Need a Beach Read Worth Your Time? Here Are the 10 Worst Choices

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There are worse things than being stuck on a beach without a book to read, but it's still a pretty miserable situation. There you are, towel under your butt, sunscreen on your nose, and book in hand, ready to enjoy a lazy day of sun, swimming, and losing yourself in a good read.

And then ...

And then you find out that the book is miserably written. Or impenetrably dense. Or the characters are awful, or the plot is dull, or there's something else that makes you realize that you'd rather sit through dental surgery without anesthetic than read another page. And so you find yourself staring at the ocean, sitting next to a book that you can't bring yourself to pick up, twiddling your thumbs.

If you're looking to maximize the ROI of your beach reads, you're in luck: Goodreads, the social media site for readers, has released a list of the "most abandoned" books -- the ones that the largest number of readers have given up on. While there are hundreds of books on the list, a few patterns quickly become clear. For example, the top abandoned classics -- "Catch-22," "Lord of the Rings," "Ulysses," "Moby Dick," and "Atlas Shrugged" -- include an impenetrably dense Irish novel, a complex American classic, a couple of morally ambiguous polemics, and one of the most richly-detailed, geekiest fantasies every written.

Some of these patterns continue into the top abandoned mainstream books. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," for example, is overly detailed (at least in the beginning), while "Eat, Pray, Love" suffers from the amazing self-obsession of its author/narrator. For fans of "Wicked" the musical, "Wicked" the novel's political machinations may seem a bit excessive; similarly, fans of Harry Potter may find themselves thinking that JK Rowling failed to finesse the transition from Hogwarts to local muggle politics in "The Casual Vacancy." As for "Fifty Shades of Grey," a large number of readers just found it to be incredibly badly written.

So much for the bad books, but what if you want a good bet to tuck into your bag? Luckily, Goodreads also has a list of top-rated beach reads, which it updates annually. Katherine Stockett's 2009 novel "The Help" tops this year's ranking, followed by more recent arrivals "Seduction," "The Wednesday Daughters," "Gone Girl" and "Orphan Train." And, for those with more specialized tastes, there are dozens of other suggested reading lists, including compendiums of the best one-day reads and the best socially-redeeming page-turners. In other words, regardless of your beach-reading tastes, Goodreads probably has a list for you.

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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Ecj100: What a tremendous comment! You are right on the money.

July 14 2013 at 8:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The top books are all classics, not light beachy reading. What is your point, anyway? By the way, I have read most of the top 50.

July 14 2013 at 8:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Atlas Shrugged, I loved it a million years ago.

July 14 2013 at 6:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to poll100's comment

And very relevant even today.

July 14 2013 at 8:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


July 14 2013 at 3:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mclosa's comment

Once you got past page became an easier read and I have to say I flew through the 2nd book.......I loved that one and the third, almost as much. Great trilogy!!!

July 15 2013 at 12:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with the comment about the Girl with the Tattoo thing, I could NOT get into it , the names were confusing, the story was a big bore in the beginning and I just could not even get through the first two chapters before I took it back to the book store! AWFUL, but have friends who thought it was a great read ......I dont have the patience to wade through the mud to get to the jist of the plot. A book needs to grab me from the jump. I have favorite authors that never disapoint and I wait for their new books to come out. I also cant stand some of the books that are co authored, some are good like the Womans Murder Club but his others suck big time, poor

July 14 2013 at 1:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have read all the five top abandoned classics. It is the dumbing of society I guess people want to read about the Kardashians.

July 14 2013 at 11:54 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ava's comment

Just look at what huff po has to offer up on a daily basis and there is your answer.

July 14 2013 at 2:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I guess this list isn't for me. Catch-22 is almost my favorite novel. Lord of the Rings IS my favorite novel.

July 14 2013 at 11:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
No Name

I have read many of these books (not all). I have liked some and disliked some. I think one of the problems with these books is that a lot of them are very long and most people tend to read slowly and, therefore, lose interest if the story does not move along really fast. I have always read very fast and can go through an 800 page book in a couple of days. I do not have time to get bored. But I have to admit the "begats" got to me. Had to skip those. As fantasy, though, the Bible is not bad.

July 14 2013 at 10:52 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

ecj100 I agree. Actually the abandoned books mentioned are among the finest ever written. The problem with the critics is that these books do not subscribe to their way of thinking. Catch 22 was a marvelous story: hillarious yet tragic.

July 14 2013 at 6:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Apparently Goodreads does not have a list for me. Years ago, when I was a member of a beach house, I showed up for the first week reading Gunter Grass. While I took some kidding, I have never found any reason to read on the beach something I would not read eksewhere. Perhaps more difficult books are the most abandoned, but they are often the most rewarding. I would not waste my time reading the "approved" books on the list. Too many people lose a valuable experience because they give up too soon. When I first read Catch 22 at 14, I almost gave up before about 50 pages, but soon thereafter realized it was a truly great book. I re-read it for the sixth time last year for the 50th anniversary, and found it no less affecting than the first time, and indeed found new meaning reading it as a 58-year old.

Have I ever abandoned a book? Yes, I twice failed to get very far into Turn of the Screw, but I ascribe the fault to myself, and not to James.

July 14 2013 at 1:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply