Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Reading The Lowest Rated Books On My Shelf

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Last week, I looked up the Goodreads ratings of all the unread books on my shelf. I want to read some good books, so I thought I'd prioritize the ones that other readers love.

While I was looking at the popular and beloved books, I couldn't help scrolling down and checking out the . . . um . . . not-as-loved books. Which books on my shelf have the lowest ratings?

I was kind of shocked. I'm super excited to read these books! Why did readers feel so "Meh" about them? Now I'm extra curious to find out if I'll like them or hate them.

During 2023, I'm going to read these books. I'll tell you how I feel about them in a few months.

👎  The Lowest Rated Books On My Shelf  😕

(And Why I'm Still Excited To Read Them Because I Refuse To Dwell On Negativity)

Spook: Science Tackles The Afterlife by Mary Roach

Adult Science Nonfiction

Goodreads Rating: 3.59

"What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that—the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top?" In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die.

Why I'm excited to read it: Mary Roach is my favorite nonfiction writer. She writes about depressing subjects with humor and optimism. She also asks the awkward questions that we're all secretly wondering about. I've loved every book I've read by her.

Buy it on Amazon


Adult Memoir

Goodreads Rating: 3.55

You've likely heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. Perhaps you've seen their pickets on the news, the members holding signs with messages that are too offensive to copy here, protesting at events such as the funerals of soldiers, the 9-year old victim of a Tucson shooting, and Elizabeth Edwards, all in front of their grieving families. The WBC is fervently anti-gay, anti-Semitic, and anti- practically everything and everyone. And they aren't going anywhere: in March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the WBC's right to picket funerals.

Since no organized religion will claim affiliation with the WBC, it's perhaps more accurate to think of them as a cult. Lauren Drain was thrust into that cult at the age of 15, and then spat back out again seven years later.

Lauren spent her early years enjoying a normal life with her family in Florida. But when her formerly liberal and secular father set out to produce a documentary about the WBC, his detached interest gradually evolved into fascination, and he moved the entire family to Kansas to join the church and live on their compound. Over the next seven years, Lauren fully assimilated their extreme beliefs, and became a member of the church and an active and vocal picketer. But as she matured and began to challenge some of the church's tenets, she was unceremoniously cast out from the church and permanently cut off from her family and from everyone else she knew and loved.

Banished is the story of Lauren's fight to find herself amidst dramatic changes in a world of extremists and a life in exile.

Why I'm excited to read it: I'm interested in this book for the exact reason the synopsis says. I've seen Westboro Baptist Church on TV and thought, Who are these people? Why does this exist? Maybe the author knows the answer to those questions.

Buy it on Amazon


Young Adult Alternate History

Goodreads Rating: 3.51


Behind every powerful man is a trained woman, and behind every trained woman is the Society. It started with tea parties and matchmaking, but is now a countrywide secret. Gossips pass messages in recipes, Spinsters train to fight, and women work together to grant safety to abused women and children. The Society is more than oaths—it is sisterhood and purpose.

In 1926, seventeen-year-old Elsie is dropped off in a new city with four other teenage girls. All of them have trained together since childhood to become the Wife of a powerful man. But when they learn that their next target is earmarked to become President, their mission becomes more than just an assignment; this is a chance at the most powerful position in the Society. All they have to do is make one man fall in love with them first.


Why I’m excited to read it: I’m getting Margaret Atwood vibes from this book, probably because it’s about women pulling society’s strings from behind the scenes. I love alternate history novels and wish more authors wrote them. (If you’re looking for some excellent alternate history, check out Alma Katsu’s The Hunger.)


Buy it on Amazon


Young Adult Mystery (?) Horror (?)

Goodreads Rating: 3.50

Where Emmeline lives, you cannot love and you cannot leave . . .

The Council's rules are strict, but they're for the good of the settlement in which Emmeline lives. Everyone knows there is nothing but danger on the other side of the Wall, and the community must prepare for the freezing winterkill that comes every year.

But Emmeline struggles to be obedient under the Council's suffocating embrace, especially when she discovers that a Council leader intends to snatch her hand in marriage.

Then Emmeline begins to hear the call of the trees beyond the Wall . . .

Why I'm excited to read it: "Excited" is the wrong word. "Cautiously optimistic" might be better. The plot of this book sounds exactly like a dozen other books I've read. That's because I can't pass up the "small town X creepy woods" combination. Cross your fingers that it's good.

Buy it on Amazon


Adult Memoir

Goodreads Rating: 3.44

In his thirty years with the National Park Service, Jim Burnett has seen it all: boat ramp mishaps that have sent cars into the water; skunks in the outhouse and bears at the dumpster; visitors looking for the bridge over the Grand Canyon.

Why I'm excited to read it: A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about weird questions I've been asked while working at a state park. People in the post's comments were like, "You should make this a book!" Then I was like, "I bet somebody already has." So, I went Googling and, yep, somebody already has. I laughed when I saw the book's title because look at the graphic I created for my blog post. I didn't know about the book when I created it. Apparently, the author and I have both experienced random strangers screaming," HEY RANGER!" at us.


Adult Classic Horror

Goodreads Rating: 3.40


A young, inexperienced governess is charged with the care of Miles and Flora, two small children abandoned by their uncle at his grand country house. She sees the figure of an unknown man on the tower and his face at the window. It is Peter Quint, the master's dissolute valet, and he has come for little Miles. But Peter Quint is dead.


Why I’m excited to read it: Who watched The Haunting Of Bly Manor on Netflix? I did! That show is based on this story. I’m interested to see how they compare. The show is splendid. You should watch it if you like getting your emotions stomped on by fictional ghosts.


Buy it on Amazon


Poetry (?)

Goodreads Rating: 3.38

What if there's a hidden dimension to Donald Trump; a sensitive, poetic side? Driven by this question, Rob Sears began combing Trump's words for signs of poetry.

What he found was a revelation. By simply taking the 45th President of the United States' tweets and transcripts, cutting them up and reordering them, Sears unearthed a trove of beautiful verse that was just waiting to be discovered.

This groundbreaking collection gives readers a glimpse of Trump's innermost thoughts and feelings on everything from the nature of truth, to what he hates about Lord Sugar. And it will reveal a hitherto hidden Donald, who may surprise and delight both students and critics alike.

Why I'm . . . um . . . going to skim it briefly: I actually understand why people hate this book! I mean, look at it. What's to like? This was a Christmas gift from my sister. She knows I'm not a fan of The Former Guy, and she wanted to torment me with his beautiful words. (Remember when he said he had all the best words?) I guess a bored person rearranged all his best words into poetry. Really, really terrible poetry. Ug. Why would someone make this?

Buy it on Amazon


Young Adult Fantasy

Goodreads Rating: 3.35

When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Instead, guilt and fear led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona invoked the privileges of a witch; she cursed them. But such a spell always comes with a terrible price, and in punishing the island's residents, Rona also bound her family ever tighter to them.

Fast-forward to the present day and all Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. And she has reason to hope that she may have escaped the thorny side-effects of the family matriarch’s curse. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. The author—Nor’s own mother—seems capable of performing magic that should be far beyond her capabilities. And such magic always requires a sacrifice.

A storm is coming. It's coming for Nor.


Why I’m excited to read it: I had to read Leslye Walton’s debut novel The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender when I was in grad school. I loved it! It’s one of the best books I’ve ever been forced to read. It’s an odd, magical, memorable family saga. I’m excited to see what else the author can do. Goodreads calls The Price Guide To The Occult a “haunting maelstrom of magic and murder in the lush, moody Pacific Northwest.” It sounds really cool!


Buy it on Amazon


Adult Historical Fiction

Goodreads Rating: 3.30

Herbert Powyss lives in an estate in the Welsh Marches, with enough time and income to pursue a gentleman's fashionable investigations and experiments in botany. But he longs to make his mark in the field of science—something consequential enough to present to the Royal Society in London. He hits on a radical experiment in isolation: For seven years a subject will inhabit three rooms in the basement of the manor house, fitted out with rugs, books, paintings, and even a chamber organ. Meals will arrive thrice daily via a dumbwaiter. The solitude will be totally unrelieved by any social contact whatsoever; the subject will keep a diary of his daily thoughts and actions. The pay: fifty pounds per annum, for life.

Only one man is desperate to apply for the job: John Warlow, a semi-literate laborer with a wife and six children to provide for. The experiment, a classic Enlightenment exercise gone more than a little mad, will have unforeseen consequences for all included.

Why I'm excited to read it: Seven years of solitude? I don't know if that would be amazing or horrible. I'd probably go insane. This book sounds like it might have a lot to say about society, science, and how humans exploit one another. It should be interesting.

Buy it on Amazon


Adult Science / History Nonfiction

Goodreads Rating: 3.26

Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein, introduced readers around the world to the concept of raising the dead through scientific procedures. Those who read the book were thrilled by this incredible Gothic adventure. Few, however, realized that Shelley’s story had a basis in fact. What she imagined as her modern Prometheus was a serious pursuit for some of the greatest minds of the early 19th century. It was a time when scientists genuinely believed, as Frankenstein did, that they could know what it feels like to be God. Raising the Dead is the story of the science of galvanism.

Why I'm excited to read it: I considered not buying this book because I object to the title. It's about the "men" who created Frankenstein, but Mary Shelley was a woman! She's the one who literally created Frankenstein! Anyway, I bought the book because it sounds too weird to pass up. I've read many books about the history of medicine. They're almost always bizarre and fascinating. Humans are brilliant. And very, very strange.

Buy it on Amazon

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?


  1. Ratings are so subjective, but even so I'm often curious about why certain books get such low overall ratings. But the book about the Orange Cheeto poetry... all I can think is: why??

  2. I have to admit, low Goodreads ratings will often sway me from reading a book!

  3. This is a great topic! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I love this idea! It's so true that ratings are subjective and what someone else may dislike, I may end up loving, so we shouldn't let ratings discourage us from reading a story we think we may enjoy. I hope you'll end up loving all of these!

  5. Ok. The Trump poetry book has got to be a joke, right? Please tell me it's satirical. I can't wait to see what you think of it.

    The other books look good, especially the Park Ranger ones.

  6. I just looked up the Trump book and it looks hysterical. Definitely satire. I laughed out loud at the sample (bad) poems

  7. Sadly, I have read none of these, so I have no personal input, but I admire your drive to look up all the ratings of the unread books you own. Wow!

  8. I'm surprised a Mary Roach book has low ratings. I've read a couple of her books and I find them fascinating! This is a fun project, I hope you end up enjoying some of these:-)

  9. This is so interesting! I often wonder why I enjoy books that are not highly rated too

  10. You are a braver reader than I am :-) I've been weeding out my GoodReads TBR shelf and the average ratings are playing a part in that. I wouldn't even be able to touch the poetry book. Like, why?

    A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions reminds me a bit of Gail Carriger's fantasy Finishing School series. The tagline is "The Fine Art of Finishing Others." Who could resist that? Not this reader! Good luck with these!

  11. What a fun idea for a list! I've enjoyed other books by Mary Roach so Spooks has me curious. I watched a documentary on Westboro Baptist where the reporter was able to go inside the compound and interview members and the guy who was in charge and it was so insane! I knew the reasoning would be crazy but I figured I would be able to see how they thought what they were doing was right even if it made zero sense but I was just as confused at the end as I was at the start.

  12. I'm always surprised to see a book I loved will have low ratings. But it's a great reminder for me not to rely solely on reviews. And sometimes the low reviews are what make me want to read a book. So I totally get this post!

  13. I really love this and cannot wait to see what the outcomes are. I don't really trust Goodreads ratings so I will be extra happy if these are wrong. That "poetry" though bwahha. I mean- 5 stars for making fun of his nonsense? Also I pre-ordered Winterkill. Pre. Ordered. That thing came out in 2014, so that is how far behind I am in terms of books I own. A full nine years. Someday, I keep saying bwhaha.

  14. So funny that your post graphic matched the title of that book so perfectly. I would imagine you'll love it, low ratings and all. :-)