Welcome to the official blog of Third Place Books

Thursday, May 28, 2015

On Hating Books

I've been giving some thought to why we read. What is it we're looking to find in those pages? The answer is different for each of us. I read to learn, and to feel. I love a book because its characters charm me, or the story stirs me. But what does it mean when we don't like what we find between the covers? Recently, I had the opportunity to really ruminate on what happens when I hate a book.

For days, I'd been wrapped up in a certain novel--loving it. I was enmeshed in the world and emotionally invested in the story. In short, captivated. A friend of mine was reading it at the same time and we would text back and forth about the characters as if gossiping about friends.

And then the author did something so unthinkably cruel and awful, I felt like I'd actually been punched in the stomach. This book had me crying a few times, but at that moment all I felt was white-hot, visceral rage and I threw the book across the room. I'm serious. I've never done that before. It was automatic, an unconscious impulse. One moment I was reading, and the next, the book was hurling through the air. I went from loving it to hating it in one sentence.

I left the book lying where it landed for at least a day. But I did eventually finish it, fuming the entire time. I felt so manipulated, and so stupid for believing all the things the author had me believing.

And I could not let it go. It was all I thought about, all I talked about.

Around this time I came across a blog called I Hate Cheryl Strayed. Fans of Cheryl Strayed may want to steer clear, this woman's anger is for real. I read a few posts of her 39-part review of Wild. 39 parts!!!!! After that, she goes on to review the movie version, and then Cheryl's other book Tiny Beautiful Things. The blog is entertaining but I didn't really understand; if she hated the book so much, why waste so much time on it?

And I thought about the book I threw across the room. I wasn't writing a blog about it (though now I am), but I certainly spent a lot of time thinking and talking about it. And, after all, I did finish it. The writing is beautiful and the characters really did feel like friends. I wanted to feel something, and I certainly did. So, did I really hate it that much? Or perhaps the better question; did I really care that I hated it that much?

Whatever else this book was to me, it was an experience, and I'm glad I read it. And with a little time and perspective of what real book-hatred looks like, I can even say I liked it. I'm not saying there aren't books out there that I legitimately hate, I am not one to find value in a book simply because it's a book. And I'm not saying that the blogger above doesn't legitimately hate Wild. I'm only saying that I liked this particular book so much that it didn't matter that I hated it.

So the book I swore I would never recommend--I'm recommending it. I hesitate to reveal what book I'm talking about, worried that there may be inadvertent spoilers in this post. So, I'll leave it up to you. Click on through if you want to know.


  1. I never hate a book. Instead, I will find it boring or predicable or a story that doesn't grab me at all so I don't read past the first couple of chapters. There are too many other good books out there waiting for my attention.

  2. Hello, stranger.

    I'm the author of "I Hate Cheryl Strayed." My blog site tracks where page views originate; this is how I found your post.

    Since you're wondering, I wrote that blog for three reasons. 1) "Wild" was the first book I had ever read that actually *made me angry*. I had read it months before the idea of writing a blog about it had even crossed my mind, and months later, it still pissed me off whenever I thought about it because it was so clear that its author had fabricated the entire thing. As a real distance hiker, I wanted to let off some steam about all of her lies. 2) I genuinely thought that I would only be entertaining a handful of my friends. It never occurred to me that I would soon have readers in over 110 countries. Fancy that. I thought I was just gonna give my friends a few laughs. 3) It is a dangerous book. PCT Search and Rescue felt the need to coin a new term-- The Strayed Effect-- due to all of the idiots who read her book and decided to go out onto the PCT completely unprepared and ultimately needed to be rescued. This is a dangerous book. Distance hiking is no easy thing. People are going to die.

    I feel it's important to call authors out on their b.s. There's a growing trend in the field of memoirs in which "facts" are whatever the author wants them to be, whether or not they are actually factual by definition. I and countless other real hikers take genuine offense to Strayed's "memoir." She takes credit for doing something (incredibly difficult) that she didn't actually do. Her mileage doesn't add up. Her descriptions of the trail don't match the trail itself. She says things that make no sense whatsoever. She uses the PCT as a background extra in her own story of supposed redemption (though no real redemption occurs). She encourages people to do dangerous things. This is not to mention that the book is poorly written, poorly edited and the author is completely unlikable.

    I just hated the book. I decided to review it, and if I start something, I finish it. Hence, 39 posts. The movie review came into being because my readers begged for it; the (partial) review of her next book happened because my readers didn't want me to stop (I eventually retired the blog because it just wasn't healthy for me to be so angry all the time). Nevertheless, my review gave countless people a good, well needed laugh, and there's nothing wrong with giving the world a reason to laugh.

    I'm not an angry person. I just couldn't stomach Strayed's outright lies without having my say.