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AIBU to think a lot of books these days are really badly written?

99 replies

TheNameGames · 09/12/2019 14:29

I'm not going to name specific authors or books but does anyone think the quality in fiction novels has really gone downhill and amateurish lately? I'm not talking '50 shades of Grey' levels where the reviews are scathing compared to the numbers sold. Someone recommended a book to me that they promised that I'd love and I couldn't get past the second chapter because the writing just came across as juvenile. This is a part from the latest recommendation:

'I love you,' he whispered.
'Love you, too.'
He pulled back.
I groaned again, but this time it was with frustration.

Not just that, but glaring grammatical errors (unless it was intentionally written this way):

'You'll love what happens after dinner.' He grinned.

'All right, bring it on.' I laughed.

I went online to see if people thought the same but this has an average rating of 4 and a half stars. I thought it was something that someone had self published but this is a best-seller, apparently. I've read far better written fanfiction. I've read far better written OPs in AIBU!

Someone recommended another book a few months ago and it was the same thing. I don't mean to be a snob and I'm certainly nowhere anywhere near the scale of clever but I just found I couldn't read them because of the way they were written, it was like reading a badly written teenage novel. They're not my normal style of books but thought I'd give some a go for some light reading. Some of these have been pushed to the forefront on the Amazon kindle main page so must be popular and given the reviews, they are.

Is it fake reviews? People accepting or being more forgiving of lower quality writing lately? I've read loads of books I thought were rubbish but only didn't finish them because I didn't like the content, not because I couldn't connect with the writing itself.

I'm prepared to be flamed Grin but does anyone agree?

OP posts:

RhymingRabbit3 · 09/12/2019 14:37

I'm in a book club and many of the ladies recommend books which have been well reviewed by the "Richard and Judy book club" or similar. Most of the story lines are fine (although nothing to write home about) but the writing is not great. Quite basic prose, one dimensional characters, background storylines that don't go anywhere.... and everyone says how great they are.

We read one book in my book club which i really enjoyed and thought was well written (All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr) but the majority thought it was too hard to read, too dense and complicated. Which was a shame.


EBearhug · 09/12/2019 15:02

I suspect there has always been poor writing - it's just most of the poorly written stuff from 50 or 100 years ago hasn't survived down the years. The Victorian had their penny dreadfuls.

I think there's less editing (or less hoid editing) than there used to be (and more self-publishing.)


SarahAndQuack · 09/12/2019 15:05

YY, @EBearhug.

I remember reading some shocking written-by-committee teen 'novels' when I was 9 or 10, too - plenty of them around. Also occasionally venturing into the adult bit of the library and finding really crappy books.


EBearhug · 09/12/2019 15:06

For hoid, read good.

Oh, the irony! I do wish my phone's autocorrect would at least use words which exist. (Not to mention learn how use apostrophes.)


Basilicaofthemind · 09/12/2019 15:12

There’s so much hype around some books these days that it’s massively disappointing when you read them and discover how much tripe lies within. One easily marketed good idea does not make a successful novel.


Lllot5 · 09/12/2019 15:14

So many! Very often put a book down thinking well I could do that.
My kids always well go on then!


TheNameGames · 09/12/2019 15:21

So many! Very often put a book down thinking well I could do that.
My kids always well go on then!

I always wanted to write a book when I was younger but didn't feel confident enough and fell out of love with the idea but I honestly think I should give it a real shot, if this is what is being churned out and selling millions of copies and getting good reviews.

OP posts:

RatherBeRiding · 09/12/2019 15:23

Oh yes!

My tastes are eclectic and range from Dickens to Ian Rankin via Raymond Chandler - so not exactly "high-brow".

However, what they all have in common is an ear for realistic dialogue, well crafted narrative, and the ability to avoid teeth-jarring banality of vocabulary (I'm looking at you Dan Brown!).

Writers can be popular best-sellers of airport-type novels and still write well.

I am amazed at some of the rubbish that makes it into print.


Lllot5 · 09/12/2019 18:41

Me too if you do it so will I. 😃


SparkleFizz · 10/12/2019 05:04

Agree with EBearhug, I don’t think bad writing is a new thing.


TheClaws · 10/12/2019 05:18

I agree with you. I find myself sticking with the Classics and Literature sections of the bookshop when I want to find something new to read; anything marked as ‘Popular’ commonly lets me down due to poor grammar, lack of editing, lack of thematic depth and so on. I like a book to get me thinking and surprise me. I also don’t enjoy books that seem to be written to a recipe: rehashing a comfortable old trope time and time again. Ingenuity appeals to me.


Stooshie8 · 10/12/2019 05:38

Also best seller often means clever plot line.
Several books lately have been complicated plot lines which I'm pretty sure is where the writer starts - they are not character driven. maybe designed as much for audio listening where perhaps there'smore likelihood of distraction.


Nextphonewontbesamsung · 10/12/2019 06:04

Yanbu, I agree.

But I've noticed the new thing with reading seems to be how many books you read, not how much pleasure you got from the process or how much you learned from the book. People say they read two books a week but find even fairly accessible modern classics like The Secret History "too hard". So they whizz through all the light, formulaic, novels-by-numbers stuff and pat themselves on the back for being a big reader.

That makes me sound a bit snobby about books and literature and I suppose I am in a way. Having said that, I did enjoy the plots of The Couple Next Door (all the time thinking wtf is this I'm reading) and The Girl On The Train. Writing a true page turner can't be easy. But I think less happens in the editorial process these days and there maybe aren't as many talented editors working closely with authors to get the best out of them.


Danglingmod · 10/12/2019 06:11

I agree that there has always been poor writing around, but I do think there's an increasing number of churned out thrillers, in particular, where the ability to think of a good plot isn't matched by realistic dialogue or interesting use of figurative language to describe a scene.

Additionally, the editing process, even at proper publishers, seems to be really inferior. I am reading a (good, children's) book at the moment, published by a "proper" publisher, which has allowed the spelling error "phased" (it should be "fazed") to slip through the net!


lolaflores · 10/12/2019 06:12

I work in a library and some of the old welly that gets published and put into the world to be read is quite shocking.
James Patterson has, at last count, 10 books on the shelf in our medium sized library. Big thick wedges of books that are all plot driven and filled with 2d characters and he must have a recipe that helps him churn them out. Or a computer program. But he sells and his books are snapped up by certain readers a d that's publishing for you.
The real shockers are the Romantic reads. The Mills And Boon section. 1 title was The Spanish pirates pregnant wife. Two other titles were The Italian Pirates Pregnant Wife and Matched To A Greek Tycoon.
There is no accounting for taste there really isnt.


Hellofromtheotherside2020 · 10/12/2019 06:18

I'm in two minds. My bachelor's degree was in literature so there's a little high brow lady inside me who loves nothing more than a canonical, well written classic. Then there's a modern, non fussy woman inside me who just loves a trashy, easy read chic-lit.

I do enjoy both, probably equally. However, I do understand where you're coming from and I get frustrated at spelling mistakes in novels which have been published by a publishing house, it's unforgivable Grin

It's like most things. Mass produced with profits in mind rather than quality. Like music.


littlepeas · 10/12/2019 06:18

God yes. I haven't read anything decent for ages. I also get really annoyed when a writer can't keep the momentum going for their whole novel - there are so many books out there that start out really well and then just go to shit.


Dontdisturbmenow · 10/12/2019 06:26

I am and always have been a very avoid reader, but somehow an appauling writer, feel very ashamed by it. I can however recognise a poorly written book and indeed, this will significantly lessen the pleasure of reading.

I have this year read one book that was very well written and it was an absolute joy to read it, for the plot, but also because it flowed so well. It's called 'Let me in' by Lucy Clarke.


SunsetBoulevard3 · 10/12/2019 06:30

I agree with you. I’m constantly astonished by what passes for good fiction these days. A recent example is Salley Vickers Grandmothers. I have never understood the popularity of her books. It’s hard to find a critical review anywhere. I heard her latest book serialised on Radio 4 last week and it was just full of clunking ,cringemaking language and unbelievable characterisation. Not to mention being really boring. Yet her books sell really well. Discernment seems to have gone out of the window.


echt · 10/12/2019 06:38

I'm struggling with my book club where the choices by the mostly Australian members are always Australian novels: big island, small country and correspondingly less chance of the novel being any good. More grim outback shite or something only "good" because it's set in Melbourne and we can recognise the streets.

There are good Australian writers, and Australian poetry is outstanding, but another airport novel will kill me.


MinnieMountain · 10/12/2019 07:18

This is why I left my book club. It worked from a national list that was full of newer, poorly written crap.


Michaelbaubles · 10/12/2019 07:23

I’m not snobby about plot at all - I enjoy light, fun, silly novels, and potboiler thrillers. But they can exist without being terribly written! There’s a middle ground between lit fic and the garbage OP is talking about. Kindle-only books are without exception awful (whenever this is mentioned on here people post titles they think are good, but they’re always just as disappointing) and most supermarket books are also at this level. Which is annoying as I’d bloody love to download something decent or pick something up with the shopping! As it is I trawl reviews for promising stuff and reserve them at the library. But most of the time I’m reading older books because they do have the standards of proof-reading and basic editing newer ones don’t. Read a “woman’s novel” from 1950s-1980s next to a modern one and you’ll see that they are better quality, even with preposterous plot lines etc.


MoltoAgitato · 10/12/2019 07:27

I totally agree. Editing also seems to be a dying art - I’ve read many books lately that would have been vastly improved by strong editing, as they could have said the same thing in about half the words.


Rubychard · 10/12/2019 07:33

I’m having this problem too in my book club. Some of them have been truly awful. The worst one recent one I can remember is the butterfly room by Lucinda Riley. Utter, utter 1 dimensional shite. Rave reviews, Richard n Judy recommends etc etc.


rosie561 · 10/12/2019 07:37

@lolaflores I worked in a library for many years and each morning when we checked the list of books that had been requested to be sent to other libraries from ours, we would play a game of 'guess which of these titles are Mills and Boon' Grin

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