Most Disappointing Books of 2022

So… hi!

Been MIA for half a year, sorry about that. If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I am still very alive, but due to a number of circumstances, my year was absolute hell, and that sort of manifested in a total inability for me to concentrate on reading and writing. I really hope to be back more regularly in 2023 but I’m also not making any official resolutions to that end because I am trying to not give myself a hard time for not feeling up to any of this when it’s ultimately meant to be a hobby, not something that adds more stress to my life. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter if you are interested in hearing me be annoying about movies multiple times a day.

But I couldn’t let the year end without honoring this tradition, so I will be doing my two annual end of year blog posts. So without further ado… my most disappointing reads of 2022, out of the ~50 or so books I read:

5. Learwife by J.R. Thorpe

I think I read this in January of 2022 which feels like several lifetimes ago… but anyway, it definitely still deserves a mention here. King Lear is my favorite Shakespeare play by a landslide but one that I find particularly challenging to take out of its original context, so I’m always interested to see how authors are going to tackle it in retellings, and the answer here was ultimately just: not well. For a project that endeavors to answer the age-old question about what happened to Lear’s wife, this book didn’t seem particularly interested in the source material, altering a number of details that are kind of critical to the text and not doing anything interesting to expand on the characters and themes present in the original. I also found the writing overwrought and all of the narrative beats incredibly predictable; I just didn’t enjoy spending time with this at all.

4. The Magician by Colm Tóibín

It had been a while since I read a book and thought ‘now what was the point of that?’ but that’s where The Magician left me. Essentially a fictional biography of the life of Thomas Mann, The Magician is a thorough excavation of Mann’s life that spares no details but leaves so much to be desired in the way of intrigue and forward-momentum. I found this novel to be lifeless and plodding and so lacking in narrative substance that I couldn’t help but to wonder, over and over, why Tóibín (who’s published both fiction and nonfiction) opted to write this as a fictional story instead of devoting this effort to an actual biography of Mann. I like Tóibín’s writing on a sentence-by-sentence level and have generally enjoyed him very much in the past, but this project was a miss for me.

3. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
(cannot remember the translation I read; it wasn’t the one pictured here)

I read The Magician paired with Death in Venice for a bookclub and I pretty much disliked them both equally. This was my first foray into Mann and I honestly doubt I’ll be returning in a hurry—while I did enjoy our bookclub talk on this novella’s themes, Mann’s actual writing and sentence structure was just a giant headache for me that I didn’t find nearly rewarding enough to be worth the effort.

2. The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

I’ve long been a Riley Sager apologist, typically holding the opinion that you can’t take his books too seriously, you should just try to sit back and enjoy the ride (I really enjoyed the much-maligned Survive the Night; I hear all the criticisms but at the end of the day I tore through it). The House Across the Lake was another matter entirely. This book wasn’t even entertaining, to start with, and to me that’s the biggest sin that Sager could commit; I can forgive a lot of nonsense in this genre if a story’s compelling enough, but this was a chore to get through. And then I found the main twist so stupid it almost defies comprehension, so, absolute shit reading experience from start to finish.

1. Sentence by Daniel Genis

In Sentence, Daniel Genis recounts the decade he spent in prison for armed robbery, centering his experience as an “over-educated” white man in US prison system, and treating the experiences of queer and non-white incarcerated people with downright distain. This whole book left such a bad taste in my mouth, which was only exacerbated by this author harassing me over my review nonstop for days on Goodreads, going as far as to insult the profile pictures of several of my friends, claiming they all have the same “ugly glasses”? Anyway. Good riddance to this book, which I will never speak on again after I post this.


So let me know what your worst reads of 2022 were, if you have a full blog post about it that I should check out (I haven’t looked at my WordPress reader in months and I find the prospect a little overwhelming at the minute if I am honest), or tell me something you’ve been up to while I’ve been gone. I will be back in the next day or two with my best books of 2022, which is a list that I’m actually very excited to share, because despite my mediocre year of reading overall, there were some absolute highlights that I’m looking forward to talking about.

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10 thoughts on “Most Disappointing Books of 2022

  1. Absolutely love that the honour of most disappointing book went to Daniel. Truly what he deserves. And I wholeheartedly agree about Death in Venice and The Magician obviously, which will feature on my most disappointing list as well. I’m hoping to put one up but I realized that I actually hadn’t written out my favourite book lists for 2020 or 2021 and instead of letting it be like a normal person, I’m embracing my new unhinged personality and posting those lists first.

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  2. Oh, I’m sorry your first Mann wasn’t a good experience! I haven’t read Death in Venice, but I read Buddenbrooks early in the year and loved it, found it completely readable and compelling. Maybe it was partly because I ended up with a good translation? It’s a family saga, which might also have helped.

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  3. I’m sorry about the Mann, and yeah everything I’ve heard about The Magician makes me go, nope! But you should read Elle’s review of Buddenbrooks, it sounds really good. And take my word for it, read The Magic Mountain (once the Death in Venice ickiness goes away). It is a tough read but very worth it, I still think about it and I read it probably ten years ago.

    Will you really never speak of The Sentence again? I can’t believe that was this year, feels longer ago…

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  4. LOVE that you have returned with a most disappointing books post, very stylish. As you know I was equally frustrated by Learwife, and I’ve not heard anything good about the Sager.

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  5. Returning to rant about your least favorite books of the year is such a mood 😂 I approve!!

    Thankfully, I haven’t read any of these – and don’t plan to – except for Death in Venice. And I actually didn’t mind it? Sure, I thought the whole pedophilic plot was a bit weird, but I was actually pretty pleasantly surprised by the writing style because I had heard so many people complain about Thomas Mann before. However, I did read this in German, so maybe it worked better without the translation? 🤔

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  6. What a basket of deplorables!

    My most disappointing read of 2022: Kritische Masse [Critical Mass] by Michael Haas. A pseudo-satirical take on regional politics which seems mostly a coping mechanism (the author worked in the field for a short time). Also ponderously overwritten.

    Anyway, glad to see you back at blogging!

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  7. Nice to see you again here though I’m sorry that 2022 has not gone well. I got The Magician out from the library, flipped through it, and decided I was not actually interested. So I’m glad to hear I didn’t miss out. I’ve yet to read anything by Mann.

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