Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Don't Read These Books!

I've tossed you plenty of lists of must read books. Now how about a list of classics you needn't waste your time with?

In an attempt to save readers valuable reading time when there is so much great stuff out there, The Second Pass lists ten books :
... that will be pressed into your hands by ardent fans. ... Resist them!
is the advice. The books not to read are :
  • White Noise by Don DeLillo
  • Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • The USA Trilogy by John Dos Passos
  • Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Any list of books is there to be argued with. I'm very glad I've read The Rainbow, The Corrections and A Tale of Two Cities. The Road for all it's faults is a great book. But I reckon (shhhh!) that the writers are right about One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I've read twice without enjoying it.

Others on the list I haven't read, but now I'm curious.

What would you argue with? (You are invited to post your comments here.) What would you like to see join the list?

22 comments:

saat omar said...

really? your not to read list seems like a must read list.....

Sandra said...

I'm glad to see someone finally say that about The Corrections, a complete waste of time for me. One Hundred Years didn't do anything for me either. Jacob's Room was okay but nothing special, an experimental bit of stream-of-consciousness in its time (1922). A Tale of Two Cities, I loved it but then I was twelve the first time I read it. On The Road was good for a lark. The rest I haven't read and have no interest in so I don't really feel I'm missing anything.
I have tried more than once to read both Catcher in the Rye and Don Quixote and found them unreadable. One for having a hateful little twit of a protagonist and the other because it's just, well-unreadable. I'd add those to the list.

Ka Ea Lim said...

I'm surprised that you've listed 100 years of solitude. I'm not an ardent fan but I've been told that it's an absolutely must-read by many people.

They often can't comprehend why I couldn't get past the first chapter.

Would you mind sharing your thoughts on why this book didn't spark any interest in you?

Thanks!

animah said...

But I loved One Hundred Years of Solitude! Although I did think Love in The Time of Cholera is better. While I didn't love The Road, I'd say it's a book that haunts you long after you've read it - and for that reason I say it's a must read.
I read the Rainbow as a teen, but can't remember much about it.

Kama said...

Sharon, I'm glad you have One Hundred Years of Solitude in there. Just like Ka Ea Lim, I have not been able to get past chapter one despite three tries. The book bores me to death! Honestly, I wonder why, especially as I too have been told by many (my news editor son included) that it's a must read. The son says he enjoys the book tremendously..

Anonymous said...

Inheritance of Loss! Inheritance of Loss!!! And maybe even Map of The Invisible World...have put that aside - don't think I'll ever finish it...

bibliobibuli said...

hey guys - not MY list. follow the link please and see who did write it! i was just (like you) responding to it.

and Animah, you point out exactly the thing with lists, different books appeal to different readers for very different reasons.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my favorite books and probably the last great book that left a lasting impression on me before I became a writer. Once you become a writer, books leave an impression on you for different reasons. You're not reading it from the perspective of just a reader for enjoyment, but as a writer, and as a writer, there's that tempatation to think, if I were writing that book, how would I do that, or, more likely, how can I make my own writing as effective as this? We've become more critical, more judgemental, and we have a whole lot less patience with books or stories that don't seem to be going anywhere or maybe not fast enough for our present hectic lives. (Maybe we're older, too.) Could this be a factor?

Ana Shirin said...

I absolutely enjoyed One Hundred Years of Solitude but I almost died out of boredom reading Jacob's Room... In fact, anything by Virginia Woolf irks me (owh yes, you can spill red paint all over my door now)

YTSL said...

Must one have read the books from cover to cover to unrecommend them?

My problem is that try as I might, I've been unable to finish any book by Dickens, Henry James and Jane Austen. Oh, and the Forsythe Saga too! :S

(And this from someone who managed to read from cover and cover -- twice! -- the multi-page Middlemarch!)

Glenda Larke said...

Remembrance of Things Past. Unreadable, stultifyingly boring, although small portions - consumed sparingly - could be tasty.

Ka Ea Lim said...

Sharon, I thought the list was yours. I don't see any link to the original author of the list.

Agreed - different books appeal to different reader. I was just curious as to why this particular book has been so difficult for me to read whereas, I actually enjoyed Love in a Time of Cholera and Memoirs of my Melancholy Whore.

I also agree with BorneoExpatWriter in terms of judging a book too harshly.

However, one does wonder what exactly is the purpose of a writer; if it's indeed to write as effectively as possible, then would it have achieved this if it fails to gain the reader's attention in the first place?

But yeah, different reader comes with different perspectives.

pussreboots said...

I adored both A Tale of Two Cities (though I prefer Les Miserables and On the Road. Kerouac's descriptions of the different towns he visits are spot on and very funny.

bibliobibuli said...

Ka - the hyperlink is the blue lettering at "links ten books".

Zed Adam said...

Yeah, I think it's all subjective. I just love, love One Hundred Years of Solitude. I love how it flows, zigzagging through life and back, I didn't want it to end. And like my current read (Toby Barlow's Sharp Teeth), I just stop few pages back, put the book down and refuse to end it (it's that good, heh). But I did finished the book and the ending caught me so tight, I just stared at the back jacket wanting more. And I love The Road too. :)

Anonymous said...

its understandable that how women cant enjoy One Hundred Years of Solitude...its a book that full of war and General this and General that...

I thought all women adore Latin lover..boy i was wrong

bibliobibuli said...

i'll take the latin lover. you keep the book.

Elizabeth said...

People, don't you get it? We're not supposed to enjoy these books. Because they're Serious.Literary.Fiction. by GREAT ARTISTS. *end sarcasm*

If you've suffered reading through boring "literary greats", may I recommend that you read BR Myers' A Reader's Manifesto? (I blogged about it here: http://imaginarylands.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/a-readers-manifesto/) Incidentally, he listed DeLillo's White Noise and Cormac McCarthy's books as some of the worst books he has read.

I'm very careful when it comes to choosing what I read so I don't have many "recommendations".

I just don't waste time on books that I find boring. I'd be in the bookstore, and I'd read the first chapter, and if it still doesn't grab me by the first chapter, it's gone - even if it has won a prize or even when the critics say that I *have* to read it.

I did almost buy Anne Proulx's Shipping News, but was so amazed by how boring the first chapter was that I changed my mind.

gnute said...

Alamak Sharon, count me as one of those who loves One Hundred Years Of Solitude. It was a revelation for me, how someone could write with such a straight face about a girl who eats soil & a matriarch who turns blind and finds her way around the house via sixth sense...

As for "great" fiction that I struggle with... I am trying to read Beckett but it's.. like... pushing shit thru a sieve...

bibliobibuli said...

love "the shipping news" one of my favourite books ever. and am looking forward to reading the rest of cormac mccarthy's books.you can't please all the people all the time and i think discussion like this go to show how there really aren't any "right" answers about which books are great.

Elizabeth said...

True, true, but I don't understand how anyone could digest her sentences. Shouldn't storytelling contain clear sentences?

A lot of people were miffed by Myers' essay because he pointed the finger at literary darlings and called their novels bad, but they missed his important message by thinking that way - he was trying to say that readers should trust their instincts. If they think the book is bad, then they have the right to say its bad no matter what others say about it.

Anonymous said...

Nah, never did like any *lists* in the first place. With you on the Latin lover Sharon :))