Are you tired of reading overrated bestsellers? Do you wish someone would tell you to read this not that? Find out which bestselling books are worth the hype and which to skip.
When I first joined my neighborhood book club, I was surprised to find I hadn’t heard of any books they were reading. For years, I had exclusively read classics, so my knowledge of contemporary fiction was limited.
To catch up, I did what most people do. I scoured The New York Times bestseller list for good books to read. While I did find some absolute gems, I also found myself deluged with overrated bestsellers.
You know the ones. The ones that everyone is talking about and you can’t wait to read. Then you read it and do a double-take.
This is a bestseller? Did I read the right book? Is there something wrong with me or has the whole world gone crazy?
That’s where I step in. Every year, I create my annual read this not that list. I pick seven overrated bestsellers I read the previous year and then pair them with seven books to read instead.
Will you agree with my picks? Maybe. Maybe not.
I figure it’s my duty as a book blogger to share my opinion and start the conversation. And if I save you from picking up a terrible book, you can thank me later.
Eleven-year-old Ren is given one final task when his master dies: to find his master’s severed finger and return it, in the next 49 days, or his master’s soul will be doomed to wander the earth. From there, his story will mingle with that of dance hall girl Ji Lin who has found the finger, all while a tiger stalks the town. Mixing Chinese folklore and superstition with historical fiction, Choo brings the time period to life in this beautifully written and imaginative story. You’ll feel completely swept away into the slight mysticism of the story, and I agree with Amazon that this is one of the best books of 2019.
In 1862, a group of young artists summer together at a country manor, which ends with the murder of a young woman and the disappearance of both another woman and an irreplaceable heirloom. In modern times, archivist Elodie Winslow discovers a haunting photograph of a young woman. Her search for the truth of the past leads her into a forgotten history and a journey through time. Add in a ghost and multiple timelines of the manor and you have a rather boring overrated bestseller. Usually, I love Kate Morton’s books but this one was hard-to-follow and not up to her usual standards.
In a small Virginia town, Korean immigrants Young and Pak Yoo run a medical center with a hyperbaric chamber called the Miracle Submarine – a pressurized oxygen chamber patients can use to treat illnesses like decompression sickness, but that many use in an attempt to treat such conditions as autism and MS. When a fire causes the chamber to explode, killing two, an intense murder trial reveals secrets and lies from all involved. Angie Kim’s debut novel will keep you guessing who started the fire, but more importantly, it will draw you into the moral decisions the flawed characters have to make.
In Clanton, Mississippi, in 1946, Pete Banning, a war-decorated veteran and one of the town’s favorite sons, walks into church one Sunday and shoots to death his friend Revered Bell. As Banning’s trial begins and he refuses to say a word, his lawyer must delve into the past in an attempt to save his client. Honestly, just skip to the last chapter to find out why – nothing in the middle is worth reading. Actually, just skip it altogether; it’s nowhere near as good as his early books.
Way out in the Australia outback, Nathan and Bub Bright find the body of their brother Cameron on the edge of their ranch. Did Cam end his own life walking out into the desert or did someone end it for him? More a character study than a murder mystery, The Lost Man looks at the secrets a family keeps combined with a fascinating portrayal of life in the outback.
One night, famous painter Alicia Berenson shoots her husband in the face 5 times, and then never utters another word again. Now criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber is determined to get the truth from this silent patient while his own life is falling apart. With rave reviews, I was hoping this psychological thriller would be one of those gripping books that keep you up all night. Overall, I struggled to connect, maybe because I disliked Theo’s character so much. Even though I will admit the twist at the end was well-done, I still think this is one of the top overrated bestsellers of recent years.
Among the best books of 2019 was Blake Crouch’s science fiction thriller. America has fallen victim to False Memory Syndrome – where victims are driven mad by memories of a life they never lived … or did they? It’s up to NYPD cop Barry Sutton and neuroscientist Helena Smith to figure out how to stop this epidemic, even as reality is shifting all around them. You’ll have a hard time putting this one down, so you’ll certainly want to pick up a copy before the film adaptation hits Netflix.
Karen Thompson Walker
An ordinary, if somewhat isolated, college town in California suddenly comes down with an epidemic. People are suddenly falling asleep and cannot be awoken by any means. Scans show unusually high brain wave activity indicating that the sleepers are dreaming. I loved the premise for this story, and the suspense as people slowly start to fall asleep kept me wanting more. Unfortunately, that ends up being literally the whole story. You keep expecting more, but it never arrives. Walker tries to cram in all her plot into the last 30 pages. By then, it’s just too little too late.
Gary Keller gives your to-do list the minimalist treatment with his complete overhaul on how you evaluate your time. For the biggest results, Keller wants you to embrace the concept of The One Thing – stacking your day (and life) around doing what’s most important first, not what’s easiest. By challenging yourself to always focus on your number one priority, you’ll find you can make giant leaps forward.
Stephen R. Covey
Yawn. That’s about all I have to say about Stephen R. Covey’s well-known work that has squarely landed on my list of overrated bestsellers. It may have been groundbreaking when it was written, but today all his concepts are widely accepted. If you can manage to stay awake maybe you’ll learn something, but with dull managerial terms it will be a difficult feat.
Have you noticed profanity-laced titles in the self-improvement section? As Manson introduces his topic, he drops F-bombs left and right, almost like a blogger keyword stuffing for SEO. The swear words tailed off considerably once you get into the meat of the book, which allows Manson’s original idea to fully shine. He hypothesizes that the key to life is not to be happy. Instead, the key is to embrace the limitations, flaws, and suffering of life. You’ll be left with plenty to think about after reading this anti-self-help book.
I hated this book with a passion. Jen Sincero is a mindset person, meaning that all you need to master your life is the right attitude. So tape a bunch of dollar bills around your house to remind you that money grows on trees. Seriously, that is one of her suggestions. Or was that in You Are a Badass at Making Money? I loathed both books and have trouble telling them apart. She spent her whole life thinking that money was evil and it was better to live in poverty than to actually work a real job. Are people really like that? You’ll find no practical advice here, just a bunch of empty inspirational platitudes.
If you aren’t crazy about Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy” question, you want to try Joshua Becker’s more practical decluttering guide. His philosophy is centered on the question, “Do I need this?” Becker takes a room by room approach – pointing out specific pitfalls with the different spaces in your house. By taking it one room at a time, you don’t create a gigantic mess in the process, but you still start with the easiest spaces and move on to more difficult tasks.
Often I hear Sasaki’s book praised as one of the best minimalism books, and I cannot figure out why. Sasaki started as loser alcoholic hoarder, discovered minimalism, and then turned himself into a monk. His philosophy is to get rid of everything. Literally. You need to see the pictures at the beginning of the book to believe it. A girl sitting in a completely empty living room is his ideal of minimalism. He’s not embracing decluttering – he’s embracing living with absolutely nothing. To top it off, I felt like the translator did a poor job with the English edition, with many awkward turns of phrase.
What are the Most Overrated Books You Read This Year?
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my Read This Not That list? What overrated books would you add and which bestsellers do you think I judged too harshly? As always, let me know in the comments!
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