List of books considered the worst

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The books listed below have been cited by a variety of notable critics in varying media sources as being among the worst books ever written.


19th century[edit]

  • What Is to Be Done? (Nikolai Chernyshevsky, 1863): written in prison in four months by a literary critic and radical, What Is To Be Done? advocates the creation of small socialist cooperatives based on the Russian peasant commune, but oriented toward industrial production. The author promoted the idea that the intellectual's duty was to educate and lead the laboring masses in Russia along a path to socialism that bypassed capitalism. The book inspired many Bolsheviks, including Vladimir Lenin, who wrote a pamphlet with the same title in 1901. However, it is not a masterwork of prose: Mark Schrad observed in Vodka Politics that "there is no real plotline or tension, and the environment and characters are stagnant. It has been called the worst novel ever written. Chernyshevsky himself even admitted that his novel contains neither talent nor art, but only “truth.”"[1] Contemporary critics panned it; Adam Weiner observed on Politico that "The czar’s censor had given the novel a pass, reasoning that the dreadful writing style would damage the revolutionary cause."[2][3]
  • Irene Iddesleigh (Amanda McKittrick Ros, 1897): published by the author's husband as an anniversary present, Irene Iddesleigh is often described as the worst novel ever written, with purple prose that is circumlocutory to the point of incomprehensibility. It was "popularised" by Barry Pain who called it "a thing that happens once in a million years." Mark Twain called it "one of the greatest unintentionally humorous novels of all time," while the Inklings competed to see who could read one of Ros's works for the longest without laughter (cf. The Eye of Argon below).[5] In his book Epic Fail, Mark O'Connell wrote "Ros’ prose amounts to a sort of accidental surrealism. There is an intention toward metaphor—a lunge in the general direction of the literary—but an obvious misunderstanding of how such things work (and often, for that matter, how syntax works)."[6][7][8]

20th century[edit]

  • The Lair of the White Worm (Bram Stoker, 1911): a horror novel revolving around a remote area of England haunted by a gigantic worm. The novel was badly received by historians of the horror genre. H. P. Lovecraft, in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, stated that Stoker "utterly ruins a magnificent idea by a development almost infantile".[9] Les Daniels criticised the "clumsy style" of the novel, and expressed disappointment that the author of the acclaimed Dracula could also write what Daniels regarded as a poor novel.[10] The horror critic R.S. Hadji placed The Lair of the White Worm at number twelve in his list of the worst horror novels ever written.[11] Brian Stableford said it was "one of the most spectacularly incoherent novels ever to reach print".[12]
  • Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand, 1957): Objectivist novel considered by Rand fans to be her magnum opus, but widely criticised for "cardboard characters, over necessarily long speeches [and] absurd plotlines,"[21][22] as well as its dubious moral messages.[23] Nathan Rabin summarized the book: "In Rand’s Atlas Shrugged [...], the richest and most powerful people in the world [...] go on strike because they feel underappreciated. Think about that for a second. They feel underappreciated. They occupy the upper echelon of society, but for Rand, that isn’t not[sic] good enough. Not when there are so many mediocrities and sub-mediocrities pulling them down with their infernal demands to be treated with dignity and compassion." He also suggested that the philosophy of Objectivism can be viewed as an extreme opposite to communism and said "In Rand’s newfangled way of thinking, selfishness, or at least rational self-interest, was no longer a terrible moral failing, but rather a great moral good. It was the mighty engine that powered the world."[24]
  • Naked Came the Stranger (various authors, 1969): a collaborate effort by twenty-four journalists under the leadership of Mike McGrady as a criticism of contemporary American writing; McGrady believed that any book could succeed commercially if enough sex was thrown in, and to that end constructed a deliberately incoherent, badly written, sexually explicit novel. It indeed became a bestseller, and sales went up even more once the hoax was revealed.[26][27][28]
  • Worlds of Power: Metal Gear (Alexander Frost, 1990): a novelisation of the 1987 video game Metal Gear, it was described as possibly the worst book ever written by Den of Geek's Luke McKinney: "This must have been a secret plot by Nintendo of America to destroy any interest in reading which may have lurked within loyal players. And this book is so bad it might cause your brain to forget how to read in self-defense."[31]
  • Dazzle (Judith Krantz, 1990): a romance novel set in Southern California in the 1980s, in which celebrity photographer Jazz Kilcullen negotiates life and love while contending with her half-sisters who aim to sell off her father's Orange County ranch.[32] John Sutherland described Dazzle as the "vulgarest" novel he had ever read, and listed it among the 20 worst bestsellers of the 20th century.[33] Michael Dirda of the Washington Post called it "unremittingly, heart-sinkingly dull. […] merely a string of romance narrative cliches tied loosely together by sex scenes every 50 or 60 pages."[34] He later described it as the worst novel he had ever read: "Even the sex in the book was boilerplate, a totally meretricious work."[35] Publishers Weekly said "Never a disciple of realism, Krantz's interweaving of plots here is too contrived and her relationships, both familial and amatory, too oblique. Her purple prose takes on ever deeper hues, and her customary parade of hyperbolic description is in constant evidence."[36]

21st century[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schrad, Mark (1 March 2014). "Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State". OUP USA – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "The Most Politically Dangerous Book You've Never Heard Of".
  3. ^ "How Bad Writing Destroyed the World". Bloomsbury Publishing.
  4. ^ Nevins, Jess. "The Worst Science Fiction Novel of the 19th Century".
  5. ^ "Now You Can Read The Worst Novel Ever Written For Free!".
  6. ^ O'Connell, Mark (23 January 2013). "Amanda McKittrick Ros, the Worst Novelist in History" – via Slate.
  7. ^ Flood, Alison (19 April 2013). "Is Amanda McKittrick Ros the worst novelist in history?". the Guardian.
  8. ^ "Irene Iddesleigh". 9 June 2001.
  9. ^ H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature. Reprinted in Stephen Jones & Dave Carson (eds.) The World's Greatest Horror Stories. New York : Barnes & Noble Books, 2004. ISBN 9780760754665 (p.45)
  10. ^ Les Daniels, Living In Fear: a history of horror in the mass media, New York: Scribner, 1975, ISBN 0684143429, p. 63.
  11. ^ R.S. Hadji, "13 Worst Stinkers of the Weird", in Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, July–August 1983, TZ Publications, Inc., pp. 86-87.
  12. ^ "Stoker, Bram" by Brian Stableford in David Pringle, St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers. London: St. James Press, 1998, ISBN 1558622063, (pp. 574).
  13. ^ "Mein Kampf: a new edition - History Today".
  14. ^ Faiola, Anthony (24 February 2015). "'Mein Kampf': A historical tool, or Hitler's voice from beyond the grave?" – via
  15. ^ "Hitler's Mein Kampf Is Coming Back to German Stores for the First Time in Decades". 9 January 2016.
  16. ^ "Why is it so hard to get a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf?".
  17. ^ Dery, Mark (20 March 2016). "Who Keeps Buying All These 'Mein Kampf's?" – via
  18. ^ "Ist „Mein Kampf" in Deutschland verboten? - GeschichtsCheck". (in German). Retrieved 2018-08-16.
  19. ^ Heinz, Heinz A. (2 July 2014). "Hitler: Personal Recollections: Memoirs of Hitler From Those Who Knew Him". Pen and Sword – via Google Books.
  20. ^ "Defusing "Mein Kampf"".
  21. ^ "The Breathtakingly Bad Novels that Changed America: The Legacy of Ayn Rand, Part One - Prairie Fire - The Progressive Voice of the Great Plains".
  22. ^ "Atlas Shrugged Is A Ridiculous Book". 14 March 2014.
  23. ^ "10 (insane) things I learned about the world reading Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged"". 29 April 2014.
  24. ^ Rabin, Nathan. "Heroically Self-Interested Case File #4: Atlas Shrugged: Part I". Film. Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  25. ^ "The Ten Worst Books of All Time (Part One)".
  26. ^ "How A Bored Reporter Thought Up One Of The Greatest Literary Hoaxes Of All Time". 15 December 2017.
  27. ^ "Naked Came the Stranger : Penelope Ashe".
  28. ^ "'Naked Came The Stranger': The Dirtiest Book Ever Written By A Group Of Newspaper Guys".
  29. ^ "The Eye of Argon—Worst Story Ever Written? - Librarypoint".
  30. ^ "World Weird Web: The Eye of Argon".
  31. ^ "How the Worst Metal Gear Book Ever Written Predicted the Future of the Franchise".
  32. ^ "Critics May Take Her Lightly, But Krantz Can Dazzle Readers".
  33. ^ "Review - What's the worst novel ever? It might be this 19th-century train wreck". Washington Post.
  34. ^ "'DAZZLE'S' DRIZZLE". 4 January 1991 – via
  35. ^ "Michael Dirda Answers Questions on Reddit".
  36. ^ "Fiction Book Review: Dazzle by Judith Krantz, Author, Betty Prashker, Editor Crown Publishing Group $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-517-57501-7".
  37. ^ "Religion: The Pop Prophets". 23 May 2004.
  38. ^ "John Sutherland on armageddon fiction". the Guardian. 12 June 2003.
  39. ^ slacktivist (23 August 2012). "The World's Worst Books and the world's worst public policies".
  40. ^ slacktivist (5 November 2015). "Left Behind Index (the whole thing)".
  41. ^ "6 Reasons the Left Behind Books Suck (And Why the Movie Might, Too)".
  42. ^ "'Left Behind': when God becomes a Hollywood monster".
  43. ^ Flood, Alison (8 May 2009). "Jodi Picoult attacks 'poorly written' Da Vinci Code". the Guardian.
  44. ^ Chivers, Tom (15 September 2009). "The Lost Symbol and The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown's 20 worst sentences" – via
  45. ^ Merrell, Douglass (5 June 2017). "Umberto Eco, The Da Vinci Code, and the Intellectual in the Age of Popular Culture". Springer – via Google Books.
  46. ^ Constant, Paul. "The Best Worst Novel Ever". The Stranger.
  47. ^ "Those terribly clever French intellectuals".
  48. ^ Keillor, Garrison. "On the Road Avec M. Lévy".
  49. ^ Crum, Maddie (2 February 2012). "Is This The Worst Book Ever?: 'Moon People'" – via Huff Post.
  50. ^ "The worst book ever ...? » MobyLives".
  51. ^ ""Moon people" said to be " worst book ever", is doing well and I'm not mad". 16 April 2012.
  52. ^ "ImpishIdea: Moon People: A Tragedy of Mediums".
  53. ^ "The 5 Worst Books Ever Written". 27 June 2016.
  54. ^ "Why 50 Shades Of Grey Is One Of The Worst Books Ever Written". 10 January 2013.
  55. ^ "What I Learned About Women From The Worst Book Ever Written – Return Of Kings".
  56. ^ "Fifty Terrible Lines from Fifty Shades of Grey".
  57. ^ "I read 'Fifty Shades of Grey' and it was worse than I imagined". 12 February 2015.
  58. ^ Morgan, Sophie (25 August 2012). "'I like submissive sex but Fifty Shades is not about fun: it's about abuse'". the Guardian.
  59. ^ Flood, Alison (24 August 2012). "Fifty Shades of Grey condemned as 'manual for sexual torture'". the Guardian.
  60. ^ "Save the Pearls – A White Woman's Worst Nightmare". 27 July 2012.
  61. ^ "Racist Issues in Victoria Foyt's Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden - legendary women".
  62. ^ "Racism, Revealing Eden and STGRB". 3 August 2012.
  63. ^
  64. ^ Williams, Imogen Russell (23 August 2012). "Racism row novel Revealing Eden falls at every hurdle". the Guardian.
  65. ^ Schmidt, Christian Klopfer (2013-04-01). "Die Abenteuer des Stefón Rudel - Teil 1". Klopfers Web (in German). Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  66. ^ "Links! Zwo! Drei! Vier! (258)". Der Postillon. Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  67. ^ "Storm Störmer: «Die Karriere dieses Buches ist echt verstörend»". Liechtensteiner Volksblatt (in German). Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  68. ^ O'Reilly, Seamas. "A Necessary Review Of Morrissey's Mind-Bendingly Bad Novel, List Of The Lost".
  69. ^ Runcie, Charlotte (24 September 2015). "Morrissey's novel: the verdict" – via
  70. ^ Deacon, Michael (24 September 2015). "Morrissey's debut novel, List of the Lost: the 10 most embarrassing lines" – via
  71. ^ Cumming, Ed (4 October 2015). "List of the Lost by Morrissey review – the publishers should be ashamed of themselves". the Guardian.
  72. ^ "Was there no one to stop Morrissey publishing List of the Lost?". Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  73. ^ Coyne, Jerry A. (31 December 2017). "The worst book about Charles Darwin ever written".
  74. ^ Hughes, Kathryn (30 August 2017). "Charles Darwin by AN Wilson review – how wrong can a biography be?". the Guardian.
  75. ^ "'Radical' new biography of Darwin is unreliable and inaccurate".
  76. ^ "Joanny Moulin, "Darwin Bashing": Review of A.N. Wilson's Charles Darwin, Victorian Mythmaker". 13 November 2017.
  77. ^ "Sean Penn Wrote The Worst Novel In Human History, I Read It".
  78. ^ "Sean Penn, Satirist, Swings at America in a Wild Debut Novel".
  79. ^ Cain, Sian (29 March 2018). "Sean Penn's debut novel – repellent and stupid on so many levels". the Guardian.
  80. ^ "Sean Penn The Novelist Must Be Stopped". 27 March 2018.
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