You know – those books that make it on everybody’s “top _ books” and “books to read before you die” list; books that (most) critics rave about; books bloggers call “amazing,” or “the best book I’ve ever read…”; books everyone, and their neighbour, has read and raved about; books recommended to you by everyone as something “you would absolutely love!”
Well guess what…I didn’t! Despite what others have said about them, I did not love these hugely popular books, for one reason or another.
Why don’t I like them, or love them as much as most people? Different reasons: the writing wasn’t great, the plot wasn’t all that interesting for me, I’ve read better books, it’s overrated, but mostly I think because it falls short of my very high (thanks to everyone who said it was AMAZING!!) expectations.
I realize I’m probably in the minority for not liking these books – at least among the literary people I “know,” but I can’t help it. As much as I’d love to love these books, I simply did not, so please don’t hold it against me and send assassins my way…
(Disclaimer: The following are my opinions only…and some may be rather strong. Though they seem scathing, it’s only my failed attempt at being humorous. They are not meant to hurt or offend authors or fans. I respect your views and opinions, and if you think these books were amazing, that’s fine. If you want to write me a long hate mail explaining why I’m an uncultured illiterate, that’s fine too….interesting comments are welcome!)
1. Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell) – I know what you’re thinking: How can you hate that book!?! It was amazing!! Yes…I disliked this book! Why? Because I thought it was cheap and gimmicky – the type that did not work for me. David Mitchell probably thought he was being clever by piecing together 5 (or is it 6) different stories with different genre to make one cool book, but guess what, it wasn’t clever! The individual stories were interesting and fine on their own, but they didn’t gel well together. I really didn’t see the connection between the different people, and frankly, the book, as a whole was pointless. Cloud Atlas is a book that looks good on the surface, complete with beautifully written scenes and quotable quotes, but deep down, it’s just 5 (or is it 6) short stories that David Mitchell probably wrote at different times and didn’t know what to do with so he decided one day to put it together so that he could have 1 novel…or not…who cares??
What to read instead: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (David Mitchell). I didn’t think David Mitchell could write a book that didn’t have some kind of weird gimmicky thing in it, but Jacob de Zoet proves that he can. This book is a beautiful historical fiction set in Japan about the life and love of Dutchman, Jacob de Zoet. A book that is funny, intriguing, mysterious, and tragic all at the same time.
2. American Gods (Neil Gaiman) – Don’t get me wrong, I love Neil Gaiman…I just didn’t love American Gods. This was one of the books that just disappointed me. I had such high hopes before reading it. Everyone who loves Neil Gaiman probably loved this book. I don’t think I’m less of a fan because I found this book dragging and boring. One thing about Neil Gaiman – his imagination is amazing – I just wish his writing was as great.
What to read instead: Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) – Neverwhere takes readers on an otherworldly journey through the eerie London underground, where another city lies hidden, complete with its eerie residents.
3. Dune (Frank Herbert) – You’ll find this book on every “best sci-fi” list and is considered one of the best sci-fi novel ever written. If you are a geek who reads comic books and likes sci-fi then you HAVE to love this book. Well, I consider myself a geek and I read comic books and like sci-fi, but I found this book dull and simply overrated. When I was reading this I kept waiting for something amazing to happen, which is why I kept reading, and reading, and reading (it’s a pretty long book), until I realized that I was at the last page…nothing amazing had happened. In fact, nothing even remotely amazing happened. This is book 1 of a series, so I’m thinking the “amazing stuff” is probably in the other books, but I’m not gonna stick around to find out!
What to read instead: Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) – It’s also a series. When I read this back in high school, it only had 3 books in the series (or I thought there were only 3 books) – Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, and Xenocide. The series is about Ender Wiggin, a boy with a knack for flight simulations and playing war games against aliens…or so the thought. Ender’s Game has recently been turned into a movie, though I haven’t seen it yet.
4. A Secret History (Donna Tartt) – When this book was recommended to me by people who responded to my blog post about my next amazing read, I rushed to the nearest bookstore to buy it! It’s the story of 4 (or is it 5) snobbish, intellectual, spoiled college kids who think they are so deep and sophisticated and too cool for school and the rest of the inferior, mindless student body population. For most part of the book, the 4 (or is it 5) college kids sit around smoking and drinking and debating pseudo-intellectual existential, yet highly inconsequential topics. Oh, something “dark” and “sinister” happens somewhere in the middle part, but it’s not enough to hide the fact that this novel is full of shallow, unrealistic characters in unrealistic situations.
What to read instead: Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Marisha Pessl)….oh wait, that book is also about snobbish, intellectual kids who think they are so deep and sophisticated and too cool for school and the rest of the inferior, mindless student body population! I think, if anything, this novel is even more annoying that A Secret History, because it’s main character constantly cites literary and artisitic masterpieces and philosophical theories every chance she gets, repeatedly trying to prove to her readers that she is a cultured, intellectual, educated, human being. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK! As a matter of fact, stay away from novels where its main characters are smarty pants who are barely out of puberty.
5. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom) – Ok, I may be crossing the line by saying that I hated this book but, unfortunately, I did. It’s not that I hated the book really, it’s just that a lot of the things the author described Morrie did in the novel annoyed me on so many different levels. I know the book was meant to honor the author’s mentor (or teacher, or whatever), but I just didn’t agree with some the “life lessons” they shared. Sorry.
What to read instead: Death Be Not Proud (John Guthrie) – I don’t remember exactly what this book is about except that the main character was dying and that he was writing about his life. Also, even though I don’t remember everything about it, I remember that it is really good and really sad and that I cried buckets when I read it, which is more than I can say about Mr. Albom’s novel.
6. Kafka on the Shore (Haruki Murakami) – To be fair, I didn’t hate this book, and I didn’t even really dislike it, I just didn’t really understand what it was about no matter how hard I tried to analyze it. It was entertaining, sure, and it made me laugh, but in the end, I really couldn’t wrap my mind around the whole thing.
What to read instead: 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami) – Not that this book makes any more sense than Kafka on the Shore, and it’s very, very long, but in terms of entertainment and intrigue, this one beats Kafka.
7. The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss) – This was also another recommendation which I didn’t hesitate to read. It’s a trilogy about a guy who goes to a special school to try to be a wizard or magician, or something that specializes in some arcane thing…see, it’s so bad that I forgot what it was really about. Anyway, the book had promise, except that the writing was really bland and the characters were one-dimensional and boring. I bought the second book before I finished the first one, but I never bothered to read it. I may never read it…unless it’s the only book in the world…but even then I’d probably think twice before doing it.
What to read instead: A Song of Ice and Fire Series (George R.R. Martin) – If you haven’t seen or even heard of Game of Thrones on HBO then you probably live in a cave. The TV show, based on GRRM’s novels is now going on its 3rd season which covers the first 3 novels. Though the TV show is hugely popular, the novels are far more superior than the TV series.