Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Deter You From Reading A Book

“Top Ten Tuesday” is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is the Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Deter You From Reading A Book.

As always, these choices are listed in no particular order.

1) Cancer

While I’ve specifically chosen ‘cancer’, in reality this could easily be expanded to encompass all debilitating and/or terminal illnesses. Perhaps it’s because I indulged in one too many of Lurlene McDaniel‘s novels growing up (Spoiler Alert: Someone always dies) but I take no pleasure in reading these types of stories and often find them maudlin and emotionally manipulative. It’s one of the easiest ways to invoke feeling in a reader, and unless handled with extreme care and sensitivity, simply seems unscrupulous and exploitive. While there are exceptions to this rule, as there are with almost any of the words and/or topics I’ve listed here, my experience with this sort of story thus far has been overwhelmingly negative. Also, if I’m being entirely honest, I read primarily for pleasure, and take none from reading about a character’s extended suffering. Having lost beloved family members to cancer myself, I have no desire to re-live that experience through a novel that will only invoke the memories of past pain.

2) Pregnancy

Perhaps it’s because I don’t know whether or not I’ll ever want to have children one day, but pregnancy and child rearing in literature hold absolutely no allure for me. I think what I dislike most about stories centred around pregnancy, particularly teen pregnancy, is the predictability of it all. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read a story in the young adult genre in which a pregnant teen spends the majority of the novel agonizing over what decisions to make in the wake of the news (as she should), only to have her miscarry by the end of the novel, conveniently solving all of her problems and essentially negating the entire point of the story we’ve followed thus far. When I experienced this most recently in Kristen-Paige Madonia’s Fingerprints of You, I knew it was the final straw. I will be swearing off all novels that involve teen pregnancy for the foreseeable future, until an author can come up with a new way to approach the subject.

3) Infidelity

Infidelity is a deal breaker for me, both in real life as well as literature. I can’t stomach novels that attempt to justify or excuse that sort of behaviour. I know that this has become something of a popular trope in the romance genre (i.e. A couple attempting to re-connect after one partner’s infidelity or a couple falling in love while still involved with other people) but it will never be something I enjoy. I immediately see red and lose all sympathy for all characters involved. I try to avoid novels that can cause rage blackouts – I think it’s a safe policy.

4) Love Triangle

While there are instances where love triangles have been used to great effect (i.e. Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy) more often than not this is the exception rather than the rule. While logically I can understand the desire to live vicariously through a protagonist who is so witty, attractive, and overwhelmingly desirable as to attract more than one mate, more often than not I end up rooting for the wrong party or find the conclusion to said love triangle unsatisfactory. I also dislike that it turns love, one of the most beautiful of human emotions, into something competitive and shallow. Often times I can’t help but feel as though the two rivals are competing for the protagonist’s affections for the thrill and satisfaction of the conquest and the heady feeling of competition as opposed to for the protagonist alone. There are also times when it’s quite clear who the protagonist is intended for and the secondary love interest is merely introduced as a means of furthering plot development or introducing new conflict. Kelley at Another Novel Read recently wrote a very thought-provoking post on this topic (“Let’s Talk About Love Interests In YA”), which I would encourage everyone to take the time to read. It certainly made me think about why love triangles so rarely work for me!

5) Zombies

I realize that this is likely an unpopular opinion, but I’ve never been able to understand the appeal of the Zombie. While I can logically understand and appreciate the importance of George Romero’s work and his influence within the horror genre, I have always found the plodding, unintelligent monsters driven solely by their desire for brains utterly boring. Personally, I prefer a thinking-man’s monster. I would argue that a psychological study or a serial killer is far more terrifying than any supernatural creature the mind can conjure. Sometimes the most terrifying things are not those we make up, but that which has been in front of us all along. There is nothing quite so horrifying as the darkness and perversion of the human spirit, and the depths of depravity some are willing to stoop in order to satisfy their baser instincts.

6) High Fantasy

I believe I’ve touched on this a number of times before in past editions of Top Ten Tuesday, but I very rarely read high fantasy novels, either in the young adult or adult genres. Based on my experience, the genre tends to prize world building most highly of all, often to the unfortunate exclusion and the development of anything else. World building is of very little importance to me when compared to other considerations such as character or relationship development, and I absolutely abhor having to slog through chapters of the most minute details of the world in which the characters reside. Ultimately, it boils down to a fundamental lack of patience on my part. I have absolutely no interest in the minutiae of everyday life in the world which you’ve created. As long as I can understand the broad strokes, I’ll be satisfied.

7) Angels & Mermaids

I might be cheating a little by counting these two words as one choice but it’s my list and I’m feeling a little rebellious today! From Hush, Hush, Embrace, and A Beautiful Dark to Of Poseidon and Lies Beneath, I have been gravely disappointed by these two subsects within the young adult genre time and time again. It’s gotten to the point where I actively avoid novels that include these two types of supernatural creatures because apart from Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy, I have never enjoyed a novel that includes either angels or mermaids. At this point I’m simply inclined to believe that these sort of stories are not my cup of tea.

8) Rape

Novels that involve rape and/or sexual assault are nearly always an automatic disqualification for me. While I realize that difficult subjects like rape and sexual assault need to be examined within literature in order to allow victims a voice and to increase awareness about the prevalence of rape culture within our society, more often than not the inclusion of a rape scene in a novel simply feels gratuitous, unnecessary, and is most often used as a convenient method of eliciting the reader’s sympathies and acting as a jumping off point for a protagonist’s growth. There are any number of other ways to accomplish either of the aforementioned things. Rape seems like resorting to the lowest common denominator. While there are exceptions to this rule (i.e. Tammara Webber’s Easy), for the most part I choose not to read stories that involve violence against women. God knows we have enough of that in real life as it is.

7) Greek Mythology

This concept has been done to death! Even more frustrating, with the exception of Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed series, I’ve rarely seen it utilized to good effect. I’m now reluctant to try books centred around a re-telling or re-imaging of Greek mythology after suffering through one tortuous and superficial attempt after another, best exemplified by my experience with Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test last year. Based on my experience with the use of this theme thus far, I find that Greek mythology does not translate well to a modern context, and more often than not ends up as a bastardized, one-dimensional, disappointing mess. In this particular case, I would love to be proven wrong, as I do think that in theory, Greek mythology could provide a very unique and interesting premise for a novel if handled correctly.

10) Christian-Themed

I’ll preface this final choice by saying that I respect everyone’s right to worship as they choose so long as it doesn’t negatively affect or harm anyone else. That said, I would be lying if I said that the words ‘Christian-Themed’ in a book’s synopsis didn’t act as a strong deterrent when I’m choosing what to read, particularly when it comes to the romance genre. Based on my (limited) experience, at best I find ‘Christian-Themed’ novels dreadfully dull, and at worst, sanctimonious and preachy. To be fair, this could very well be because I’m not a Christian myself and therefore feel no intimate connection with the material often being discussed. Plus, I’m not ashamed to admit that I like a little smut in my romance novels, thank you very much. Hand holding and kisses on the cheek are best left to a middle school dance.

29 responses to “Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Deter You From Reading A Book”

  1. Have you read the Percy Jackson books? Best example of using Greek Mythology EVER. I adore him.

    And love triangles is on my list, too. Such a tired trope nowadays.

    My TTT post
    Merin @ Read and Reviewed recently posted…Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Make You NOT Read A BookMy Profile

  2. Tiffany says:

    I definitely should have included infidelity. Want to make me hate your book? Throw that in!
    Tiffany recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Make You NOT pick up a bookMy Profile

  3. ashley says:

    I’m pretty sure that this reaffirmed that we’re related a la Niles and Frasier. Cause. Yes, to SO MANY OF THESE. Infidelity. High fantasy. Love Triangles. Rape.

    Yes. Yes. Yes.
    ashley recently posted…Weather Witch by Shannon DelanyMy Profile

  4. You are not alone in your hatred of zombie books! They made my list as well. I love your reasoning – perfect explanation.

    I also agree with your #10, although I’m a Christian myself. The genre DOES come off as preachy and boring. I don’t think it’s necessary to the book world. If the author wants his/her characters to be Christian, that’s fine by me! But I don’t think the book needs to be labelled as “Christian” just for that reason. Genre should be determined by plot, setting, or book structure – not the religious affiliation (or lack of) in the characters. We don’t refer to books that don’t include religion at all as “atheistic” for a reason!
    Erin McLeod @ Pursuit of Good Reads recently posted…Top 10 Tuesday: Top 10 Turn-OffsMy Profile

    • Finally! You are honestly the first person I’ve met who hasn’t had some sort of obsession with zombies! I just don’t get it. Whenever people talk about their ‘zombie survival plan’, I never know what to say. Is this something we’re actually accepting as a possibility now? What gives?

      I’m so relieved that my answer for number ten wasn’t offensive! I really struggled with how best to articulate my issues with that sort of marketing. I have absolutely nothing against Christians themselves, and will happily read a novel about characters who are Christians (Or any other religion, for that matter), but I’ve always had a problem when a novel is solely marketed as ‘Christian-Themed’. Even the designation alone can feel a little exclusionary. You explained it better than I ever could have – Perhaps I should just refer to your comment for my reasoning for my final choice!
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Deter You From Reading A BookMy Profile

  5. Oh man, I agree on almost ALL the things.

    I don’t think I’ve read a zombie book I’ve like yet, but I cannot get enough of zombies in cinema. They don’t scare me – like, at all. But they are just SO FUN. I love devising different escape and survival plans (though I’ve never actually gone so far as to buy an ax or shotgun or anything.) Plus, I love the zombie movies bring together a wide cast of characters that likely never would have been together had it not been for the outbreak, and then seeing the dynamics of that group during crisis. I love it.

    I also avoid Christian fiction like the plague. I’m not a religious person in any way, and at times get very frustrated with religion in my real life. So I stay away from Christian fic in my reading. However, if a character belongs to a certain religious group or has a faith of any kind, that won’t stop me from reading. I understand that there are religious people out there and for them to not be represented in regular, mainstream fiction seems silly and unrealistic.
    Bekka @ Pretty Deadly Reviews recently posted…Top Ten TuesdayMy Profile

    • Well, to each their own! I’m a big horror film fan, but zombies have just never interested me. I find them boring, if I’m being honest. I do agree that the concept of throwing together a cast of disparate characters who might not otherwise have ever interacted is interesting, though! You certainly don’t have the opportunity to experience that sort of dynamic in other horror movies.

      I completely agree with you – A religious character isn’t an automatic deal-breaker for me. My problem lies predominantly with fiction that identifies itself solely as ‘Christian-Themed’. I don’t consider that a genre or a proper designation of what the novel is actually about.
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Review: Golden by Jessi KirbyMy Profile

  6. Barbs says:

    Thats a really interesting list. I never thought about what would put me of reading something…

    Totally agree with #10. Even though I’m Christian I can’t really stand christian-themed novels. Partly because they are boring and I also like some smut 😉

    • I thought this past week’s topic was very interesting as well! I must admit I struggled to come up with ten items to list. There are very few things I won’t read so it was a little difficult to come up with so many concepts or themes that would be deal-breakers for me!

      Glad to know I’m not the only one 😉
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Review: Golden by Jessi KirbyMy Profile

  7. I remember reading Warm Bodies (by Isaac Marion) and cringing over the descriptions of how R eats human brains and experiencing a flash-moment of human memories whose brain he ate… *shudders* Can’t complain about seeing Nicholas Hoult in the big screen, though 😀

    Infidelity/cheating is a big issue for me too. I can never understand why someone would do it, let alone trying to reconnect after your spouse did it; in my opinion, once someone do it, s/he can’t be trusted forever. S/he’ll most likely try to do it again :\
    Tirta @ I Prefer Reading recently posted…Ten Words or Topics That Will Make Me Ignore a BookMy Profile

    • Warm Bodies is actually one of the few pieces of zombie literature that I have some interest in reading! I’ve heard wonderful things about it thus far, and even though I’m largely uninterested in the film adaptation, I’ll likely read the original novel at some point simply to see what all the fuss is about 😛

      Couldn’t have save it better myself. At the risk of sounding like Dr. Phil – The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. If they’ve cheated on you once before, there’s a likelihood that it will happen again. I admire people who are able to overcome and work through such issues, but I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to re-build trust in such a situation. I hope I never have to find out firsthand!
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Review: Golden by Jessi KirbyMy Profile

  8. We agree on so many of these things!
    I really tend to HATE cancer books/terminal illness books as a rule(though there are exceptions). As someone who lost a close family member to cancer, these books are so often unrealistic and like you said, exploitative. I don’t like the idea of using someone’s pain for profit. I think that’s why I also tend to stay away from books with rape in them. The thing with books that center around rape are that so many of them use slut-shaming tactics as well, in my experience(oh, this is the girl who clearly doesn’t “deserve” to be rape because she’s so modest and humble, instead of really exploring rape as the horrifying act that it is that has nothing to do with how the victim chooses to dress or behave.) There are books about rape that do a much better job than others(such as Speak), but it’s a difficult subject to write & read about in a good context.

    Infedelity is another tricky one, especially in YA. I’ve read ONE book where someone cheated and ended up not being with either of the people(as they should be). It was the first time I remember reading a situation where the infidelity was not romanticized.

    Also, I am a Christian and christian-themed fiction still makes me run in the other direction. SO. CHEESY.
    Stormy @ Book.Blog.Bake. recently posted…Ten Words That Will Make Me NOT Pick Up a BookMy Profile

  9. Where we differ:

    I am ALL over high fantasy, Greek mythology and zombie books. Haha. I totally get your problems with high fantasy, but it’s the BEST when the characters AND world building are excellent, because it tends to be long, so you can live with those characters for so long and it’s the best.

    Also, I would hate Greek mythology books a bunch too if I had those two to go off of. Oy.

    Love triangles aren’t an immediate deal breaker, but most of them are awful. Sigh.
    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted…Review: OCD Love StoryMy Profile

  10. Dude, this post is SO right on. 1-3? I completely agree with you! In fact, I was just griping about the infidelity issue to my husband last night. I hate how it feels like any adult (contemporary) book I read lately involves infidelity. It really just makes it hard for me to relate. AND it makes it harder for me to empathize with the main character(s).

    I also have no desire for children, so reading about kids/pregnancy/child rearing holds no interest for me either. I don’t think I’ve read any novels involving ten pregnancy, but if they typically play out like you described, I’ll be staying ever farther away from them!

    Ack, I can understand your frustration with high fantasy, especially if you don’t care much about world building. I have to say that there are some good ones out there, though. If you’re interested in trying out high fantasy that is more plot-heavy and less description-heavy, I implore you to check out some of the Forgotten Realms books, like the Rogues series or the Dark Elf Trilogy. (Or, of course, the Fire & Thorns series by Rae Carson.)

    I’m super sick of angel stories, too! But I’ve yet to read a mermaid book, so I can’t add that one to my list (yet?). 🙂

    Duuuuuuude. Greek mythology. Dude. I know. Like, first off, it’s never really been my favorite anyway. But I’m really tired of seeing YA books that re-imagine/retell Greek myths. I don’t know if I’ve even read one of them and I’m STILL tired of them!

    Sorry for such an uber long comment. I couldn’t help myself. Great post, Jen!
    Kelley (Another Novel Read) recently posted…Reading Rituals?My Profile

  11. Loni says:

    I stopped myself from putting up “Christian fiction” as something I won’t read. I just didn’t want to offend anyone. But I agree, I find often find it preachy.

    I’ve actually seen Zombies on a lot of lists today. I enjoy some zombie fiction, but I’m picky with it. I just didn’t realize so many people didn’t like it. It’s everywhere!
    Loni recently posted…Hmm… I Don’t Think So: Top Ten Words/Topics That Make Me Not Pick Up A BookMy Profile

  12. Katie says:

    You don’t like high fantasy?! Sad day! Try Rae Carson. Not much worldbuilding, and the characters are awesome!

    And I’m a Christian, but I don’t read many Christian books because I find they often make life seem too rosy. However, I think that’s changing more, especially with particular publishing houses, and I have a few authors I love in that genre, like Lisa Bergren.

    I’m totally with you in the pregnancy thing though, which you already know since it’s on my list too lol
    Katie recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Words/Topics That Will Make Me NOT Read a BookMy Profile

  13. I absolutely agree with you on mermaids, rape, zombies, Christian-themed (I hate when I accidentally stumble on to one of these– put that on the cover, please!). I think I am incredibly picky, though!
    Elizabeth @ Don’t Take My Books Away recently posted…15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Book FlingingMy Profile

  14. Another zombie non-fan? Gasp! I thought I was the only one! Honestly, I find them really boring. There’s nothing to tell except a primal instinct to eat brains but they’re more often than not so unintelligent that, well, it’s so easy to avoid having your brain eaten. Get up high, shoot them in the head; or you could probably outrun them. There’s nothing exciting about that!

    I thought I might have found an interesting zombie story in Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, which subverted the tropes a bit, but it turned out to be terrible. It was my first 1-star of the year. 🙁 I don’t think I’ll ever find a zombie book I’ll enjoy.
    Nikki @ The Paper Sea recently posted…Teaser Tuesday: Tumble & FallMy Profile

  15. Yes to love triangle and too much religion! I never used to shy away from cancer books because I love real and raw emotions in my books but I wouldn’t be able to read one now. Maybe one day I’ll be able to again (I hope because I really want to read The Fault In Our Stars!)
    Jenni @ Alluring Reads recently posted…Truly, Madly, Deadly ReviewMy Profile

  16. Great list! Greek-mythology and christian-themed are definitely ones I wish I would have remembered to include.
    Maggie @ Just a Couple More Pages recently posted…TTT: Top 10 Topics That Make Me Not Want to Pick Up a BookMy Profile

  17. Jill says:

    Nope, you are wrong there… it isn’t because you aren’t a Christian. I am a Christian and I pretty much think all of the “Christian-themed” stories, music, etc are dull and highly preachy.

    I do have to say the Tanglewood Series by Sandra D. Bricker is really good. It is the only Christian books I’ve ever liked and I didn’t know what it was when I started reading.

    So it isn’t just you.

  18. I’m by no means religious, so religious-type books definitely make me want to run the other way. And infidelity is also a deal breaker for me, on and off the page. Which leads me to love triangles. Have you ever noticed how cheating or thoughts of cheating tend to stray into stories that involve love triangles? What are authors trying to teach people nowadays? It’s all so overused and annoying. I want to smack somebody.
    Lauren @ Books, Tea & Me recently posted…Top 10 Topics That Will Make Me NOT Pick Up a BookMy Profile

  19. Kelly L. says:

    I can’t stomach books focused on Infidelity. Just the thought of it makes me sick. ):
    And I definitely agree with you on Christian themed books. I’ve tried one, but hey, it just wasn’t for me. I’ll prefer to avoid them now.
    Awesome list! (:

    My TTT
    Kelly L. recently posted…Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Make You NOT Pick Up A BookMy Profile

  20. Yes to Christian-Themed. I agree, that people should believe whatever they want, but I have found Christian-Themed books to be too preachy for my tastes. I don’t like anything preachy, even if it is something I believe in.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Top Ten Topics That Makes Me NOT Pick Up a BookMy Profile

  21. I’m a Christian myself and I still have a very difficult time with the Christian/inspirational fiction – they are usually bordering/wallowing in cheesy and are not true to what the majority of people are like, in my opinion. I read romance novels and love them and have never found a Christian fiction novel that I felt represented me, so I feel ya on that one. The rest of these do not seem to bother me – but I do not like thrillers and werewolves AT ALL. Thrillers make my nerves crazy and werewolves are just gross, to me.
    Asheley Tart (@BookwormAsheley) recently posted…Ten Words/Topics I Try To Avoid When Picking Books To Read!My Profile

  22. […] will deter me from reading a book entirely if I’m aware of their inclusion beforehand (See: Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Deter You From Reading A Book) At least I’m consistent, […]

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