Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Instantly NOT Want to Read a Book

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

The word no has been written into wet sand on a beach. Another wave is coming in and will soon begin to erase the word. Yes, I used a very similar stock photo last week. It amuses me and makes me want to go write my own messages in the sand at my local beach.

On a more serious note, here are some things that will make me instantly not want to read a book.

Please note that my first answer briefly mentions sexual abuse and my seventh answer mentions World War II trauma, so feel free to skip past them if necessary.

1. Sexual abuse

It’s an important and worthwhile topic, but I personally cannot read about it.


2. Characters who don’t have common sense.

Not every character I read about needs to be intelligent by any means, but I cannot read about people who repeatedly make ridiculous decisions for no reason at all. They should at the very least have basic street smarts and make choices that are reasonable for the average person of their age and background.

3. Inspirational stories

No offence is intended to fans of this genre in any way. I am simply not a religious person and am therefore so not the target audience for these types of tales.


4. Historical tales that feel modern.

That is to say, the good guys all have twenty-first century political/social views and/or use modern English.

I give historical writers a lot of leeway, but it’s really strange to me to meet characters from 100+ years ago whose speech and views so perfectly mimic how the average person in 2023 behaves. Honestly, I’d rather meet a protagonist whose speech is a little too formal and who has some views that were acceptable for their era but would be considered horribly old-fashioned at best today.


5. Tiny little (metaphorical) boxes

It bothers me to read books that heavily stereotype their characters, and I stop reading them as soon as I notice it happening.

There’s nothing wrong with a character liking things that are “typical” interests of someone their age, sex, class, race, etc., of course, but it strikes me as odd when most or even all characters in a book fit the stereotypes that have been associated with people like them.

That’s not how folks behave in real life.  I’d much rather read about characters who have been given more time to develop into hopefully well-rounded individuals who resemble the wonderfully complex and sometimes delightfully surprising people I know in real life.


6. 99.99% of self-help books 

I like the idea of personal improvement in book form, but I can think of maybe one or two titles from this genre I’ve ever read that were actually helpful. Many of them are so vague or filled with common sense that I don’t find them useful at all. The ones that deal with serious problems are often talking about subjects that are much easier to tackle with the help of a therapist or support group.


7. 99.99% of World War II stories

Yes, of course it’s important to remember what happened and try to keep something similar from ever happening again, but I have a relative who fought for the Allies in World War II and was traumatized by what he saw in Germany for the rest of his life.

When I see World War II stories being advertised, especially if they’re romances, I think about his struggle with those awful memories and how his pain shaped his life as well as the lives of his descendants (to a lesser extent, of course).

It’s totally fine if other people want to read dozens of fluffy World War II romances if that’s their thing. I simply view that era in a grim light due to how many innocent lives it destroyed and how many people were permanently physically and/or mentally scarred by it.



Filed under Blog Hops

64 Responses to Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Instantly NOT Want to Read a Book

  1. The vocabulary the characters use in historical fiction frequently jars me. In a different time, people spoke differently. If you are trying to capture that time, you need to be able to capture the way people actually spoke. Very few people are able to do this well.

  2. I agree about historical fiction. The characters should not be using modern language and have modern, 2023 ideas, because they would not have been expressing themselves that way.

  3. It bugs me in an historical novel if there are anachronisms, like Vikings eating potatoes, or using the F word, history has lots of swear words use them.

    • Yep! That sort of stuff should not be included (unless maybe you’re writing a time travel novel and are purposefully messing with how era X actually was).

  4. I need the characters to have common sense also and I can’t stand stereotypes either.

  5. Big yep on the common sense one. It’s so frustrating and often makes me want to give these characters a good hard shake 😂 Great list!

  6. Definitely with you on the ahistorical historical fiction. One of the few authors I know who can reliably create period characters who FEEL like they’re medieval or whatever is Bernard Cornwell.

  7. Stupid characters drive me crazy, too. And I know what you mean about sexual abuse in a book.

  8. Good point on #4. And I’m the same way about inspirational books. I tend just to go for escapism.

  9. Sexual (or other) abuse is a big no for me, too. I can only handle it in rare cases, and only if it’s not explicit.

    I wonder if the issues you mentioned are why I don’t like historical fiction in general? I enjoy historical fantasy, but the fantasy element removes it far enough from our reality that I can excuse just about any of the things that jar me out of the story for a non-magical fiction.

    My TTT:

    • Huh, that could be! Writing good historical fiction has got to be really challenging because of how many little details about diet, language, social customs, etc. from our era would be different in other ones.

      Historical fantasy is easier to stomach for sure. It’s like visiting another world or something. 🙂

  10. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a self help book… and I don’t really think it’d be my cup of tea either. Also, I agree about characters having some sense. Don’t have to be the smartest person, but it is nice if they learn from mistakes at least! 🙂 Thanks for visiting my website, Lydia!

  11. I used to read mostly self-help books, but my interests have evolved over time. I prefer fiction nowadays. Occasionally I listen to or read self-help books, but not often. Same goes for listening to podcasts like that. Have a great week. 🙂

  12. I think I’ve skimmed one self-help book ever. Not my thing.

  13. I can’t read/try not to read about sexual abuse, I am on hiatus from WWI & WWII books, characters without common sense get on my last nerve, and I don’t like stereotypes in my reading either. I love reading Christian fiction but I get it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t like Christian fiction that sounds like it is preaching at you, faith woven in naturally is what I prefer (if it is there at all, some Christian fiction writers have started making their writing more “clean” than Christian).

  14. There are so many WWII books out there. Its hard to find the ones that are interesting and good.

  15. I have issue with WWII stories as I got actual stories from WWII as my dad fought in it. It was not glorious and full of love like a lot of the stories want to show, it was dirty and it was war.

    Sexual abuse is the whole reason I put down All The Light We Cannot See -which ironically, I think, is a WWII book. But my husband read it before me and he warned me there is an assault in the book and I haven’t been able to pick it back up since.

  16. I’m so with you on histfic that feels modern! Drives me crazy! I’m growing weary of WWII stories. I have conflicting feelings because I believe it’s important to bear witness but I don’t enjoy capitalizing on the pain for entertainment purposes. I can think of only a handful of self help books that have challenged me. I enjoyed reading your list!

  17. Characters that don’t have common sense is a big one for me. There’s always someone who is like “I’ll just go out into this dark forrest where there’s a potential murderer” and it’s like DO NOT! I have to put the book down

  18. I wouldn’t say I like characters without much sense, but I can forgive their lack of common sense if it fits the character. Does that make sense? And thanks for stopping by my blog earlier.

    Pam @ Read! Bake! Create!

    • Yes, that makes sense. If there’s a history of them being impulsive or not having good judgement or what have you, then it makes sense for them to continue to make bad choices.

  19. I agree. Too many times a character has to act like an idiot in order for the plot to go in a certain direction. The least the author can do is give them a legitimate reason for doing something that seems completely illogical and stupid.

    Happy TTT!


  20. This is a great list, and I agree with all! I’ve sworn off WWII fiction for similar reasons, and I especially avoid fiction set in concentration camps. Even when written with sensitivity, it feels trivializing to me to set love stories in this setting, and I just can’t read those books.

  21. I agree with your list. I wish I had thought of some of them!

    Have a great week!

  22. Mark Paxson

    I am so with you on so many of these … self-help books. Blech!!!

    And the one that really got to me … historical fiction books that read like a modern story. I wish I could think of an example of this phenomenon, but so many times, their dialogue is filled with words that I just don’t think people used back in the 1800s, 1700s, or whatever time it was supposed to be.

  23. Jo

    Sexual abuse is a big no for me as well. I read quite a lot of WWII fiction and those books I have read have been very respectful of the trauma of the time and the massive loss of life, but then I tend to avoid books that feature romance as a main plot point, so the WWII books I read don’t tend to be of the romantic variety. I can’t say I’ve ever read a WWII fiction book that I’ve felt has been “fluffy”I actually don’t really mind if characters in histfic speak in a more modern way, I don’t find it particularly takes me out of the story and to be honest, I think I’d find it more jarring if an author tried to write period appropriate dialogue and got it horrendously wrong, that would take me out of the story more than the characters speaking in a more modern way. I also don’t necessarily mind if characters express more modern ideas because there were people in the past that expressed more modern ideas than were accepted at the time period, so I don’t feel like it would be completely out of place for say a woman to express feminist ideas or at least feel indignant about the way she was treated. Obviously put it in the context of the time period but modern ideas didn’t just sprout up overnight in the 21st century so I don’t think characters expressing more modern ideas for their time period in histfic is necessarily completely wrong. As someone who studied History at Uni, I think there’s space for a more nuanced take in histfic than “everyone at this time was racist/sexist/homophobic etc”.

  24. I’ve tried a self-help book before and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I cannot get into them.

    Here’s my TTT <3

  25. Yes to the common sense one, it can be so frustrating when a character lacks common sense. I’m also not a fan of (most) self-help books.

  26. I agree with so much of these. Especially, the no common sense one! Drives me nuts, haha

  27. Lydia – I’m with you on every single one of these. And I have to say that you’re the only other person that I have seen mention the WWII books. I guess it’s harder to enjoy books in that genre after seeing how it directly affected people who lived through those events, because I saw my dad struggle with the effects of being a Holocaust survivor.

  28. Great point on WWII stories! That’s one big issue I had with Downton Abbey. There was so many serious topics in the series (WWI trauma included) that I felt were playing second fiddle to the romance/drama.

  29. Super agree with historical stories that feel modern, wearing a dress, corset and top hat does not make you a historical character, it is also the attitude

  30. Completely agree about historical fiction, inspirational books, and self-help books!

  31. Stefani @ Read with Stefani

    I read World War II themed books but steer clear of the romance focused ones as much as I can for similar reasons. Fantastic post as usual Lydia. Happy reading!

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