My new Anti-TBR pile

I’ve been watching a lot more Booktubers lately (YouTube folks who vlog about books they read), and one of the things they’ve been discussing is their “Anti-TBR” pile: books they NEVER plan to read.

I think this is an interesting way to handle discussions of both “problematic” books and authors you simply have no interest in reading, for whatever reason, with the disclaimer upfront that these are not BAD books or authors (the discussions tend to set aside the truly problematic folks that we all know and avoid), but they are POPULAR books, leaving the door open for critique of the kinds of books that seem to have nothing but 5-star reviews across the board.

Also important to note is that all of the Booktubers answering the questions mention that no authors or readers are being shamed for liking or enjoying the books they mention in their videos – they’re just not to an individual reader’s taste. So it’s more like sharing some “unpopular opinions” about popular books currently being highlighted in the online discourse.

Here are the prompts from the “Anti-TBR” video, from the originator of this tag, Nicole & Her Books (whose video you may want to watch first below), along with my answers:

1 – A popular book EVERYONE loves that you have no interest in reading

I am a bit (okay, a LOT!) of a contrarian, and have lived a lot of my life instinctively avoiding the very things that seem to be most popular and beloved. I’m sure this has something to do with my Rebel personality type (check out Gretchen Rubin’s books if you don’t know what I’m talking about). So when I hear this question, I automatically have a list a mile long ready to roll.

But let’s narrow it down a bit, shall we?

Let’s focus on the Romance genre, and more specifically the Contemporary Romance subgenre. I’ve heard this book is super popular, although I’m not sure who is reading it, because (at least in the USA), I’ve never known anyone who’s read it: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

The premise itself is off-putting: dude trying to determine whether he has any ability to fall in love kicks off a “wife project” in a pseudo-scientific quest to find a wife. I mean, essentially this is the opening line and premise of Pride & Prejudice (“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”), but written by a dude about another dude from the perspective of the dude. Unfortunately, when you gender-swap a book to make it about a man hunting down the “perfect wife,” instead of a woman searching for the perfect husband, you’re stirring up a lot of gender norms and roles that are really going to piss me off. Let’s just say that rewriting Jane Austen’s classic from Mr. Darcy’s POV is an incredibly bad idea, in my humble opinion.

In short: I have no interest in a book about a guy trying to find love despite his social cluelessness; this sounds like something Elon Musk would write, and I don’t want to read any books by or about assholes like him, either.

2 – A classic book (or author) you don’t have any interest in reading

Speaking of classic romances I will 100% never read: let’s talk about Gone With the Wind!

Is it even a romance, or is it historic revisionism? Is the book better than the movie? Is the movie even worth watching? NO IDEA, because I never plan to read this book NOR see the movie!

Sorry, not sorry: books set during the Civil War are generally not my jam anyway, but especially if they are trying to justify slavery, suggest the South will rise again, or want me to feel pity for white southerners who can’t keep their wealth together as a result of being on the wrong side of a war fought over slavery. Nope, no way, not happening, keep your fawning epics, and stay the hell off of my bookshelf, Margaret Mitchell.

3 – A problematic author whose books you have no interest in reading

So many problematic authors, so little time. Which one shall I choose?

Let’s go with a relatively recent (2020) villain: I’m definitely not interested in reading Jeanine Cummins’ work, especially American Dirt.

I think it should be obvious that in this day and age I’d much rather read books set in Mexico that were written by folks with actual Mexican heritage (or, barring that, by folks with some real-life experience living respectfully in this country and reflecting its culture) than by white folks who only claim Latinx heritage when they think it will help them sell their books about Mexico and who, generally, have no authority to write about cartels, gangs, seeking asylum, or immigration.

In addition to that, I also have no interest in reading Cummins’ memoir, A Rip in Heaven, about two of her cousins who were raped and murdered. I mean, seriously? Have you no shame, woman? The concept of this book is so problematic, in so many ways, so I am hereby noping out of the entire Jeanine Cummins opus.

4 – An author you have read a couple of books from and have decided their books are not for you

I can’t say that I have any romance authors on this list that spring to mind, so let me go back to an older author whose books I’ve read. This one may shock you, but I’ve got to say I am done with Margaret Atwood.

I don’t hate Margaret Atwood, but I also don’t really like Margaret Atwood. And I’ve read enough of her novels to know that they all end in the same way: with none of the loose ends tied up, leaving the reader wondering why the hell she decided to just drop the story RIGHT THERE instead of coming to a logical conclusion of some kind – ANY KIND.

I also really just cannot deal with the way all of that Handmaid’s Tale stuff became threateningly, horrifyingly real in America during the Tangerine Tyrant’s Presidency. So thank you, Maggie, good luck with the rest of your career, I’m sure my lack of support will not hurt you in any way, but I am through with reading your books.

5 – A genre you have no interest in OR a genre you tried to get into and couldn’t

I cannot say that I flat-out hate fantasy or sci-fi, because I do read books that fall into these categories from time to time, but at this point in my life I’d say they’re not my favorite genre and I don’t tend to seek them out. If they fall into my lap and hit the right tropes, I may read them, but these days I’m really not into the kinds of dark, dystopian books I went after as a teen. I guess actually living in a dark dystopia will do that to a person. Go figure.

6 – A book you have bought but will never read

There is also a note for this prompt, which says “This can be a book you have unhauled/returned to the library unread.” Oh boy, I’ve got TONS of those!

Let’s stick with books I’ve bought but will never read, though, since those are a bit more revealing (after all, I check stuff out of the library to test it out first and see if it’s worth buying).

I think one of my most recent purchases that I will likely never read is a relatively new (2019) contemporary romance called 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne. I have nothing in particular against this book or author, but I mainly bought it for a romance course I was taking online that really disappointed me, so by extension I feel a certain type of way about this book, even though I haven’t read it. Sorry, Sally, but I will probably never read this book. If anyone else would like my copy, though, I will happily pass it on to you!

7 – A series you have no interest in reading OR a series you started and have DNF’d

NOTE: DNF’d stands for Did Not Finish.

If I invest in a series, I tend to read the whole thing. Especially in contemporary romance, this usually isn’t too hard to do since most of our series come in threes, and finishing a trilogy isn’t as hard as sticking with something like in a paranormal series or sci-fi/fantasy where there might be 10 or more books.


There is a series I have no interest in reading, and it is the Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn.

I know it’s super popular right now because of the TV show (which I also have no interest in watching), but yeah, no thanks. Historical romance is not generally my thing, although I’m usually more inclined to make exceptions for historical fiction that deals with history that isn’t focused on folks who are lily white, upper class/royalty, or that takes place in a country outside of the US/UK/colonial worldview.

As for a series I DNF’d, I will mention The Parasol Protectorate, which really intrigued me… until I read several different blog posts that nailed Gail Carriger for writing some incredibly racist horseshit in some of her other books. There’s no “historical” excuse for naming a Black character Soap because he “needs it more than others.” Just stop writing racist garbage and pretending it’s character development.

8 – A new release you have no interest in reading

I haven’t read Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, but her newest book, One Last Stop, is being suuuuuuuuuuper hyped right now, and I’m just not feeling it. I think it’s something about the idea of being stuck in a time loop on the NYC Subway? That just sounds SO gross to me, as a person who’s previously used the NYC Subway quite a bit and never found it to be terribly clean. I mean, I’m all for a good queer love story, but why is one half of the couple stuck on the subway? Why couldn’t she be stuck in a bohemian café in the Village instead? WHY?!?

I’m actually going to leave those two books on my “Want to Read” lists, for now, because I might come around eventually. Never say never, right?

On the other hand, the books I really have strong feelings against will be going on my new Anti-TBR list. It feels like a good place to put books I never plan to read, as well as a place to corral the truly problematic authors that I want to remember not to give my dollars to (authors who have physically or sexually abused people, racists, sexists, TERFs, any and all Nazi romance writers, the authors that publicly feud with reviewers, etc.).

What about you?

Do you have any strong opinions about popular books that you will NEVER, EVER read? Let me know in the comments below!

One Comment

  • Sandra M Yeaman

    Many of my not-to-read choices match yours, with some differences in specific genres, of course.

    1. That very short list of authors I discovered are unlikable, at least to me. I’ll keep the name to myself to protect both the author and myself.

    2. Genres I just can’t get into, though I try now and then because so many of them are the go-to genres for authors I know personally: science fiction, fantasy, horror. I’ve learned that Jonathan Maberry can make any genre, even those I don’t choose to read, worth the effort, so I’ll dip into a stack of books in those categories where I know the author.

    3. Books with overtly religious themes. But I relish books with a spiritual theme. I think it’s the reference to specific organized religions or what seem to be the religious rule-following behavior of characters that don’t catch my attention. The Left Behind series comes to mind. I actually read the entire series because I realized how much people around me believed it ˆcouldˆ happen and I wanted to learn more to try to understand. I took each book out from the library because I was determined not to spend money.

    4. Westerns and war stories (except for those by Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut).

    I love mysteries that have a psychological component or that pose ethical questions to the characters. And this introduces one of my exceptions for the genres above that I don’t read often: science fiction. If I know an author will use a science fiction story to make a point about current life, especially one touching on a polarizing issue, I will devour it.