It’s that time of the month, when everyone is totting up their best/favorite/most meaningful reads of 2011, because… well, that’s what you do in December. Me, I use the always-reliable appearance of Best Books of the Year features as a prompt to buy rock salt, but that’s only because everyone else has done such a satisfying job of pointing out all the truly amazing books that have crossed their paths during the previous 11 months so I don’t have to.
OK, I lie a bit, because I did contribute to what I think is one of the best and least lockstep-like contributions to the cause, Open Letters Monthly’s Our Year In Reading parts one and two. If you’ve somehow missed it, I’d also point your attention toward The Millions’ always interesting A Year in Reading series, which gives the term “something for everyone” a run for its money. And in case you feel like you’re missing something, somewhere, Largehearted Boy has aggregated all the “Best of 2011” book lists for your statistical—and otherwise—pleasure.
On the other hand, if all the love gets to be a bit much, there’s always Stevereads’ perfectly illustrated Worst Fiction and Worst Nonfiction of the year—hopefully that’s the last time I’m going to have to see Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Glenn Beck on the same page. The New York Daily News’ new blog Pageviews, which is worth bookmarking anyway, has a short and—given the subject matter—restrained piece on The Most Overrated Books of 2011.
But if you’re really in the mood to see the gloves come off, I suggest Reddit’s r/books forum asking What’s the worst book you’ve read? The focus isn’t on new releases, which is fine—we’ve seen the year’s books get theirs in any number of places already. And while a lot of the usual cast of characters gets slammed—The Da Vinci Code, The Fountainhead, Catcher in the Rye, the Twilight series, Battlefield Earth—there are some juicy and unexpected disses in there as well. Chuck Palahniuk gets ragged on for pretty much everything of his that isn’t Fight Club, and Robert A. Heinlein really takes it on the chin as well. The Eragon series get it pretty well: “Just because a 15 year old CAN write a book, DOES NOT MEAN HE SHOULD.” Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street seems to suffer a real freshman-English backlash. Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook: “I’m a woman who was reading this while picturing Ryan Gosling and it was still horrible.” Shogun, Mein Kampf, Go Ask Alice, and The Bible (“Weak character development, impossible plot twist and big let down at the end”). Yes, I lost a chunk of my day to this. You can too, and you’ll feel better about all the books you read this year that you only sort of kind of liked.