Normally, I do a catch-all “year in review” post, and I will still do one, but, there’s been some anti-worst-books-lists discourse lately and we must push back. I haven’t even listed my worst books since 2018, so it’s high time.
Obscure for a reason
Obscure books that no one talks about and no one should read.
- The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamad. I was excited to read this near-future apocolytic novel set right here in Edmonton, and I did indeed recognize many locations, even in their dyspotian form, but the story was so thin, and the main character so wannabe edgy, and the premise was just stealing bits from every popular YA novel in the past twenty years. Having a character walk down Whyte Ave. was not nearly enough to make up for it.
- Bitcoin Widow by Jennifer Robertson. Such an obvious cash grab, and yet I didn’t hear anyone talking about it, so was it worth it? Jennifer Robertson tells her side of the Quadriga crypto mystery, and asks the reader to believe that she is either incredibly naive or incredibly stupid when it comes to how her (late?) husband was financing their lavish lifestyle.
At least I go to cross off two entries in the 1,001 Books list!
- Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais. Well I’m not going to tell you that a novel written in a time when “novels” weren’t really a thing is “bad,” exactly, but I was not enjoying myself. After a certain number of piss and shit jokes it all kind of blurred together.
- The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. I’m pretty sure this book invented the “autofiction” genre. Ms. Stein has a lot to answer for. There are a few good one-liners in here but you have to wade through interminable pages of “this artist visited us, we visited this artist, this person was boring, this person was a genius” and it’s SO BORING.
Mainstream, Midlist, and Meh
Some recent-ish books that honestly weren’t terrible but did not live up to the hype.
- Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au. Probably suffered from comparison to My Phantoms, which had similar themes but is just better in every way. This was totally forgettable for me.
- Helpmeet by Naben Ruthnum. I’m just really tired of horror books that use pregnancy and childbirth (or clear analogs) as their big, scary thing. Especially from male writers.
- Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagen. This one actually had some great moments, and is great when depicting 1980s England and the burgeoning punk scene, BUT the writing was so overwrought. And the sudden pivot to the current day halfway through was… unwelcome. I can handle overwrought when it’s teenagers we’re talking about, but when it’s guys in their 50s…
- Mouth of Mouth by Antoine Wilson. A Giller nominee, but I’ve also seen this in American best-of lists so it’s making waves… too bad I was so let down by the twist ending.