A Fine Line Between Book Love & Hate

We are book lovers. The written word is what we’re passionate about. We can spend hours upon hours upon hours discussing our favorite titles, under-appreciated authors, overrated novels, and what we love about writing our own stories.

If you love something as much as we love books, you have the ability to hate it with the same level of passion. Now, there are plenty of books we just don’t like. Not our thing, don’t read a certain genre, we’re not the intended audience, etc. But I’m not talking about those gray areas. Maybe it’s because I didn’t get much sleep last night and woke up a little cranky, but – let’s talk about books we loathe!

I think the first book I ever truly hated was Johnny Tremain. My 6th grade class had to read this in some sort of combination English and Social Studies lesson. Now, I’ve heard Johnny Tremain referred to as a classic and it even won the Newbery Award in 1944. To my 11-year-old mind, however, this was the most boring thing I ever had to read ever. And I read a lot! Maybe I should return to it with my mature, adult eyes, but whenever I think of this book, I can’t help remembering how much I wanted to throw it across the room and how much I hated my 6th grade teacher.

A novel that comes in as a close second on the hate-scale is another that I was “forced” to read in my youth. In A.P. English, we had to read Bartleby the Scrivener, which might have been the first time I wrote a mini-rejection letter in my head: “Dear Herman, I love the idea you’re going for here, but the execution is god awful. Sorry, I’ll pass.”

But, like I said, the story of Bartleby still intrigued me; I just “preferred not to” read it. It wasn’t until my teacher then suggested Billy Budd by Melville that I knew true hate, and it’s the reason I’ll never read Moby Dick. Two examples of an author’s long-winded, incredibly dull storytelling skills are all that I need, thank you. Sorry to any Melville fans; I’m sure there are things to admire about his sentence structure, style, and command of language. I just don’t see it. I ended up telling my teacher about three-quarters through that I just couldn’t finish. She seemed sympathetic to my cause and still gave me credit for reading it.

The reason these terrible-to-me books were read at such young ages is because after high school, people stopped forcing me to read things I might hate. In college I didn’t love everything I read, but I certainly didn’t hold any violent grudges toward them.

You tell me: what’s the one title you can’t barely think about without feeling enraged?

Just Say No to Bad Books! 
(but respect other people’s opinions about them because everything is subjective!)

34 thoughts on “A Fine Line Between Book Love & Hate

  1. Lots of hate for required reading! Sad so many named A Separate Peace though… that's one of those books I never read but always looked forward to when I find the time.

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  2. I was hoping to be the first to post Moby Dick as my choice, but knowing how much venom that book stirs in so many circles, I'm not that surprised that two people already beat me to it. (In all fairness, the last four chapters where they FINALLY face the whale aren't horrible. Kind of like the last five minutes of a really boring basketball game).

    Since that one was taken, though, I'll have to post my #2 choice, and I know it won't make me popular here: The Catcher in the Rye.

    Sorry, Sarah, but if I ever met Holden Caufield in real life, I'd probably shake him and say, “Quit whining!” not long after we said hello. Couldn't relate to the story, hated the protagonist, and the jokes were all meh.

    Please don't ban me from the blog.

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  3. You all should be English teachers! Notice how most of these “hated” books are the ones forced on millions of kids in schools every day? I wonder what would happen to our literacy rates if kids were assigned books that were FUN to read. Hmmmmm . . .

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  4. I think the book that takes the cake for most despised was Crime and Punishment. I still hate it and even have my characters in my stories HATE HATE HATE it. I couldn't even watch the movie with Patrick Dempsey in it. I get hives recalling that terrible book.

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  5. A Separate Peace…although I wasn't too fond of The Grapes of Wrath or As I Lay Dying. All were required school reading. I don't know why they torment students so. Oh, and I tried reading Great Expectations, but I never got past the first chapter.

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  6. Q: Is there anything worse that Moby Dick?

    A: No.

    Although, because I refused to read Mel-vile in high school I had to agree to read whatever else my teacher gave me. As a lesson, she gave me Susan Howich's Cashelmara. To this day I don't know who won that throw-down.

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  7. Oooh, lishacauthen – I HATED Life of Pi too! I threw it across the room when I was finished.

    Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is probably my least favorite book of all time.

    I remember liking A Separate Peace, actually, though that was a long time ago. I wonder what I'd think of it now.

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  8. Life. Of. Frickin'. Pi. Yeah, it's the big Mann-Booker-whatever prize winner. Had to read it for a book club, and I suffered through, I dunno, 4 million pages. AND THEN I GOT TO THE END. Which I will not spoil. If the author had been standing there and if I had a machete in my hand…

    well, I don't know what would have happened. There is no other book that I hate as viscerally as I hate this book. The End.

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  9. “Sarah's Key” by Tatiana deRosnay. I hated watching actual Holocaust history turned into a self-esteem quest for a rich woman who spent a fortune trying to shop away her upperclass ennui, when she could have used that $ to rescue hundreds of women from genocide in present day Rwanda. By discussing holocaust victims in upscale European cafes or during Hermes shopping sprees, the author makes a mockery of actual historical events. Bad taste, IMO

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  10. Ask me ten years ago, and I'd say FIFTH BUSINESS by Robertson Davies – but I think now, I'd appreciate it for what it is. To comment on Jenilyn's comment – A SEPARATE PEACE was something we had to read in school too, but my teacher was the only one who saved us from it. Her exact words: “You won't like it, and you won't read it”. So we read THE CHRYSALIDS instead, which is still one of my favorite books of all time.

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  11. I hold a special hatred for The Grapes of Wrath. I don't really like anything Steinbeck wrote, but that one is my literary nemesis.

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