Columns > Published on September 14th, 2012

The Bottom Of The Barrel: The 10 Worst-Ranked Books On Amazon

With 42 million books to choose from on and only so many hours in the day, I need help picking out the right ones. No matter how good a book is, some idiot reviewers are bound to drag the score down (showcased in The Top 10 Best Books... With The Worst Amazon Customer Reviews) and the author's loved ones will undoubtedly get paid off to compliment the book, but overall, Amazon reviews still give a fairly accurate assessment of a book's quality.

Because when it comes to low scores, at a certain point, you can’t attribute them to internet bullies and biased critics—there has to be something fundamentally wrong with the book. To achieve a score lower than three stars, the author must commit some kind of literary crime to warrant the derision of the masses. So whether it’s racism, first-amendment infringements, or laughably bad grammar and plot inconsistencies, here’s a look at the best of the worst—and the lessons we can learn from each of them to help make our own work better.

(Before anyone accuses me of drinkin' Haterade, I realize that these authors have made more money selling books than I ever will, ever. So really, the joke is on me.)

10. “Midnight Sins” by Lora Leigh (2.2 stars)

The Plot: Dreamboat ranch-owner Rafer Callahan is trying to hump Cami—but he might have accidentally killed her sister, and chicks really hate that. Then people start dying, and things get confusing.

The Problem: Miss Leigh confuses ages, details, names, and relationships of the characters so badly that the story becomes incomprehensible—I even got confused trying to piece together the plot description on the Amazon page. One reviewer found 78 errors—which means you'll run into something that doesn't make sense every five pages.

The Lesson: For the love of God, proofread your story.

[amazon 0312389086 inline]


9. “Does God Love Michael’s Two Daddies?” by Sheila K. Butt (2.2 stars)

The Plot: Miss Butt gets around to answering the question posed in her title: God kinda loves them, but God would love them a whole lot more if they stopped sodomizing each other.

The Problem: Biblical cherry-picking just pisses me off. Avoiding the obvious valid argument that human love and compassion are infinitely more important than following dogma, if you're pulling the "Bible sez so" card, you need to follow all of the Bible's proscriptions: not wearing mixed fibers, stoning adulterers, killing magicians, not wearing gold, not eating shellfish, not getting tattoos, not trimming your beard, not pulling out, not getting divorced, and plenty of other goofy shit. If you're gonna let a 2,000-year-old work of fiction justify your hatred of gay people, you need to follow all of its crazy-ass rules.

 The Lesson: To quote Morgan Freeman: “I hate the word homophobia. It’s not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole.”

[amazon 0932859941 inline]


8. “Wild Animus: A Novel” by Rich Shapero (2 stars)

The Plot: Drug dealer Sam Altman graduates college in the '60s, moves to Alaska, and transforms into a ram.

The Problem: This one has a special place in my heart, as boxes of this book were distributed to every dorm at my college. Every tiny bookshelf on campus housed a copy, its owner ready to delve into the relatively difficult literature in an attempt to seem cultured. Nobody made it past page three.

The Lesson: Don't litter. Before you kill hundreds of trees, make sure your story is worth it.

[amazon 0971880107 inline]


7. “You’ve Been Warned” by James Patterson (1.9 stars)

The Plot: Photographer Kristin Burns gets a cushy job babysitting two rich brats, but that fact that she's humping their dad complicates things.

The Problem: Ol’ Jamey Patterson was phoning this one in. As an author who's sold more than 220 million books (grossing more than $3 billion!), he made more on this turd than 10,000 self-pubbed writers could make in 10,000 years.

The Lesson: The ability to fart out a novel and make wheelbarrows of cash doesn't justify doing it.

[amazon 0316014508 inline]


6. “Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls Part One” by Victoria Foyt (1.8 stars)

The Plot: This dystopian novel is set in the future, where white-skinned Eden (a Pearl) needs to mate with someone dark-skinned (a Coal) or they'll throw her out of the colony where she'll die from exposure to the sun.

The Problem: Nearly every negative review accuses her of racism, which, we can all agree, is bad no matter what. Does she deserve it? You'll have to read my upcoming column "Is It Racist?" analyzing her novel to find out (unless you just want to read the book yourself). I'm all for hating books, but only if you hate them for the right reasons.

The Lesson: If you're going to address racism in any way, you'd better be careful.

[amazon 0983650322 inline]


5. “The Shadow God” by Aaron Rayburn (1.7 stars)

The Plot: Craig Johnson walks into his closet and meets the Shadow God—who wants to kill him. Since Craig doesn't want to die, conflict ensues.

The Problem: It's hard to nail down exactly what's wrong with this one. Other than boring action and a clunky plot, a major sticking point is the dialogue: "Of all the things to think, he never thought he'd think that," and: "Already, he knew he wouldn't be able to do it. In fact, he KNEW he wouldn't."

The Lesson: If you're going to spend 454 pages creating a metaphor for Cain and Abel, don't let the plot hinge on something called "The Satanist Group Association."

[amazon 1418499757 inline]


4. “The No Cussing Club” by McKay Hatch (1.4 stars)

The Plot: Proudly billing himself as “The Most Cyberbullied Kid In The World,” McKay Hatch started the "No Cussing Club" which—you guessed it—advocates not cussing.

The Problem: Look at the cover. Really. Just look at his smug little leer. Christ. Even as king of the nerds in my more formative years, I still would have beaten this kid's ass. No cussing? Are you fucking kidding me? Telling bullies what to do is only going to piss them off. Middle school (and high school) sucks no matter what, so just follow the lead of millions of kids before you: keep your head down, graduate, and move away. 

The Lesson: Grow a pair.

[amazon 0945713088 inline]


3. “In The Breath Of A Moment: A Collection Of Short Tales” by Andrew Kieniksman (1.3 stars)

The Plot: Several things happen throughout 29 different short stories.

The Problem: You can't string a bunch of thematically unrelated stories together and call it a book.

The Lesson: Just because you can publish a collection of short stories doesn't mean you should.

[amazon 1434835677 inline]


2. “How Fatima Started Islam: Mohammad’s Daughter Tells All” by Noor Barack (1.1 stars)

The Plot: Turns out, Mohammad didn't start Islam because he was too busy being drunk and stupid. His daughter Fatima did all the work.

The Problem: Remember the shit-storm caused by cartoons of Mohammad printed in a Danish newspaper some years back? Very few people of the Islamic faith take their religion lightly—so writing a book that calls Mohammad “the village idiot and town drunk“ and labels him a “drunken, imbecilic pimp” isn’t going to make you many friends. Even though the novel is categorized as satire and the author makes note of this several times throughout the introduction, it seems like more than a few people didn’t get it. 

The Lesson: I’m all for freedom of speech, but not hate speech. Don't pick fights with someone's God in the name of "humor."

[amazon 0578032902 inline]


1. “ANTIGUA: The Land of Fairies, Wizards and Heroes” by Denise Ellis (1 star)

The Plot: Voltar the Dragon wants to eat everyone, and King Artor wants to prevent that. Also, fairies and wizards and heroes and stuff.

The Problem: Oh boy... where to start. First off, the author’s period key was replaced with an exclamation mark for most sentences. Secondly, very little in this book makes sense. The list of errors goes on, and Antigua comes in dead last with nine 1-star reviews.

The Lesson: Dragons are immune to "lightening bolts." And unless your characters are screaming their dialogue, cool it with the exclamation marks. Like Fitzgerald said, "An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke."

[amazon 1425997821 inline]

BONUS! The genuinely worst book with the best review

“Moon People” by Dale M. Courtney (4.3 stars)

The Plot: "The story focuses on one Man by the Name of David Braymer and his adventures from High school teacher to 1st Science Officer on board the Lunar Base 1 Mobile Base Station and his encounters with Alien Life forms throughout our universe and the space Battle of all battles David experiences."

The Problem: Despite being nearly unreadable, this novel has an amazing score. No, the literature-reviewing world hasn’t been poisoned by the clunky, mindless prose of Fifty Shades—every single five-star review (all 81 of them) is dripping with sarcasm. Either Courtney has a crack marketing team, or the Amazon gods have deemed this novel another of their sarcastic punching bags (check out “fresh whole rabbit” and “How To Avoid Huge Ships” for other great examples). But as a bonus for all you Courtney fans out there, you’ll be happy to know that Moon People is the first in a trilogy.

The Lesson: I'm not really sure... 

[amazon 1436372135 inline]


About the author

Dave Reuss is the managing editor of Outside Bozeman Magazine, the best goddamn regional publication in the Northwest. He also freelances for marketing firms, national magazines, and anyone who pays him enough. When he tells people where he lives, most sincerely ask if he rides a horse to work. He loves cheap beer, oxford commas, and lifting heavy things.

Similar Columns

Explore other columns from across the blog.

Book Brawl: Geek Love vs. Water for Elephants

In Book Brawl, two books that are somehow related will get in the ring and fight it out for the coveted honor of being declared literary champion. Two books enter. One book leaves. This month,...

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Books That Should Be Box Office Blockbusters

It seems as if Hollywood is entirely bereft of fresh material. Next year, three different live-action Snow White films will be released in the States. Disney is still terrorizing audiences with t...

Books Without Borders: Life after Liquidation

Though many true book enthusiasts, particularly in the Northwest where locally owned retailers are more common than paperback novels with Fabio on the cover, would never have set foot in a mega-c...

From Silk Purses to Sows’ Ears

Photo via Moviegoers whose taste in cinema consists entirely of keeping up with the Joneses, or if they’re confident in their ignorance, being the Joneses - the middlebrow, the ...

Cliche, the Literary Default

Original Photo by Gerhard Lipold As writers, we’re constantly told to avoid the cliché. MFA programs in particular indoctrinate an almost Pavlovian shock response against it; workshops in...

A Recap Of... The Wicked Universe

Out of Oz marks Gregory Maguire’s fourth and final book in the series beginning with his brilliant, beloved Wicked. Maguire’s Wicked universe is richly complex, politically contentious, and fille...

Learning | Free Lesson — LitReactor | 2024-05

Try Reedsy's novel writing masterclass — 100% free

Sign up for a free video lesson and learn how to make readers care about your main character.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.