Kill Me, Please! Just Don’t Make Me Read That Book — Tabula Rasa

 

Let’s say you’re in prison and you are told you must read a book or be executed. Most of us would muddle through the book, no matter how distasteful.

On the other hand, each of us probably has a list of books so bad that, given a choice between reading one of them and death, we’d seriously consider death as the better alternative.

On my list is any novel by D. H. Lawrence: I detest everything about his writing.  Likewise any book by Noam Chomsky.

I have a new one I’m adding to my list.  Debuting on May 12, you will have the chance to buy Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises by Timothy Geithner. Can you imagine anything worse? The subject matter is depressing and the theme is obvious: it’s all George Bush’s fault. The author is a whiny tax-dodging Obama apologist. Will it be interesting? No. Will it illuminate? No. Will there be any good anecdotes?  No.

There may be a handful of sentient creatures who will read the book, but I won’t be one of them.

Will you?

What books are on your “I’d rather take poison than read this book” list?

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi.  He took a beloved book written by a libertarian science-fiction writer and “modernized” it, re-writing it to serve his own liberal agenda.  Ruin your own characters.  Don’t steal someone else’s characters and rape them, please.

    • #1
  2. user_7742 Inactive
    user_7742
    @BrianWatt

    Proposed Law (when a Republican President takes office with a Republican Congress): The Presidential nominee for Secretary of the Treasury must show proof that he or she can add, subtract, do mulitplication, division, explain in clear and concise language what a derivative is, and that he or she has paid his or her taxes to the federal government and applicable state taxes where he or she resides. Any failure to provide such documentation and any record on non-payment of either federal or applicable state taxes will immediately disqualify said nominee from consideration for approval by the Senate…or words to that effect.

    • #2
  3. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    I know I’ll offend someone, but anything by Annie Dillard, especially Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  I know I should like Dillard, and some of my best friends love her, but to me she is eternally and self-importantly over-the-top and I find her very annoying.   Also anything by Paul Krugman.  He can burst a vein any day of the week.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Merina Smith: I know I should like Dillard, and some of my best friends love her

     Speaking as a writer, never, ever let those be criteria for “liking” an author.   If the writer doesn’t work for you, don’t worry about it, just move on.  There are thousands or maybe millions of us out there.  Find writers that suit you.  Life is too short to waste on bad books.

    And just to throw fuel on the fire, I cannot get through books by Dafoe or Verne.  Yes, they are important to the history of writing.  But the style, what there was of it, was much different then.  Any writing instructor would whack them about the head and shoulders with their papers if they wrote like that in college today.

    • #4
  5. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    Merina Smith:

    Also anything by Paul Krugman. He can burst a vein any day of the week.

     His sanctimony is a wonder to behold.

    • #5
  6. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    Brian Watt:

    Proposed Law (when a Republican President takes office with a Republican Congress): The Presidential nominee for Secretary of the Treasury must show proof that he or she can add, subtract, do mulitplication, division, explain in clear and concise language what a derivative is, and that he or she has paid his or her taxes to the federal government and applicable state taxes where he or she resides. Any failure to provide such documentation and any record on non-payment of either federal or applicable state taxes will immediately disqualify said nominee from consideration for approval by the Senate…or words to that effect.

     Brian:  This is far too commonsensical to ever work in DC. 

    • #6
  7. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    Another book on my list is Lolita.  It made my skin crawl when I read part of it (I can’t remember if I read the whole thing) many years ago.

    I’ve never understood why it makes just about every critic’s ten-best list.

    • #7
  8. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    tabula rasa:

    Let’s say you’re in prison and you are told you must read a book or be executed. Most of us would muddle through the book, no matter how distasteful.

    On the other hand, each of us probably has a list of books so bad that, given a choice between reading one of them and death, we’d seriously consider death as the better alternative.

    On my list is any novel by D. H. Lawrence: I detest everything about his writing. Likewise any book by Noam Chomsky.

    Hey, I actually enjoy Chomsky. Provided he’s writing about linguistics.

    And, bad as DH Lawrence is, finishing a book of his is marginally less bad than death. (I had to do it once for an English class.) His poetry may actually be worse than his prose, but at least poems tend to be shorter.

    I might nominate something by Hemingway. Maybe. I consider a lot of fates worse than death, but reading books isn’t really one of them.

    • #8
  9. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Hey, I actually enjoy Chomsky. Provided he’s writing about linguistics.

    I should have qualified my condemnation of Chomsky.  I don’t have much knowledge of linguistics (and little desire to know much more), but I understand he really does know that subject.

    I was thinking of Chomsky’s political writings.  A man who can still apologize for the Khmer Rouge will never be on my reading list.

    • #9
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    It Takes a Village.

    • #10
  11. Troy Senik, Ed. Contributor
    Troy Senik, Ed.
    @TroySenik

    As far as heresies towards the canon go, I’m as guilty as anyone here. I will never joust with the “greatest book of the 20th century,” James Joyce’s Ulysses. I spent time in the literary gulag that was A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. Joyce will never get a second more of my time.

    • #11
  12. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Troy Senik, Ed.:

    As far as heresies towards the canon go, I’m as guilty as anyone here. I will never joust with the “greatest book of the 20th century,” James Joyce’s Ulysses. I spent time in the literary gulag that was A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. Joyce will never get a second more of my time.

    Sadly, as a Modern British Novel major I would have to agree. In a more blasphemous spirit (so noted because I graduated from the literary nest of the Fugitives) I detest WilliamFaulknersstreamofconsciousnesswritingstyleaswell.

    • #12
  13. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Joyce and Faulkner: too many words. Hemingway: too few words.

    • #13
  14. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    EThompson:) WilliamFaulknersstreamofconsciousnesswritingstyleaswell.

    I run hot and cold on Faulkner.  Love his short stories and some of his novels:  e.g., Light in August and As I Lay Dying.  Some people say Absalom! Absalom! is his masterpiece. I can’t stand it for the wordy stream of consciousness style.  I find it unreadable.

    • #14
  15. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    MLH:

    Hemingway: too few words.

     At one time, many years ago, I was taken by the Hemingway style. I can’t read him anymore. Not enough meat on the bones.

    • #15
  16. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    tabula rasa:

    MLH:

    Hemingway: too few words.

    At one time, many years ago, I was taken by the Hemingway style. I can’t read him anymore. Not enough meat on the bones.

    Or too much meat between the ears. Not that he was stupid. But the machismo was painfully overdone.

    I find something rather pathetic about a man who feels the need to advertise how much thinking he does with his downstairs brain.

    • #16
  17. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Let’s say you’re in prison and you are told you must read a book or be executed. Most of us would muddle through the book, no matter how distasteful. On the other hand, each of us probably has a list of books so bad that, given a choice between reading one of them and death, we’d seriously consider death as the better alternative.

    Absalom! Absalom! You answered your own question, tabula. :)

    • #17
  18. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Anything by Kurt Vonnegut.  He is a despicable human being with a depraved sense of morals.

    • #18
  19. user_928618 Inactive
    user_928618
    @JimLion

    Okay, I have an anecdote. I dated his wife while I was a sophomore in college. And guess what, my younger brother dated her in High School. There’s your anecdote. He has good taste in women.

    • #19
  20. user_989419 Inactive
    user_989419
    @ProbableCause

    When I was a young man I read Dickens a lot.  I liked his style, and the books were so thick I didn’t have to worry about what to read next for quite some time.  Eventually I read them all, so one day when I was in a mall book store (Waldenbooks?) I asked the young lady behind the counter if there were any Dickens-like books by other authors.

    She recommended Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy.

    Worst.  Novel.  Ever.

    • #20
  21. Pike Bishop Inactive
    Pike Bishop
    @PikeBishop

    Stephen King, ‘nuf said

    • #21
  22. Bluebottle Inactive
    Bluebottle
    @Bluebottle

    Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. The book is not just a farce, it’s a cruel practical joke played on the reader by the author.

    • #22
  23. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    I can’t believe we all forgot to mention the renowned “worst” book: Melville’s The Whale. :)

    • #23
  24. user_48342 Member
    user_48342
    @JosephEagar

    Will Geithner be apologizing for Obama?  He always seemed pro-forma about that sort of thing, and with the election over I have a hard time seeing him going out of his way to make Obama look good.  Of course, Geithner will make himself look good, which may amount to the same thing.

    • #24
  25. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Peter Robinson will disapprove, but given a choice of execution or reading Moby Dick, I think I would opt for immediate execution.  Why? I would be dead of boredom before finishing Moby Dick anyway, so why postpone my fate?

    I know it is the Greatest American Novel Ever, but I cannot finish it.  I even tried listening to it as an audiobook (I have long commute) and after listening 90 minutes (and 30 minutes from home) I switched on a sports talk station rather than listen another minute.  (I hate sports talk radio.) 

    It’s not I don’t like a good sea story. (Look at my handle.)  I even read and enjoyed Billy Budd and White Jacket.  In college I read Thackeray for entertainment.  I read a lot, and have a broad taste in literature.  (Check out my book reviews.)  But Moby Dick is a closed book to me.  

    Moby Dick has uses. Someone from Finland came over to my Houston office for a two week push on a software project. She could not sleep due to jet lag.  I gave her my copy, and recommended she read it before bedtime.  Worked better than sleeping pills.
     
    Seawriter

    • #25
  26. Kim K. Inactive
    Kim K.
    @KimK

    Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor. Lots of dialogue from changing points of view and the author doesn’t believe in quotation marks.

    • #26
  27. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    I too am no fan of Moby-Dick, but through force of will I actually finally finished it a couple of years ago. 

    Other than marking it off my list, it left me cold.

    It has a terrific opening paragraph, but then immediately heads into long, boring passages followed by other long, boring passages.  I’m told it has all sorts of allegorical and other deep meanings.  My allegorical counter and deep meaning receiver must have been off.

    On the other hand, about the same time I read Moby-Dick, I read that other perennial book “to read this year”:  Middlemarch.  I loved it and will read it again.

    • #27
  28. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    Joseph Eagar:

    Will Geithner be apologizing for Obama? He always seemed pro-forma about that sort of thing, and with the election over I have a hard time seeing him going out of his way to make Obama look good. Of course, Geithner will make himself look good, which may amount to the same thing.

    You may be right, but he’ll certainly be making himself look good, which means he can’t be too truthful about Obama. Thus, I doubt we’ll get good anecdotes like those revealed by Robert Gates. 

    If there are no good anecdotes, what are we left with?  A book by one of the most boring men in recent history (does anyone remember a single memorable sentence ever uttered by Geither, other than “it’s the fault of the prior administration”) writing about a subject that, let’s face it, unless you’re  a finance buff is dismally boring.  And it’s highly likely he’ll deep-six many of the real reasons for the crisis:  e.g., the housing bubble caused by Democratic lending policies.

    Finally, the title:  Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises.  Clumsy and infelicitous: why the plural form of “crisis”?

    • #28
  29. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    Pike Bishop:

    Stephen King, ‘nuf said

    The last Stephen King book I read was The Stand, which I enjoyed.  Tried a couple of others, but the disgust factor quickly overcame any desire to find out what happened.

    • #29
  30. Deacon Blues Inactive
    Deacon Blues
    @DeaconBlues

    I can’t believe some of the authors and books in this thread. Hemingway? Faulkner? Jude the Obscure? Stranger in a Strange Land? I truly hope readers of this thread will not be prejudiced against these and will give them a try. And I might suggest that the posters go back and give them another try. I think they may be rewarded, as sometimes happens, by reading them a second time, perhaps with a different perspective.

    Regarding Vonnegut: I read most of his books back in my high school and college days and thought of them as mostly light, quirky fun. I appreciated Slaughterhouse Five quite a bit. And many here know that “Harrison Bergeron” is a fascinating conservative treatment of “equality” that should not be missed.

    • #30
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