Friday, July 9, 2010

Books I Can't Face Reading

It seems that book bloggers are coming out and naming some of the books they haven't or just can't want to read. After seeing Kailana's post at The Written World and Amanda's post at The Zen Leaf, I was inspired to create my own list.

Don QuixoteRequired High School Reading
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

These were all recommended reading, except Don Quixote. Cervantes was required - in its original Spanish - for Spanish 5. I dropped the class. 4 years of Spanish was going to have to be enough. I know my limits and my grade point average was not going to react kindly to fighting windmills, even if those windmills were allowed to be read in English.

The Canterbury Tales (Oxford World's Classics)Really Old Books
Odyssey and The Illiad by Homer 
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

I've heard wonderful things. The stories are mythic and the basis for many modern tales. They are also written in a style that'll make me want to poke my eyes out. To understand them, I'd probably need some sort of Cliff's Notes, and I'm really way too old to be "cheating" at understanding a book.

Anna Karenina (Oprah's Book Club)Heavy Translated Books
Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 
Anna Karenina and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

I'm not good with translated books, but I'll usually make the effort if the story is fun. These books are heavy and I don't imagine I would even understand what was trying to be said, even in English. I may one day sit down and read Anna Karenina, but only because I want to read Android Karenina. I love the motivation the new mash-ups bring to the table.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManSounds Like Torture
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Moby Dick is long. Both The Old Man and the Sea and Moby Dick are about fish or fishing or something boat related. James Joyce is kind of the devil. Ulysses could have very likely been the death of me. Joyce's particular style makes me want to weep.

On the Road (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)All the Cool Kids Read It
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

You know those books that everyone has read? The ones that even happily confirmed non-readers had read? One the Road strikes me as the must read book for every angsty teen that lusts for freedom. Pass. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came out of nowhere. I don't have a clue what it's about. I've read the synopses. I've read articles praising it mercilessly. I've heard time and again - "You MUST read this book." And I still can't grasp the concept. It's a mystery, I think. The hype has driven me far, far away. Eat, Pray, Love is nonfiction (pass) and a women traveling (no, maybe I'll try it) and finding spiritual enlightenment (never mind, pass).

The Secret GardenPersonal Issues
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

People love this classic children's story. Those people were probably not dragged to a play based on the book by the Girl Scouts. Yup, I was a Girl Scout. And yes, they routinely scarred me for life with their merit badge-related outings.  Dress like a clown (at 12 years old) and be forced to "adopt-a-spot"? Check. Have all the local newspapers take your picture while dressed like clown covered in garbage? Check. Have everyone you know learn you a.) are a Girl Scout and b.) publicly dressed like a clown on a random weekend? Double check. So when the Girl Scouts dragged me to this play with no prior knowledge of the book, I was bored. Out of my mind. So much so that even now, I can't even think about reading the book without looking for some sort of escape route.

Are any of these books really so unbelievably amazing that I'm doing myself a disservice by avoiding them? What "essential" books make you want to run away screaming?


  1. What a fun post. I can't seem my self to read Eat, Pray, Love either! :)

  2. I like The Secret Garden, Catcher in the Rye and The Grapes of Wrath. I agree with the rest of your list. Except, I have The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on my Kindle and may get to it some day. I would like to add another category - books written in dialect. I have been assigned Huck Finn 4 times in various levels of English classes and still have not managed to read it all the way through.

  3. @Juju - Thanks! I often wonder if I just don't understand what the fuss is about or if I really won't like a book. These are the books that I'm pretty positive I won't enjoy at all.

  4. @Kathy Martin - Dialect killed me with The Red Badge of Courage. And the cockney in A Clockwork Orange hurt my head. I'm totally with you on that, though I do hope to read Huck Finn someday.

  5. I have girl with a dragon tattoo to read but maybe when TRP gets lower ..but I have no desire to read Eat Pray love and right now I don't Oprah recommendations for books or any major magazine now..Haven't even read the road yet

  6. The Iliad and the Odyssey are very difficult to read. I was lucky enough to have to read them for a literature course and the teacher was amazing, so they were fun at the time. Would I ever pick them up again, probably not!

    I love The Secret Garden though :) I read it for the first time when I was very little, and have loved it ever since!

  7. I'm a Steinbeck fan so, even though I haven't read Grapes of Wrath yet, I'm inclined to think it's good. You're not missing much with The Odyssey, Catcher in the Rye (gasp! No, I didn't like am American classic), Moby Dick or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I liked but was not blown away by). I love The Secret Garden movie (NOT the hallmark version...the other one). So, I've been wanting to read that. Fun post!

  8. Okay, ironically, two of these books you include here are ones I used on a follow up post to my "haven't read" as "have read" - books that are so wonderful but people are intimidated about. The first is The Grapes of Wrath, which I thought I would hate going into it. It ended up being one of the best books I've ever read. I gobbled it up in 3 days and could not put it down. Definitely worth reading and it's not at all like people make it sound! The other is The Old Man and the Sea, which I thought would bore me to tears. An old man is out on the sea wrestling with a fish that's larger than his boat? Sounds BORING. But it's NOT. It's not really about the fishing, it's about the old man wrestling with his identity when people find him too old to be useful, it's about always fighting, enduring to the end, keeping going no matter what insults people throw at you. I love that book so much I've read it 3-4 times and I'm up for another reread soon!

    On the other hand - Don Quixote, BLEAGH. I was forced to read that and hated every minute of it. It only went downhill from the windmills on.

  9. I had to read The Old Man and the Sea for school and it may be a teeny tiny book but - oh my freaking goodness - what a waste of a perfectly good forest. I reached the end and literally wanted to drown the darn thing in the toilet. Here's a summary of the plot ... guy goes fishing, OMG what a HUGE fish, tries to catch it, tries to catch it, tries to catch it ... you get the point ... CATCHES IT!!! ... OMG it's a heavy fish, the boat can barely pull it ... OMG SHARKS!!! (or something) ... om nom nom, tasty fish ... no more fish. Complete and utter waste of time.

  10. Ulysses and the Illiad are insanely long. I think you have to really love not only literature but Greek literature to care for the originals. I do know that there are tons of transilations that make them easier.
    My mom read me some of the Illiad, and maybe some of the Ulysses, for homeschool. I'm not sure how much.
    Same goes with Canterbury Tales. The language in the one we used is not that bad, though. You should really consider reading it. It's hilarious!

  11. I quit reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo after about 10 pages. I was tired and it was too much for my brain that night. I'll try again soon though.

    I didn't run screaming from the book, and The Kite Runner was an awesome read, but really left me with the heebie jeebies of seeing the movie.

  12. I'm totally with you on the insanely long Russian novels, as well as Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea (I actually like Joyce a lot).

    The Iliad and Odyssey are totally worth it. Trust me.

  13. Jennifer, you and I are on the same wavelength for many of the books you have listed. I had to read CATCHER IN THE RYE in high school. Didn't like it. Same with DON QUIXOTE in college. I am not a big fan of classics, I think because of the books I forced myself through in high school and college.

    That being said, I did enjoy THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. It was a mystery, a puzzle, a thriller and it just really clicked with me. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE clicked even more. By the time I got to THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST (which was as good as Book #2 in my opinion), I was at the point where I had to know.....I had to know what happened.

    Interesting topic. Enjoyed it.

  14. I love the idea of Don Quijote. But, sure, I haven't read it myself and if I ever decide it's worth the effort of getting over years and years of prejudices, at least I'll have the benefit of being fluent in Spanish to begin with. Having to read it for a class in a foreign language? NUTS. I'm certainly with you on that :)

    Were you dragged to the musical, because I was as a toddler and one of the actors really freaked me out, so I couldn't pick up this book for years because I had that image of a 40something man with really crazy stage makeup screaming his lines.
    Hmmm. It's like kismet or something!

  16. Oh, I loved Don Quixote. Then again I read it voluntarily as an adult! And I think that would make a BIG difference :)

  17. I can so relate to all of the books you mentioned. I definitely have no interest in Catcher in the Rye and refuse to read Shantaram - because everyone keeps trying to force that book down my throat. Meh and that James Joyce book? Keep it away from me.

  18. I got halfway through Eat Pray love and had to put it down. The author came across as being so incredibly self absorbed...her voice became so annoying I just couldn't take it anymore. And Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? It is so disturbing in its violence and disrespect towards women. I read the first in the trilogy and have absolutely no desire to continue on with it. And it's not that I'm squeamish, I adore horror novels...this was just...disturbing. I honestly don't understand why so many women are fans of this one.

  19. Anything by Dickens scares me. I remember reading Oliver Twist and wanting to poke out my eyeball. A little dramatic I know. But I hated it. I hate all epic poems - The Illiad and the Odyssey, Beowulf. Yuck! I've wanted to read Anna Karenina but I'm scurred. It's on my list of books I should read before I die. I didn't get the hype around Catcher in the Rye. I read it and thought it was ok. I had to read Don Quixote for IB Spanish. I still don't think I "got" it. LOL! Oh and 100 Years of Solitude in Spanish and English. Pure torture! Will never read again. Ever, ever!

  20. I definitely agree with some of your choices. Eat, Pray, Love was abysmal. We read it for book club and no one liked it.
    Although someone mentioned The Kite Runner. I think that's one of the worst books I ever read. Not only was it COMPLETELY predictable, the characters were almost caricatures and the author seemed to hit the reader over the head with the moral "tone"...yuck, yuck, yuck!
    I've not read a lot of Steinbeck but I liked East of Eden. My soon-to-be 9th grade son will read Grapes of Wrath this summer for his Honors English class.

  21. Great post! I was an English major and I was supposed to read Melville but couldn't get into it. I agree that it sounds like torture :) I'd also add anything written by Henry James to that list!

    I did read and enjoy The Odyssey and The Canterbury Tales. In high school we read simplified versions of both so that helped in college when I had to read The Odyssey especially. I am planning to make myself read Eat, Pray, Love this year as well as The Great Gatsby (that's another one I was supposed to have read in college-I used Cliff's Notes instead!).

  22. So that's the new cover for The Secret Garden, hm... In general it's a pretty cover, but it's very modern and I don't think of the story as a modern one. My mom bought me this beautiful hardcover version of The Secret Garden when I was little because it was her favorite book when she was a child. I've always adored the book because of that, but it's a good story too. But I know what you mean about being forced to do something and having that ruined for you forever, lol!!

    I definitely agree with you on some of those other books!

  23. +JMJ+

    At the top of my list would be explicitly anti-Catholic stuff like The DaVinci Code (which I read anyway because my friends made me--LOL!) and His Dark Materials. (On the other hand, I really liked Nineteen Eighty-Four, and even assigned it to my students when I was still a full-time teacher.) And then I get defensive and even more turned off when people seem to think that not reading them is equivalent to sticking my head in the sand. Hello? Do I make them read Pope Benedict's books? (It would be kind of funny if I gave tit for tat, though. LOL!)

  24. LOL
    Oh man, I don't think you're missing out on much. I read a lot of those books in college and...yeah...maybe it was all the parting I did or maybe it was just the books because - I can't thinking of one thing I liked about them.

    I do remember yelling at the Old Man - the one in The Old Man and the Sea - actually yelling at him as I read the book.

    Hey, you can't read EVERYTHING right? ;)

  25. LOL Love this post. I just must respond to some of those titles.

    The Catcher in the Rye wasn't so bad. I didn't read it until a couple of years ago - when friends and I were reading banned/challenged books in honor of Banned Book Week. I wouldn't say it was awesome or anything, but at least now I know what it's about! LMAO

    The Grapes of Wrath ~ Yeah, I can see that. I didn't finish it for AP English, but ended up reading it through in college. If you can avoid it, I say go for it! ;-)

    Odyssey and Illiad are books I hope to read someday. But, the language - I'm not sure I COULD read them anymore! LOL

    Canterbury Tales is one of my all-time FAVORITES. I took a Chaucer class in college (degree's in English), and just LOVED it. We were taught proper pronunciation and it's actually quite lyrical.

    Moby Dick is one I've never read. At least, if I have read it, I've since forgotten it. LOL As an English degree holder, I feel like I should read it. But, well, should never works for me! ;-)

    The Old Man and the Sea definitely can be skipped. It took me THREE tries to read the damn thing. HATED it. Don't care to ever read that puppy again!

    Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ~ Oh. My. Gosh! I could NOT get into this book AT ALL for AP English. Never, ever, ever even attempted it again. I still hate that book. I think you are WISE to be avoiding that one! ;-)

    On the Road is one I haven't read - and I have no intention to. Doesn't interest me.

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one I can't wait to read. Cannot wait. LOL But, hey, I haven't read any of the Twilight books ...

    Eat, Pray, Love is one I go back and forth on. I've heard it's really good, but I just don't know that it'll hold my interest. (Glad I'm not alone!)

    The Secret Garden ~ I loved this, when I was a kid. can't really remember it now! LMAO

    Hope you don't mind my little comments. I'm not hoping to persuade you on the ones I have liked or cannot wait to read. I just had to "discuss" - it's in my genes! ;-)

  26. I kind of have been having an opposite experience. I have been reading books that don't appeal to me at first. But everyone says how fantastic they are I read them.Almost everytime I am dissapointed and should have gone with my gut and not read them.

  27. Moby Dick and The Odyssey both terrify me. I may read them some day. If I have no other classics to read. I do want to read Ulysess to see what all the fuss is about. don't read the Old Man and the Sea. We had to read it for my sophomore year and it was awful. Tedious, Hemingway clearly just wanted to make it a message book and he should have just made it non fiction or something. Ugh.

    I LOVE The Catcher in the Rye. I laugh so hard when I read that book. Holden is really hard to like though.

  28. I'm a Southerner and say that with great pride, but I absolutely hate William Faulkner and am not much of a fan of Hemingway either. Every Southerner I know thinks it's heresy to hate Faulkner. He hated women and it shows in everything he writes. Why the hell should I read his books???? I'll step down now and let someone else rant.


  29. Very, very interesting post! I have to admit that I haven't read any of those books (except for the prologue of Canterbury Tales, which doesn't really count), so I can't tell you if they're good or not. I do, however, want to read some of the older classics, however painful/scary they may be. I just want to see what all the hype is about, I guess!

  30. Don Quixote is a very goofy book and has inspired many of the tropes and cliches we're still using. I put together a series of posts to help readers have fun with the book. Moby Dick, Catcher in the Rye and On the Road are all just as off the wall goofy as Don Quixote.

  31. Urgh these are all on my list too. Hell I even bought Eat, Love, Pray and couldn't finish it... I feel like I should want to read these, but I'd rather read something more fun :/

  32. LMAO! OMG Jenn! This is such a great post! I loved your 'pass' stuff! So funny!

    Believe me, I've attempted some of these and the only word I can use to describe them is boring. Even the ones I really tried to like because they were considered masterpieces, I just couldn't. I wasn't even motivated when my English professor said if you can read and understand Pynchon, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy, then you are a genius. I already knew I wasn't a genius, thankyouverymuch.

    And I still have no clue what Girl with Dragon tattoo is about and I'm not interested enough to find out regardless of all the praise. I don't know why, either. LOL

  33. I haven't read any of these but I actually really want to.

  34. If I've read some of these, it's was because of school. I keep hearing about the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but just haven't! Great post!

  35. I really tried to like Eat Pray Love, but I just couldn't do it. I don't know why, but I just couldn't!

  36. @My 5 Monkeys - I didn't love The Road. I think it was a little too introspective for my taste. I've had some good experiences with Oprah recommended books, but thee are a few I wouldn't go anywhere near.

    @Brooke Reviews - It was the same for me with Dante's Inferno. I loved it, but I had a great English teacher to guide me. I haven't picked up Purgatory or Paradise because I don't think I would understand them as well on my own.

    @Chelle - Thanks!

    @Amanda - Really? The Grapes of Wrath and The Old Man and the Sea? I may have to consider them again sometime much farther in the future. Maybe as a very long read alongside some other fun stuff.

    @Bella - lol, that's too funny, especially after reading Amanda's comment about the book. It's really interesting to see everyone's very different reactions to the same books.

    @Anne - Those are all ones I'd actually like to read, but just can't find the motivation. They are so very intimidating.

    @Meredith - I almost added The Kite Runner to the list. I even owned a copy, but eventually donated it to the library when I came to terms with the fact that I just can't read everything.

    @Alessandra - Hmmm, maybe if I find a couple of interested people I could pull together a readalong of The Iliad and The Odyssey and encourage the use of Cliff's Notes. If I wasn't doing it alone and had a cheat sheet, I could probably manage them.

  37. @Kay - I love some classics, but yeah, they are usually the one's I wasn't forced to read in high school. I actually don't remember much about the ones I was made to read. I think I suppressed the memories of the experience. I may read the Larsson books someday, after the huge hype has disappointing a little, but I just can't make myself care now.

    @Beatriz - I get that. I love the idea of a lot of books, but the actually reading of them just doesn't seem worth it.

    @Amelia - lol. I don't think it was a musical, but I could be wrong. I remember getting out of the bus to go into the theater and I remember the bus ride home. Everything in between is a huge blank that feels bored and annoyed, so yeah, that says something.

    @Becky - Reading something voluntarily always makes it more enjoyable in my opinion. You don't start out with that hostile attitude you get when something is forced upon you.

    @thebookfairyhaven - Shantaram? Never even heard of it.

    @Vampires and Tofu - I'm really good with disturbing and don't usually mind offense against women in my fiction. Normally those points would be selling me on the book, but for some reason nothing makes these books scream "read me now" at me.

    @Marq - I haven't liked any Dickens except A Christmas Carol, and that was very different from his usual. Beowulf was one of the worst books I was forced to read in high school. I really tried, but I just couldn't even pretend to like or understand most of it.

    @Kathy - I think hearing about the moral tone of The Kite Runner was what ultimately made me decide not to read it. Stuff like that is totally not my thing.

    @Christine T - I'm not very familiar with Henry James. I read The Great Gatsby in high school and then again on my own as an adult. I didn't absolutely love it, but I did "get" it more when I was older.

    @Jenny - Yup, forcing me to read something usually guarantees I'll hate it. I think that's why I don't read really super hyped books when everyone else is doing it. I find that if I wait and try to remember that I don't have to love it just because everyone else did, I tend to like it better.

    @Enbrethiliel - I like the tit for tat idea as well. We each have our own specific likes and dislikes and I'll n ever understand when someone feels the need to tell another that they're opinions are wrong. Read what you like. It's supposed to fun!

  38. @Emily - I've yelled at books before. Sometimes those characters need a little yelling. I used to think I could and should read everything that was ever published. I also thought watching every movie ever made was a good and reachable goal. Life has become a lot more relaxed when I realized it was literally impossible for anyone to ever read or watch everything put out there.

    @ham1299 - Thanks for your thoughts! I definitely don't mind. I love reading everyone's opinions and getting a discussion going about them.

    @Karen - Gut instinct towards books proves right more often than not. We have to remember that we know ourselves and our tastes better than anyone else, no matter if the rest of the world is singing a books praises.

    @MissAttitude - Holden is hard to like? That may be a problem if I decide to read it in the future. Main characters I dislike or can't connect to usually ruin a book for me.

    @Buried in Books - I owned a book by Faulkner once. I never read it and eventually donated it to the library. I wasn't aware of his stance on women, but it probably wouldn't have effected my opinion of the book. It was just one of those things where I stared at it on the shelf for years until I finally admitted I had no interest.

    @Emidy - Oh, the hype. I avoid it like the plague . . . and then eventually (usually years later ) curiosity wins out. Hype forces me to need to have an opinion on the thing everyone else already talks about.

    @pussreboots - Obviously goofy or goofy if you "get" the humor? The problem I have with a lot of older books is the funny goes right over my head and I'm left wondering what the point of the book was.

    @Tara SG - I am in the mindframe where fun is of the utmost importance. I was the experience of reading the book to be fun, even is the book itself isn't. If I have to drag myself through a book, I can't be bothered right now. Long, hard, stuffy books are just not what I'm into these days.

    @Missie - Yeah, I'm not exactly a genius either. I can't always explain why I don't want to read a certain book. It's like I just psychically know without even knowing the premise.

  39. @Rae - You totally should. What I can't stand, you may love. That's the beauty of books.

    @Alyssa Kirk - Thanks!

    @Marie - It does seem to be a book that everyone feels like they should read and then either they love it or hate it with no middle ground.

  40. Lots of yours are on my own I will never read list too! Phew!!

  41. I can't face reading books like "The band of brothers" or anything having to do with WWII, in fact. Also the HP series. Sorry but the hype around those annoyed me way too much.
    I've actually read 6 books from your list and am looking forward to reading 5 other titles in the future (sooner or later).