[“Read This, Not That” is an occasional column in which we unmask an overhyped book and recommend a similar, better book to read instead. You can follow it here, or follow all our ongoing features here.]

Do not read: The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown.

“Dan Brown is a hack” is codified somewhere in the Chamber Four constitution. In fact, we once had some stickers that said something to that effect. We say this for a reason. Because he is. He really sucks. I tried to read this book when it first came out. It’s terrible.

It’s pretty rare that I don’t finish a book, even a bad one. But this novel’s awfulness bested me. It sucks for the writing alone. The Da Vinci Code is known for its twisty plot, but that’s really the only selling point. Besides that, it has stilted language, is structured for readers with attention spans of less than 4 pages, and presents perhaps the flattest and most boring protagonist ever put to paper. This book seriously ought to insult the intelligence of a 4th grader. Here’s an example why:

Captain Bezu Fache carried himself like an angry ox, with his wide shoulders thrown back and his chin tucked hard into his chest. His dark hair was slicked back with oil, accentuating an arrow-like widow’s peak that divided his jutting brow and preceded him like the prow of a battleship. As he advanced, his dark eyes seemed to scorch the earth before him, radiating a fiery clarity that forecast his reputation for unblinking severity in all matters.

I’ll give a prize to whomever points out the most things wrong with that trio of sentences.


Read this instead: The Thousand, by Kevin Guilfoile.

The Thousand isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, in fact it’s sort of mediocre, but it’s infinitely more readable than The Da Vinci Code.  Like Brown’s novel, this has secret societies guarding ancient mysteries, and a plot buried in puzzles. Frankly, though, the secret society stuff is the worst part of this book. Guilfoile writes well enough, and he renders some interesting characters. I really like Canada Gold, who has a implant in her brain that makes her brain act almost like a computer. It’s pretty gimmicky for sure, but also different enough to keep things feeling interesting.

So where the above novel is all plot and little else, this has a plot that flounders a bit, but substance that at least remains engaging. I’ll have my full review up next week. It’s a decent thriller/mystery, so if you’re into that (or The Da Vinci Code), it’s worth a pick-up.