Top Ten Tuesday weekly meme resides at That Artsy Reader Girl – see the link for the rules. I’ve seen it pop up many times on the blogs that I follow, and I thought that since I love reading and compiling lists, I should finally jump in and participate! This week’s topic is Bookish Pet Peeves, basically a chance to rant about the things that ruin the reading experience.
1. Spelling errors and typos – unforgivable in professional publications.
2. “It was all a dream!” Don’t get me wrong, this kind of ending can work; I don’t think anyone ever hurled their copy of Alice in Wonderland against the wall when they finished it. But when executed poorly, it leaves the reader with an empty feeling of being cheated. Without naming names, an unnecessary sequel to a horror classic made me seethe with fury when it effectively undid not just the sequel but the original novel as well.
3. Unnecessary descriptions – unless the author is a superb stylist with an amazing command of language, I usually begin to skip through the overly detailed and long descriptions of places and people. I once read a crime novel where half a page was devoted to a painstaking and tedious description of all the furniture in a room – not even a crime scene, mind you, just a room the main character happened to visit. The descriptions of nature are probably the hardest to write without turning into a snoozefest.
4. Overwritten novels – especially when successful writers become too successful for the editors to step in with their big scissors and say no. I really like Stephen King, but man does he tend to overwrite. The Harry Potter series also got more and more sprawling and self-indulgent with time, not always with good results.
5. Precocious kids – magical old souls who are full of wisdom beyond their age and never feel like real kids.
6. Great books that turn bad, no good, terrible near the finish line – probably the most disappointing kind of book there is. I absolutely adored Louis de Bernières’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin until it went completely off the rails in the last few dozen pages, with the characters making dumb and improbable decisions to force the story into a certain direction.
7. Misleading book blurbs – like many people I often make a judgement on whether I’m going to spend my time and money on a book based on a short summary. It can be extremely annoying to find out that the summary was in fact inaccurate, misrepresented what the book is about, or dumbed it down in order to sound more commercially appealing.
8. Terrible book covers – speaking more as a graphic designer than a reader, but a poor choice of imagery and typography can really turn me off a book when browsing. Of course the opposite holds true as well – I can think of a few books that I picked up mostly because a striking cover attracted my attention.
9. When writers hijack their characters to be their personal soapbox – there’s nothing wrong with expressing your own political or philosophical views through your characters, but it has to feel organic. It completely breaks my immersion in the story when I can sense that a character stops being a character and instead becomes a mouthpiece for the author.
10. Missing pages – I remember reading Gregory David Roberts‘ Shantaram and discovering, to my dismay, that my copy was missing about 50 pages in which Very Important Things Happened. Nowadays you can look up the missing chunks online, but it still ruined the flow of the story. It was like watching a movie and suddenly skipping 15 minutes ahead because of a glitch: the characters are in a different place and your head is spinning trying to work out what happened in the meantime.
What are the things about reading that drive you up the wall?