Now there’s a title to get people’s attention.
I was thinking the other day about all the books I haven’t read, and about how my time on this planet is limited, and about how I need to get moving if I want to find all the treasures that are out there.
And then I couldn’t helping thinking about a book I read recently, and about how it was a monumental waste of time, and about how — well, I hope you see where this is going. I just had to list some of the books I’ve read that were a disappointment (I agree, writing this list is another waste of my time, but this was at least fun). And here they are (dates are when I read them). I don’t feel bad giving these books negative reviews, since they’re all best-sellers and my dislike will barely register further than this small pond in which I’m not just the biggest fish — I’m the only fish.
1. Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970). It took me a few months to realize why this book disappointed me. I have no objections to fables or allegories, but the lessons have to be more complex than “be true to yourself” and “it’s OK to be unique”.
2. Unnamed Harlequin romance (1982). I was in a tiny youth hostel in north Wales, and this was the only book on the shelf. I eventually used it for fuel when the peat ran out. As the flames warmed my damp toes, I composed this haiku: Such romantic heat/makes me want to combust/spontaneously. (I’m still looking for that elusive 7th syllable for the middle morae.)
3. The Thorn Birds (1983). This was when the TV series was burning up the airwaves and you couldn’t walk down a hallway at work without hearing about Meggie and Ralph. I don’t know why I thought I needed to read it, since the show was my sleeping pill. I believe I was hoping the book would be better. It wasn’t, which should have been a lesson to me (but see #5).
4. The Silence of the Lambs (1988). I blame myself. I knew better. I have no complaints about the quality of the writing, or the plot, or the characters. I would just be much happier without those images in my head. This book is why elevators creep me out.
5. The Shell Seekers (1989). I’m a slow learner. This came highly recommended, but I just didn’t get it. Big family stories across generations? — give me Gallsworthy’s Forsyte Saga, and I’ll be happy.
6. Girl with the Pearl Earring (2000). This one I do get (there are eight Vermeer paintings in NYC!), especially when made into a movie starring the dishy Mr. Darcy. But I still didn’t like it (or the movie). Gregory Maguire does almost the same thing, and so much better, in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.
7. The Da Vinci Code (2004). Recommended as a good book for reading on a plane. But I can’t read on a plane (I’m too busy controlling my terror). So I read this at home, in one night because I skipped pages, yet could still follow the plot. “Intricate” must be a synonym for “cumbersome”.
8. A Game of Thrones (2013). The tip-off should have been the review describing this as a mash-up between LOTR and The Sopranos: I couldn’t watch the latter. I don’t think it’s the hype, although that plays a part in my disinterest. After seeing S1 E1, I read the first volume, then checked out the GoT wiki. That was my error. Once I learned what would happen to everyone, I lost interest. When I want intrigue and warfare, I head straight to E F Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books.
9. The Alchemist (2013). I thought this was going to be something like Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, or Michael Scott’s Nicholas Flamel series. But no. More self-help-ism. Like the first book on my list. I need to start reading reviews more carefully. BTW, the cover may be gorgeous but it’s guilty of false advertising.
10. Good news! There is no tenth item. I’ve searched my shelves, only to realize I always get rid of books I don’t like. So, after 6+ decades of reading, I can remember only 9 novels I wish I’d never read. That cheers me up no end.
Thanks for listening! BTW, I welcome all comments — whether attacking me for my blinkered philistinism, or adding other titles to my list. But try to limit yourself to best sellers. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Oddly, I remember the fire in Wales. Did you write that haiku when we were there?
This grabbed my attention Lizzie. as a new visitor here.
I may borrow this idea for my critique group. And want to try it around the bookcases here if there is time this summer.
I was drenched in The Thorn Birds – a real page turner at that time for me. Could be that books of appeal in phases of our worlds, at the backward glance, measure how far we’ve traveled on our journey?
@Jan: Thanks for visiting and commenting. I like your idea about different books appealing to us at different phases — that there might be a right time to read certain books. I know there are some I loved reading when I was young but just can’t get through now. Anything by CS Lewis is in that category. But I don’t regret reading them. I must have found them at the right time.
I heard today that the author of The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough, has just died. But as I haven’t read it — nor intend to, especially after your critical note — this will never ever appear on my list of novels I wish I’d never read!
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@Calmgrove If you’re making a decision based on my tiny review, that could be your loss. But I think our tastes are similar, so perhaps your decision is wise. Nevertheless I’m sorry to hear of McCullough’s death. A sad day for her family and fans.
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