My bookish “nope list” (aka, things that don’t interest me in books)

Do you ever read the description of a book, and even though it’s from your usual genre or maybe even from an author you usually like, it does not sound interesting at all?

I think we all have things that immediately make us want to pick up a book (for me, it’s dragons, female friendships, portal fantasy, found family, etc.), but there are also plenty of things that do the opposite. Today, I’m talking about my “nope list,” or things from books that don’t interest me, whether it’s a setting, character type, trope, style, etc. These aren’t necessarily deal-breakers, and there are exceptions to every one of these, but if I see a book with one or more of these things in the description, I say “nope.” I’m much less likely to pick it up, and if I do pick it up, I’m less likely to enjoy it.

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These aren’t things that I think are problematic or that shouldn’t be in books at all, nor are they triggers that I want to stay away from. They’re just things that I don’t care to read about. And that’s okay! We all have a nope list. So now let’s get into mine!

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High seas settings

It seemed like a year or two ago, the big trend in YA was mermaids and/or pirates. As much as I love the aesthetic of those things, I’m really not interested in reading about them in books, so I picked up almost none of those. The notable exceptions to this aversion, of course, are The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy and The Deep, which had other aspects to draw me in. Sorry, Elizabeth Swann.

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Generational stories

Every time I see a book that follows a family through multiple generations, I put it down immediately. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this that I genuinely enjoyed, and there’s something about it that just doesn’t appeal to me at all! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Genuine enemies-to-lovers

Allow me to explain what I mean. I do love a good enemies-to-lovers story, but I like the “Elizabeth and Darcy” brand, where they instantly dislike each other and swear to hate each other forever, then start to actually get to know each other and fall in love in the process.

What I can never understand is when two characters genuinely hate each other and at the same time are attracted to each other?? I’m sitting there thinking, “why are you kissing?? You don’t even like each other! You don’t even know each other!” It’s the reason I never understood the appeal of Jude and Cardan (sorry), and I think it’s the reason why a lot of YA romance is a nope from me.

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Books from POV of murderer/psychopath/stalker/villain

Obviously there are some incredible books out there from the POV of the villain where you actually get their version of events and come to sympathize with them a little, such as Vicious or Wicked, and some of those I really love! But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.

When books are from the POV from a truly despicable, irredeemable person who you’re supposed to hate, I don’t like it. I find it so uncomfortable seeing the world through their eyes; it makes me want to take a shower and scrub my skin for 10 hours. It’s the reason I will never read or watch You; it’s the reason that I’m withholding judgment but very unenthusiastic about the new Hunger Games prequel; the reason that Lolita is my least favorite book in the universe (and I’m still lowkey mad at professor who made me read it).

Plot focused books

I mean, I think anyone who looks at my favorite books can tell that I’m much more of a character and atmosphere reader. When the book cares more about the plot and the various twists and turns, I can’t force myself to get invested.

Assassins

WHY are there so many YA fantasy books with assassins?? (Is it because of Throne of Glass?) I don’t have a problem with assassins (that’s a phrase that would be concerning in pretty much every other context), but I’ve almost never been interested in them. Probably because I have absolutely no way of relating to their personal and moral struggles??

Books with no women

There’s pretty much no excuse in the year 2020 not to have women in your cast of characters. Still, there are a lot of books out there (especially older ones) that are all about men, and any time I’m recommended one of these I’m like:

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(I realize that this is a bit rich from someone who loves The Lord of the Rings with all of her soul lol. I told you there are exceptions.)

Fantasy court politics

I realize I’m probably in the minority for this, since court politics seems to be quite popular in fantasy. As always, there are exceptions: The Priory of the Orange Tree and Mistborn are some of my favorite fantasies, and both contain court politics. But when said politics are the main focus of the plot, I’m out. I don’t know why I can care so much about books with real world politics and so little about fantasy politics, but here we are.

Multiple first person POVs

With the exception of anything written by Alice Oseman (I Was Born For This is the ultimate example of a multiple first person POV done well), I find it difficult to switch between more than one first person perspective. I love multiple POVs in third person, but when everything is narrated by an I, I get confused about who’s speaking every time it switches.

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Soulmates

This is definitely more of a fanfiction trope than anything else, but any time it shows up in a book, I’m instantly put off. Even though I may joke about my OTP being soulmates, I really dislike the idea of actual soulmates, since I don’t think love is about Finding The Right Person, but rather finding people that you want to love. Finding a “soulmate” not only feels reductive, but it rings too much like instalove and raises too many questions for me (what happens if your “soulmate” dies?? what if someone doesn’t want a soulmate?? who decides these things and why??). Nope list.

80s and 90s settings

With the exceptions of Aristotle and Dante, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and Like a Love Story (bet you can’t guess what those books have in common), I’ve never read the description of a book set in the 80s or 90s and wanted to pick it up. I think part of this comes from reading/watching so many things from those time periods and getting annoyed at all the references I didn’t understand lol. There’s a lot of nostalgic media from these time periods right now, and for the most part I just don’t care.

Grimdark fantasy

I’ve definitely talked before about how the idea of a world in which every person is terrible and selfish and backstabbing does not appeal to me at all (hi, have some hopepunk book recs). Not only is this type of book incredibly disheartening, but it usually comes with plenty of abuse of women in a way that’s supposed to be “realistic” and “gritty.” No thanks. It’s the reason I’ll never be interested in Game of Thrones, and tbh much of the adult fantasy written by men.

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What’s on your nope list? Do you agree or disagree with anything on mine?

x Margaret

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46 thoughts on “My bookish “nope list” (aka, things that don’t interest me in books)

  1. I’m with you on the high seas setting. I’ve read a couple that explores the lore of sirens and those were a lot of fun, but, in general, I don’t gravitate towards that setting.
    I do have a weakness for fantasy politics, and Mistborn is a brilliant example of that trope done well and I like seeing the subtle manipulation that comes with fantasy politics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to know I’m not the only one on high seas settings!
      It’s funny, I did enjoy the fantasy politics in Mistborn, but in most books I’m not a fan. I think I like it as like a subplot, but not the main focus of the book 🙂

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  2. I have very few hard nopes, but there are variations of things I don’t like. YA books with teacher-student romantic relationship is a nope, if the relationship involves the MC. It can be a side story, but not the main story. I cannot recall reading a book without women since high school (Lord of the the Flies). They still write books without women? How odd to exclude 50% of the population.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh yep, that’s definitely an understandable nope! I am very glad that there don’t seem to be many books without women coming out these days, but there are still plenty of older ones out there that I have zero interest in. It certainly is an odd choice 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel like you covered your bases. Almost all of these I’m with you on. I ESPECIALLY dislike nautical/pirate/sea fear tropes as well. I’m over typical medieval fantasy and there was a year I wouldn’t touch multi-POV at all because I seemed to come across the first person kind so often. Then I discovered series that does multi-POV well.

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    1. Glad to hear you agree on some of these! I really think that a medieval fantasy has to be doing something new for me to be interested in it. Ahh interesting – I don’t mind multi-POV in third person most of the time. It’s nice to find when it’s done well, though!

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  4. I love the idea of a nope list and this is so interesting to read !! I am actually with you with high sea settings which it strange because I was obsessed (like embarrassingly obsessed) with Pirates of the Caribbean but I think because it restricts the characters too much as they are on a boat so I’m not eager to pick book with them up !!
    I definitely think there is a brand of enemies to lovers than I like and one that I don’t. I honestly don’t think I will love Jude and Cardan!! I much prefer the I don’t like you to friends to lovers type journey !!
    That Captain Holt gif for books with no women *chef’s kiss*
    I think I like fantasy court politics but I need to read more to know, you know!! So far when I see it mentioned I’m interested but I think it has to be done the right way for me !!
    yeah I don’t like soulmate stories either !! Just nope from me too !!
    I do like Grimdark fantasy but I honestly don’t think I’ve read enough to claim that now I think about it !! But I am with you when they make it dark by basically saying how much sexual assault can we get in one book and that does make me uncomfortable and I hate it too.
    Great post, I loved reading it ! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was obsessed with pirates of the caribbean too!! So I’m not sure why I’ve never been interested in a nautical setting, but it is pretty restrictive like you said.
      Yep, it really depends on the brand of enemies to lovers. If you’re like me, then you might not like Jude and Cardan either :/
      Ahaha that Captain Holt gif is perfect for so many situations 😂
      Yep, I can definitely understand that! I think I COULD enjoy books with court politics, but it’s certainly not something I gravitate toward.
      I mean, from what I hear, there is some great grimdark fantasy out there…I just don’t think it’s for me 🤷‍♀️ It is frustrating when they make it “dark” by including lots of violence against women 🙄
      Thanks so much, Sophie!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am 100% with you on genuine enemies to lovers. I just don’t understand how I’m supposed to want someone to fall in love with an abuser?? And while I do appreciate a well-written villain story, I really can’t deal with books that are narrated by someone who is completely irredeemable and follows them doing awful things. I somehow managed to get through American Psycho and felt sick by the end of it so I’ll never read it again and just stick to the movie. And I am excited about The Hunger Games prequel because I have a good feeling that Suzanne Collins will make a villain origin story work.

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    1. Yeah! There’s plenty of enemies to lovers out there that just does not appeal to me at all. Oh man, I think I would feel the same way reading American Psycho 😬 I’m trying to withhold judgment about the Hunger Games prequel until I actual read reviews, but at the moment I feel like it won’t be my favorite…

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  6. Oh, I really liked reading your Nope List 😄 I definitely agree on Assassins – I don’t find them that interesting, but I feel like Throne of Glass build up some hype for them. I also have grown a bit tired of Royal Fantasy, especially if there is an arranged marriage or a lot of politics 😅 I did appreciate The Storm Crow though as it put a spin on most Royal Fantasy tropes and had really great ideas! 🥰

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  7. I also can’t read (or watch) anything where none of the characters are redeemable. If I don’t have someone I can genuinely root for, I’m out. An off-shoot of that is stories that don’t end with hope. I can hang in there for a few books of a series if I know, in the end, good triumphs over evil, no matter how naive it sounds.

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  8. Okay, BUT, I see your LOTR note and I raise you the fact that every single woman in Middle-earth is single-handedly the most badass character in the universe. Tolkien literally wrote his wife into a character that then tricked & deceived the most powerful evil dude ever because he loved her so much, and I just? I hear you, LOTR is woefully short on women, but I also really appreciate how the women that are in it are usually pretty epic. Celeborn ain’t got nothin’ on Galadriel.

    Along that same vein, I am so over possessiveness when it comes to women (ie: I’m reading the second All Souls book right now, and the “but he’s a predator, it’s in his nature” is making me eye roll so hard, I may have a concussion). They are people, not property, why is this still a thing we have to talk about??

    Also, Cardan is gross, I literally don’t understand.

    One of my nope list things is second person. I just absolutely cannot. Nothing will convince me. And like all good moments when someone asks a question, I’ve completely blanked on literally everything else even though I know I have a list the size of Dumbledore’s Army of things I’ll nope, but ah well, here we are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, you’re absolutely right! It’s quality over quantity with Tolkien, right? 😉 As much as I wish there were more female characters in that universe, the ones that we do get are truly fantastic.

      Agh I don’t like that at all! 😠 Treating women like people seems like the bare minimum, and yet some books can’t even achieve that.

      Okay, I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way about Cardan 😬

      Oh interesting! The only book I can think of in second person is The Fifth Season, which I loved, but I can absolutely imagine disliking it in the hands of a lesser writer. And yep, I know the feeling of going completely blank when asked a question 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I honestly cannot explain to people why I liked the Folk of the Air trilogy, and I try not to rec it because it’s a MESS. Especially Cardan. He is the worst. And yet, here I am, preordering the novella. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it.

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  9. Multiple first person POVs. Multiple first person POVs!!! They drive me crazy, I always lose track of who is talking and what part of the story I’m in. I can’t name a single story where the author pulled it off. And genuine enemies-to-lovers ugh, what is the author thinking? Possibly the character dynamics just didn’t translate the way the author was hoping, but most of the time it’s just so aggressive and painful to read. And it sends the absolute worst message.

    Although I have to disagree about assassins. I won’t automatically read a book with an assassin, but I have enjoyed a few with them in it.

    I liked reading this list, even if it’s everything you DON’T like, haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right?? Multiple first person POVs are just too confusing. And yeah, that type of enemies to lovers is just not my thing AT ALL. I know that plenty of people enjoy it, but I will never understand the appeal 🤷‍♀️
      Ooh, I’d love any recommendations of books about assassins that you’ve enjoyed! I’d love to be proven wrong 😂
      Thanks so much, Sha – this was certainly a fun list to create! 😀

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  10. Omg, yes to this post!! I’ve always been a lover of enemies-to-lovers, but I hate the kind where they hate each other but are attracted to each other at the same time?? Like, no!! the beauty of the trope is that they truly dislike each other at first, & only when they are able to get to know each other better & establish a healthy relationship do they find each other attractive 😭😭😭 I’m sorry, but I still don’t fully understand Judecardan, especially when Holly Black decided to make them ~~in love~~ in the last book, despite all the angst that accompanied their relationship in the first two.
    Ahh, this is why I’m so cautious about reading fantasy books by straight white men!! Their worlds are usually incredibly misogynistic, & they make no effort to challenge it… which makes me wonder how they can come up with worlds with cool magic & dragons, but can’t come up with one where there’s gender equality 🤭 (This is why I always side-eye when people say Sanderson can write women… His worlds are incredibly misogynistic & the characters just accept it without question, and Mistborn literally has three women in its entire cast of characters. Just because he writes about some female characters with agency does not mean that he can write women.) & I hate how in grimdark fantasy, violence against women is just expected. actually, a part of me wants someone to write a book where the society is matriarchal & the men are the ones who face oppression… idk, just to give them a taste of their own medicine
    Okay, this comment is so long already, but lastly I wanna say that yes, the soulmate trope is super ehhhh. It’s honestly way more romantic when two characters aren’t ~meant to be~, but choose each other anyway. This is why I’ll never read SJM’s books—the concept of mates is more creepy than romantic to me 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, absolutely about enemies to lovers! Watching their dislike grow into grudging respect and then Something More is always fantastic… THAT’S the kind of enemies to lovers I can’t get enough of. Yeah, I’m discovering from the comments on this post that I’m not the only one who feels that way about judecardan, which is gratifying at least 😅
      Ugh yeah, it frustrates me to no end when male authors create misogynistic fantasy worlds with no attempt to challenge that. Like their imagination stops at the idea of women getting respect! Smh. I’d love to read a book with a matriarchal world!!
      Okay I didn’t know that mates was such a thing in SJM books and now I want to read them even less than I did before 😬 I completely agree that it’s so much more romantic when two characters DEFY fate to be together!!
      Thanks so much for your comment, Caitlin!! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Ah this is such a fun post! I have to agree that the soulmate thing is a bit…. well, I sometimes find it endearing and I’m certain there would be exception for that one in some stories, but basically I don’t really know if I want to believe in this kind of thing, it just feels too much like insta-love like you said and… that one is the biggest nope for me hahaha 🙂

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  12. i love this post so much, margaret!! i might have to do something like this (and credit you of course for the inspo!) since i’m running out of blog post ideas 😭 the way my heart broke when i saw you say genuine enemies to lovers / assassins… i love those things so much 🥺 but i definitely get why you don’t like them! i think i just like a lot of darker things aahh (though i also don’t get the appeal of judecardan, i love that infamous makeout-with-blade-held-to-throat scene 😭)

    but i definitely agree with you not liking fantasy books without women, soulmates, and 80s/90s. soulmates definitely leaves an easy pathway to writing bad insta-love, and i’m just not big on anything historical, though i do love ari and dante!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, May!! ❤ Ohh I'd love to see what's on your list! Ahaha well, SOMEONE'S got to love them, otherwise they wouldn't be such popular tropes, right? 😉 And wow, I hadn't realized before this post how many others agreed about judecardan 😳
      Yep, soulmates are definitely a slippery slope to instalove. And yes, ari and dante are the exception to everything!!! I love them ❤

      Like

  13. “I don’t have a problem with assassins (that’s a phrase that would be concerning in pretty much every other context)” dslakhjgalhdgs you’re so funny

    It’s funny how I’m half totally opposite these and half total agreement with them! I love high seas, assassins, and fantasy court politics, but I also prefer slow books and dislike genuine enemies-to-lovers and generational stories

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  14. i really liked this post, because i am much more familiar with reading people talk about the tropes that make them *want* to pick up a book, not stay away from it.
    i also didn’t think i’d have much of a big list, but now that i read your post, i am rethinking that! every time i “stay away” from certain books, it’s because they contain triggers for me, but i realized there were other things to that put me off.
    as you said, plot-focused books or “fantasy politics” are big no-nos for me. it’s already hard for me to get into fantasy to begin with, but every time people say: “there’s a lot of political intrigue”, i am literally “alright, i’m out”. it requires WAY to much work from my brain cells, hahah.
    i think books from the POV of the villain are so uncomfortable and awful to read. i really don’t know why anyone would put themselves under that willingly, honestly! as interesting as it may be, i think it would be just too disturbing for me to handle.
    i will say, though, i love myself some 80s and 90s settings. i think they’re really fun, but that’s probably me internalizing that vintage aesthetic is cute, therefore, books set in that time will be too, hahah. but my favorite book (ari & dante) and my favorite movie (super 8) are both set in the 80s, so i think i really just vibe with this time period indeed.
    great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, I definitely see the tropes that people like more often than this! Haha when I started this I didn’t think I would have very many either, but the list just got longer and longer 😅
      Yep yep, the political intrigue description is just not, well, intriguing to me 🤷‍♀️
      Yes, completely! I guess people read villain POV books because it’s interesting to try to understand their motivations?? I will never get the appeal, though.
      Ahaha that’s interesting! I do enjoy the vintage aesthetic, so maybe that’s why I tend to enjoy movies/tv set in the 80s/90s more than books? Because in visual media I can SEE it, but in books I just have to imagine it and that’s not as fun?? Idk!
      Thanks so much! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This post is my favorite thing ever, so even though I’m ridiculously late I can’t stop myself from commenting. I do like enemies to lovers, but I feel you on what you said. I like when the characters have a gradual progress as opposed to making out or jumping into bed together while hating each other. I can overlook attraction, but acting on it? Nah. It takes away from the “enemies” portion, and in that case, what was the point. (And I think Jude and Cardan are one of the worst ships I’ve ever seen. 😅

    I love first person narration, but oh my god, is it annoying when there are multiple first person narrators! I think two first person narrators can be pulled off (though MANY authors manage to make them sound so similar it’s a struggle to tell their voices apart) but more than that? No. I read a mystery-thriller last month that had 5+ narrators, all in first person, which was RIDICULOUS. (The book was good, though, which is one of the reasons I was mad at this decision.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh yay thanks so much! 😀 Ahaha yes exactly, I want that enemies-to-lovers to be as agonizing and slow-burn and full of character growth as possible 😂 I keep being surprised by how many people don’t like Jude/Cardan either, but it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in that!

      5+ narrators in first person??? No way, that’s FAR too many! I agree that two first person narrators can be done really well, but if it’s more than that I’m just confused the entire time.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Hello! I’m not easily entertained but this article did entertain me! I agree with most of your opinions but I really love books with different generations and also all sorts of enemy to lover type of romance. I guess we all have different opinions. Well, I look forward to more posts of yours! ;D

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh my God I pretty much agree with all of these 😂 I do like my good political SFF, though (FINDING good political SFF is a different matter). I…can like genuine enemies-to-lovers, but it takes a VERY careful hand and Jude and Cardan were Not It for me either.

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