Coincidentally, every single one of these books has been made into movies — and in some cases, Hollywood has taken some liberties — and I can hope that it helped. (Not for myself, but for others.)
- Plague Dogs by Richard Adams. If he was trying to reinforce the horrors of animal testing, he more than did it. I had thumbed through it once or twice, then I gave a copy to my friend Carole — who, one evening, asked me cautiously, "Have you read it?" Oh, no, I assured her, but Richard Adams wrote Watership Down, so I figured he was trustworthy. When Carole described the story to me, I declared that I would recycle my copy so no one else would suffer through it. Thankfully my reading was superficial, or I fear I would have never recovered.
- Hannibal by Thomas Harris. The writing was sub-par and the author obviously despised his own character, Clarisse Starling. By the end, I didn't think Harris could lay her any lower — and then he proved me wrong. I had to re-read the ending 10 times before I believed it, and I was so angry. Jodie Foster said she would not reprise her role as Clarisse in the movie based on this book, so the studio hired a different woman (apparently they're all alike) to play the character and changed the ending. (Not enough, from what I heard.)
- My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I probably could have lived with the book if not for the ending. It wasn't bad, and the premise is intriguing. This book is considered by readers one of the most likely to be thrown across the room, and I can see why. Carole also read it for a book club and wanted to throw it across the room herself. Rumor has it the movie has a different ending. Thank heavens.
- The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury. I chose it for book club and since them apologized frequently and loudly. It had great reviews, which shocks me: the characters were too stupid to be alive and the storyline was beyond absurd. To be fair, the premise is interesting, and in the hands of a gifted storyteller with characters that didn't annoy readers to tears, it might have been good. There's a movie out based on the novel; it's nearly three hours long. For the love of reading, don't do it.
- Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. I'm no masochist, so I stopped at page 70. I didn't think the story could get any more bleak and tragic, but my friend Kathy, who had read it, assured me it did. I'll take her word for it. It might be a tribute to Allison that the story was so vivid. Still, I won't even pick it up to move it aside.
(By the way, this list was originally written in 2009, but these bad books stand the test of time.)