Six Books I’ll Never, Ever Read (And You Can’t Make Me)
Brittney has some strong opinions about bad books and what makes them bad.
July 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm
As a literary scholar and self-proclaimed book nerd, my mile-long reading list sometimes feels like a constant work in progress. If you saw it, you’d probably get the idea that I never met a book I didn’t like. That’s simply not true. Unpopular opinion time: not all books (even classics) are created equal. Some are ridiculously difficult, some have bad politics, and some are just downright boring. With that said, here are the six books I’ll never, ever read.
Ulysses by James Joyce
I downloaded a free copy of this book not too long ago and immediately thought, “Why did I do this to myself?” This tome by James Joyce is almost 800 pages long and is, by all accounts, a notoriously grueling read. Last time I checked, I had a life, and that life didn’t include making time for one of the densest and most difficult books ever written. Even thinking about trying to tackle this novel makes me want to throw up and pass out (maybe at the same time).
The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
(Also known as: those Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books)
I’ll admit that I might have a huge bias. Before I heard one good thing about this series, all of the unavoidable negative criticism helped me form a really bad impression. One review that comes to mind is Tim Park’s review for The New York Review of Books. Parks writes:
From the first pages, it’s evident that the journalist Mikael Blomkvist is an authorial alter ego. As Larsson once was, he is involved in running a left-wing magazine specializing in courageous investigative journalism; he is idealistic, committed, and of course in the novel he assumes the central, private detective’s role in a situation that sets him up to be a hero protecting vulnerable women from sadistic men.
Readers and critics alike expound not just on Larsson’s main character but also on the fact that most of the characters are flat and the storyline is predictable. When the movie came out, the controversial rape scene and the even more controversial revenge rape scene convinced me to maybe sit this one out. There’s not enough Listerine Breath Strips in the world to remove the bad taste I’m sure these novels will leave in my mouth.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This title is a double whammy for me: I don’t like romances, and I don’t like Victorian literature. I’ve tried to give both genres a chance, but I just can’t get into them. I find them long-winded and predictable. You know the ending will be a happy one, and you’ll also know that the ending should have come about 100 pages ago. I did try to give this novel a shot (sort of) by reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I got about halfway through before I abandoned it, which I’ll consider a minor victory.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
I gave this novel a shot when I was a junior in high school. I read about half of the book, realized I didn’t know what I was reading, looked at SparkNotes online to try to understand, and then realized I definitely didn’t know what I was reading. Apparently, the boatload of subtle (and apparently not-so-subtle) references to the main character’s erectile dysfunction went right over my head. I’m still not completely sure I was reading the right book. I’ve been able to read and interpret many difficult books in my time, but Hemingway is a complete mystery to me. I don’t know if it’s the style, subject, or if I’m not as smart as I think I am. Either way, I’m taking a hard pass on The Sun Also Rises.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
You know that classic question people like to ask: “If you could invite any famous person to a dinner party, past or present, who would it be?” Well, not only would Ayn Rand not be on my list, but I would make a separate “People I Would Never Want To Eat Dinner With” list and put her at the top of it. The Fountainhead focuses on Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, which includes ideals like self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism. Or, as I like to call it, the Philosophy-of-People-Who-Don’t-Live-In-Reality. There’s a reason why the average age of people who love this book is 16. Basically, the idea of reading this book feels like inviting Rand over for that dinner party: we would have nothing in common, and the night would end in either a knock-down-drag-out fight or a very uncomfortable silence over lobster bisque.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
A lot of people I know freak out when they hear I haven’t read this beloved Newberry Award winner and staple of libraries all over the world. As a kid, I liked mysteries and horror, not cutesy tales about animals. I feel like the time has passed for me to indulge in this children’s classic, but I probably wouldn’t have even liked it back then. As an adult, I lack the nostalgic feeling that most people have towards Charlotte’s Web, so it’s hard to justify ever it up. I’ve also heard that this would be one of the saddest books I’ll ever read. Thanks, but I’ve read Of Mice and Men and Where the Red Fern Grows. I’ve met my quota of books that make me bawl my eyes out.
So there you have it, the six books I’ll never, ever read, and you can’t make me. I’d love to hear all about the books you’ll never, ever read. Tweet me or leave some anti-recommendations in the comments. I promise, I won’t judge you (much).
[Editor’s note: 2 out of 3 POME crones love Pride and Prejudice as both a complex and satisfying novel and as a source of visual and literary beefcake].