Reading Bad Books


Hello, lovely people, and welcome to another rambly discussion here at Of Dragons and Hearts. I’m doing my best to win the Discussion Challenge this year – the link will take you to a space where other great discussions on books and reading can be found, so do click over there and spend some time exploring!

Today, I want to chat about reading bad books. “But wait,” I can hear you say, “why would you want to read bad books in the first place? That’s a no-brainer and this discussion will surely suck.” But here’s the problem: I sometimes read bad books even though I know they will be bad.

And I keep asking myself why.

The fact is that I’m incapable of skipping some books even though I know deep down that they will inevitably piss me off. I recently read Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Torn, fully expecting to roll my eyes at it the entire time (that one ticked me off more than usual, as can be seen here). But at the end of my review, I originally still wrote that I will be reading the last part of the trilogy because I want to know how it ends (I changed that now that I’ve written this post). The same goes for Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Mist and Fury, which I thought was spectacularly problematic. But I’ll be reading the next one all the same!


One reason (and probably the most important one) is that I want to finish the series. I don’t finish all series that I start, but these have some kind of pull to them – maybe it’s the readability, the popularity (I don’t want to be the only person who hasn’t read SJM’s latest, after all), and maybe it’s just my love of crossing books of the list.

There’s also the loyalty to an author. Do I give up on them if they write one bad book? Two? Four? I’m just never sure if perhaps the next series will be different, you see.

Another reason is that I’m sort of convinced I should read a couple of crappy books in between great ones so I can really appreciate the good ones. This is probably the stupidest reason ever, especially since I would probably stumble onto not-excellent books even if I wasn’t purposefully reading bad ones. I mean, even if I only read books that come highly recommended (or classics), there’s a good chance I, personally, won’t like some of them, so the bell curve of ratings will still be there.

And… that’s it. I have no more reasons for reading bad books.

Okay, maybe I feel like bad books equal fluffy, easy-to-read books (romances and the like), so I pick up books that I know won’t wow me because I just want to switch my mind off for a couple of hours. But that’s also a silly reason because there are loads of good fluffy, easy-to-read books around.

And honestly, sometimes it’s just hard to tell whether a book will be bad or not. I’m becoming relatively skilled with picking my romances (I know how to look for triggers and I usually read at least a few sample pages on Amazon before buying them) but sometimes a book is just a flop. srcek

What am I trying to say here, really?

I’m going to make an effort to read fewer bad books. I know I won’t be able to avoid all of them but I have to try because:

  1. Life is too short to purposefully read really bad books.
  2. I am giving my money to authors who write bad books instead of buying good books and supporting good authors (this is all subjective, yeah? Let’s be clear on that, please.).
  3. I am missing out on thousands upon thousands of fantastically great stories by giving my precious time to bad writing. That’s just unacceptable.

So. I might be dropping some series that I just don’t feel like finishing. I might not buy all the latest releases. I might not buy all the romances I want. We’ll see how that goes. But most of all, I just want to be more mindful when it comes to purchasing – and reading – books. My time is worth everything to me, after all, so I should probably try and make good use of it.

srcekWhat’s your strategy when it comes to buying (or just reading) books? 

Do you ever read books that you know will be bad?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

  • Sebastian

    Ha! See, I’m not alone when I comes to feeling the need to finish a series even though it’s not very good, but once you’ve started one, you’re doomed ;D For example when it comes to the Divergent series I had loved the first one but when I read the sequel I knew that I would hate the rest of the trilogy but I read “Allegiant” anyway – and it was SO terrible XD

    I definitely don’t read bad books on purpose, but sometimes I think “oh, that person says book X is pretty bad, but I don’t really trust her judgement” or “sounds pretty terrible, but I love aspect Y, so maybe I’ll like it more”, so I sometimes give books with rather average reviews a try.

    I can definitely understand the “loyalty to an author aspect”, especially when it comes to authors of favorite books. I have a German author that used to write fantastic psychological thrillers that really shocked me but in the last years he always seemed to want to exceed himself which led to some very absurd and terrible books. But I still can’t stop buying his books because I hope that someday he finds back to his own roots and writes a really good story again.

    I’m definitely very picky when it comes to books and when I hear about a new book and see that the Goodreads rating is below 3.5 stars then I often don’t even put in on my wishlist anymore, unless there’s something about the blurb that REALLY makes me want to read it.

    Reading bad books can be a lot of fun though when you’re reading it with a friend and you both hate it, then it’s really entertaining to mock it :D

    And the benefit of reading a bad book is always that I get to write a really nasty and snarky review which makes up for a lot… :D

    • Ohhhhhh don’t even get me STARTED on Divergent! I knew I was going to hate Allegiant, too, because I couldn’t stand Tris (or Four, the asshole) by the end of book 2. But I had an added incentive to finish the series: I read it in Slovenian because a colleague/friend of mine translated it and I couldn’t drop it and say it’s crap. :D

      Yeah, the situation with your German psychological thriller writer is exactly what I’m talking about: how can you be sure that his next book won’t be brilliant again? But enough is enough sometimes and I just can’t justify buying more books from authors who keep disappointing me.

      With new releases (especially debuts), I tend to wait and see if a couple of bloggers I trust really like the book or if it’s just publication hype. I don’t necessarily check out the overall Goodreads rating but I do check if any of those bloggers have read the book and what their thoughts were.

      And I write ranty reviews, too, but not lightly. Actually, if I read a book from NetGalley and I hate it, I usually won’t review it on the blog but I send the publisher a note through the NetGalley form, saying what I hated, and I write something like “if you’d still like me to post the review on my site, let me know, but it won’t be flattering”. :)

  • Last year, I read the entire Selection, Divergent, and Hunger Games series even though I didn’t really like any of them (I know, unpopular opinions, but still my opinions nonetheless). Like you mentioned though, they’re just so popular that I felt out of the loop and really wanted to know about these series everyone was talking about. And I wanted to actually finish them. So I did. But I have not forced myself to read any more popular series this year since it was just kind of draining.

    I also do what you mentioned sometimes which is read fluffy books that I know I’m not going to love and will probably only moderately enjoy and find a whole bunch of problems with simply because I need some fluffy and easy to cleanse my brain palate lol.

    And sometimes there are books that I know I’m not going to love, but they still have something interesting about them that makes me really want to read them regardless. I’m kind of trying to read less of those though and instead really go for the books that I think I have the potential to LOVE. Not that those are *bad* books, but I could be using that time to possibly find my next actual favorite, you know?

    • I’m right there with you on the unpopular opinions on these three series. I haven’t finished The Selection yet and I’m not sure I ever will because the first two books were INANE (I read the second because my reaction to the first was: “but… but SURELY this can’t be all there is to this stupid plot”). I finished Divergent even though I knew I’d hate Allegiant (spoiler alert: I really did hate it, I couldn’t stand Tris and Four by the end). And I really, really liked the first book of The Hunger Games but the last one completely ruined the series for me. *sigh*

      And yes, “draining” is exactly the word I’d use for reading such books! I read good books because they give me something – they make me laugh, they make me cry (or just feel in general), they give me good stories. But bad books just take away my energy and give nothing in return.

      I also understand your last point completely: what if by reading this bad book, I missed out on a chance to find something truly extraordinary?! So yeah, I’m going to try to be more selective with my reading choices.

  • I’ve read books that I knew would be bad…mostly if it’s a series I’ve fallen out of love with but want to finish it off for completion’s sake. I used to buy books on whims too without knowing much about them, and I feel wasteful not reading books I paid money for. It doesn’t happen often though, I have to be in the right mood to willingly pick up a book I’m fairly sure I won’t like. I totally get reading a bad book after an EPIC book though. No matter what you read at that point will pale in comparison so why not take the guesswork out of it and just read a bad book?! LOL!

    • Oh, yeah, I feel like I have to read all the books I buy, even though I have piles of them waiting (both on my shelves and on my Kindle).

      I mostly know a book will be bad when I’m picking up some random romances – and for some reason I don’t care as much if I read a bad romance (aaaaand now I’ve got Lady Gaga stuck in my head, lol). I’m much more likely to drop a bad fantasy, for example.

  • Ha! This is funny. I read bad books too. Sometimes I can’t help myself. Abbi Glines writes these completely ridiculous books, at least I think they are. And yet, sometimes I get a hankering for them, even though I know I will be rolling my eyes an obscene amount of times.

    Like you said, that way I can really appreciate the amazing books out there.

    • Yep, sometimes you just need something silly to read. I imagine it’s the bookish equivalent of watching bad reality TV or something. And sometimes eye-rolling is its own kind of pleasure. :)

  • I totally get where this post is coming from. I mean, seriously, I get it. I know I should stop reading JLA’s books… but I know I won’t. I’m proud I’ve managed to admit I will not be reading Maas’s Throne of Glass series because there is too much which frustrates me about it. And I managed to give up on the Grisha series and not invest in the third book because I knew it would anger me. I think I find it easier to give up on bad books when I know they will anger me in their badness. JLA writes books which annoy me and when I think too long on it I end up rating a book down more and more, but at the time of reading I’m enjoying what I’m reading.

    I don’t know, it’s hard to know at one point you give up on a series or author. I do agree there is not enough time to waste on bad books… but there are bad books that are rage inducing and the bad books which you can enjoy at the time and been frustrated by when thinking about them afterwards. I feel JLA is the latter for me. As soon as an author or series becomes rage inducing you definitely need to ditch.

    I just don’t know, I just think there are some authors who I can accept bad things form and those I can’t and for some reason I stay loyal for way too long. We all have bookish problems and it’s hard to talk myself out of reading books I can see being bad. I suppose it’s the same way I read romance I know will be ridiculous or cheesy, I know I’ll still enjoy it.

    • And my situation is the exact opposite: I’ll continue with Maas but I’m dropping Armentrout. We can keep each other informed on what’s going on with the other writer. And if that writer produces something really good again.

      Haha, I know what you mean about down-rating Armentrout’s books, this is exactly what I did with Torn, but I ended up really, really angry when I wrote the review, so your criteria apply: it’s a bad book that made me angry.

      I don’t want to drop all silly romance – I do enjoy silliness sometimes. i just want to stop reading books that make me angry, sad, bored or something else that’s entirely unpleasant. I think half of romance is inherently silly so I’ll definitely be reading ridiculous books in the future. :)

      • The thing is I know Maas is the better writer but Armentrout tends to write easier reads. Does that make sense? I know Maas’s writing will be very good even if her characterisation may go out of the window when it doesn’t fit her story plan but I know I’ll find it easier to enjoy and read Armentrout’s work even though I know when I think on it for a moment she’s done about twenty things in the space of a chapter which annoy me. We definitely need to keep each other in the loop for these two and we’ll know when to start reading again. I have a strong feeling I’ll be the one picking up another Maas book but we shall see.

        I think I am quick to fall into that trap of starting a book and thinking I am required to finish even when I’m not enjoying myself, especially when it’s an author I usually enjoy. Maybe I just need a better rule at abandoning books as soon as I notice I’m not enjoying it? I think you might be on to something here.

  • I used to finish every series I started, no matter how bad it got. I felt obligated to get to the end. Nowadays, not so much. As a general rule, I don’t purposefully pick up books I’m sure I won’t like; I run into enough bad books while reading stuff I think I’ll like. I do occasionally pick up books I know won’t wow me, just for an easy, brainless, time killing escape. I definitely agree though: life is too short (and time is too limited) to purposefully read really bad books. :)

    • I think that every single commenter said something along the lines of “I sometimes need an easy book that I know won’t blow me away but I still read it even though it might be bad”. And yeah, I think I’ll still read those kinds of books.

      But I’m trying to drop books (especially in a series) that make me feel angry or bored or uncomfortable or whatever, reading is a HOBBY for me and I want to at least enjoy it most of the time. :)

  • LOL!!!! I don’t specifically TRY to read bad books, but sometimes I really enjoy loving to hate the bad ones. Like I’m reading it and having the best time seeing how bad it can really get. How ridiculous the characters can be. How obvious the love interest can make himself known. It’s not something I’d like to do ALL the time, but once in a while I have fun with it :)

    • Yeah, it can get to a point where reading bad books is a sort of experiment in seeing where the author will take the story and how stupid will the characters’ decisions be. Once in a while is enough, that’s true, but it’s so hard to judge when a book will simply be boring and when it will be so bad it’s entertaining. :)

  • I have been trying to get out of the bad book scene myself – it is really hard but I have made myself DNF books more this year to help make way for ones I really want to read and ones that I will be enjoying. I am always a bit paranoid that my blog readers will get bored with only seeing good ratings on the blog, but I like what I like and I try to stay in those genres. That being said I am still pretty loyal to some authors and will read through and give their books a chance but not every author can please all the time…

    • Yep, I’m trying to DNF books as well – I just decided on doing that with one romance today and I’m really glad about it.

      I think readers prefer reading our good opinions of books – I, for one, enjoy reading happy reviews on other blogs because the joy of reading really comes through.

      And I’d never drop an author if they wrote ONE bad book – but if they’re having a streak and I’m seeing a pattern… well, I don’t have that kind of loyalty in me. :(

  • Maraia

    I’d like to say I never waste time on bad books, but sometimes I do. Usually I’ll stop a book pretty quickly if I’m not enjoying it, but if I’m buddy reading with someone, reading a bad book can actually be fun.

    I’m more likely to continue a bad series than a bad book, and I’m also more forgiving of bad books by authors whose books I’ve loved previously.

    And then there are books like Captive Prince, which I read knowing full well I would hate it but wanted to be informed about. It was also quite enjoyable to write a review and get such a positive response to it. :D

    • Yeah, I think what made reading Torn bearable, for example, was having Twitter rants with Danya and Becky because otherwise I’d just be imploding on my own. So the community angle is definitely a relief.

      I DNFed a book today, you’ll be happy to know, I’m sort of proud of myself for that. :D

      And I remember your review of Captive Prince, yeah. It’s one of those books that somehow came wildly recommended by some people I usually trust but then there were readers like you who pointed out the obvious triggers and I just don’t want to give it a try. Some things are not for me.

      • Maraia

        Woooo, I’m so proud of you! Which one was it?

        • :) It was an ARC of a historical romance from an author whose books I’d previously enjoyed – but it was really, really bad.

  • I think one thing that comes into play also, especially when it’s a series or an author you usually like, is living in hope. Sometimes the premise is so good, you just hope that it’s all going to click even though the chances are slim. Also, I’ve read a number of series now that started off okay and just get better and better as they go so there’s always that hope as well.

    The biggest bummer as you say is that there are SO MANY good books out there you hate to waste valuable reading time reading crapola.

    Nice discussion post!

    • Thanks, Stephanie! :)

      I know, hope dies last. It’s such a pity that books with great premises sometimes turn out to be such poop.

      And I know, some authors take some time to develop the characters/setting in their series but if I *hate* a book, I probably shouldn’t continue reading the series just for the sake of finishing it. I don’t own anyone my time or money, I think … writing this post and thinking about this issue has been quite liberating for me. :)

  • My personal philosophy about reading bad books has changed over the years. Before I was really focused on getting to a certain number of books in a year, so it didn’t matter if they were great or not, they contributed to this number. Since I started blogging, I’ve found it easier and easier to put down bad books rather than spending undeserved time on them. It really helps that I try to limit my book buying and utilize my library when it comes to reads I’m unsure about. The only time I force myself to read a bad book is when its an ARC or it’s a book I bought, then I feel obligated to finish. Great discussion post as always!

    • Thanks, Alicia! :)

      I never really focused on the NUMBER of books I read – I don’t think I’ve ever set that Goodreads challenge.

      And yeah, not buying books probably takes away some of the pressure, borrowing them from the library sounds like a very good idea. But ARCs are a different story – though I managed to DNF one just yesterday, it was so bad, I didn’t want to force myself through it.

  • When I want to know what happens in a series but don’t really want to read the books, I either read reviews with plenty of spoilers or, if it’s popular enough, read the Wikipedia article that summarizes the whole series.

    I wikipedia’d both Dune (after the first book and the Syfy miniseires that covers books two and three) and Game of Thrones. Oh, and the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind.

    And I just read spoilers reviews of Sarah J Maas books at this point.

    • Haha, that’s one option! :D I use these methods to refresh my memory if I’ve forgotten what the previous books in a series were about before reading the sequel – but I don’t think I’ve ever purposefully read spoilers for a book I haven’t read before. I think there’s always the possibility in my mind that I’ll want to read the book anyway and then I hate spoilers.

      But yeah, I think I’ll have to resort to other people’s opinions on certain books (like Maas’s next series, whatever it will be – I probably won’t be reading any more when I finish reading the two series she’s writing now).

  • For me, it’s most often review books that I then end up reading even after I’ve seen reviews that tell me I probably won’t like it. Since I’ve agreed to review, I feel obligated to read it. Luckily, I’ve been pleasantly surprised a few times by this – but definitely not always.

  • Sam Kozbial

    I understand wanting to finish a series. I feel like if I invest that much time in a series, I deserve to find out how it ends. I guess I could just try to find spoilers, but it’s not in my nature. Loyalty is a tough one, but if I am hearing negative buzz about a book by an author who I love, I will borrow the book versus buying it. Great post!

  • Pingback: February Discussion Challenge Link-Up & Giveaway - Feed Your Fiction Addiction()

  • Wendy Falconer Gassaway

    Clearly “good” and “bad” are super subjective, but I really try to not waste time on books that I think are dumb or boring. The only exception I can think of is when I read a book that my children or my students are really into, just so I can converse with them about it. Even then it’s hard to force myself to pick up a book I know will seem dumb to me.