Read This Not That 2019: Our List of Overrated Books

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The Pingel Sisters blog just turned one. What better way to celebrate than by bringing back an update on one of our most popular blog posts. Are ready to see which books made our 2019 Read This Not That List? Find out which bestselling books we loved, and which overrated books would didn’t like.

It has officially been one year since we launched our blog. My how much changes in a year.

A year ago, Jaclyn and I launched our website for savvy millennial women. We wanted to help them live, work, and travel better. And as a side note, I also wanted to write about books.

On of our very 1st posts was a book list I wrote – Don’t Buy the Hype: Read This Not That. I decided to pick 7 bestselling books I loved and 7 overrated books I didn’t. It was great idea, terribly executed. Luckily, Jaclyn was there to help teach me how to write better book descriptions.

My post was an instant success. It singlehandedly fueled almost all our page views – for months. Even now a year later, it still gets thousands of page views a month, only surpassed by our 2019 Reading Challenge.

To commemorate our first birthday as a blog, it’s time to do it again. From all the books I read in 2018, I selected 7 bestsellers worth the hype and 7 more overrated books.  Some are recent bestsellers, some were on the New York Times bestselling list years ago, But all have some name recognition.

I tried my best to group the books into similar pairs. I started with the overrated books, and picked a bestseller I loved that would pair well with it.

Don’t agree with me. Let me know! I promise I can take it. I’d love to hear which bestsellers you think are overrated books and which are worth the hype.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, read our Disclosures.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone
by Kristin Hannah

Coming off The Nightingale, her wildly successful World War II novel, Kristin Hannah’s next book explores the untamed wilds of Alaska. A recently returned Vietnam War POW, Ernt Allbright decides to move his family to the Alaskan frontier. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers and just what Ernt needs. But when the harsh Alaskan winter approaches and Ernt’s mental state begins to deteriorate, his wife and daughter must fight to survive. A captivating, stay-up-all-night novel that is definitely one of last year’s best reads.

Read This Not That

Little Fires Everywhere
by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng made by Read This Not That list last year with her beautiful novel Everything I Never Told You. Well, she’s back this year, but not on the same side of the list. Little Fires Everywhere combines the story of the Richardson family and their free-spirited renters the Warrens, while sharing a custody for a Chinese-American baby. Maybe I’m being too harsh. Ng is a great writer – but I didn’t feel like I got anything out of this story. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Related: Don’t Buy the Hype: Read This Not That 2018


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens

For years, Kya Clark has survived alone in the marshes of the North Carolina coast. Dubbed “The Marsh Girl” by the locals, she was abandoned by her family and has been raised by nature itself. Now, as she comes of age, she begins to year for something more than her loneliness – maybe even a connection with the locals. An exquisitely written tale that quickly became one of 2018’s bestselling booksWhere the Crawdads Sing is one of last year’s must-reads.

Read This Not That

Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

Hoping that the local historical society will pay for much needed repairs, Willa Knox starts digging into the history of her house. What she finds is a kindred soul in Thatcher Greenwood, a science teacher who lived there years ago – an early proponent of Darwin’s theory of evolution. I loved her novel, The Poisonwood Bible, but this tale was dull, dull, dull. Comparing the upheavals of  financial troubles with evolution seemed a bit much. Plus, whenever you start to get a tad bit into the story, it switched time periods, and you have to start all over again. Also, did I mention it was dull?

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

 


The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

The Woman in the Window
by A. J. Finn

Imagine the Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Rear Window meets the novel The Girl on the Train. Last year’s hottest psychological thriller peeks into the life of Anna Fox, a New York City recluse who, spying on the family across the street, witnesses a shocking event. With its unreliable narrator and layers of secrets, The Woman in the Window will keep you guessing to the end. If you read lots of thrillers, maybe you’ll be able to guess the twist, but I sure didn’t. This fun read kept me up late into the night, because I simply had to know what was really going on.

Read This Not That

The Witch Elm
by Tana French

Happy-go-lucky Toby’s life changes in an instance when he startles two burglars and is then beaten and left for dead. Trying to recover from his extensive injuries, Toby moves back to his family’s estate to care for his dying Uncle Hugo. Yet, when a skull is found in a trunk of an elm tree in the garden – Toby is forced to reevaluate what he knows about the past. Unfortunately, The Witch Elm takes 200 pages just to get to the discovery of the skull. You’d think from there it would pick up, but no. From there it plods along ever so slowly, without much of a thrill, to cap it off with a “plot twist” that felt all wrong. Most aggravating read of the year for me.

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Related: Best Books 2018: The Most Popular Books of the Year


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones

Selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club, An American Marriage is one of the top fiction books of 2018. At first glance, newlyweds Celestial and Roy seem like the perfect American couple. He’s a young executive, and she’s an emerging artist. However, when Roy is falsely imprisoned for a crime, can their marriage survive the strain? Discussing love, marriage, and race, this thought-provoking read is definitely one to add to your to-read list.

Read This Not That

Nine Perfect Strangers
by Liane Moriarty

Marketed as the perfect spot to turn over a new leaf, Tranquilium House is a luxurious and remote health resort. Ready for a change, nine strangers gather together for their life-changing stay. Could these ten days of pampering, relaxation and mindfulness have all the answers they are seeking? Or would it be better to leave this resort and never look back? Or is it already too late? I know I’m being a bit harsh here. I actually enjoyed the read, only because I had just read the horribly dull books The Witch Elm and Unsheltered. However, I have to admit that objectively I think this book belongs on the overrated books list. Especially since the ending veers way off into left field.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

 


Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild
by Cheryl Strayed

Sometimes it takes doing something crazy, like hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, for you to truly put your life in order. By 22, Cheryl Strayed’s life felt out of control, so she decided to make a life-changing decision to hike the PCT. Her story (and the subsequent movie) have inspired many women to search to find themselves in similar fashion. While I don’t think everyone needs to go on a crazy hike like she did, all of us could sometimes use a reset on our lives. You’ll laugh at Strayed’s mishaps, be in awe had her stupidity and bravery, and, if you are like me, really want to go for a hike.

Read This Not That

Eat, Pray, Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert

At the top of my overrated books list would probably be Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of self discovery as she eats her way through Italy, studies meditation in India, and finds love in Indonesia was not for me. Watching a 30 second segment of Julia Roberts eating glorious food in Italy – entertaining. Having Gilbert drone on about it for chapters – boring. I fell like I got conned into paying for the vacation of a very whiny rich lady.

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Related: Goodreads Winners 2018: Popularity Has Its Benefits


Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising
by Pierce Brown

Continuing my bestsellers list, I thought I’d jump over to science fiction. Living in a highly segregated society on Mars, Darrow belongs to the Red caste, the lowest of the low. Darrow is happy with his lot in life knowing that the Reds’ hard labor is getting Mars ready for future generations. Until Darrow realizes it’s all a sham. The elite Gold caste are simply using the Reds as slave labor. Can Darrow overthrow the Golds and restore freedom for the Reds? For the first book in the series, picture The Hunger Games meets Ender’s Game – giving you an exciting and fun read full of action.

Read This Not That

Artemis
by Andy Weir

Is it fair to compare Artemis to Andy Weir’s bestselling novel The Martian? Maybe not, but I’m going to do it anyway. While The Martian is every bit a bestseller worth the hype, Artemis is completely not. Set on a lunar city, Artemis follows brash smuggler Jazz Bashara accused of murder. Artemis tries to be a sci-fi murder mystery and thriller all rolled up in one and fails miserably. It doesn’t help that I really disliked all of the characters. Can we just bring back Mark Watney?

Artemis by Andy Weir

Related: Reading Challenge 2019: Read a Book a Week with Us


Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone
by Tomi Adeyemi

The book world was abuzz last year with excitement for this fantasy Young Adult novel, and rightfully so. Zélie Adebola watched as a ruthless king ordered the death of her mother and all the other maji in an effort to rid the world of magic. With one last chance Zélie must use the help of a rogue princess to restore magic before the crown prince manages to eradicate magic for good. Beautifully blending Nigerian mythology, symbols from the Yoruba religion and young adult fantasy, Tomi Adeyemi shines in her debut novel.

Read This Not That

City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare

I’ll probably get a ton of flak for listing this one among my overrated books because Cassandra Clare has a much beloved fandom. However, I could not stand her first book in The Mortal Instruments series. Clary Fray goes to a club not expecting to witness a murder – a murder only she can see. From there, she is thrust into the world of the Shadowhunters – a society dedicated to protecting the world from demons. Think Twilight meets Supernatural / Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you prefer well-written novels – I would suggest giving this one a pass and leaving it to the teenagers.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Let’s hear it! What overrated books have you read recently?

Our Read This Not That list is back! Find out which bestselling books we loved and which overrated books we suggest passing on this year.

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20 Comments

  • Reply Rachel @ Never Enough Novels March 18, 2019 at 9:52 am

    Happy Blogiversary!! I kept putting off Artemis because I had a feeling it wouldn’t live up to The Martian (which I adored). Sounds like I made a good decision! Also, I just have to say that Matt Damon was a spot-on choice for the movie. Love him!

  • Reply Gayathri March 19, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    I love this feature and I unsurprisingly have many of these books on my TBR. And I will be starting with The Woman in the Window. AND I met Pierce Brown last week, so I will be adding that to my TBR as well.

  • Reply Anna K Bretschneider March 21, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    I consumed both Eat Pray Love and Wild. I loved hem equally well. Julia Roberts would not have been my choice to portray Elizabeth Gilbert, however. I think Diane Lane would have been a better choice.
    Does Read This Not That have other articles? I love the suggestions!

  • Reply Melissa March 21, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    Great list! Just like last year’s, I agree with almost all of them, with one each year I disagree with (last year, Never Let Me Go, which I loved, this year Nine Perfect Strangers, which I gave three stars but found very entertaining), plus a couple both years that I’m not familiar with (but I’ll totally trust you about!).

  • Reply Kerry March 21, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    The Great Alone and The Woman in the Window were AMAZING books that I could not put down! Great choices!!! I liked Nine Perfect Strangers, but I wouldn’t rave about it and it certainly didn’t keep me thoroughly engrossed. I’ll be adding Wild to my reading list!

  • Reply CJ | A Well-Read Tart March 22, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    LOL. I see two of my favorite #DNFDecember books made the unfavorable part of the list. 😉 No surprise there! I also felt similarly about Nine Perfect Strangers. I did like it, but not as much as her others, and prob only liked it as much as I did because it came on the heels of #DNFDecember, lol.

  • Reply Danielle Dymond March 23, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    I agree with all of your picks. Many of these coats were riding on the coattails of the authors’ previous bestsellers and lacking substance. I would also add to the list “Elevation” by Stephen King and “Far from the Tree” by Robin Benway. I am working on “The Hundreds” by Kate Quinn and I think that will be a disappointment in comparison to “The Alice Network.”

  • Reply Danielle Dymond March 23, 2019 at 9:49 pm

    I agree with all of your picks. Many of these books were riding on the coattails of the authors’ previous bestsellers and lacking substance. I would also add to the list “Elevation” by Stephen King and “Far from the Tree” by Robin Benway. I am working on “The Hundreds” by Kate Quinn and I think that will be a disappointment in comparison to “The Alice Network.”

  • Reply Anonymous March 25, 2019 at 10:28 pm

    Little fires everywhere was such a great story about all the complexities and feelings around motherhood, I’m surprised you didn’t get anything out of it.

    • Reply Anonymous April 16, 2019 at 11:38 am

      I agree! I actual am cringing at the advice not to read it, I think it’s so important! The way it examines different aspects of culture, it’s take on motherhood… this was thought-provoking and powerful, in my opinion.

  • Reply Tina March 31, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    I totally agree with you about Little Fires Everywhere and The Witch Elm. They were not for me. The Great Alone and American Marriage were a few of my favorite books of 2018! I am reading Crawdads now. Great list!! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Meredith Hill April 10, 2019 at 8:27 am

    The Woman in the Window got just terrible reviews on Amazon. Everyone said it was boring, predictable, and a total waste of their money. So I hate to think how bad The Witch Elm must be. I haven’t read any of these books so I can’t comment on them. Actually that’s not entirely true. I did read Eat, Pray, Love and had mixed feelings about it. I agree that it was a spoiled woman’s perspective in a life adventure. However, it did make me want to see Bali very much.

    • Reply Rachael April 15, 2019 at 4:04 pm

      Yes, the Indonesian section of Eat, Pray, Love was by far the best chapters of the book. I think because I don’t read a lot of thrillers, I didn’t find The Woman in the Window predictable. But I can admit it was leagues better than The Witch Elm.

  • Reply Kiana April 10, 2019 at 9:36 am

    I agree with The Witch Elm.. I started that book and couldn’t even continue. Rarely have I ever quit reading a book but I got so bored with it I had to move on to something new.

    • Reply Rachael April 15, 2019 at 4:05 pm

      Trust me, you made the right choice. You really didn’t miss anything.

  • Reply Shandell April 11, 2019 at 6:38 pm

    I personally loved “Little Fires Everywhere” and “Artemis”, but to each their own. I also thoroughly enjoyed “Nine Perfect Strangers”; I found it quirky and entertaining. However, I can also see how it might be a tad overrated. I feel like Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies” lived up to the hype more than her most recent release. “An American Marriage” was phenomenal, but you have to be really into character development style writing to get into it, which Tayari Jones executed wonderfully. Nice review, even if I didn’t agree with all the picks.

    • Reply Rachael April 15, 2019 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks! I never expect everyone to agree with my list, but I’ve realized it’s best just to have an opinion. Gives much more lively discussion.

  • Reply mejaka April 12, 2019 at 12:08 am

    I liked _Little Fires Everywhere,_ but I haven’t read you pairing so can’t speak to your suggestion.

    Loved _Where the Crawdads Sing_ and find Kingsolver pretty generally overrated; I quit reading her several novels ago.

    _The Woman in the Window_ was good. Want more? Try _The Woman in Cabin 10_. I haven’t read _The Witch Elm_ but if it’s as slow as you say, maybe I won’t.

    I think I quit _Eat Pray Love_ in the middle. I made it through _Wild_, but I’ve never admired a protagonist less. She messed up, then ran away, she alternately whines about how nothing was really her fault and vaults herself to some kind of spiritual guide status, and the idea that any of it is noble or awe-inspiring is just beyond my understanding. _Wild_ would be my Not That choice, and the other book in the pair would be Robyn Davidson’s _Tracks._ She covered 1700 miles, and the pain she was burning out was not entirely of her own making.

    • Reply Rachael April 15, 2019 at 4:07 pm

      I just read The Woman in Cabin 10, and you’re right, it’s amazing. It might make next year’s list. I’ve never heard of tracks, so I’ll have to check it out!

  • Reply Meg April 24, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    I agree with previous posters about Little Fires Everywhere, it is a fantastic book about different aspects of motherhood and how it’s portrayed, and also how society treats “outsiders” and people in different classes. I think you need to read it with no expectations.

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