other books on here πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Though who knows? Your opinions on them might be completely different from mine!


  3. evelynreads1 says:

    I guess it is a good thing I barely read any of these books haha!
    I read Leviathan Wakes, and didn’t like it, but I think for me the problem was that the sci-fi was too complicated haha. I want to try and read it again now that I’ve read more sci-fi!


    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yeah, I don’t think you missed out on too much πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
      Although I wish you luck on rereading Leviathan Wakes! Hopefully, you’ll like it more this time! I’m actually going to try and read the sequel this year, too πŸ˜‰ The world is just too cool not to give it another chance, and my mom actually gave me the first three books for Christmas in 2019. I just never got around to the other two because I didn’t like the first one all that much πŸ˜… But I definitely intend to at least read the other books before I decide to donate them or something!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Line says:

    The one book I knew was going to be in this post is also the only one that I’ve read. It did hurt just a little to read that its ending is your second most disappointing, but I’ll get over it πŸ˜… It comforts me at it seems like we at least agree on the amazingness of the first 75% of that book. In terms of the ending, I also didn’t feel like I caught all the meta references (which is why I plan to reread it this year), but it didn’t matter to me all that much. I also didn’t expect a great and magnificent ending that would just tie everything together, so I wasn’t disappointed with what we got. It was all about how great the writing was 😍

    I loved that you included your textbook in this πŸ˜‚ And your criticisms are so relatable! I studied Communication and therefore have several textbooks that would teach proper communication by saying “make sure to speak clearly” and “don’t use swear words”. No shit, Sherlock. Luckily we didn’t have to memorize it, but I still felt we could have used the time better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yes, I definitely agree on the amazingness of the first 75%! And the writing was awesome throughout, too 😊 But I think because I loved the rest so much, the mediocreness of the ending ended up disappointing me even more πŸ˜• But I’m so happy you loved the book! Hopefully, whatever Erin Morgenstern writes next will end up satisfying both of us 😁 (And hopefully, it won’t take her as long as this book did… Though I guess if it’s really amazing, I also wouldn’t mind waiting πŸ€”)

      And of course πŸ˜‡ – I had to include the textbook. If they’re going to force me to read something that’s such a big waste of time, I at least need to make sure I get a good rant out of it 😁😎 And I’m laughing so hard at those academic communication insights – yes, that’s exactly what reading this book was like! In fact, when talking about teacher language, I think “make sure to speak clearly” was actually one of the first tips given πŸ™ˆ It truly makes me fear for the state of human intelligence…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lesserleaf says:

    You didn’t like the Silmarillion? That’s one of my favourite books, but I do agree that those points you raise are valid. Specially the part about women characters. They can be very conservative (to put it diplomatically). I always felt that the Silmarillion is kind of the Bible of the LotR universe and as such can be quite boring and has all the other fails you get in the Bible if you read it as literature. But I do really like some of the stories in the Silmarillion. I also very much like A Tale of Two Cities. I just read it in December and haven’t got round to writing a review yet, but it’s one of my favourites of Dickens’ novels :-). One of my favourite characters in the novel is Dr. Manette. I think his trauma from being locked up in the Bastille all those years was very well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I’m really glad you love The Silmarillion! I was so disappointed that I didn’t like it more… Though I fully agree that it is kind of like a LotR-Bible – I think I even mentioned that in my review. And I did love learning so much about Tolkien’s world and it’s history! That’s probably the only reason I kept reading, and also why I’m still really happy that I read it, despite not having loved it. But all the cool world-building and history just couldn’t make up for how boring I thought it was πŸ˜…

      And I’m also glad you liked A Tale of Two Cities! I adored the ending, but I didn’t think the rest of it was that impressive. Although I do agree that Dr. Manette was one of the most interesting characters. Him and Sydney Carton 😊 But so far, I think my favorite Dicken’s novel is probably Oliver Twist! I’m hoping to read more of his works this year, though, so maybe I can give you a fuller picture of my thoughts at the end of 2021 πŸ˜‰


    • abookowlscorner says:

      Same! I just don’t understand why it is described that way! It sets up completely wrong expectations! I also felt like it was much more about cultures interacting with one another and offering a glimpse at what the occupation by the British Raj meant for India. But spy novel??

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Abby @ Beyond the Read says:

    Ahaha spilling all the tea about these books is so much fun!! πŸ«– I actually haven’t read any of these books but I’ve heard of quite a few of them. I’ve been hearing so many negative reviews of An Enchantment of Ravens that I think I’ll have to give it a pass. Sorcery of Thorns definitely seems to be much more popular, I’m planning to check it out soon! 😊

    A Tale of Two Cities is one of the many Dickens novels I have started and then abandoned…. I really liked Oliver Twist when I started it this summer, but I’ve been putting off finishing it since then πŸ˜…πŸ˜… Mr. Dickens and I just don’t have a great relationship, I guess πŸ˜… And that passage you included from the textbook is pure gold πŸ˜‚

    Greta post Naemi!! ❀️ Now I’m going to have to go check out your posts for previous years πŸ˜†

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed all the ranting, Abby! I definitely had a lot of fun writing this post – it was very therapeutic, in a way πŸ˜‚

      And yes! As bland as An Enchantment of Ravens was, I highly recommend you check out Sorcery of Thorns! That one is just amazing 😍 I don’t see how you can be a book nerd and not love it! And it has such a wonderfully angsty romance 😊

      I can also see why you would abandon A Tale of Two Cities. I was so confused and then bored at the beginning! The ending did redeem it a bit for me, but I also don’t think it’s the mark of a truly great novel when you only get invested during the last quarter of it πŸ˜… Although Dickens and I usually get along pretty well! I liked Oliver Twist a lot, and A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite stories to reread during the holiday season. So if you ever decide to give Dickens another chance, I’d recommend that as a starting point – it’s quite short, but so full of Christmas spirit 😊

      And I’m glad you got some fun out of that textbook passage πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Because after reading and trying to memorize 300 pages of this type of stuff, I kind of lost my appreciation entirely πŸ™„πŸ˜…

      Thanks for reading and stopping by, Abby! ❀ I hope you enjoyed all the additional rants you came across!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Strawberrys Corner says:

    Shakespear is amazing but I agree with your thoughts on those books haha
    I haven’t read any of the other books, have heard a lot of them be praised though! It’s good to see some bad reviews on them to compare

    Liked by 1 person

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