On not recommending books

Usually one of the dubious pleasures of reading “I hate this book!” lists is the feeling of righteous anger you get from discovering that one of your own best-loved books is a target of the listmaker’s wrath. Anyone who hates on a Jane Austen novel, or Middlemarch, pisses me right off — and then I get to sit happily for a few moments and think about all the reasons why I love the book in question and why the misguided person who dislikes it is just wrong.

This list is a little different: it’s not about books the contributors to The Second Pass despise, it’s a list of books they would subtract from the canon if they could — a list of books that they don’t really feel are worth reading despite their status as great novels. And shockingly enough, I agree! With everything! (Okay, I haven’t read everything on the list, but the inclusion of books I have read and found underrated makes me think I’d agree about the others too.) Even the inclusion of a Woolf book, which would usually be enough to set me off. I love just about every bit of Woolf I’ve read with a hand-fluttery and passionate love, but I couldn’t make it through Jacob’s Room either.

The Second Pass list is also awesome because of this quote about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road:

He’s a writer who could make a casual brunch read like the end of the world, so when he’s actually writing about the end of the world, his grandiosity grows numbing.

Which doesn’t mean I won’t go watch the movie version for Viggo Mortensen, of course.

You can read the comments on The Second Pass post, which do indeed include some of the huffiness I was describing above, here.

Suggestions for well-known books to add to the not-worth-your-time list?


    1. Have you heard about Infinite Summer? I met a (very nice) guy at the Mailer Colony who was planning to re-read the whole thing as part of that.

      I admit that I have never read any David Foster Wallace, though I sort of feel like I ought to give him a try eventually.

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