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The Wacky World Of Amazon One-Star Book Reviews

Here’s a great way to spend time when you’re bored.

First, head on over to Amazon, pick a book, any book (maybe start with a classic), then click on the one-star reviews.

Second, read said one-star reviews.

Third, be entertained.

Some of these reviewers are hilarious. Other reviewers, well, it’s surprising that they can read at all. Still, others, they’re just weird.

To have a little fun, I looked through some of the one-star reviews of some well-known literary novels, and here’s what I found (HT to Johann at Book Riot for the inspiration.)

This one reviewer took issue with Harper Lee’s large font choices. This poor person doesn’t mean to be funny, but she’s funny nonetheless.

Does Harper Lee have something against those of us with failing eyesight?

I have and love my hardback of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. But now I really need a larger font size. That’s why I got my Kindle. I read on the third-largest font size, and sometimes (after a long reading session) on the second-largest. Meaning I’ll probably never read the little-font TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD again.

Note that there’s not even the usual button to click to request a Kindle version. Lee must have her mind made up never to allow a digital version.

Shame on her. A great book but evidently a petty-minded author.

Yes, Harper Lee, at age 87, sits in her home and directs all the font choices and digital ownership decisions related to her classic novel published more than 50 years ago. Shame on you, Harper Lee, for bypassing your publisher with dictatorial font demands!

How ‘bout this one. I never reviewed Mrs. Dalloway on Amazon. But, if I did, it would probably read something like this. Mr. Sa Fyfe, otherwise known as “mojofyfee” has this to say about the Woolf novel:

I was happily grazing in the sunny uplands of my home town library when I was cornered by the insatiable Wolf. Come quick. I have survived the rapids of her flowing subconscious but am stuck in her growling semicolons.

Help. I’m seeing light at the wrong end of the tunnel.

You’re a clever one, mojofyfee.

Then there’s the reviewer who just doesn’t get it. I’ll be the first to say I didn’t really enjoy Lord of the Flies, but I hope my thoughts were a little more articulate than this.

The Lord of the Flies was without a doubt one of the stupidest and most pointless books I’ve ever read….There was no meaning or point to it at all! The book was about naked kids running around killing each other for no reason. It was retarded!

Actually, I think a book about naked kids killing each other for no reason might be pretty entertaining.

You know I had to read a review or two of the most difficult book in literature, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. It’s unreadable, as this reviewer points out.

Daferring on red hair moots the ramdelgerag! Cays hast ner eyed the entire lash from the libre, does get sidlelassinlunahack? And for ery’ scholar of jits and wallyfins, dare may cieved a consciousable readament of peering quenth Labrynth. Hark! Vain! Rack! Finnegans Wake dost injoyafun for the kathweolasopkookoo. One glance may planner read and ner open this Rhodical magnumus.

If you understood what I just wrote then you may just enjoy this book.

Powerful.

Now, on to poor Jonathan Franzen. Everyone seems to hate him these days (Remember how sassy Franzen is?), and this reviewer is no exception. Here, he reviews Franzen’s The Corrections.

“He left work at 4:30. In his Swedish sedan he wound his way up Kelly Drive and Lincoln Drive, out of the valley of the Schuylkill and its haze and expressway, its bright flat realities, up through tunnels of shadow and gothic arches of early-autumn leaves along the Wissahickon Creek, and back into the enchanted arboreality of Chestnut Hill.”

The above passage is:

a.) Yahoo!’s directions to Fort Washington, PA
b.) This year’s Bulwer-Lytton contest winner (…)
c.) Haiku
d.) The paragraph on page 226 of the infamous Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections that determined its early return to the Woodbury Public Library
e.) All of the above

If you selected d.) you are partially right – it is from The Corrections but it did not get returned prior to a full reading (although it should have been). I found The Corrections to be a tedious, boring (not a word I like to use when describing a book) and seriously overrated read. There is no doubt this book is about dysfunction, both personal and familial, but it does not in the least explore it dynamically. The characters are thin and I found that the only thing I wished for them was a quick demise.

Wow, that paragraph is from The Corrections? It’s terrible. I actually enjoyed the novel, though, and reviewed it favorably. Weird.

Next, how about this brief, zinger of a review on Beloved.

Shall I quote Ambrose Beirce? “The covers of this book are too far apart.”

Beloved wasn’t that bad of a novel.

Finally, here’s a ruthless review of Blood Meridian, which seems to be a novel that people either love or hate.

Seemingly obsessed with not writing a single simple, clear, elegant sentence, McCarthy weaves an entire novel out of simpler, unclear, awkward sentence fragments, as if he were doing his impression of Ernest Hemingway after a stroke. Twenty or thirty pages into this you want to say, “cut the song and dance and just tell the damned story.”

This book is a turd.

Hemingway after a stroke? Ouch. I think all negative reviews of books should be required to conclude with the sentence, “This book is a turd.”

That just really says it all, doesn’t it?

So the world of Amazon one-star reviews is pretty entertaining. These reviewers can be hilarious, even if they don’t mean to be.

We’ll do this again sometime.

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32 Comments Post a comment
  1. That is hilarious! I often do this with IMDB movie reviews as well. So much more entertaining than good reviews 🙂

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  2. I am never that bored but the second review had me lol …. I love the humor 🙂

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  3. Hilarious – thanks for such a funny post!

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  4. The Lord of the Flies review was totally a kid who got an F on his school book report because he didn’t read it.

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  5. Very funny stuff indeed. Great idea, very well-executed. Entertaining, but with some real meat on the bones here. I think the Finnegan’s Wake review is my favorite, but they’re all good. Thanks.

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  6. Tammy #

    I like the ones that review the price of the book…

    Like

    October 25, 2013
    • Right. As if the author has any control…

      Like

      October 25, 2013
  7. BookAddict #

    Hilarious! I have to share this on Twitter.

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  8. Funny! And just yesterday a friend forwarded me a really funny one star Amazon review of Haribo’s Sugar Free Gummy Bears. I was confused at first and e-mailed her back “Are you recommending these?” And then she explained. I had no idea one star reviews were a thing, but now I’ll be seeking them out.

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  9. An entertaining post. I also love reading one star reviews on Amazon. There are even one star reviews for The Grapes of Wrath!

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  10. Funny-sad. Those one-star “reviews” usually aren’t related to the actual content of the book (a review based on font size?) and tend to illuminate the reviewer’s dubious reading comprehension and critical thinking skills more clearly than the work itself (LOTF is about naked kids running around killing each other for no reason?). And the truth is, these one-star reviews genuinely hurt a lot of young new indie talent who’ve sweated blood and invested significant time and money in writing good work. If you don’t like a book, fine. It’s fair to write a bad review detailing the reasons why you didn’t. But don’t let your ignorance hurt authors unfairly, and those one-star reviews *do* hurt sales for fresh new writers. Complaining is not the same thing as reviewing a book. Book reviews actually review content of a body of work. So whining that the font is too small for your taste, or that you wanted a different ending, or name-calling gems such as “this book is a turd,” well … those aren’t really book reviews. They’re just heckles from the peanut gallery. The sad fact is that the people writing these “reviews” are the same people who probably SHOULD be reading more. So yay for them … Reading. Good. Yes!

    Like

    October 25, 2013
    • Agreed. Fortunately, these are all classics, which get 99% good reviews, so stupid people who give one stars doesn’t affect them that much. I would really think long and hard on ranking a book a one star on Amazon if it was a smaller author, or self published. It has to be really, really bad.

      Like

      October 25, 2013
  11. This topic was discussed during a novelist’s panel at LitQuake this past Saturday. One panelist noted that a friend’s novel had been given a pathetically awful review, so she decided to see what other books the reviewer had read and reviewed. Apparently, the only other thing he’d reviewed on Amazon was a leaf blower. Nuff said.

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  12. Emily #

    You should check out the blog leasthelpful.com. It looks at the least helpful reviews of objects on amazon, with some hilarious one-liner commentary. Usually the ones they highlight aren’t as smart as the ones you picked out, but hilarious none the less.

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  13. Hilariously entertaining. Makes me want to check out some of those reviews.

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  14. Even those not for books are pretty entertaining. An Amazon review sold me on licorice. “THESE ARE PURE CRACK. YOU HEAR ME? PURE CRACK. I EAT A BAG A DAY. Now I’m not going to order anymore because I kill them” or something like that.

    Usually, if I want more informed choices on whether or not I wanna buy/read a book, I go to goodreads. But Amazon is definitely the place to go for amusement. Plus, there’s a wider pool of ages (I can see grandparents hunched over their keyboards, pecking away and not capitalizing the “i”‘s…)

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  15. Thanks for posting.

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  16. I have read many reviews like these on Amazon. Even more painful, is looking “inside a book” and seeing that it isn’t written much better than the awful reviews. Not everyone is meant to be a writer, but somehow the world of “self-publishing” has created a broader landscape of “talent.” I don’t mean to be so critical, but we all have our gifts and although most people can put sentences together, not everyone is a great author.

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  17. This post was very funny. One-star reviews can sure provide loads of entertainment.

    Like

    October 25, 2013
  18. Ah, the one-star reviews. Some of these reviewers have some valuable things to say. Or, in many cases, just interesting. If only they could direct their powers towards good and not evil!
    –JW

    Like

    October 26, 2013
  19. Matt #

    I don’t think it’s even one star reviews that are funny. Around 99% of all people writing about literary classics on the internet don’t understand them. I’d say that this includes almost all reader reviews, and even most internet blogs.

    It’s impossible to understand a book without understand the author’s history, the time period, the literary movement that they belong to, etc. For example, the average reader wouldn’t be looking for Hawthorne’s thesis in “The Scarlett Letter” at the end of the first and final chapters, as well a repetition of it in the middle chapter. The educated reader knows to look for this because Hawthorne is a romantic author, but your average reader wouldn’t have a clue and miss the novel’s entire point.

    Most people just crack open the book at page one and read for plot. Which is okay, but that’s not what these geniuses were writing for.

    Like

    October 26, 2013
  20. I often enjoy reading bad reviews of books and movies more than I enjoy the positive ones! I frequently browse one-star Amazon reviews of classic books when I’m bored. A few weeks ago I was reading one-star reviews of Jane Austen’s masterpiece (in my opinion), Pride and Prejudice. Somebody described it as “like a Victorian Keeping up with the Kardashians” and others as “boring”, “pathetic” and “an insult to womanhood”. That is the first time I’ve heard Austen compared to the Kardashians and there are so many things wrong with that sentence!

    Austen isn’t to everyone’s taste and that’s fine. But I find it alternately amusing/irritating that so many people feel the need to insult classic novels simply because they didn’t enjoy them.

    Like

    October 27, 2013
  21. I just saw another post on this. I think they are hilarious!

    Like

    October 27, 2013
  22. Alexandra #

    I thought I was the only person who does that. I am so happy I’m not alone. Anything I want to buy on Amazon I read the one star reviews. The craziest ones to me are the ones who stop reading after the first chapter. My fiancé and I laugh at some of them.

    Like

    October 28, 2013
  23. Hilarious! I never thought of reading those before!!

    Like

    October 28, 2013
  24. Sandra Fitzgerald #

    Oh I agree the word ‘turd’ is definatly under used. Turd, turd,turd…there much better. Hilarious!

    Like

    October 29, 2013
  25. I also love the 5 star amazon reviews for obviously bad products (like the movies Howard the duck or from Justin to Kelly for example).

    Delusional people rock!

    Like

    November 2, 2013
  26. Izzi Wheeler #

    This is so funny. I’d read more by the guy who wrote the Woolf review! on iTunes, the reverse is usually the case, where the 5-star reviews from the die-hard fans are the more amusing submissions.

    Like

    November 4, 2013
  27. I’m a teacher and the post about Lord of the Flies sounds so familiar! But whether they get the ACTUAL point or not, HELLO? Naked boys running around murdering each other? Gee, sure sounds boring to me? (Sarcasm is lost on freshmen, though…)

    Of course, when I taught Brave New World to my seniors, they complained it was boring as well, because they were getting lost in the vocabulary. My response?. Brainwashing, cults, massive drug use, promiscuous sex , orgies, systematic euthanasia, and self-flagellation – and you’re BORED?! Sorry guys, there is NO district-approved PORNOGRAPHY on the reading list; this is the best I could do!

    Like

    November 24, 2013
  28. I always read the one star reviews first. I love the ones who say. “I will never read another book but this author. Thank God I got it for free.” Or “Couldn’t finish the book. I only read 20 pages.” Or the ones who give an author one star but are complaining about Amazon’s service. I picture these people as cranky, miserable hermits dressed in pajamas and living in their mother’s basement.

    Like

    March 25, 2015

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