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A Reader of Fictions: Top Ten Wednesday: Top Ten Books That Made Me Want to Stab My Eyes Out Rather Than Finish

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Top Ten Wednesday: Top Ten Books That Made Me Want to Stab My Eyes Out Rather Than Finish

These are the books that I hated more than anything else I have ever read. They were almost physically painful to read and, from my view, lacked any positive qualities. The main problem in choosing the list is the books I had to leave off. Most books have at least a couple things that were enjoyable, but not these. Since I was restricted to 10 titles, but had eleven I wanted to include, here is a dishonorable mention for Uncle Tom's Cabin. I know the book is of great historical importance (it is actually for this reason that I spared it a place in the top ten), but I found it slow, boring and preachy.

Most of these are books I had to read for school or I probably would have stopped after a few pages or never picked it up.

10. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Another class book. This one was for a Modern America history course, in which we read some pop culture stuff to get a sense of the times. Less Than Zero, Ellis' first novel, is the story of privileged white kids who ruin their lives because they're bored. They're all addicted to drugs, alcoholics and make unwise sexual decisions. Meanwhile, they remain really whiny. Ugh. Yes, it sucks that your parents neglected you, but I lost all sympathy for you when you reacted this way.

9. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild was mandatory reading for August Experience at Hanover for all incoming freshmen. Chump that I was, all excited about college, I read the whole damn book. I hated it. To begin with, reading about mountain climbing just is not my thing. I am not a sporty person and prefer flights of fancy to doing a lot of work to see the view from the top of a mountain. Chris McCandless was an idiot, as I think most readers of a biography about him discover. He went hiking in dangerous areas without telling anyone where he was going. So he died. End of story.

Except not really, because Krakauer, a hiker/mountain climber himself, cannot resist injecting himself into the story. He admires McCandless it seems (how?) and wishes to be like him some day. One interlude was about how one day Krakauer did something stupid while sleeping on the side of a mountain and nearly died and how that was awesome. Spare me.

8. The Bar Sinister/Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll

I have a slight Jane Austen obsession, one which induces me to read as much of the published fan fiction as I can get my hands on. This has led to many rather unfortunate reads, which I doubt Jane would be particularly pleased to have inspired. Even amongst the often torrid, overblown and terribly written spinoffs, Berdoll's stands out as the worst of any I have as yet encountered. Presumably she must have admired Austen's novel and characters to endeavor to write a continuation for Pride and Prejudice, but the book itself would seem to indicate a desire to besmirch Austen's good name. Visit my review for a detailed account of just why it was so awful. On the plus side, it was also long.

7. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This stinker was the bane of my senior year English class. Many of the classics have met with my esteem, but I refuse to pretend something is amazing when its not. Heart of Darkness was at least mercifully short and did have some action scenes, which were at least a bit more interesting than the rest of it. Why is it on my top most-hated list? The sentences. I'm a wordy writer and have a tendency to write extremely long and complex sentences, which make up long paragraphs. I have nothing on Conrad. His sentences were pages long, his paragraphs chapter length. In order to really understand what these convoluted sentences were attempting to convey, I had to read the book out loud.

6. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

This is the first of two titles from a Countercultures course in college. Mistakenly, I believed that studying countercultures would interest me. Turns out, it felt like reading books like Less Than Zero over and over again. Only worse. While I have been tempted to try to read all of the books from 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die, I never will, both because they thought this book deserved a place on the list and because I would have to read Tropic of Capricorn too. No way.

5. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

You may already have guessed that this is the other counterculture course book to make the list. With such a provocative title, I had actually been interested in seeing what it was about. I suspect Burroughs had some good points to make, but I was so grossed out by some scenes and confused by others that I was not able to garner anything but a serious distaste for the book. What makes this worse than Tropic of Cancer is how hard to follow it is.

4. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Having received a glowing recommendation of this from a friend whose opinion I respect and generally agree with, I set out on this literary foray voluntarily and with hope. Which was pretty quickly crushed. I hated this book from chapter one. However, stopping was not an option, as I had purchased a used copy. (I think if I spent money on a book, I should buckle down and read it; this is an attempt to force myself to use my money wisely). Getting through this took me months, because I would read a chapter here and there. There is no way I could have taken this straight through. It never got better. The high point (aka nadir of the awfulness) was when Jude's children overhear how poor the family is and kill themselves to spare their parents. Lovely, right? Honestly, I don't like kids much and I'm pissed.

3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Plath's novel was both for school and self-inflicted. I chose it off a summer reading list, for some reason suspecting that I would enjoy it. I emphatically did not. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, I cannot remember much of the book at all anymore and cannot rant properly. To do so, I would need to reread the book, which, you may have guessed, so will not be happening.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Required reading for my YA course during grad school. Stories about how hard people's lives have been really are not my thing. Normally, I would never have picked this up (or Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, which we read at the same time, although I liked that one better). Of course, her life stopped being hard when she got married; she talked about how nice her apartment was and yet couldn't help her parents. Yeah, I know mom and dad wanted to live on the street, but clearly they're insane, so maybe you should do something about that. Part of what makes me so angry about this, besides how much I disliked reading it (this one too was a long, slow slog), is how incredibly popular it is. Why do people love it so? I really do not understand the appeal.

1. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor

Thankfully, I have blocked most of the short stories from my memory by this point. All I remember for sure was that I hated it with the fire of every star in the universe. Coincidentally, I also hated the ex-cheerleader, favoritist (Christians and females got higher grades, the former of which got me into trouble) teacher of AP Language. The stories were Southern, depressing and soaked in Christian references I either couldn't understand or didn't like. Seeing the book cover (how dare it have such an appealing facade?) or hearing O'Connor's name still makes me incredibly angry.



Blogger Gina said...

Wow. O_O No redeeming qualities...at all? Powerful stuff. Looking over the list, can't say I've read any of them myself. Sounds like some of the genres just weren't for you maybe...and that can TOTALLY happen with assigned reading. Here's to happier reading in your future!

March 24, 2011 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Bookgeek said...

Have to agree with many of your choices but I really did love The Glass Castle

March 24, 2011 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Kali Skittles said...

I hated The Bell Jar too. It was actually super disappointing that I didn't like it, and I reread it a few times in hopes of "maybe I was just having a bad day when I read it the first time." I love mental health books, so I thought it'd be a gimme that I loved it. ;/

I haven't heard of anything else on your list >__>

The only required reading I remember hating was in high school, The Catcher and the Rye. HATED. IT. I would put it on this top ten, AND the top 10 characters I want to punch list! hahaha

April 6, 2012 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ah! The Catcher in the Rye! I totally did not like that one either. If I make another one of these, he might be on it.

To make things worse, one of my friends said I reminded her of Holden Caulfield. If I'm ever that much of a dumbass (and have such bad grammar), I'm throwing myself under a bus.

April 6, 2012 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Kali Skittles said...

Hahahah. I would have been so insulted! "Whaaaaaaat? :(" My dad was actually just asking me about Catcher in the Rye the other day, because it's mentioned in 11/22/63, and I was like "Dad, I don't remember anything political in it, all I remember is the main boy is super dumb and whiny"

April 7, 2012 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I was insulted. SOOOOO insulted. haha. Of course, she didn't get why because she liked the book.

You just described what's his face perfectly: super dumb and whiny and all.

April 7, 2012 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger Why Not? Because I Said So! said...

I have never heard of any of these! Apparently I haven't been missing out!:)

August 1, 2012 at 1:11 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I know! I read it for class and everyone else loved it. I'm a weirdo.

August 1, 2012 at 7:40 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, they definitely were not for me. All of them are classics of one variety or another, popular and critically acclaimed, but...

August 1, 2012 at 7:40 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, these wouldn't be my first choices to recommend. :-p

August 1, 2012 at 7:40 AM  

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