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Worst I Read, 2013 Edition

The evil twin of the Best I Read list, more descriptively called the Avoid Like the Plague list until a couple of years ago. Perhaps I should call it the “I Read These So You Don’t Have To” list. In other words, if you encounter any of the following twenty-five books, flee screaming in terror:

25. Wilson MacDonald, Caw-Caw Ballads (Broadway, 1930)

photo credit:

“Doggerel, the lot of it, and none of the book’s forty-eight pages is any better, save those that contain only one stanza. They are notable, at least, for their brevity.”

24. Roberta Manak, Garden Episodes in Verse (Roberta Manak, 1937)

photo credit: meeeeeeeee

“Hard to imagine you can find this much ridiculousness in a single sixty-page volume, but there you go.”

23. Matt Ballard, Ava the Talking Kangaroo (No publisher listed, 2011)

photo credit:

“I’ve certainly read worse over the past couple of years, but that can still see the bottom of the barrel through the murk.”

22. Rotem Moscovich, Curious George Takes a Trip (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007)

photo credit:

“I’m sure this sort of thing can be done competently, but to date, I have yet to come across a case of that; this is unarguably the worst example of the bunch.”

21. Grace Bryant, Cute and Funny Cat Pictures (No publisher listed, no date listed)

photo credit: Amazon

“Someone seriously went and harvested graphics from, turned them into an ebook, and put it up on Amazon? Yep.”

20. Anonymous, Bedtime for Kittens (Landoll, 1997)

photo credit: Amazon

“This is another of those late-nineties Landoll books that you can probably get for a quarter at a garage sale these days (at least if you live in northeast Ohio—Landoll is headquartered in Ashland, OH), and it’s another where if you do, you’re overpaying by twenty-four cents.”

19. Alice Duer Miller, The White Cliffs (Coward-McCann, 1940)

photo credit: Barnes and Noble

“I finished this a few days ago, and have been trying to come up with something positive to open this review with ever since. I gave up about five minutes ago.”

18. Robert Simeon Adams, Poems (Bobbs-Merrill, 1952)

photo credit: ebay

“The longer I kept going, the more things I found that I wanted to quote as paragons of what not to do when writing poetry[.]”

17. Sean H. Robertson, No Panties Fridays vol. 1: Riley’s Secret (313wood, 2011)

I had to upsize a 62x90(!) graphic because everything bigger on the Internet has a :click to look inside!" graphic on it.

“How much did I hate this? I got the second part as a freebie with the first and I’m not planning on reading it.”

16. Anonymous, Warm Kotatsu (Fractal Underground, 2004)

[I never did find a cover.]

“Eight-page, disconnected, emotionless lolicon manga that, were it not for the porny aspect, would seem like an assignment from a “how to draw manga” course.”

15. Andrea Pelleschi, Wendell at the Mall (Landoll, 1999)

[Hopefully I still have it somewhere and can take a photo, since there is none on the web for this one]

“I will give Andrea Pelleschi’s nauseating little tome, another of those Landoll lift-the-flap books that seem to have forgotten that the text and illustrations surrounding the flap should allow you to at least partially infer what is underneath, one thing: you don’t need the glasses [from John Carpenter’s movie They Live] to see how much this book celebrates the CONSUME and OBEY lifestyle.”

14. James Nesper, Betrayal at Stonehenge 1000BC (1stBooks Library, 2000)

photo credit: Barnes and Noble

“I’m not certain there will be an Avoid Like the Plague list in 2013, but if there is, it is a certainty that James Nesper’s Betrayal at Stonehenge 1000BC, which Nesper vanity-published through 1stBooks Library (who changed their name a few years later to AuthorHouse, and are now one of the leaders in the vanity-publishing industry), will be on it.”

13. K. Matthew, Alex and the Tentacle Monster (No publisher listed, no date listed)

photo credit: iTunes

“Okay, now I will admit, maybe it’s just me, but am I wrong to demand a little romance, a little feeling, from my alien tentacle monsters? You’re not using all of those tentacles for penetrative purposes, bub, how about holding a flower bouquet with one?”

12. Robert Fox, Destiny News (December Press, 1977)

“These characters are flat, cardboard, unlikable constructs who ghost through both the places they live in and their own lives without making any sort of impression, holding the same kinds of conversations that happen in college dormitories at 2AM when everyone’s had way too much Boone’s Farm.”

11. Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead (Tor, 1994)

I have no idea what that cover is, honestly.

“One of the truly amazing things about Ender’s Game is that while it is, for obvious reasons, an overtly political novel, Card never allows the politics of the thing to get in the way of the story. Here, on the other hand, we don’t even get to story before we start on politics.”

10. Jamie Wilkinson, Hidden Miracles: Vegetarianism and Alternative Medicine (No publisher listed, no date listed)

photo credit: lulu

“So let me get this straight, even though I know it happens all the time I still can’t believe people try to pull this ridiculousness: you did five minutes of “research” on the Internet, copied and pasted some descriptions, added a little of your own writing (just enough for us to tell what’s copied and what you modified a touch), and then slapped a three-dollar price tag on a thirty-six-page “booklet” and put it up for sale at Amazon?”

9. Anonymous, Mother Goose Rhymes (Landoll, 1997)

photo credit:

“I’m not sure I would have even noticed that fact that some of the rhymes presented here (Twinkle Twinkle, Pat-a-Cake) are incomplete, much less had it register in my head as such a huge bone of contention, had the book not switched gears halfway through and presented “This Little Piggy” (with a modified third line…maybe to not offend vegetarians? I dunno) over the course of ten pages rather than attempting the sort of clumsy surgery they had on the earlier pieces.”

8. B. Alexander, With Sunshine, Comes Rain (No publisher listed, 2012)

photo credit: Lulu

“A couple of “show don’t tell” lessons and a remedial course in comma placement may get this author to the point where he can start thinking about writing poetry; what’s here is doggerel.”

7. Alice Simpson, Sex with My Best Friend’s Father (No publisher listed, no date listed)

The cover of the book shows the lower half of a woman's body wearing panties and a chemise.

“It strikes me that if English is not your first language, and you plan to make money writing “erotica” (read: cheap quickie Kindle porn) for the American market, it would make sense to pay a proofreader who does have English as a first language to go over your manuscript and correct the most egregious errors: the mismatched tenses, the lack of punctuation, the missing articles, etc.”

6. Ursula K. LeGuin, Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)

photo credit: Barnes and Noble

“I had, however, forgotten that I had already brushed up against Le Guin’s poetry (Hard Words and Other Poems, read and reviewed in 2009) and found it not to my liking when I grabbed a copy of Finding My Elegy from Vine. And it turns out that Hard Words was the tip of the iceberg.”

5. Elaine Shuel, Whet Appetites of Virtual Strangers (No publisher listed, 2013)

A stock photo of an attractive model wearing very little graces the book's cover.

“Amazon helpfully informs me that I purchased Whet Appetites of Virtual Strangers on November 27, 2012, the publication date currently listed is Nov. 2, 2013. I haven’t received anything from Amazon as I usually do saying this title is available for update, but something may have gotten lost in the cracks, I may be reviewing a totally different edition, and for all I know the newer release is the best thing since sliced bread. However, I’m not willing to drop even a penny finding out, because what I read was just ridiculous.”

4. John Lieuwen, Sweat en Tears (Steketee-Van Huis, 1947)

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“I made it through twelve pages (the first two poems) of the book’s hundred sixty-eight, and by that time I knew there was no chance I was going to be able to devote any more time to this mess. It doesn’t help that the first poem starts off with, basically, “Two Dutchmen and a Jew walk into a bar…”[.]”

3. A. K. Alexander, Blood and Roses (Thomas and Mercer, 2013)

photo credit: Brilliance Audio

“There are some books about which you just know. By the end of page two of Blood and Roses, I was absolutely certain that this would be the first book I’d attempted to read in 2013 upon which I would be invoking the fifty-page rule. And the closer I got to page fifty, the more the book fulfilled my expectations. This is terrible in ways I’m not even sure people have names for yet.”

2. German Alcala, Feed Me Your Virgins (No publisher listed, no date listed)

photo credit: Barnes and Noble

“I got this free, and as far as I’m concerned, I overpaid.”

1. Lucille Hammond, Polly’s Pet (Golden Press, 1984)

photo credit:

“Not to put too fine a point on it, Polly’s Pet creeped the hell out of me. It hasn’t really been long enough (a few days) to know whether the Bean is going to request it any time in the future, but I’m thinking it may just get lost in the shuffle at some point. The general gist is that a nameless cat (he only knows himself, and thus we only know him, as Polly’s Pet—the obnoxious little brat hasn’t even named the cat, as far as we can tell) who gets fed up with the abuse he takes at the hands of Polly and her sadistic little brother, and so he runs away—but then he ends up missing the abuse so he ends up going back home, taking it, and being happy about it because, hey, at least he’s not alone. And now that I’ve typed that summary out, man, I hate this book even more, because that’s pretty classic (and to tell you how awful this book is, I hate this word and would never use it voluntarily) codependency. Not sure you’d want to read this one to your kids unless you want them to grow up preconditioned to getting into abusive relationships. (zero)”

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

One response »

  1. You might enjoy a children’s board book titled “Frankie the Fish” from Castle Street Press. Given to our daughter by her grandmother, it’s the tale of a fish who strives be something more and decides to leave home, but after several discouraging conversations with friends, he realizes that it’s best to stay put and not aspire to do anything out of the ordinary. The artwork is great, and our daughter loved it, but this book mysteriously disappeared one day!


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