My Hobby: Reading 1-Star Reviews for My Favorite Books

September 25, 2011 § 22 Comments

You can’t make everyone happy.  That’s something I’m trying to teach myself before I find my own work anonymously reviewed.  Reading 1-star reviews for my favorite books started out as a way to emphasize to myself that it’s impossible to please everyone, but it has evolved into so much more than that.  I just think these are hilarious and an endless source of amusement.  Here are some of my favorites.  If you find some great 1-star reviews of your own, share them in the comments.

Harry Potter

“It is all about Harry…Harry walked down the hall…Harry saw the troll…Harry this, and Harry that. What about that Draco kid? Why doesn’t the author ever put anything in his perspective?”

And while we’re on the subject, why don’t we ever get to see the world from Voldemort’s point of view?  And where is Sauron’s perspective in Lord of the Rings?  Or Darth Vaders?  Oh right.

“Another large cliche that is found in the reading is how the plot is formatted. The storyline goes as follows: Exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. It never changes.”

The ultimate cliche because every story uses it, and not just in books.  But come on J. K., how about a little originality?  Don’t worry though, all those other stories just get one star too.

“Big budget marketing is all I can think of to create such hype.”

Those marketers and the way they pick previously unpublished, broke, single moms to propel to stardom.  If not for that, Rowling never even would have been noticed.  One star.


“The plot is centered around a rather uncreative point – a rat attacking some (talking!)mice.”

Talking mice–outrageous yet so uncreative.  One star.

Artemis Fowl

“I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read anymore about Artemis Fowl. He is a nasty, nasty little boy.”

I can just picture my grandmother saying this.

In “researching” for this post I found that John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War, has beaten me to the punch and collected his favorite one star reviews of his own books. Some pretty funny stuff. It’s also a good reminder that there are people behind the books we criticize.


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§ 22 Responses to My Hobby: Reading 1-Star Reviews for My Favorite Books

  • Jeyna Grace says:

    I never liked Artemis Fowl..

    • R. H. Culp says:

      Totally fair. Of the books here, it’s my least favorite, but I still really enjoy it. Do you dislike it because you don’t like Artemis?

      • Jeyna Grace says:

        I dont like how fairies are involved. LOL. Lets just say i dont fancy fairies.

      • strangecrumb says:

        Hey, hey HEY. Don’t you dare insult Artemis Fowl or Harry Potter in front of me!! Seriously, why did you have to choose my two favorite series for this?!! I have fanblogs for both of those! (almost.)

        #1, JKR totally switches perspective!! It’s all Voldemort, Harry, Voldemort, Harry, at least in the couple last books. And not saying too much about Draco and stuff like that leaves the realm wide open for fanfictioners such as me. :} Go JKR!!
        #2, Artemis Fowl is my heartthrob. The point of him being the lead is hard to explain. You see, you start to think he’s cool, then you cheer for the good guys for beating him, then you remember he’s the good guy. Or is he? You see, in all this mayhem, you end up reading the second book and it’s amazing how he progresses emotionally. He becomes more awesome than ever before.

        See, for an 11-year-old girl, I have pretty good ideas too. *sniffs precariously* :}

  • Shelby says:

    Just tried reading a few one-star reviews for my favorite books — this could get addicting! My favorite quote so far, on Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card:

    “As if Sci-Fi does not already suffer from a bad enough reputation already, this laughable revenge-fantasy book to make all those kids who were bullied and unappreciated in high school feel better about themselves has to be pushed on people looking for a read above pre-adolescent level.”

    Revenge-fantasy? Did he read below surface level here at all? He goes on to say how he may have liked it at 12 but has moved on to “real literature” now. I’d like to know how getting anything out of the deeper themes of “real literature” is going for him.

    • Jay Swanson says:

      They’d probably go something like this:

      “So I finally read a book that was heavily referred to me. I was told that this Steinbeck guy had written some good sh*t so I gave him a whirl. What a letdown! First off, no mice of which to speak. I mean, sure, there are mice around, but we never see the world from their perspective! Can we sue this guy for false advertizing?

      Secondly, the Lennie guy is freaking creepy! I bet he did try to rape that girl! All the petting of soft things… why is Steinbeck trying to cover it up?

      In the end this is a depressing book about farming, and I’m sick of stories that take place in California already. Give it a break man!”

  • Erin W says:

    Oh, this is a game! I almost always read 1-star reviews of anything I want to buy so I know where the haters are coming from. If I think they’re all crackpots, I assume I will like the thing. Here are some of my 5-star books and their 1-star haters:

    Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged Everything Burned: “Do not have happy endings all end horribly” (lack of punctuation preserved from original review!)

    Forster’s A Room With a View: “All the characters were incredibly pretension.” (again, preserved from original review)

    Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor: “The subject matter is simply too repellent.”

    • R. H. Culp says:

      I learned the hard way not to read one star reviews before I read the book. If I read the reviews first I see all sorts of problems with the story, writing, etc that I might not have even noticed if I’d read the book first. It ruined Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule for me, a book that many rave about.

  • avib333 says:

    Ha! I thought I was the only one masochistic enough to do this. It really is an endless source of amusement–I think my favorite one-star reviews are all in regards to The Giver–it’s almost absurd how many people commented on that book saying either: “I didn’t like it because it was depressing” or “Is this really what Lowry wants society to look like?”

    Missing the point, much?

    • R. H. Culp says:

      I love it. I’ve read a couple reviews of Ender’s Game complaining about the terrible things they make children do in the book and how Orson Scott Card must be a sick and twisted man. And I think to myself, yes, either that or he’s making a commentary on war.

      • avib333 says:

        That also makes me think of all the Mockingjay reviews that complained about the resolution of the romantic subplot, completely missing the point that the series is not Twilight “in the future” but a deep, dark exploration of the consequences of human conflict.

  • Very nice. I think that writing a negative review is so much easier than writing a positive one. A positive one requires you to interact with the material at a much deeper level. A negative review can be just that: negative.

    • avib333 says:

      That’s an interesting take! Personally, I find it easier to write a positive review, and I find negative reviews make me think about the material a lot more–like when you’re grading a paper. The A paper’s aren’t work–they’re good, so you give them an A. The F papers, on the other hand, actually require you to think very analytically and closely about what exactly isn’t working for you.

      But of course, that’s assuming these flamers are actually thinking.

      • Jay Swanson says:

        I’d agree, because if I’m going to be negative about something I feel like I’d better be able to back it up. Loving something comes so much more easily, you can just roll out your reactions on paper. Unless you’re flaming, negative reviews take a lot more effort. At least I feel a lot more self-conscious when criticizing like that (probably because I realize I’m due for an equal amount of criticism).

        • I guess I was thinking of two of the most negative professional reviews I’ve ever read: Tibor Fischer’s review of Amis’ Yellow Dog and David Foster Wallace’s review of Toward the End of Time by John Updike. It seemed that both of these reviewers entirely missed the point of the books they reviewed. And reading the reviews in toto only made me wonder how much effort they put into really understanding the works.

  • Solo says:

    I used to review for a theatre magazine who had a policy of not publishing negative reviews- The mission statement was to promote innovation and celebrate good practice, so they felt they couldn’t waste column inches on poor work. A good policy, but it meant I had to scrabble to dredge up something of value in everything I saw, to ensure my write-up got printed/uploaded.

    I like this idea, I enjoy poor reviews of things I love because I can feel quietly superior that I understood it and they didn’t (and sometimes I notice flaws I wouldn;t have otherwise, as avib333 says.)

  • theshinigamizgf says:

    Well, try writing something with every single character’s perspective..guess what the reader has nothing left to imagine,…how boring would that be….JK Rowling, i kinda worship her, her book and the world she created is like totally justified!!! Anyways, i didnt like artemis fowl either!!! so m gonna stay reading your blogs…kinds fun!!!

  • Jessica's Musings says:

    I like doing this too! I like to see what other people think, and the reviews can be very funny. Sometimes the complaints are so ridiculous.

  • Caroline says:

    I’m always looking for book recommendations, so I check out reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Sometimes I wonder if those making 1 star reviews even read the book. It’s amazing the extremes that one person’s treasure is another person’s junk. I’ll have to look closer at those reviews to share humor with others.

  • Rachel says:

    A rat attacking some talking mice? But from so little came so much! I’ve been reading the Redwall books for over fifteen years now, and they never grow old. I’m sorry for that reviewer.

    I do tend to read both 1 star and 5 star reviews. Sometimes the haters are just that… haters, and sometimes they point out how bad (or badly researched) a book is. Reading 1s and 5s will give you some balance. But I never thought to read the 1 stars for fun. : )

  • Stef says:

    What an awesome hobby … I might have to adopt it for my own entertainment!

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