Right now, I’m salivating at the 2013 book previews I keep seeing. My shortlist includes Transatlantic by Colum McCann because I like novels that talk about being on planes. Seriously, that’s the reason it’s on my list. It also includes Going Clear, Lawrence Wright’s expose on Scientology, because frankly: Scientology sounds so cracked out I can’t believe anyone takes it seriously. So obviously I must know more.
But if happen to be the type of person who feels guilty while scrolling book previews and lists of books you should read (or don’t even pay attention to that stuff), may I present to you my list of five books you can safely, smugly ignore?
5. Wuthering Heights
I’m not sure how many times I’ve tried to read this, but I can never get past the first page. I would say it’s an aversion to the bloated language of the era, except I thrive on the bloated language of that era. I think it’s just that the first few pages are boring and I don’t feel obligated to read something that bores me. Though now that I make this public, I feel the last twinge of guilt that I’ve never powered through this classic. I’ll put it on my “if I get the flu, I’ll have the time to finally focus my attention on this and if I don’t like it, I can blame it on being sick” list. Also on that list? Moby Dick. Bleak House.
4. Les Miserables
This book is LONG and has so many history-focused tangents I forget the story before I’m halfway through. Just watch the movie (gasp!). And I don’t mean the movie out right now. I’m sure that one’s great, but I’m referring to the Liam Neeson movie that I watched with my dad at a very impressionable age. It terrified me. But not as much as reading another page about cannon manufacturing did.
The musical is bewitching (see what I did there?), but this Wizard of Oz prequel is more like a glorified piece of fan fic. Plot that drags on way too long, characters that aren’t sympathetic, ties back to the original story that are heavy-handed when subtlety would have sufficed…all trademarks of amateur stories riding on an original works’ fame. I implore you, however, to go see the musical if you get the chance.
2. The Shipping News
Are they just handing out these Pulitzer Prizes now (or rather, did they do so in the early ’90s?)? This book started off dismally, really got a handle on things like character development, intrigue, and twists in the middle, then ended dismally. I like my novels with a meaty, satisfying ending, thanks.
1. Everything by Ian McEwan except Saturday and maybe Atonement
It pains me to say this because I read Saturday and thought Mr. McEwan and I were going to be lifelong friends. But then I read Atonement and wondered why all the fuss? Why is this The Greatest Book to Ever Be Made Into a Keira Knightley in Pretty Dresses Vehicle? And then I read that book about the newlywed wife who, despite no history of abuse, absolutely refused to be affectionate with her husband (that’s what we call a lack of motive, and it’s irritating). And then I read another early novel of his in December that was the most disturbing, pointless book ever to cross my Goodreads list and so now it’s official: Ian McEwan is not a writer I like, nor is he a writer I respect. Obviously, I want you to agree with me.
What books do you feel good about ignoring?
photo: a few books worth reading.
hello my favorite reader! I’m currently in Savannah with Adam and Tim, and when this post came up, I started reading part of it to them, and Adam was in total agreement with you about Ian McEwan and Wicked. End of the story? Now we’ve got him on Goodreads.
i read Wuthering Heights twice in college, to figure out what all the hype was about. i am in total agreement that it should be forever ignored. i will tell you that i am also in complete agreement about Atonement & Wicked.
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger is a book that boggles my mind, i also read this twice to try to figure out why oh WHY it’s so highly praised. Another: Gone, Girl by Gillian Flynn.
i freely admit that about a year ago i would’ve added Pride&Prejudice to that list too, but i sat myself down & read it and now i absolutely adore it.
currently reading: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and it is blowing my mind.
Shanna–My work here is done! He better friend me so we can complain about the same books.
Lan–I’m so glad to hear I’m not missing out on anything huge with Wuthering Heights. I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye but you mentioning it reminded me of another book I could put on this list: Catch-22. I get what he did with it, I just don’t like it.
I want to read Gone, Girl! Everyone’s said it’s so great, which makes me curious about your take on it. And The Night Circus has been on my list for a while. In fact, I’m about to get on a plane, so I should pick one of those up.
I have to agree with you on Ian McEwan. I actually enjoyed Atonement but really didn’t care for a few others of his…and one seriously disturbed me. Maybe this makes me “uncool” but I’ve also never been able to finish a Kurt Vonnegut book. On another note, I was really disappointed in the current movie version of Les Miserables, I’ll have to give the Liam Neeson one a try.
Laura–I haven’t even tried Kurt Vonnegut and I was a journalism major. Shameful.
If it’s real literature (like Wuthering or Les M) then I feel sorry that I’m not strong enough to read it.
If it’s not real literature, then not being read is what it deserves.
I’m so glad you included Moby Dick while mentioning Wuthering Heights. Both are tiresome, both have no place on my shelves. (But three or four copies of Jane Eyre are welcomed.)
I am in the middle of Les Mis right now, and I can see why everyone told me to read the abridged version. I love the parts with Jean Valjean, etc. But a) what does Victor Hugo have against periods? All his sentences are pages long and filled with semicolons. b) Don’t tell me “this isn’t a history book, so we’re not going to detail the battle of Waterloo” and then proceed to tell me about the battle of Waterloo for FORTY PAGES. Or “Jean Valjean and Cosette ended up at this convent while they were running away from Javert. Let’s talk about this convent. But not the convent of today. No, let’s talk about the convent as it was 80 years before Jean Valjean got there. For another forty pages.”
But, Les Miserables is my favorite musical, and this is my third time attempting to read it, so damn it, I’m not giving up. I will make it through this book, if it is the last thing I do.
Yes, all those endless histories! I like your attitude, though. I should go back and read it. Someday, maybe.