Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves

Bookish Pet Peeves

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Top Ten Tuesday

Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl invited us to share our top ten bookish pet peeves this week. I’m not clear if this is supposed to focus on tropes/stereotypes/plot errors or pet peeves about physical books but I’m going to list some of each. Most of these don’t bother me as much as I make it sound like they do; it’s just more fun to sound cranky when I write this kind of thing. 😉

Bookish Pet Peeves

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The word hillbilly and books that perpetuate the stereotype. I was born and raised in the mountains of North Carolina and still call them home. That’s prime “hillbilly” country. Think of all your associations with the word. Ignorant, uneducated, moonshiner, meth, trashy trailer parks, etc. Am I close? That is not the reality. It’s out there, I won’t lie. But most of us are just regular people who work hard and do the best we can, just like everyone else in this world. Hearing my accent or learning where I’m from and assuming that I’m any of the above does a disservice to us both. This stereotype is one that has got to go.1

Incorrect geography This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the above and it’s pretty specific to one book (although I’m sure it happens more often). Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a fantastic book, period. But it did drive me crazy that characters living on the coast of North Carolina drove into Asheville to go shopping for the day. Folks, that is a 6-hour drive at the very least, and that’s at today’s speed limits. You would pass many larger cities with better shopping so this just doesn’t make sense. This error could have easily been avoided if someone had just pulled out a map.

Defacing library books Write in your own books if you must. Highlight them, dogear them, chew on them, whatever. I’ll cringe if I see it, but go for it; it’s your book. But library books are community property! Accidents happen but try your best to return them in the condition in which you checked them out!

Love triangles Oh my word. I’m so, so, so sick of love triangles! They crop up everywhere but they seem to be particularly prevalent in young adult books (or at least they were a few years ago). I had to back off a bit on YA fantasy because of them. I’m a shy girl; I was lucky to attract the attention of one guy at a time. And now the standard is two? Come on! Not to mention, that’s just too much drama for me.

Too many characters If your book has so many characters that you have to list them and write a brief biography for each one, you probably need to cut out some of the minor players. This isn’t a hard and fast rule for me, but it’s generally a pretty solid suggestion.2

Curly hair = wild personality I’m a curly girl by birth and I choose to wear my hair curly. I’m one of the most calm, rule-following people you will ever meet. But my hair sure can get wild and unruly. My hair ≠ my personality, so stop conflating the two! And while I’m at it, curly girls don’t brush our hair to tame it. Brushing just makes it bigger and frizzier. If you don’t have curly hair, just don’t write about it, okay?

Dual time books that don’t clearly indicate when each chapter is taking place Sure, there should be some clues in the text as to when events are happening, but if a book flashes back and forth through one character’s life, I sometimes get hopelessly lost and have to flip back to the beginning of a chapter to get oriented. In my ideal world, a chapter would begin and end by noting the date.3

Nonfiction with nonexistent bibliographies I’ve only come across this a few times. First of all, it’s only fair to credit your sources. But, most importantly to me as a reader, I would sometimes like to read more on a topic. The bibliography contains invaluable sources for further reading. Help an inquisitive reader out!

Footnotes in fiction Confession: I didn’t really care for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke because of what felt like pages and pages of footnotes. I’d completely lost the thread of the actual plot by the time I finished reading one footnote. Other books have done this as well. (I’m looking at you, Bartimaeus Trilogy. But at least your footnotes were funny.)4

End matter that I don’t find until I’ve finished the book This happens to me more on my Kindle than in print, but it does happen in both. An author or illustrator takes the time to create a dictionary of foreign/imaginary words, a map, a cast of characters, etc. and the first time I notice is when I turn the last page of the story. It’s not doing me much good then! I don’t know if it’s just that I’m not paying attention to the table of contents or if that kind of thing should be moved to the front so it’s more obvious. Either way, it feels like a wasted effort.

That’s my list! Do we share any of the same pet peeves? Link up every Tuesday at That Artsy Reader Girl!

  1. I haven’t read, nor do I intend to read, the book pictured in my collage.
  2. Thanks to my husband for this suggestion.
  3. Thanks to my mom for this one.
  4. Although your ultimate story arc was upsetting.

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  1. I agree with so many on your list. Useful information at the end of the book instead of the front for sure and dual timelines where I can’t tell which one I’m in are also high on my list. And, as someone with naturally curly hair, yes, I’d like us to not always be “wild.”

  2. You’ve come up with some very interesting pet-peeves–some I hadn’t thought of and that I’ll probably look for now. I’m in hate with re-spelling, When I see a lot of that in any story, I usually walk away.

  3. I share many of the pet peeves listed here — especially too many characters (a lot of multi-generation sagas as well as fantasy novels fall prey to this), nonsensical geography (makes the author look like they just phoned it in), stories told out of chronological order without clear indication of which time period you are in, footnotes in fiction (this really bothered me in A Gentleman in Moscow, it seemed so unmotivated), and unflagged end matter (useless by that point). Thanks for providing the opportunity to vent.

  4. One and two – definitely. Not cool in 2021. And the Asheville thig cracked me up. Yeah that’s a bit of a drive! Love triangles and dual timeline fuzziness can be issues too!

  5. This is a great list! I’m right there with you on too many characters and the end matter. I don’t remember what I was reading recently, but there was something at the end that would have been so much more helpful had I know about it when I began the book. Hmmm, I wonder what book I was reading…Ah, just found it in my sidebar. It was Circe by Madeline Miller. She listed all the gods and goddess mentioned in the book. Wish I had known at the time!

  6. Aww, I love footnotes in novels—the longer and cleverer, the better! I also love sprawling, multigenerational sagas or big fantasy novels with a huge cast of characters list. I share many of your other pet peeves, though!

  7. I don’t think I’ve read all that many books where curly haired girls are wild, at least not enough for it to be a pet peeve. The one pet peeve I do have is mainly in films where girls with curly hair are seen as ugly and they’re always given a makeover which usually involves straightening their hair to make them pretty. What kind of message is that sending out to young girls with curly hair?

  8. I loved this post. As a fellow curly haired person I agree with that pet peeve. Here is my post-

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