Discussing books is fun. Getting to compare notes on your favorite books is always enjoyable, but what is just as enjoyable is talking about the books you DON’T like. I’ve done many lists and discussions on this bog about books that I have enjoyed, but it can also be interesting to explore those books that one does not like - books that, dare I say, one even despises. Yes, I have read a few books over the years that were not my cup of tea, and talking about the whys of hating these books is just as much fun as discussing why I so love Gone With the Wind. So, in the spirit of all book discussions, I present here my top ten LEAST favorite books. (I don’t particularly like using the word hate...but in a few of these cases, the word is fairly applicable.) Feel free to disagree. That’s what makes it fun!
Now, I should make this disclaimer: I am in no way a fan of banning books. I am not demanding that NO one read these books. Many of these books are classics and have been favorites of millions of people of many years. I don't discount that at all. These books are simply one I did not enjoy. It's all open to discussion!
So, here they are...my top ten least favorite books…
1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I read this as a required reading in my sophomore English Honors class. I seem to recall throwing it against the wall on more than one occasion. This classic is supposed to be an examination of the brutality of the human spirit and a sort of creation allegory. All I saw was a bunch of bratty British prep school boys marooned on an island that proceeded to become even more grotesquely bratty. A friend of mine from high school and I decided together that this was the worst book we had ever read. 16 years later, whenever we see each other, we talk about two things: how much we loved marching band and how much we hated this book. We are often bound together by common hatred as much as common interests. Lord of the Flies is definitely a common hatred.
2. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Another required reading during sophomore year. This is also supposed to reveal something about human nature or some other twaddle. One of the most boring books I have read in my life. I could not find one redeeming character in the lot, not one person I was rooting for. Besides, the big “climatic surprise” is written in the front of almost every English textbook I’ve ever seen. (Hint: someone dies.) I could have gone my whole life without reading this one. Too bad for me.
3. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
My brother’s going to kill me for this one, but I can’t stand Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men is one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read in my life. My brother starred in our high school production of it, but that still couldn’t redeem the story to me. I wound up pretty much hating each and every character, and the ending just left me feeling bereft of any desire to have anything to do with these people ever again. Read it once. Never again.
4. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Yeah, I really, really don’t like Steinbeck. Others see a great American author who captured the mood and spirit of a desolate decade. Here’s what I remember about The Grapes of Wrath: that stupid turtle. My mother still remembers me coming downstairs during my junior year with the book in my hand, yelling “when will this blasted turtle ever get to the other side of the road and why should I care?!” I never got a satisfactory answer to that last question. What’s more, there was all this mystery about the “controversial” last page...maybe it’s a commentary on my generation, but I found no controversy or anything juicy in the final scene, it just was what it was. And the whole book was a disappointment. Bleh.
(And now I invite my brother to come back at me with whatever scathing review he would like to write of Jane Austen. Turnabout’s fair play.)
5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
I absolutely love The Lord of the Rings movies. I have seen the extended versions over and over again. But for some reason, I cannot get into books. I just can’t. I managed to force my way through The Hobbit, but I could not find it enjoyable. I tried, I really did. I felt guilty when I got to the end and discovered that I didn’t really like it at all. But truth is truth, and the truth is, I don’t like this book, and I can’t seem to read the other novels either. Maybe someday they will get to me. But not now.
6. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I did not do much “cliffing” books in high school. I generally wanted to read the required reading in my English classes. This is a book that I tried to read, then tried to get by with the Cliffs Notes. Honestly? I couldn’t even understand the Cliffs Notes. I am still not sure what this book was about. Surely it has some sort of great literary significance. It has become a classic since it was first published in 1866, and there must be some reason. Darned if I know what it is. I can’t even give you a decent summary of it.
7. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
I have enjoyed other books by Ms. Russell, and this one was supposed to be one of her greats. It certainly started out promising enough, with an intriguing storyline about a Jesuit-sponsored outer space trip to another planet. Ok, re-reading that last line makes me think I should have seen the weirdness coming. At any rate, this book is very promising for quite a while...and then all of a sudden, it takes a violent, weird, shocking turn at the end that somehow ruins the whole rest of the story. It was really rather interesting right up until that point...at which point I quit recommending it to others. Right away. Still gives me shivers to think about it. There’s plenty of other sci-fi in the world to keep a person busy. Stick to that.
8. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
“Oh great,” you may be thinking “just another Christian hating on Dan Brown.” Well, yes, Mr. Brown and I have some severe theological and philosophical differences, but what annoys the heck out of me in this book are his pathetic historical inaccuracies. He just sort of made up history as he went along, and far too many people took it as gospel. It is a fiction story - way too many people were duped into believing that so much of what he was saying was fact. All religious differences aside - AND THERE ARE MANY - really, there is no need to change the course of history in order to make a good book. History is interesting enough, thank you. And the ending? He totally “Grisham-ed” the ending. This is a term my father and I coined years back to define how John Grisham tends to write himself into a corner, not know what to do with his characters, so he puts them all on planes and sends them home. His endings are terrible. So is the ending to The DaVinci Code. Know where you’re headed with your characters. Don’t just send them all home in the end.
9. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Oh boy, now I have done it. As a girl who grew up in the Midwest, I am supposed to fawn over these books. They are supposed to be THE defining books of my girlhood. The truth? Never made it past the first one. I struggled through it because, well, I was supposed to, but I never moved on. Never had any desire to. The pioneer days are not an era of history that particularly fascinates me, and I never had any interest in continuing on with this series. I may get kicked out of the girl club, but there is my confession.
10. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
This book just held no particular interest to me. None of Jack London’s books do. Well written, just do not captivate my interest in the least. I forget the exist simply because I don’t fancy the subject matter. That’s all there is to it.
So! Now that I have opened this can of worms...agree with me? Yes? No? What books have you read over the years that you didn’t enjoy?