Greetings, my fellow bibliophiles!
In case you missed it, we featured 3 amazing pieces here on The Books That Made Us last week:
We’re also recommending three more brilliant Substacks:
Now onto this week’s discussion question, which was prompted by the wonderful
Which book do you wish you’d never read?
American Psycho. I'm sure it's a brilliant book, and it's definitely beloved by a lot of literary critics. But I had really horrible nightmares for weeks after reading it. Wish I'd never injected it into my neurons.
I don't recall any book I wish I had not read. There were many books I didn't enjoy, especially some prize winners that were really hyped and didn't make the grade in my opinion. But I feel that each book has offered me something, even if that is helping me to understand what I do and don't like to read. Another thing I have noticed is that some books I read in high school or early 20's that I just didn't get, reading them again later in life turned on the light bulb.
The DaVinci Code is the worst book I ever finished. I read it to understand the hype around it, and I learned that was a dumb reason to read a book.
Intermediate Accounting. I know this is off-track but I hated that book and burned it in my dorm at the end of the semester ... set off the alarms, filled the dorm with smoke, and would have gotten kicked out but the semester was over.
Lolita. I only read the first half because it was simply too much. I recently traveled with my fifteen-year-old daughter to San Antonio; every time we stayed the night at a hotel I thought, "is the desk clerk thinking . . . ?" and I wouldn't have thought that if I hadn't read Lolita.
Great question. Does half a book count? Some years ago I tried to read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I found it too upsetting to finish.
It’s strange, but I don’t recall ever regretting reading a book. Sure, there were bad (poorly written etc.) books, but I don’t know if I’ve ever actively wished that I’d never read them.
Oh that's an easy one for me: Desires In Conflict by Joe Dallas. It's an ex-gay story from Exodus International, a now-defunct conversion therapy organization. Really fucked me up as a teenager.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara - I loved it and was hooked all the way through reading it...then I got to the end, put it down, and suddenly it hit me: I HATED it.
Orwell’s 1984. I read it over night, years ago. It haunts me since then. I just can NOT shake it off. And how tf he predicted everything that’s happening now, everywhere?
Don’t get me wrong. The book is fantastic. But I really do wish to shake off its effect on me.
PS: it’s the same with the film The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. Damn. Even typing the name makes me shiver from horror effect THAT ending had on me 😬
That's a pretty long list! LOL. I guess I don't regret Atlas Shrugged exactly, since it's had such a impact on a lot of people. But I regret liking it while I read it and for about fifteen minutes afterward until I realized Ayn Rand was kind of a monster.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Spoiler alert..... dog dies unnecessarily and heartbreakingly at the end and eff that book. I also wish I never saw Disneys Old Yeller as a child, at least I’m consistent.
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin ❌ 🛑 🚫. I wanted to boot it into the sun. I'm still mad thinking about it lol
The Topeka School by Ben Lerner. It strung me along with just enough to like about it only for me to unequivocally dislike it upon finishing.
This is going to upset a few people but - Eat, Pray, Love. Just awful.
The original Amityville Horror scared the bejesus out of me and I couldn't be alone in the house for weeks.
Anything by Colleen Hoover
I picked up a Paolo Coelho ‘novel’ on holiday in Bulgaria once when I was out of reading material and the English language books on offer were limited. To date the only book I’ve ever thrown in a trash can.
American Psycho and Moby Dick are the two that come to mind. American Psycho because it's worse than the film version (a rarity) and the descent into insanity isn't much more than annoying to read.
Moby Dick because I expected to be blown away, and aside from the Town Ho's Story found the whole thing underwhelming, overly verbose and boring. I'd seen it compared to Shakespeare which gave a false sense - the bard had to keep his audience engaged and move things along.
Brothers Karamazov for the second time.
It was long ago, but not as incredibly revelatory as first time at 18
Too many to mention as an unwelcome puritanical streak compels me to almost always finish what I start. I can’t quite believe I’m saying this but I recently finished Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the high castle and found it unbelievably disappointing, especially in comparison with the excellent TV adaptation (I know, I know!)
Perfume: the Story of a Murderer by Patrik Süskind. I had to read it in Highschool and my sensitive spirit was deeply disturbed by this story.
Of Mice & Men... 👎🏻😬
I recall in the last year or so two books that I remember being so pissed when I was finished, and during reading them actually. Mad at myself for continuing to read them when they were clearly such a waste of time. I think I though perhaps if I kept reading they would somehow get better or they would get to the point. Then at the end, no point. I was so mad. What a waste of time and money. Don't remember the names of them because they were not worth remembering.
Hey, thanks for the shout-out, man! That means a lot to me, mucho appreciation. I don't know that I can name a book I wish I hadn't read but I can name one I wished, at the time, that I wasn't reading - Atonement, by Ian McEwan. I have no doubt it's a great book - not my genre. Not my vibe. It was the key assigned work for a university literature course. Made me feel bad because part of me thought, as a writer and a Man of Culture, I should recognise and enjoy any Good Book, right? If it's won literary awards, if it's High Brow, but it bores me, what does that say about me? Is this a litmus test for the type of person I am?
Ulysses soundly beats out Catcher in the Rye, Confederates of Dunces, The Ginger Man and Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me among the others that came immediately to mind. Plus every book I’ve ever bought at an airport.
There genuinely isn't a single book I wish I'd never read. Even the badly written ones, or outright evil ones. They've all contributed to my formation by showing me what I hate and dislike.
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.
The Duke and I - Julia Quinn.
I can't think of any book I have read that I wish I didn't!
Carrie. This is how I discovered I just cannot stomach horror. It haunts me still. Just the idea of The Exorcist freaks me out.
Hopscotch. If you know, you know.
I can’t even remember the name of it but the plot was a man trying to teach his dog to talk so he could find out if his wife’s death was accidental, suicide or murder. It involved weird science on dog’s vocal cords. Creepy, badly written and ultimately just awful. Read it for a book group so felt compelled to finish it and sorry I did.
It is a magnificent novel, but second time was not the same incredible experience as on the Cretan beech as a teenager, when I first read it.
I should try a third time.
Everything and anything by Immanuel Kant
Strobel's "Case for Christ". Really showcases the economist's concept of "optimal stopping time".
Recently finished ‘A Fans Notes’ by Exley. Not that I really regret reading it but I didn’t think it was that good. He felt pedantic and only used the word ‘azure’ for blue, he did it like six times in the book and it really annoyed me.
Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow depressed me no end. Slothrop’s journey in the dark heart of crumbling Nazi Germany...oof.
There are quite a few books I wish I hadn't wasted my time on (and almost all were book club choices) but only because they were incredibly poorly written. Naming names feels counterproductive because some people may love them and thats great.
I do wish I had never listened to many episodes of the podcast Sword and Scale though, particularly the one about the torture of a young Japanese girl. I will never ever ever get that out of my head.
There are a few, but top of the list is A Time for Everything by Karl Ove Knausgård.
So I can't remember the book's name...if I do, I'll come back here. Basically it was this YA fiction book about these friends who survive a plane crash (?) in the Australian Outback and meet an aboriginal boy. They're nice to him, but talk down to him. It was straight up racist, but a few of the teachers at the school where I was the new HOD had been teaching it for years and did not want to give it up. So I had to read it first...it actually became a great lesson with Year 8 kids who saw just how racist ("outdated"?) the text was (implicitly). Still, I couldn't finish it nor did I have the kids do so. We switched to Rabbit Proof Fence and had some great lessons.
Also, the book was just boring :) I got it off everyone's syllabus for the next year.
"The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown is the one purchase I regret, having compelled myself to read it despite its poor writing. It feels more like a screenplay sketch than a novel. Interestingly, I enjoyed the film adaptation it inspired. Nevertheless, I still hold a grudge for the expenditure, and I keep it as a reminder not to trust advertisements.
"Pimp" by Iceberg Slim. I don't know who told that guy he was capable of writing a book, because he wasn't. He wrote without filter or possibly even an editor about how he wasn't at fault for the things he did because of his bad upbringing, but he clearly was.
“Good Morning Monster,” while the stories had lessons in them, I feel (and realize others do too now) that the author went a little to far sharing some of the traumatic details. I’m still haunted by some of them and I don’t think they were needed for the stories.
"Ben In The World" by Doris Lessing. It's beyond chilling.
The precursor, "Ben", was much less so.
Jojo Moyes 'Someone Else's Shoes' just because I love Jojo Moyes and was dissapointed to read a 'book by recipe' It felt like she sat down with a list of trendy things and added all to the book. On the other hand it is uplifting because it shows even good writers can write bad books, so it gives courage to novices to plough ahead. The short story the book is based on is much better! Great to find out Elizabeth Gilbert is on Substack, I like her. ☺️
All of mine!
But for a more serious answer, Max Gladstone's Empress of Forever. I've never finished a book out of sheer spite before.