So Many Bad Books, So Little Time

There was quite a flurry of activity on Facebook last week regarding a list, supposedly put together by the BBC, of “classic” books.  Who truly put this list together remains a mystery because titles like the Harry Potter series were hanging out amidst Moby Dick and Jane Austen.  Go figure.  Anyhow, we were to put an x by the ones we read, indicate which ones we were interested in reading in the future and mark the ones we loved.

The thing that really struck me about this list, other than the fact that I hadn’t read half of them, were the comments by people commiserating on how they wasted time on certain books.  Several times “The Lord of the Flies” was lambasted.  I had to agree.  I nearly stopped reading that book when Piggy got voted off the island in a very violent fashion.

Then I got to thinking about other books over the years that got a thumbs down from me for various reasons (poorly written, awful subject, etc).  I realize that most people would give you a list of books that they *liked*, but I’m not most people.

So here we go.   Please be sure to leave comments about books that you couldn’t believe you wasted time reading.  It’s fun to be snarky.

A Thousand Acres – Jane Smiley
Awful.  Just awful.  I didn’t like any of the characters and I couldn’t believe that there was so much evil and dysfunction in one family.  If you like betrayal, incest and farming all wrapped up in one depressing package then this is the book for you.

Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
What can I say?  This book glorified an affair, period.  It was sappy, melodramatic and, quite frankly, nauseating.  When it was published, thousands of women flocked to Madison County, Iowa to see the covered bridges in the area.   I’m not sure what was sadder – this terrible book or the fact that people didn’t believe that it was fiction.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Okay, I’m going to go against thousands of people by saying that I thought this book was ghastly.  Please stop throwing things at your computer screen and hear me out. 

Besides the fact that the characters were two dimensional and annoying, and the writing was schlocky (thank you, Ellen P for that most descriptive word) I was disgusted that people couldn’t accept that it was FICTION.  My husband’s  co-worker actually left her church because of this book.  Adding to my frustration, I listened to it on CD.  The narrator could NOT imitate a French accent and came off as Inspector Clouseau.   I wanted to chuck the whole thing out the car window.  Tom Hanks totally dropped a few notches after producing the movie version.  Why Tom, why? 

Foucalt’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
This really wasn’t a book.  It was Umberto Eco’s way of saying that he was so much smarter than the rest of the plebs reading it.  Maybe there’s some MENSA member out there who loved it but I just didn’t get it at all.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville
I understand, theoretically, that this book was written on many levels.  I remain on the level that feels that an entire chapter about the “whiteness of the whale” was a total waste of my precious reading time.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
I was 17 years old when this book was forced on me by my senior English teacher.  Classic my a**.  It was completely depressing and left me feeling so bereft that I gave it up halfway and skimmed the Cliffs Notes.  Dreadful.  Why would ANYONE give this to a high school student to read?  It’s like teen abuse.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Yes, I know that this is not really literature.  It’s not even NORMAL.  I just want to know why VC Andrews didn’t get counseling for herself after writing a book about abused children and incest.  It’s also disturbing to me that her books continue to be written by a ghost writer 20+ years after her death.  Please, just give it a rest.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I didn’t hate this book like the ones listed above.   However, this author was one of the most self-absorbed people I’ve ever read about.  She took an entire chapter to describe her meditation routine in India, down to the minute fact that her ear was itching at one point and she had to learn to ignore it.  I was actually rooting for her ex-husband, whom (at the time she wrote the book)  she was trying unsuccessfully to divorce.   I hope her next one isn’t so self-important.

Well, I could go on and on, but there’s probably some unwritten blogging rule that says not to bore your audience with too many things in one post, especially if they’re negative.  All better now. 

Go ahead, tell me about a classic you just couldn’t abide.  It’s way cheaper than counseling and you will feel free and liberated.  Until the next bad book comes along.


4 thoughts on “So Many Bad Books, So Little Time

  1. The Scarlet Letter is a big one for me. I get it that there is lots of symbolism–lightness and darkness and all that–and I had a fabulous teacher who illuminated (pun intended) that quite nicely. So, it’s not like I lack respect for the book. I just didn’t care about it. At all. Of course I was 15 then–and maybe all I cared about was if my boyfriend wrote me a note during HIS English class. Who knows. I also have to confess that I hate Shakespeare plays. I do stand in awe of their long-term effects culture. I mean songs, books, shows, and movies still reference Romeo and Juliet like crazy. And I’m sure I only hate Shakespeare because I don’t understand his plays. But I won’t be expending the energy to turn that around anytime soon. How could I? In a time when I would be DEEPLY embarrassed for anyone to see how filthy my bathrooms are, in time when my children’s laundry is rarely clean when they need to wear it, and when the only time I get to read this blog is when I’m taking a break from homework to cram an English muffin with (probably salmonella laced) peanut butter down my throat, I’m not likely to drop everything and read Macbeth. Not gonna happen.

  2. Ha! This is the easiest question ever! I actually just asked someone the other day about the worst book they ever read and in the process ended up telling them about mine. Drum roll, please.

    I absolutely, postively cannot stand with the most seething loathing you can conjure up in your mind (ready for it?) the book, the Red Pony, by John Steinbeck. Horrid. Absolutely hated it.

    I read this book when I was in seventh grade and I will never forget it. I’ve read quite a few books, but this is the only one that will forever be burned in my mind.

    It’s all about a boy and his pony. The boy raises the pony, he loves the pony, he does everything with the pony. Sounds like a regular Black Beauty, doesn’t it? A real heart-warmer. That is until the blasted horse dies of some mysterious pony influenza because out hero didn’t cover the horse up like he was supposed to with a blanket and it rained. The horse falls ill and the rest is, as they say, history. Our boy feels horrible that his horse has kicked the bucket, to the point where you start to think he may need some medication. He is, however, able to accept it after his ranchhand buddy explains very simply that it’s the circle of life.

    This was apparently the whole point of the book, you see. You know. In the last five pages. The rest was just fluff about nothing used to suck me in. Okay, I can get with that. Really crappy trick, but I got it.

    But Steinbeck decided well, I’m not quite finished. Not just yet. He’s sitting at home (I’m assuming), bored out of his mind wondering what to do with the last ten pages of a 75 page book. He’s obviously getting paid by length and he’s come up short. So, now what does he do? He hops into a nice little short story about a girl and some dish. Just for kicks. Really? Really? I never even figured out the point of that one. It was just a nice story about a girl and a dish. Nice.

  3. I’m flattered that you quoted my disgusted sputtering about DaVinci. I keep joking with Mike about how we’re in for a treat when the “prequel” “Angels and Demons” film comes out this summer.

    The more I think about that “BBC” list the more I think it must have been bogus. Following up on my Facebook quandry, where is The Golden Notebook” (which I just had to replace)? where is “The Stranger” (which was on an LP endcap display)? Everytime I see something in the library, I keep thinking “hey, why wasn’t THAT there.”

    As to reading the classics, I like to believe what my dad said to me before he passed away when I was only 24: You’ll get to them someday. There are some I really do still want to read and I have made it a point to work them into my schedule. The others, I know I will never waste my time on. “Old Man and the Sea” fulfilled my Hemingway quota for my lifetime. I like to think I can make more informed choices now.

    Back to work replacing books people saw fit not return…

  4. Well, already avoided Dan Brown – any man who intentionally twists historical facts to mislead people to suite his belief system doesn’t need my monetary support. I think the only books I have read and actually quit…were several I tried to read by Peter Straub…boy howdy that man needs a new vocation.

    Classics I almost all enjoyed. Dickens was a dickens…but I don’t understand where Robinson Crusoe was on the list. I, too, own many of those books w/the intention of reading at a later date…probably when my vision is shot from reading blogs. 🙂

    I have avoided many of the alleged classics on the list…VC Andrews and Flies did nothing to interest me…and I guess as a farm boy The Red Pony didn’t scar me. Shakespeare I only enjoy as I took a college class where they explained his world and writing style…once I got it, it helped substantially. Otherwise…no dice. And no, I still don’t get Romeo. Just shows the CW’s angst stories are nothing new.

    I have been reading truly heavy books…Augustine and Aquinas…making me think a quick trip through some of these classics might not be so hard next time. When I am over 70 and have free time…

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