Monday, July 5, 2010

Books I Will Never Read (and a Few I Love)

Inspired by Amanda, who borrowed the idea from Nancy at Bookfoolery and Babble (from whom I have borrowed this cute graphic, I hope you don't mind.)  Sadly, many of these books are on those Best Books in the World lists like The Modern Library Top 100, which I had at one point hoped to finish.  It's just not going to happen.

My personal list:

1. Ulysses by James Joyce.  I know, it's one of those Great Books.  I just can't do stream of consciousness.  I'd like to think I'm not too stupid, but I just don't have the patience.

2.  Anything by Thomas Pynchon.  Because my roommate after college implied that I wasn't cerebral enough to "get him."  Hmpf.

3. Don Quixote.  Sounds really boring, and reaaaallly long.  Sorry, there are too many good books I still haven't read to suffer through that.

4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  Didn't like All the Pretty Horses, and it sounds just too depressing.  No thanks!

5.  Anything by Stephenie Meyer.  I have wasted too much time on her Twilight drivel.  I'd like those hours back but I guess that's too much to ask.

6.  Anything by Saul Bellow.  As a former Chicagoan, this is sacrilege, but I started Humbolt's Gift and found it pointless.

7.  The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.  I read As I Lay Dying, which I found confusing at first, but once I figured out all the characters it was pretty enjoyable.   For the life of me I could not get past 20 pages of S & F.  Stream of consciousness plus the constant changing of narrators is just too much trouble at this point in my life -- I have so many books on my to-read list, I am just going to pass on this one.  But I admire those of you who have actually finished this and even enjoyed it.. 

8.  Tropic of Cancer (and Tropic of Capricorn) by Henry Miller.  Tried reading it after seeing Henry &  June.  There was so much sex and foul language in it, I couldn't figure out what the story was supposed to be about.  I know, it's a groundbreaking, important book, blah blah blah.  I'm not opposed to sex or swearing in books, but this seemed like it was just lots of sex and and language to shock people.

9.  The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass.  Saw the movie in college, it was the most disturbing thing I've ever seen next to A Clockwork Orange.

10.  A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.  See #9.

Now, so I don't feel like a complete idjit, I have to add a short list of some books that many other people hate that I have actually loved:

1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck --  for years I had Fear of Steinbeck because of this book.  I could not put this down, thought it was fantastic.  Yes, it's depressing and parts are a little disturbing, but it was so worth it.

2.  Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.  Another one I was dreading.  Emma is a complete trainwreck, completely selfish and self-centered.  But fascinating.  Stayed up late reading it.

3.  Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.  I was one of the few people not forced to read this in high school.  I am so glad I read it as an adult when I could appreciate it.  Ethan's another fascinating train wreck.  It's so bleak but I've read it several times and it's still one of my favorites.

4.  The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.  See #3.  Not my first Wharton, but the one that made me a huge fan. Lily Bart is another heroine on a downward spiral, but I find her much more sympathetic than Emma Bovary. 

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Another book I somehow avoided in high school (my freshman English class watched the movie instead.  What a crap teacher).  The writing is so beautiful it's almost like poetry.  I'd love to hear it read aloud, must get an audiobook next time.

Does anyone else have a favorite book that everyone else hates?  What books will you never read?  I'd love to read your love/hate lists.


  1. Ooh I definitely want to do a post much like the second half of your post! Books I love that people seem to be afraid of. That's awesome!

    Sadly, I tried reading The Great Gatsby recently and I couldn't stand the prose and hated the plot. About 40 pages in, I gave up. I figure one day I'll try to read something else by Fitzgerald, but right now I'm no longer interested. :(

  2. So interesting how different books strike people differently. I know you're not a big Wharton fan either. I'd like to see your favorite feared books list.

  3. I don't think I will ever read Ulysses either. I should read one of his shorter works, but there are so many other books I want to read The Grapes of Wrath! I can't believe your teacher showed your class the video of The Great Gatsby. And s/he called him/herself an English teacher?!

  4. Miller (and many other 'x-pats' living in Paris during this time) wrote these novels/fictions

    they were VERY-WELL received and bought/read.
    Many justcranked these genre pieces out TO $$$$ SURVIVE!

    They were paid $1.00 per page so

    he made all of this "stuff" up for MONEY

    hardly if any of it was true.

    the REAL porn is droping bombs on people or running a bayonet through their belly

    or selling little children into sex-slavery
    in Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, NYC, Spokane, Seattle, (etc)

  5. I love all the ones that you loved except for Madame Bovary, which I got bored with and never finished. I have wanted to try again, and I hear there is a new translation coming out that I will probably try. We'll see!
    I'm just finishing one that I think is pretty high on the list of Modern Library's Top 100--All the King's Men. It's right up there with Grapes of Wrath for me. But there are many others on that list, like Ulysses, that I just don't get or enjoy.

  6. Your list of books you won't read could be mine! Apart from Don Quixote, which I still intend to read one of these days - but all those other books are ones I can't imagine I'll ever feel the need to pick up.

  7. I was always wary of Madame Bovary and was shocked when I finally picked it up and loved it. Can't say the same about The Grapes of Wrath but I read it when I was 16 so that may be a factor.

    A few of the authors that I really love (Dickens, Rushdie, Poe) are ones that intimidate readers for various reasons. It's sad when someone dismisses them out of hand. Then again, I am reading from the "1001 Books" list and there are some that I've marked as "won't read".

  8. Danielle -- I agree, I don't understand how this teacher got away with it! We only read three books in Freshman English that were any good -- To Kill a Mockingbird, Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer. We did not read Of Mice and Men, The Old Man and the Sea, The Red Pony, any of those classic novellas. Along with the Gatsby movie, we saw Romeo and Juliet -- did NOT read the play (not that it isn't a good movie, which it is. The Zeffirelli version.) We did actually read some good stories in our textbook that I remember. But it certainly isn't like high school curricula of today.

    And Grapes of Wrath IS really good, though I'm sure it's not for everyone. I may actually attempt Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

    Anonymous -- I'm not saying it's porn, and of course I think that crimes against children, bombing, etc. is far worse. I never said it was porn and I don't actually see the connection here. This is a book blog, so I'm pretty much sticking to books. Or chocolate.

    I just didn't see the literary value in Tropic of Cancer. Maybe if I knew the history or literary significance, I would have appreciated it more. I read Native Son this year, and though it wasn't my favorite book, I understand its literary importance.

    Shelley -- how is All the King's Men? I do want to read more of the ML Top 100, hopefully I'll get to that one someday.

    Jenny -- I suppose I should actually TRY to read Don Quixote some day. I'll feel better if I at least attempt to read all the important books. I know there was a recent translation that was supposed to be quite good.

    Kristen -- I was really intimidated by Dickens until I read Great Expectations in college, which I really enjoyed. I don't love all of Dickens (having a really hard time with The Old Curiosity Shop right now!) but I want to try to read all of them someday. I haven't tried Rushdie but hope to get to him someday too, I'd like to read Midnight's Children. And I still want to read Poe.

  9. Ulysses would probably be on my list too, yet I feel guilty. I should read it, yes I really should!

    I have read Clockwork Orange and it did impress me. I've also read one of the Henry Miller 'tropics' but can't remember which one, or indeed anything about it - says it all.

  10. Christine -- the movie was so disturbing I don't think I could face the book. Maybe it's not as intense as seeing it on screen. I did try to read a few pages years ago and was discouraged by the dialect so I gave up.

  11. Had to comment. I *hated* All the Pretty Horses, so so tedious, but you must read The Road. It could not be more different, and yes it is somewhat depressing but it has so much to say about humanity, a wonderful wonderful book, the best thing I read last year.
    thanks for sharing
    much love martine

  12. Martine -- glad I'm not the only one who didn't like All the Pretty Horses. I was really irritated by the lack of quotation marks for the dialogue -- I think it's kind of pretentious to ignore standard punctuation! Does he do that in The Road also?

    Based on your comment I may actually give it a try, though it'll probably be pretty far down on my to-read list, which is already more than 600 books. Sigh.

  13. After I started raving about how enraptured I was by The Hunger Games, people started asking me if I'd read The Road. I did, and I loved it. If I were the kind of person who demanded that other people like the same things I like in exactly the same way that I like them, I'd beg you to reconsider that one. But, then again, maybe I've just got this thing for emotional stories set in a future dystopia.

  14. I read Ulysses and hated it but I really enjoyed Don Quixote. I know what you mean about the film The Tin Drum but it wasn't quite as disturbing as Eraserhead.

  15. Tom -- I LOVED The Hunger Games! I made Gabriela read it and she loved it too. OK, I'll reconsider -- but does it have real punctuation? The lack of quotation marks in All the Pretty Horses was really annoying. I must have been an English teacher in a former life.

    Katrina -- I've had some positive feedback about DQ, so I may give it a try. And thankfully, I never saw Eraserhead.

    Today I was volunteering at the library and saw the copy of The Tin Drum. It's following me!!

  16. I too loved Madame Bovary. Am thinking I'll reread it when the new translation comes out in September. I wasn't crazy about Ethan Frome though. I liked other Wharton's better.

  17. Rebecca -- I didn't know about the new Bovary translation, very intriguing! I think I'll have to read it again -- thanks for telling me.

    One of my library book groups is discussing Summer by Wharton, which she called her hot version of Ethan Frome. I'm looking forward to comparing them, should post my review in a couple of weeks.

  18. I pretty much agree with your lists! I have read Don Quixote and loved it, but I read it for class and I'm not sure I would have attempted it otherwise. It's funny, but it does drag in places. I HATED The Sound and the Fury the first time I read it, then I read it in a college class and understood better what he was trying to do. I now appreciate the book, but it's certainly not a favorite or one I'd recommend to most people!
    On your likes, the only one I didn't like is Ethan Frome. I didn't necessarily dislike it, I just didn't like it compared to Wharton's other books.
    One book I hated that most people seem to like is She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. I kept imagining ways to kill the main the character and hoping she'd die...not good. I also agree on Twilight. I really, really, really wish I hadn't read those and could get that time back. I was stuck in an airport when I made an impulse buy on the first one and liked it, but it was downhill from there and the series had the stupidest ending. I also didn't like Beloved, which most people love. I thought it was poorly written and didn't like any of the characters, which made it hard to care about what Morrison was trying to say. I think most people don't want to offer any criticism of the novel because of what she was trying to say. But, a lot of people love it so maybe I'm wrong.

  19. LIndsey -- I think the problem with some of the books is that I was trying to read them on my own and I needed more background, explanation, etc. I read War & Peace in college and I remember rather liking it, but we took the whole semester and learned all about it.

    I've read Beloved and it was disturbing but I could sort of appreciate the point of the book. Not something I'd like to read again.