TTT: My 10 Favorite Fictional Unlikable Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

For me, reading is all about the characters. I want them to be interesting. I want them to have chutzpah and gumption and a *teensy* bit of common sense. They need to develop, have interesting viewpoints, be flawed. So actually, I really like the normally “unlikable” characters. I think villains are interesting. They have goals, ambition, flaws, a story arc. My actual least favorite characters are not bad–they’re one dimensional. I have (and will continue to) stop reading a book if the main character

1) delights in violence and evil “just because”

2) they are wishy washy and let everyone walk over them with nary a peep of protest

3) don’t let anything change them over the course of the story

4) don’t have interesting flaws/motivation/back story

5) are continually whining

6) they have no self-awareness

Strong characters have flaws. And sometimes those flaws are formidable, horrible, and gut wrenching. But if they’re interesting, I’ll enjoy the book not despite, but because of the complexity.

From least to most favorite character (not necessarily book):

the narrator from My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

This is one of those books that people either love or hate. The main character is vain, petty, and totally willing to do what it takes to escape from her life in the form of keeping herself drugged. Like if Sleeping Beauty chose her curse. But although I couldn’t relate to the narrator I found this scenario so insanely outside my realm of understanding, I just had to keep reading. I wanted to understand this character even though I didn’t like her at all. That never happened. But it was still a great book in my opinion. An unapologetically unlikable figure.

pretty much everyone in The Secret History by Donna Tartt

I don’t have a favorite unfavorite character from this book. I love/hated them all equally. Like Moshfegh, Tartt is really skilled with unlikable characters. I would never want to inhabit their world, but I liked the peek through the window.

also pretty much everyone, but especially Behemoth in The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

I really love this book, where the Devil comes to Moscow, creates a witch, and then puts on a party. Behemoth is a monstrous (in size but also in behavior) black cat who also has a human form. I think he’s actually more unlikable than the Devil but he’s so much fun and creates so much mischief. Now I want to reread it.

Dorian Gray from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Oh Dorian, so vain and dumb to think that life wouldn’t eventually catch up with you… but it’s fun while it lasts.

Zenia from The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

She’s manipulative, gorgeous, and even her friends love to hate her. But you can’t really hate all that glamor and poise. At least I can’t. I think she also makes an appearance in several of Atwood’s short stories.

Olympia/Oly from Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Oly is kind of entitled to be unlikable. She’s dealt with a lot of traumatic crap in her life such as her parents purposefully trying to get their children to have “interesting” birth defects for their circus act….

the wizard from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I think the Witch of the West is pretty one dimensional in the original book–she’s much more complex in the Wicked books, but ultimately not unlikable, which negates her for this list. No, my favorite unlikable character from the first book is definitely the wizard. Oh that lovable humbug. He’s just such an American villainfaking it till he makes it. He becomes more likable in subsequent books in the series–leaning into his role as inventor, showman, and tinkerer honestly.

Hugo from The Epicure’s Lament by Kate Christensen

Hugo is so grumpy. He has so many hot takes. But this novel is complex and philosophical and I just really like him in spite of his grouchy behavior. Don’t attempt the sauce recipe he makes through. Blech. I did–and I’m telling you now–save yourself.

The Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Off with her head! I mean–almost everyone in these two books is unlikable. I don’t really like Alice all the time. Especially the Disney version where she comes off as a little insipid. But the book is so playful, so absurd and delightful, and no one embodies this quite as much as the Queen of Hearts and her bloodthirsty whims.

Lady Bracknell from The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

I’m actually not sure if Lady Bracknell is supposed to be unlikable. But since she tries to thwart the lovers–I’m counting it. I absolutely love this character and how snobby she is. This is a play where the writing is much more lovable than any of the characters to be honest, but it’s one of my absolute favorite…book is not the right word. Pieces of fiction? She’s a very complex character as well–probably the most complex in the play. She actually changes her mind rather than the circumstances changing to suit her. Although pretty much everything she says runs counter to my own beliefs, she just says it so decisively and with so much wit.

“I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like delicate exotic fruit; tough it and the bloom is gone.”

Lady Bracknell, Act One

Who is your favorite unlikable character? Let me know in the comments.

Baking for Bookworms: Homemade Ice-Cream Floats from The Secret History by Donna Tartt


The food in Donna Tartt’s book is an interesting mixture of the decadent (roasted lamb, exotic mushrooms, souffles, foie gras) and the hopelessly mundane school cafeteria food and bad coffee. Food helps delineate separate worlds of influence and privilege. As the protagonist, Richard, is largely an outsider, he notices the discrepancies between the displays of wealth shown by his classmates (even those that are not rich) and his own working class background. But this is still college, and many of the foods are comfort food or are “prescriptive” for things like hangovers. These ice cream floats are no exception:

“Charles closed the screen door behind him and wandered listlessly onto the porch in his red-striped bathrobe. ‘What you need,’ he said, ‘is an ice-cream float.’

‘You and your ice-cream floats.’

‘They work, I tell you. It’s very scientific. Cold things are good for nausea and…

‘The ice cream slows down your digestion. The Coke steles your stomach and the caffeine cures your headache. Sugar gives you energy. And besides, it makes you metabolize the alcohol faster. It’s the perfect food.'”                                                                                                  95-96

I won’t hazard a guess whether Charles is correct in saying that Coke floats are the perfect hangover cure, but it certainly sounds better than eating raw eggs.


You can use any soda you want for your floats, but this particular ice cream goes better with the darker colas because of the added brown sugar. If you don’t add the brown sugar, you can put it with orange soda or anything else that strikes your fancy.

Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream

This simple recipe is meant to be used in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can still use this recipe, just use a freezer gallon sized bag, put the mixture inside, and then mush it around every 20-30 minutes until its the right consistency.

  • 1 cup whole milk (whole milk really does work best, I wouldn’t use lower than 2%)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla paste (if you don’t want to use this specialty ingredient, just use about 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract total, but I like the little vanilla bean flecks without having to use a whole bean)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

My ice cream maker requires me to freeze the insert 24-48 hours ahead of making ice-cream. If yours is the same, make sure you do this first.

Whisk whole milk together with the sugar and salt until the sugar dissolves.

Add in the cream and vanilla and whisk to combine.

Put in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to let all the flavors come together and so the mixture can chill.

Make the ice-cream using your machine. Instead of spreading the ice-cream out in a tupperware container, I like to use a 8×8 inch pyrex baking dish so that it freezes faster. You can put whatever container you’re using in the freezer so that the ice cream doesn’t melt right away.

Freeze for at least another hour before eating.

To make the floats, scoop out some ice cream, add soda, and enjoy!


What’s your favorite hangover cure? or if you don’t drink, what’s one food that always makes you feel better? Let me know in the comments!

Women Writers Reading Challenge #36: The Secret History by Donna Tartt


I find that it always takes me a while to get through Donna Tartt’s books, but that the effort is always worthwhile. Her writing is so intelligent, so tightly controlled, and you get drawn into this parallel universe where insane things can happen and seem quite rational. Her characters are flawed, interesting, and dynamic. She works her narrative with a light hand, but every thing that happens seems as though it couldn’t happen any other way. She creates a sense of fate, destiny, or maybe it’s just inevitability, but it’s not necessarily predictable, or, if it is, you want to keep reading anyway.

I highly recommend this complex study of what it means to be young, to be intelligent, to belong, and to be evil. It’s a powerful work of fiction that will make you think and reconsider.