For all the joy I get out of reading, I also have a few pet peeves. I’m not alone. Recently, a contributor at Book Riot published a list of annoyances about books and the book world, gleaned from their readers’ comments. Complaints ranged from poorly designed book covers to the competitiveness of reading challenges and the lack of a synopsis on the back cover. Most of these comments are related to book marketing, not the books themselves.
Inspired by Book Riot’s list, I’ve compiled my own list of petty annoyances. But while the Book Riot list focuses on the marketing of books, my list relates more to the story telling.
Do you agree or disagree with this list? Or do you have other pet peeves about books and/or the book publishing process?
- Unnecessary prologues – More often than not, prologues aren’t necessary because, in my opinion, they offer few insights into the backstory. The only exceptions might be a mystery or thriller that sets up the murder or science fiction/fantasy to establish world-building that requires some explanation. If the prologue could be read as a first chapter or if the information could be weaved into the main story, you probably don’t need the prologue. I rarely, if ever, have read a prologue that added anything to the story.
- No summary on the back cover. I’m inclined to agree with the Book Riot reader who suggested the back cover was often wasted on meaningless quotes from celebrities. That’s prime real estate for book summaries. It makes the summary more accessible and easier to read, and much easier to grab a reader’s attention.
- Books that don’t live up to its premise. There’s nothing more frustrating that finding a book with an interesting hook that I can’t wait to read, only to find by the end of the story, that it didn’t live up to its hook. Perhaps the story meandered, ran off in tangents. Or the ending didn’t quite make sense. When a book doesn’t live up to its promise, I feel cheated. And when I feel cheated, I’m less likely to pick up another book by that author.
- Novels that are too long. I think the sweet spot for most novels is 300-350 pages. That’s long enough to develop a strong plot, characters, and suspense to keep readers interested. There are exceptions, of course, such as Harry Potter series and science fiction/fantasy sagas. Others, especially in women’s fiction, have gone for nearly 500 pages—too long by my standard. By page 350 I tend to lose interest. You don’t want to do that to your readers. This leads to my next annoyance….
- Slow, meandering middles. Ugh! The book might have gotten off to a roaring good start, but by the middle, the story drags or heads off in a different direction. You can tell when an author has struggled to write the middle of the book. Either there’s too much backstory or not enough of a surprise plot twist to push the story forward.
- Unsatisfactory endings. There’s nothing more frustrating than reading a 400-page novel only to reach an ending that doesn’t make sense or make you feel good. As a reader, when you finish the final chapter, ask yourself, “How did this conclusion make me feel?” Two books that DID resolve the story satisfactorily and made me feel good: The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah and The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick.
- No surprising plot twists. Some of the best novels I’ve read had a major plot twist that was unexpected and surprising. Without that surprise element, there’s no momentum forward, and there’s nothing to keep the reader interested in the story until the very end. If you want to see successful surprising plot twists, check out Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult or In Five Years by Rebecca Serle (and the aforementioned The Nightingale.)
Even with these petty annoyances, books are still the most wonderful creations on earth. I’m willing to put up with a few clunkers in my reading list to find the best gems.