Okay, so there's way too many Top-5 lists, right? Why not come right out with the worst and confess the total annoyance a reader may feel after a terrible book (the kind you keep reading, despite the awfulness, rather than throwing at the wall). Please contribute your suggestions...
1. The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard: WWII-era story of the "ideal" man, a researcher in Japan and China who falls in love with a fifteen-year-old angel (of course, he waits till she is of age to seriously consider her as a companion). It's not the creepiness of his crush on her, but the author's characterization of this always well-dressed, perfectly groomed, wealthy, intelligent, respectful, proper, and unreal man-Alfred Leith. He's so perfect you actually begin hoping he does something awful, even so much as belch, just to take away the sainthood Hazzard smothers him in. The dialogue between he and his little darling is so contrived as to create laughs instead of romance.
2. The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier-Unhappy academic moves to Amherst, buys terrible house. Finds good friends and wonderful contractor, fixes up house on supply of endless funds. Begins wearing eye shadow to match the paint on her walls. Alas, wonderful contractor not suitable as companion because he's not an academic like her-but her good friends help remodel HIM so as to be worthy of their company. ICK.
3. PS I Love You by Cecilia Ahern-I only read this because the movie was coming out soon, and frankly, Gerard Butler, Harry Connick Jr, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are a trifecta of handsomeness. The movie wasn't ghastly, but the book was. The dialogue was so false and every single incident drizzled with sentimentality and too many coincidences to be real. Corny is the best word for it.
4. Winged Obsession by ???? This is a newish nonfiction title that could be great-it's about butterfly smugglers operating around the world, mostly set in Los Angeles, and the scale of the endangered-species trade is huge. Yet every specimen is referred to as looking like Angelina Jolie, or Beyonce, or Cher. Seriously, give the butterflies a break! The author name drops way too many brand names and celebrity names and cheap gay humor to make you take the actual issue of illegal smuggling seriously.
5. An Dantomine Eerly by JD R Middleton-I admit, it's probably me. I'm not smart enough to get this. Imagine drinking three pots of coffee, having your eyelids taped open, endless episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba on while a strobe light fills the room, with an audio tape of Ethel Merman playing, while you're trying to read James Joyce, all after having not slept for a week. That's sort of how I felt. I couldn't figure out if I was holding the book incorrectly or if I was just completely clueless to the meaning of the rambling phrases and images. I passed it on to a friend who called and wanted to know if this was, indeed, in English. (And yes, I realize this publisher will likely not send me anything ever again.)