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Books that Make Readers Angry

August 10, 2015
I keep telling myself, it's not Harper Lee's, it's not Harper Lee's fault! (image via wikimedia)

I keep telling myself, it’s not Harper Lee’s fault, it’s not Harper Lee’s fault! (image via wikimedia)

“That ending sucks!” my oldest daughter exclaimed, slamming the book shut.

She had just finished reading The Giver by Lois Lowry.  It’s required for her next year, and my daughter wanted to get a head start.  I told her it was okay to read ahead as long as she didn’t spoil anything for other students and she’d still read it again when it was time to do it at school.  But now she’s mad at the book.

According to my daughter, The Giver starts slowly, builds up tension, and then has an unclear ending.  Supposedly, the movie has a more defined ending (I cheated and looked it up), but the book was published 20 years ago, and the movie is new, so that means for two decades, students have probably been getting mad at the ending.  Readers were expecting some kind of resolution and instead got something unclear and maybe open-ended.  Unclear and open-ended is a bad combination.  My daughter is fairly calm.  If she got mad at the ending, she’s not the only one.

Even though I’m supposedly even-tempered, I can get angry at books too.  It doesn’t happen very often.  If I don’t enjoy a book, I’ll quit reading it before I get angry at it.  I only get mad on certain occasions.

Go Set A Watchman– by Harper Lee

When Go Set A Watchman was announced, I was pretty sure it was a scam.  The circumstances had scam written all over it.  I didn’t get mad until the book became a best seller before it was even released.  Philosophically, I’m opposed to books becoming best sellers before they’re released, but as long as pre-orders exist (and I’m not opposed to pre-orders), then there’s the possibility of unpublished books becoming best sellers.

Anyway, I believe that Go Set A Watchman was sold to the public as a sequel when it was really a rough draft that was never meant to be read by the public.  Six months ago, I thought that was the case, but I don’t like forming opinions right away.  Now that Go Set A Watchman has come out, enough people have read it for me to form an opinion.

It looks to me like Go Set A Watchman was a dishonest money grab, and even if disappointed readers return it and get their money back, not enough customers will do that to cut into the publisher’s profits.  I don’t like it when bad behavior gets rewarded, and a bunch of people in the publishing industry made a lot of money by misrepresenting what Go Set A Watchman was.

Go Set A Watchman has a cool cover, though.  I hope the artist got paid.  It’s not the artist’s fault that the book was a scam.

Streets of Laredo– by Larry McMurtry

I’m a Lonesome Dove fan.  True, I don’t like the western genre.  I’ve only read a couple Louis L’Amour books, and I’ve only seen a couple John Wayne movies.  Despite my bias, I think Lonesome Dove is great.  But the sequel Streets of Laredo almost ruins it.  Most of the time, I don’t let a great book’s sequel affect my opinion of the great book, but this MIGHT be the exception.

Even though lots of violent stuff happened in Lonesome Dove, there was a charm to the book.  Streets of Laredo was supposed to be the sequel, so I was expecting a novel similar in tone, but it felt to me like it was just characters with similar names in a completely different western universe, violent without the witty narrative.  Horrible things happened to characters I liked from Lonesome Dove, but it didn’t seem seem to have been written as carefully, so I felt like the author was being disrespectful.

If it had been a stand alone novel, I might not have gotten mad at it. I finished Streets of Laredo just to see what happened (I would have been better off not knowing), but I still got mad at it, and I haven’t read any more McMurtry books since.

Streets of Laredo isn’t a horrible book.  If I hadn’t read Lonesome Dove first, I might not have even gotten mad at it.

The Awakening– by Kate Chopin

When I read this (required in a literature course), I thought the ending (SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!) was a cop-out.  This was supposed to be an early feminist novel, and the protagonist drowns herself?  What kind of feminist does that?  When I expressed my thoughts in class, everybody thought I was joking and laughed, so I kept my mouth shut the rest of class, until I figured out why the rest of the class didn’t take me seriously.

Looking back, I made the right decision.  I should have been outraged at the repression of women in 19th century southern culture, and instead I was incensed that the author copped out by having the main character kill herself.  I guess my priorities were messed up.  But still, at the time, it made me mad.

Zoo- by James Patterson

Actually, it’s anything by James Patterson.  10 books a year?  13 books a year?  C’mon!  Patterson should just turn himself into a publishing company.  Nobody can write that many books, even with a bunch of co-authors.

Maybe James Patterson was cloned, and there are 10 James Pattersons, each writing one book a year.  That, I could deal with.  But anyway, I can’t read any James Patterson books because they make me mad (and I don’t like being mad over stuff like that)

*****

Getting angry at a book isn’t necessarily bad; it shows you care enough to get mad. My daughter was interested enough in The Giver to care about the ending.  I enjoyed Lonesome Dove so much that I cared that Streets of Laredo seemed to destroy everything it had built.  I care about honesty and integrity so much that I’m angry at the financial success of Go Set A Watchman.  And James Patterson?  I admit, I’m just jealous.

BOOKS THAT SHOULD MAKE ME MAD BUT DON’T

50 Shades of Grey–  A lot of people hate these books, but I’m ambivalent.  I like the idea of an obscure writer getting rich from publishing a sex book.

*****

A special thanks to blogger The Antipodean Reader for giving me the idea for “Books That Make Readers Angry” a few weeks ago!  Thank you!

*****

What do you think?  What books have made you angry?  Was Go Set A Watchman a scam or a sequel?  What books do you think should make you mad but don’t?

*****

New from Dysfunctional Literacy!

Even if you get angry at books sometimes, nobody can get mad at Nice Things.

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!

38 Comments
  1. 100% agree about Go Set A Watchman. Everything about the announcement and release has made me uneasy. There’s a chance it’s legit, but I’m voting with my wallet and staying out of this one.

    • “I’m voting with my wallet and staying out of this one.”-

      Me too, unless calling it a potential scam on a blog post is NOT staying out of it. I’m not going to spend any money on it, though.

    • I have read the book and it is great. Set before the Civil Rights Movement, it deals with bigotry in its proper definition. It is not true that Atticus Finch is portrayed as a bigot in this book. He is actually the same lovable figure that was portrayed in the movie. It is Scout that is the bigot living in her small color blind world that cannot understand the small town pre-civil rights mentality. This is not only worth a read, but is one of the best books to come out in the past 50 years.

      • “This is not only worth a read, but is one of the best books to come out in the past 50 years.”-

        I’ve seen some favorable reviews, but I haven’t seen anybody else go quite that far. It’s also interesting that you say Scout is the bigot, not Atticus. If you keep this up, I might have to read the darn thing myself (but I’m not paying for it).

      • Doug Williams permalink

        Warning – spoilers ahead. Ken, what book did you read? Atticus is “the same lovable figure that was portrayed in the movie?” Are you joking? He is a racist and a segregationist. He states that Negroes are still in their childhood as a people. He asks Scout if she really wants Negroes to live in the white world? He associates with people who have some really vile things to say about black people. Could you see Gregory Peck’s Atticus saying/doing any of those things? Yes, this book definitely made me mad. I’m angry at the depiction of Atticus. I’m angry that Scout reconciles with him at the end. I’m angry that the author fails to put forth a credible story explaining Atticus’s transformation. I’m angry that Go Set a Watchman, without explanation, seems to take place in some alternate universe where the events in To Kill a Mockingbird are remembered differently than they actually occurred in that novel. For instance, in GSAW, Scout, reflecting on Tom Robinson’s trial, says that Atticus won an acquittal for a black man from an all white jury. What? That’s not the way it happened in TKAM. In short, aside from the fact that this may or may not have been a money grab, the book was infuriating to me and diminishes TKAM – which I have for many years viewed as one of the greatest classics of American literature. I question whether or not you really read this book Ken.

  2. Hey this is a great post! I hate to be a nit-picker, but do you mind giving me credit for the idea? I remember discussing it with you a few weeks ago: https://dysfunctionalliteracy.com/2015/07/17/best-books-ever-by-genre-part-one/

    Thanks!

    • Oops! Now I have to thank you and apologize to you at the same time.

      I rewrote the ending and gave you credit, and now I’m apologizing for not doing that originally. I’m sorry about that. I’m glad you caught it early, so I could fix it before I went to sleep.

  3. I remember as child throwing “The Bronze Bow” across the room because the main character decides on peace over rebelling against Roman rule Rereading it just a few years later, I wasn’t angry at all, but the angriest I’ve ever been at the end of a book was finishing the Bronze Bow when I was 9 or 10 years old.

    • …and inserting spoiler tags around the spoiler did not black it out…

    • Did you have to read The Bronze Bow for a school assignment? Getting assigned a book to read in class sometimes made me angry at the book, but I didn’t include those in my list.

      • No, I read it on my own. I know it must’ve happened, but I do not recall having to read an assigned book out of class until college. I would not have been so angry at the ending if I hadn’t liked the rest of it. I’d been eagerly anticipating the glorious good guys vs bad guys rebellion, so when it didn’t happen, I felt ripped off.

  4. Don’t give up on McMurtry yet. Try the two Call/McRae prequels, Comanche Moon and Dead Man’s Walk.

  5. Okay, I am going to spin this just a little. The more that these kind of books make money for the publishing industry, it give them more money to spend on small, unknown author’s trying to break out, like me! So, yes, this all seems like a frustrating thing, but maybe we smaller author’s benefit. How’s that for a glass half full????? Wonderful article…thanks for the laugh.

  6. The Mill on the Floss. I read it just a few years ago (of my own free will) because I usually enjoy long descriptive books from the 1800s. The main character Maggie is less ladylike and more interesting than most female characters of that era, but in the end, there is a huge flood and she rows out to save her brother Tom, and you expect lots of action and a satisfying ending– but there is only about a paragraph that sums up what happened to them. It’s like someone told the author, “Sorry, time’s up,” and she scribbled her last line while walking up to turn in her exam.
    (I hope I have the details right. I am too mad at the book to look it up and check.)

    • Believe me, I understand completely! I’ve never read The Mills on the Floss, but your description of the ending is one of the things that makes me the most angry when dealing with books! My vote doesn’t go to a specific book; rather, I cast my ballot for Robert Heinlein, the author himself. I have read a number of his books, and with the (marginal) exception of “Stranger in a Strange Land”, his books infuriate me to no end. The initial injustice that usually causes me to scream at DH for recommending the book is instantaneous. By page two I’m typically fuming mad. It’s not about the story, the characters, or even stylistic quirks…it’s much more basic than that: all of his books start NOT AT THE BEGINNING! It quite literally feels like he wrote the entire book, then for some reason known only to him, he rips out the first five chapters. Every time you’re just thrust into a story that’s already happening!! Eventually, I settle down and try again from the start, and it makes me agitated, but I remind myself that I’ve liked every other book I’ve read from him and shove on. By the third chapter (really 8th chapter if you count the five he obviously tore out!), I’m hooked. I read like a mad-woman and just consume the book with frenzied fervor. Toward the end of the book, I am practically hypnotized…I love the book, it’s definitely one of my all-time favorites, and I’m completely invested. I NEED TO KNOW HOW THE BOOK ENDS! I know I’m almost there because I can tell that the right-side of the book is rapidly shrinking while the left grows…. I turn the page ready for anything to happen….except what usually does. BANG! It’s just over. There’s no conclusion to the story, no real ending; I scream that I hate the book, usually end up throwing it at DH because he knew the book would end that way and he knows I hate that. He ducks and laughs and says “I knew you’d like it”. GRRR.

      Every time, no matter which book, it’s the same thing for me: it’s like he wrote an entire book – an epic even – printed out the completed book, held it up with pride knowing it was a job well done. Then he walks into the publisher’s office and hands it to them. They read it and tell him it was a literary masterpiece and praise him on a job well done. Then, he takes the final book back from them, rips out the first five chapters and tears them to shreds using the paper as confetti to celebrate his great book. His publisher gawks at him in disbelief, and Heinlein replies by turning to the dead center of the last chapter of the book and tearing out everything after the mid-point of the chapter and handwriting “they all die” in place of an actual ending.

      I can’t say that all of his books do this, because there have been a few (a small few) that are only missing the beginning, or the end and not both; but plenty of them have that exact formula and it drives me insane. I spend a week seething about it, unable to read another book because I’m still mad the last one didn’t end at all. That’s what makes me angry. ROBERT HEINLEIN!

      • Wow! I think I read some of his back in college and they didn’t strike me that way that I remember — but I think you have convinced me not to go back and find out!

  7. Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little—I enjoyed the book thoroughly until the very end. I am still mad about the end and I read it 2 weeks ago!!! I won’t say anything else–no spoilers lol!!

  8. I have only read the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman as a download before it was officially out – it’s been serialised on the BBC as the Book at Bedtime so I think I might listen to it instead of buying the book. The two books that have made me angry recently are Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

  9. I’m ashamed to admit that, although I studied English and german Language and Literature, the only name I recognized from your list is James Patterson. Ok, AND The Awakening. I won’t say anything about the book – or feminism for that matter – but I just have to say this: I’m convinced J.P. is a production team working on the assembly line. Forst argument is the number of books and second: I only read Kill Me if You Can and Burn. TOTALLY different styles, and totally different voices. The forst was pretty good, the latter sucked. I think many authors who manage to break the ice at a certain point end up technically replaced with a production team, unfortunately. But, I guess the readership’s a big, constantly hungry baby that demands much more than your breast can possibly produce. So have to seek help, ’cause you love your baby and there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for your baby to love you back.

  10. First. Sorry for the tipoes, darn keyboard 🙂

  11. Please tell your daughter to read the three (3!) Books in Lowry’s Giver series. All is resolved,although it may be favorite pat for adults. I am with you on Streets of Laredo, when mcmurtry killed Newt I cussed a blue streak. Hated The Awakening and got in the same kind of trouble for voicing my thoughts. I get frustrated with endings that authors try to shock and awe me.
    I am slightly mad at you because I don’t know how Heather will respond to Daniella’s involvement on your lives. Guess I will have to wait for Better Things?

    • I think it was the way Newt’s death was handled that ticked me off.

      Better Things? Ha ha! I just wrote that nobody gets mad at Nice Things, and now you’ve written that you’re slightly mad at Nice Things. I guess I can’t use that tag line again.

  12. The ending of Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series though understandable is so damn disheartening that it almost makes you regret reading the entire seven book opus…this being said if you have read seven book opus, you also understand that this is probably the only way he could end it…..

    • 7 books for the Dark Tower series? At least he finished writing it. But yeah, that’s tough to get through 7 books just to be disheartened by the ending.

  13. You should have your daughter read this blog post about Lois Lowry and The Giver and the sequel. I found it interesting; the blogger discusses why the second book ruined the ending of the first book. http://www.bookpuke.com/2015/08/lowry-giveth-and-lowry-taketh-away.html

    • Thank you! I just finished reading it, and you’re right; it’s interesting, but it might just make my daughter angrier. I’m interested to see how her teacher handles the ending (if the teacher just goes by what’s in The Giver, or if the teacher goes by what’s in the movie and the sequels).

  14. Formula books, i.e. those by James Patterson, aren’t really books, in my estimation, but profit-making mechanisms.

    I think the thing about 50 Shades of Grey isn’t that it’s an obscure writer with a sex book, it’s that it’s a really huge example of very bad writing. There are a lot of amazingly good writers of fan fic who aren’t getting rich off it.

  15. “Der Trotzkopf” (“The Stubborn Head”) made me mad, when I read it as a twelve-year-old. It made me angry because it is about a girl who just wants to be herself but has to grow into being a nice, quiet lady with no brains for herself, whose only goal in life has to be to get married and have kids. At the age when I read it, I wasn’t aware that the book described the normal life of girls and women of the 19th century. So I got quite mad. Especially because it was written by a woman.

  16. Confederacy of Dunces was a well written book. So well written I couldn’t take it. I get enough stupid in every day life. Reading it was too real for me. It just made me angry at people.

  17. Kunal permalink

    Nice post, i was thinking of buying go set a watchman,but now i will not.Can you give me a review about John greens “Paper Town”.I am kind of looking forwrd to buy it.

  18. roseorioncypher permalink

    I remember getting mad at a book called Clockwork. I don’t remember the author, but the book was really good! The thing that made me mad was how short it was; it deserved a sequel, or at least to have been bigger!

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