The Worst Books of All Time

It’s the time of year when many bloggers list their favourite books of the past 12 months. On the other hand, some of them name the titles they liked least. Here I must follow suit because, when I look back at my shelves, some books stand out as the very worst of any year. So, in the spirit of utter meanness, I offer you this diverse list of five awful reads. One or two are classics, or may be your favourites, for which I can only apologize. Horses for courses, and all that.

Lecture Notes on Pathology by AD Thomson and RE Cotton

What they say: Of value to undergraduate medical students studying for their final examination and to postgraduate students preparing for higher qualifications.

What I say: The print is tiny, there is no plot whatsoever, and the book reads like a telephone directory. Having committed almost all of the 1,100 pages to memory (I didn’t bother with the index), I can still recite chunks of it by heart decades later, although nobody wants to hear them. But I suppose I shouldn’t bear a grudge, especially as the cover survived many late-night revision sessions, along with the inevitable spilt coffee.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon 

What they say: Quirky novel set in the East Midlands during the heatwave of 1976. Ten-year olds Grace and Tilly set out to find out what happened to their neighbour Mrs Creasy, who has disappeared. ‘An utter delight, etc.’

What I say: An utter delight, etc – if you’re a reader, that is. Terrible book if you are an author. Every paragraph is a reminder that you can’t actually write novels for toffee, or at least nothing like as well as the peerless Joanna Cannon. This book commits the crime of being too damn good.

Slow Horses by Mick Herron  

What they say: Banished to Slough House from the ranks of achievers at Regent’s Park for various crimes of drugs and drunkenness, lechery and failure, politics and betrayal, this misfit crew of highly trained joes don’t run ops any more; they push paper.

But not one of them joined the Intelligence Service to be a ‘slow horse’.

A boy is kidnapped and held hostage. His beheading is scheduled for live broadcast on the net.

And whatever the instructions of the Service, the slow horses aren’t going to just sit quiet and watch …

‘Funny, stylish, satirical, gripping, etc’

What I say: Decapitations apart, this tale is not suitable for bedtime reading. It has more pace than a Merseyside Derby, and just as many characters. OK, so it’s set in London and has nothing to do with football (apart from that disembodied head), but a moment’s inattention and you’ve missed some vital action.  Full attention is needed to fully savour this unusual spy novel. 

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies by Jean Kerr

What they say: Now out of print, this is a witty collection of pieces by US playwright Jean Kerr about work and family life, as she tries to write at home while praying that her four irrepressible sons will behave for once.

What I say: I thoroughly enjoyed this book while growing up, and read it several times. However, I made the error of dipping into it again after recent gall bladder surgery. It is the worst book anyone could choose after an abdominal operation. If you don’t bust your stitches, you’ll feel as if you have.

Dictionnaire Larousse

What they say: 60,000 mots, définitions et exemples. Très utile.

What I say: I haven’t brought myself to use this dictionary again since the day one of my classmates, also aged 11, borrowed it then returned it to me after adding, in Magic Marker, no less, some choice four-letter words that the publishers of le Larousse had not thought to include in a children’s dictionary.  And he didn’t even put them into the correct places in the alphabet (I checked). I eventually bought a new copy, as you can see.

So, who’s in your bad books?

Whether you agree with my choices or not, happy reading in 2018. With over 130 million books in print and a slew of new titles on the way, there’s something to suit everyone. Except maybe POTUS.

 

 

 

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Onwards and Upwards with the Queen’s English

Now that he’s been out a while, Dan reckons he’s caught up with life on the outside. But it’s not enough to be where he was before he went to prison. He aims to do a lot better than that.

Dan is a character from my novel One Night at the Jacaranda and he’s on his way up in the world.

© Elvis Santana (tome213)

Today he listens to Her Majesty opening Parliament. Course, she’s done it once or twice before. Bit of a pro. Knows what she’s doing when she opens Parliament or troops colours. Dan focusses on what she says and most of all on how she says it. Words like humanitarian and psychoactive drugs, even while she’s got a socking great crown on her head that must weigh a ton.

He studies the speech again online not so much for its content as for its vocabulary and delivery.

He reckons he’s doing a bit of an exegesis.  

definition of exegesis
Shows just how far he’s come. Back in the day, one glance at Her Maj and he’d be thinking how to nick them Crown Jewels. Totally wrong, of course. Nowadays he thinks more of pilfering. Or purloining. In point of fact, the only thing he’s pilfered since he got out was a leather belt. It makes him look the mutt’s nuts but he still feels guilty.

To improve his vocabulary, Dan started out with a new word every day. Got a dictionary from a charity shop. The spelling is much better in books than online.

Oxford Reference Dictionary

Today he has other words too.

definition of pulchritude

Comes from the Latin. Pure class, that is. This morning as he left the flat, he called his lady, “You little pulchritude.” She gave him a puzzled look and said the ch wasn’t pronounced sh.

Maybe that one needs a bit more work. 

Last week he did something totally meretricious. He’s still making up for it.

pots and pans

So tonight he will make his pulchritudinous little lady a meal. He likes cooking. Maybe he’ll do a nice bit of monkfish, with a few clandestine ingredients like sorrel.

He shakes his head, wondering if that sounds quite right.

ooOoo

You can read more about Dan and the rest of the bunch of single Londoners in One Night at the Jacaranda

 

How to Go Up in the World in Just Four Steps

Now that Dan’s out, he’s on the up. going up in the worldFirst off, he needs to find work.  The snag?  How to explain away six years at Her Majesty’s pleasure.  Inventing a job abroad might fill that big gap on his CV.  Lucky he’s got a good imagination.  You don’t get very far without one, in his experience.

Dan is one of the characters from my novel One Night at the Jacaranda.  In this post I’m letting him out to share his current MO with you.

Dan needs to learn stuff.  That’s step two.  He reads a quality paper every day now. Cover to cover.  At the public library, if it hasn’t already been nicked.  Or he might find one in a bin.  Some days he has to pay for one.  newspapers

And he listens.  You can learn a lot from people, especially when they don’t even realise what they’re saying.  That’s when you discover things.

He chooses his own words carefully.  From a dictionary he got at the charity shop.  That’s step three: not sounding like a lag anymore.  Course, when you’re inside you want to sound like everyone else, because bad things are even more likely to happen when you don’t fit in.

Oxford Reference Dictionary

A lot of his new words are adjectives.  Easier to slip into conversation than nouns.  How the fuck would you shoe-horn a word like behemoth into a chat with the bint on the till at Iceland?  Yesterday he just about managed to use contiguous.

definition of contiguous

That was when the old biddy behind him pushed her shopping right up next to his on the belt.  He’d have let her go first, especially seeing as she only had a pint of milk and a packet of Rich Teas, but then he wouldn’t have been able to say contiguous. So he just put a divider up on the belt.

Today’s word of the day is egregious.  Means outstandingly bad, but so far he’s only managed to use it once, even though he waited an age for the 16 bus and when he got on it ponged of rotten fish.  Which is about as egregious as it can get.

Fourth and most important of all:  he’s looking for a woman.  Nobody said these four steps would be easy, but he’s got a good feeling in his bones.

Yep, there too.