I was very surprised to see that I had not written anything about my bookish pet peeves since I first started my blog back in 2016 (here and here). I think the closest I’ve come is with a late-2017 Top 5 Wednesday topic that asked for bookish things that I’m a Grinch about. To be honest, I’d completely forgotten about that post and it wasn’t until I searched just now that I realized I’d already mentioned a few of the pet peeves that I’d planned to talk about here! Given how old these posts are, it was fun to look back and see which, if any, of the things I mentioned were still pet peeves of mine (spoiler alert: most of them!). These are all things that I’ve noticed recently when reading or buying books, and I thought it was about time to make another list of some of the most annoying things that bother me about books sometimes!
1) When there are characters with extremely similar names – I noticed this one recently while reading the Throne of Glass series, because of the characters Aelin and Aedion. While it made sense for these characters to have relatively similar names because they are related, I did find it a bit irritating to read because I kept naturally mixing up their names. These characters are pretty different from each other, so it would throw me off a bit to misread a name and think that the wrong one had said or done something, only to realize it was actually the other one. It wasn’t even that I was skimming or reading especially quickly, but for some reason, I kept misreading their names. It can be pretty confusing! There have been plenty of YA books that I’ve read where there are characters with similar names, which is especially frustrating when the characters are not that well developed so it’s already harder to differentiate between them.
2) When a character speaks in another language for no real reason – To be clear, I don’t mind if characters speak in other languages in a book if it serves an actual purpose for the story, and preferably if it is also translated on the page so everyone can understand. While reading The Infernal Devices, I found it bugged me a bit when Jem would randomly say things in Chinese or when Will and his sister would speak Welsh. Sometimes it fits a story well (ie. in The Astonishing Color of After, where the main character traveled to Taiwan and met relatives who don’t speak English), but sometimes it feels like it’s thrown it just for the sake of it. When the phrases are neither translated nor at least explained by the context, it pulls me out of the story because I end up having to stop and try to look up what was said in case it was important.
3) Movie tie-in editions and special editions – I’ve already mentioned that movie tie-in editions tend to be annoying in the Grinch post above, because the covers rarely look good. It’s annoying because once a movie version comes out, it becomes next to impossible to find the original cover art so I get stuck with the movie cover instead. It’s not the biggest deal since the content is more important to me anyway, but given the choice, I’d rather have the non-movie version. I also tend to find any kind of store exclusive or special editions frustrating, but for a different reason. I was really annoyed when Aurora Rising came out with the offer of a copy of Memento, a novella related to Illuminae, for anyone who pre-ordered it. It was a great offer, but way too expensive for me to justify spending the money on! Similarly, it has always bothered me when specific stores get to have exclusive editions of books (or CDs) with bonus content that is not available anywhere else. I don’t care so much when it’s just artwork, but when it’s extra chapters, it’s frustrating! I’m also not the type to buy more than one edition of a book I already have, so if the special edition comes out after I already have a copy, it will feel like a waste to me to buy the new one too.
4) How the cover of a paperback tends to curl up after it’s been read – I think this is subconsciously one of the main reasons that I’ve mostly switched over the hardcovers whenever possible. Aside from cracked spines or damage to the edges of the cover, it annoys me to put down a paperback after reading it, only to have the edges of the cover curl up and be stuck that way. I don’t even know why it bothers me so much since it just shows that the book has actually been picked up and read, but for some reason, it’s always irritated me to see my books lying on my desk like that while they are still in progress. It distracts me completely, and I end up trying to figure out ways to flatten the covers back out again. Flipping the book upside down does seem to work, at least temporarily. I think it bugs me because I somehow find the covers are easier to damage that way, since I’m more likely to accidentally bump them and risk folding over corners, etc.
5) Stickers on book covers, especially when they cover the synopsis – I think this is another one that I’d mentioned in one of my previous Pet Peeves posts, and I’d mostly forgotten about it until my most recent Book Outlet order. Of the 10 or so books that I’d ordered, at least half of them had a sticker on the dust jacket, and most of those were really hard to remove. Sometimes I’m lucky and it’s a sticker that pulls right off, but most of the time, it either leaves behind a lot of sticky residue, tears the dust jacket or cover, or, in most cases, the sticker itself rips. I guess it wouldn’t annoy me as much if I just left the sticker on, but sometimes books have stickers on the back that cover the synopsis, or on the front that take up a lot of space or just seem to ruin the cover. It’s really annoying to think you’ve been able to remove the sticker only for it to rip and force you to take off small fragments at a time, or decide to leave the remains of it which looks even worse than leaving the whole sticker would have!
6) Accidentally spoiling myself for the rest of the book when checking an online summary or reviews – This happened to me twice this year with thrillers! I accidentally spoiled myself for major twists in both The Woman in the Window and The Wife Between Us because I had seen some of the reviews on Goodreads. One of the spoilers was in the form of a trigger warning, which clued me into what was happening. I’d already suspected it, but was disappointed to have it confirmed in that way since it ruined the impact a bit from the actual book. It was my own fault for looking at the reviews while the book was in progress, but at the same time, I also generally like to look at some reviews at some point before reading a book, so spoilers are always a bit frustrating. I also sometimes use online summaries while reading very long series to make sure I haven’t missed anything or to refresh myself on details, but I’ve managed to also accidentally read a bit too far ahead in those too, and spoil myself for upcoming details! I guess the lesson here is to just not look at any online resources for a book I’m reading until I’m done.
7) Lack of clarity about who is narrating or who is speaking in dialogue – I finished Spinning Silver not too long ago, and while I mostly enjoyed it, one of my biggest complaints was that it contained 6 different perspectives, all first person, without any indication of who was narrating! Luckily, in this case it wasn’t too bad because it was easy to figure out who it was each time without too much trouble, but I’ve seen similar problems in other books where it is much less clear. I like books that use multiple perspectives, but I need it to be clear whose perspective we are in, and for the perspectives to be distinct enough from each other to make it worthwhile. To a lesser extent, it also really bugs me when there are pages or sections of dialogue where I can’t tell who is saying what. I don’t expect the author to name the character after each time, but there have been many books that I’ve read where I have no clue who is speaking and have to try and trace it back to figure it out.
8) Information that would have been very helpful (ie. maps, pronunciation guides, family trees, etc.) that is at the end of the book, and not noticed until I’ve already finished – Given my tendency to accidentally spoil myself by looking at online reviews or summaries, I’m very hesitant to flip ahead in a book and see what’s at the end. I don’t want to see what happens on the last pages since it’s very likely that I will end up spoiling myself. The downside of this is sometimes I discover that there were very useful resources that really would have helped me make sense of the world-building, politics, etc. that I didn’t know about at all until I’ve already finished reading! I actually can’t remember what book specifically I was thinking of when I noted this down as a pet peeve, but it did happen with something that I’d recently read. It would have been great to know that I could flip to the end to get an explanation for something that had confused me!
9) Epistolary books where the character remembers and documents in unrealistic detail every single thing that was said or done – I’m actually not sure how common of a problem this is, but I have seen it a few times. The book I specifically had in mind was Stolen: A Letter to my Captor, and to a lesser extent, it seems to be happening as well in my current read, That’s Not What Happened, although it is somehow less irritating in this one. I like the epistolary format in general, but it completely ruins my immersion in a story when the character writes an entire 300+ page book as a single, extremely detailed letter that mentions every word that each person said, every event, etc. I can understand characters trying to document their experiences in detail, but sometimes too much detail just makes it seem unrealistic. The same could be said for books in diary format, but those are often separated into multiple entries. While those characters still seem to have unusually great memories for their day, it’s at least a little more feasible to think that they’ve intentionally paid a lot of attention to their conversations or activities that day in order to record it. When the entire book is a single letter covering a longer stretch of time, it loses credibility for me.
10) Disjointed writing – I don’t expect an author to spell out each and every little thing that happens in detail to show how we move from one event to the next, but it bothers me when a book seems to jump around a lot. It’s especially frustrating when scenes start or end abruptly without much context, so it leaves you wondering how the characters got there. Luckily, I haven’t found this to be a very common problem, but it’s extremely irritating when it does happen. I love to get immersed in a story and nothing ruins my immersion more than having to stop and figure out what just happened, like when characters are suddenly in a different place with no explanation, or we join them midway through a conversation in progress, without enough context to figure out what is going on. It’s fine when authors throw you right into a world with the characters and let you catch up to where they are through the world-building, backstory, etc. but it can be frustrating when not enough is done to make what we are given make sense on its own.
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