Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ten Books Others Love but I Hate

I was browsing a few new-to-me book blogs this afternoon and found one that got me to thinking about books that are "popular," "important," or prize winners despite my distaste for them. Take a look at the list posted at Faemom's:

1. Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe - I understand the political influence this book had when it was published preceding the American Civil War. The book accomplished exactly what its author intended it to accomplish. However, few books filled with so many stereotypical characters and so much ludicrous exaggeration are read and taught so many years later, nor would be Uncle Tom's Cabin if it were not a nearly perfect piece of propaganda.

2. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown - Terrible book that is written almost as a screen play with countless two-page chapters and choppy scenes that was indeed turned into a horribly boring movie. This is one of those Oliver Stone type distortions of history that the gullible amongst us will believe to be true. This is one of the most successful (in number of copies sold) bad books of the 21st century.

3. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand - I suppose that if I bought into Rand's political ideas this one would have been a lot less painful and, just as importantly, a lot less boring than it is. I read it because I was required to read it. Thank goodness that's over with.

4. Lord of the Rings -(whole series) - J.R.R. Tolkien -You have got to be kidding me. I find it impossible to lose myself in a world that makes it difficult for me to hold my eyes open. The writing is tedious, the books way too long, and the fantasy not that engaging.

5. Harry Potter (series) - I suspect that kids and young adults love these books for good reason but as an adult reader I could never forget that they were written with a very young audience in mind. Cute doesn't cut it at my age.

6. On the Road - Jack Kerouac - I tried this one in the late sixties and found it all kind of silly and pretentious at the same time, two attributes not all that easily combined. I tried the book again two years ago and found that it is worse than I remembered it.

7. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger - I read this one as a young man and found it amusing but not all that meaningful despite what my English teacher said about it beforehand. Is there a more overrated author from this period than Salinger?

8. Howl and Other Poems - Allen Ginsberg - Are you kidding me? Give me a break...a permanent one from this kind of tripe.

9. The Natural - Bernard Malamud - I'm a baseball nut and I love books on baseball, player memoirs, player biographies and even books largely filled with nothing but baseball statistics. I don't know what I expected this classic baseball book to be but it turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments in the baseball book genre that I've ever read. Perhaps it's my general dislike of fantasy and fairy tales that caused my reaction. I hated the Robert Redford movie of the same name also.

10. Beloved - Toni Morrison - This Pulitzer prize winner absolutely leaves me cold after several attempts to read it. I keep returning to it, starting completely over from the beginning, and expecting a different reading experience. Is that the definition of "crazy"?

You know, this was so easy that I wonder how many books I could list if I had the time to keep going...

42 comments:

  1. I agree about the Da Vinci Code. Really, one of the worst-written books I've ever read--and I only read it because someone said it was the Best Book Ever.

    I'm also not a big fan of JD Salinger, especially his other book, Franny and Zooey.

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  2. I actually do buy a lot of what Ayn Rand has to say (although pure capitalism has to be tempered with human mercy for the helpless, which is why capitalism coupled with solid religious actions is a great combination), and I still thought Atlas Shrugged sucked. She was not a novelist.

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  3. I agree with your top three. Did you actually read the Harry Potter series? I'd hardly call it cute. Awesome, but far from cute.

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  4. Katherine, "Franny and Zooey" didn't strike me as a very good novel either but since it's not rated so highly as "Catcher" it didn't cross my mind.

    Lots of people loved that Dan Brown garbage for sure and were very passionate about it...maybe because they want to believe it's factual?

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  5. I pretty much agree, factotum. I'm a believer that "compassionate conservatism" would work if it were actually given a chance by those who claimed that label.

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  6. sllee, I read most of the first book in the series and realized pretty early on what a chore the books would be for me, personally, to make my way through them. I flipped through each of the succeeding books and discussed them in some detail with friends who enjoyed them, watched a few minutes here and there from the various movies, etc.

    Yeah, I do think they were "cute" in the sense of flying cars to escape in and little magicians in training, etc. I see their appeal but I'm simply not a fan of "fantasy." I do like science fiction but goblins, gremlins, witches, ogres, talking animals, spells, wizards and the like are a turn off for me in a book.

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  7. I just may be the odd man out because I liked Da Vinci Code, but maybe that's because it was so funny to have people be actaully angry over it. I enjoyed Atlas Shrug until I realized the philosophy behind it is incrediably flawed. And I like the Lord of the Rings, but I think you have to like the genre to enjoy it. I totally agree on The Catcher in the Rye; I can't even remember what he wrote, which means it was pretty bad. Franny and Zooey has its moments but it's too wordy. Just in my humble opinion. And I enjoyed reading some of your other posts.

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  8. I agree with most of your selections, but I am a Catcher fan.

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  9. Of the books you list that I've read, I totally agree. I didn't get very far with Harry Potter though - the writing was far too precious!!

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  10. Of the books you mentioned that I recognize, I liked most of them. Hearing what others said about the Da Vinci Code I just knew it wasn't for me. I don't think I'd ever be convinced to try that book. I liked Lord of the Rings but never could get through any of the "additional" books of the tales- like the Silmarillion. Terribly tedious. His more light-hearted books like The Hobbit and the children's titles- Roverandom, Mr. Bliss, Smith of Wooten Major- are much better (in my opinion).

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  11. I couldn't get into The Catcher in the Rye. Tried three times; couldn't get past page 10. I read the Fellowship of the Ring and decided it wasn't worth reading the other two (though I did read The Hobbit when I was in high school). I should've known better than to even consider reading The DaVinci Code. Except Harry Potter, I haven't read the rest--but I (along with my 20-something sisters, 30-something friends, and 50-something parents) love that series.

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  12. It's interesting - most of the titles you've named seem to appear often on lists of this sort (including my own, when I wrote a similar post a few months ago). Makes you wonder who actually does like The Catcher in the Rye, or the Beatniks, apart from adolescents who've been duped into thinking they actually say something.

    I'm half convinced there's a gene for appreciation of Nordic-inspired fantasy. I don't have it either.

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  13. Hi Sam:
    Chalk me up as another reader who doesn't like the labored prose of Toni Morrison.

    However, I think you're missing the bigger picture with "On the Road." It's an important book -- and a very good one.

    Here's my take on it: http://tiny.cc/IQk34

    I'm also mystified by your dislike of "Howl." I'd suggest another hard look at the Beats. Put them in context of their time and their influence.

    I'm also a huge fan of "Catcher in the Rye." It's a book so real -- so intense and capture character and voice so well.

    I'm not sure I'd call the "Da Vinci Code" important -- but for a fast beach read that left me entertained -- I thought it worked great. And try to remember -- it's fiction, not history.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post!

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  14. Sam,
    While I do like the Harry Potter series (and I've only read up to book 4) I do agree with your other selections. I hate to say it but I hated anything that Toni Morrison wrote, and The Da Vinci Code was horrible! Great list!

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  15. Faemom, "Da Vinci" doesn't particularly anger me. It just impresses me as a very lazy style of writing and one that I don't enjoy at all. I assume most people will understand the difference between fact and fiction but these days I do wonder a bit more than I used to. :-)

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  16. Bybee, I would be shocked it too many people agreed with the whole list. In fact, I'm a little surprised that so many seem to agree with as much of it as they do...sorta ruins my post title. :-)

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  17. I like that description of the Potter books, dreamqueen. IMO, it fits perfectly.

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  18. Thanks, Jeane, for making me feel a little better about my post title. I expected more posts like yours. :-)

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  19. Jena, Potter is always the one that most people disagree with me on so I'm not surprised at all.

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  20. Mella, that's a gene theory that I can buy. It seems a reader is either born a fan of that stuff...or not. I don't know anyone in my whole family who enjoys reading it, so it must be hereditary. :-)

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  21. gfs3, I think my problem with "Howl" is my knowledge of the man who wrote it. He stood for some things and worked for a particular group that I just can't tolerate and I have a hard time divorcing that information from his writing.

    Also, for much of the wild sixties and early seventies I was in the Army and had a different outlook when it came to that lifestyle or the one that led up to it. I always kind of chuckled at books like "On the Road" because, to me personally, they seemed so childish.

    I know that might not be a fair way to assess the value of either of the books - they are only on the list because of my individual reaction to them.

    I'll check out your thoughts...thanks for the link.

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  22. Kristina, thanks for that. Another vote for Mr. Potter...you guys are going to force me to try reading the series again if this keeps up.

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  23. Don't do it, Sam! Don't waste your time on Harry Potter; there are way too many other books in the world.

    I mostly agree with your list. I think the only exception would be "Lord of the Rings'" though it's odd because I don't like Sci-Fi/Fantasy as a general rule.

    "Howl" was HORRIBLE!

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  24. I've never understand why Catcher in the Rye is considered so important, either.

    I've never read Ayn Rand, but I find that people who list Atlas Shrugged as their "favourite book" to be pretentious. You know they actually read Stephen King or Danielle Steel like regular people! (Which is just fine.)

    I read the entire Potter series because I wanted to find out what happened (and I'm a children's librarian, it was almost a job requirement). But if they're not for you, they're not for you.

    I confess that I considered Dan Brown's Angels and Demons a very guilty pleasure last year for book club, but have never wanted to read the Da Vinci Code and worry about people who think he's an actually gifted author.

    I've never read Lord of the Rings either, hooray! I even feel asleep during the movies, which my husband will never let me live down. I never even managed to get all the way through The Hobbit, even though that's almost as big a children's librarian sin as not read Harry Potter.

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  25. The Da Vinci Code has to be the prime contender for the Worst Book in the World. Nobody else comes close.

    Oh, I don't know James Joyce's Ulysses might pip it at the post or is that heresy?

    Does anybody know anybody who has actually read this book? or anything by Salman Rushdie as well?

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  26. I agree with your picks and admire your taking a position but I would encourage you to read "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison. I thought it was her best. Your blog is in my Daily Reads folder. Thank you.

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  27. Don't start me on The Da Vinci Code.

    I'd only disagree with you on LotR and Harry Potter.

    Never read The Natural. Sports books. Bah. Have you read Last Days of Summer by Steven Kluger?

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  28. I wandered across your blog while doing research for one book I'm currently writing an essay on, and clicked on this post purely out of curiosity.


    It's completely shocking to me that you have the nerve to simply dismiss such critically acclaimed and classic books. Frankly, I think it makes you loose all credibility.

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  29. Chloe, apparently you have difficulty in reading "tone" when it comes to the post. I am more or less admitting in the title that I know that I am in a distinct minority when it comes to most of the books I've listed. It is a matter of personal taste, and that's why I "hate" the ones I listed.

    I suggest you learn to read with a little more understanding of the subtleties involved if you want your criticism to have any credibility.

    Good luck...

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  30. J. Anne, finally someone who doesn't go for Mr. Potter and his gang...pleasant change, that.

    I can't explain why Lord of the Rings bored me so much - probably because I just didn't buy the basic premise.

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  31. Interesting comments, Librarian. It sounds as if we have a lot in common when it comes to reading choices.

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  32. Brooks, the only Rushdie book I've read is "Shalimar the Clown." It's a little more conventional than most of his books and was much easier to follow because of that...strong plot and interesting characters with a great setting. You might like that one.

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  33. Lady, thanks for reading the blog, much appreciated. I'll take a look at that Morrison book soon. Thanks for the advice.

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  34. Carrie, sounds as if you are a fantasy fan. Sometimes I wish I were because so many people seem to have so much fun with that kind of reading...just can't change my nature at this point. :-)

    I haven't read that Kluger book. I'll take a look for it, thanks.

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  35. I think you're right, Sam, we seem to have a fair bit in common reading-wise. And I agree that it would maybe be nice to be a fantasy fan, there are certainly many, many reading choices out there. But it's just not for me, either.

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  36. I suppose we'll have to learn to live with the reading genes we were born with, Librarian. :-)

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  37. Thank you, thank you and thank you. I thought I was the only one that hated some of these books, especially DaVinci. Boring and badly written (as were others of his I've read). I was about to read Atlas Shrugged, but since I agreed with your other comments, I think I'll skip it and check out some of your favorites.

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  38. Glad to help out a little, Alison. :-)

    Don't pay any attention to Chloe. LOL

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  39. The Harry Potter books hold no interest for me. I am not into fantasy.

    I never understood the adulation for Toni Morrison. Her books are awful, IMO, and I do not think she is a very likeable person.

    I always got a kick out of all the furor over The DaVinci Code, all the religious agitation from people who do not know that fiction means "not true". And as for the quality or lack of quality of the writing......Brown is a storyteller, not a writer. He is formulaic to the 9th degree.

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  40. Thanks for the comments, JoAnn. I can't say that I disagree with any of what you said, including your assessment of Morrison's personality.

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  41. Ayn Rand, ugh! She tries to bludgeon you to death with her self-righteous greed is good individualism page after page after page after page. Really boring.

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  42. And yet, Karlo, she is still studied in schools around the world. I never took to her style or her message but I've met many who admire her and consider her to be one of their all-time favorite writers. Why, I will never understand.

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