The Book I Hate

Are there books that you, folks, absolutely detest? I don’t mean anything political or ideological. Obviously, we all detest Mein Kampf or The Art of the Deal (no moral equivalence implied.) But here I mean regular books you hate without any reference to politics.

For instance, I have carried all through my life an unabiding, passionate hatred for Antoine St. Exupéry’s Little Prince. And it’s not only because I’ve heard and read online literally dozens of victims of all kinds of egregious domestic abuse justify staying with the abusers by proudly quoting this (evil, disgusting, crappy, I hate it!!!) little book. The whole pathetic, whiny tone so beloved by manipulators of all sorts gets on my nerves.

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25 thoughts on “The Book I Hate”

  1. It’s probably no secret to many here, but I detest Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter. It’s a pedestrian, overlong book by a pompous, under-educated windbag who likes to hear himself think — poorly.

    It’s good for cleaning up messes or holding papers down against the force of wind and that’s about its only conceivable use. It’s a book for people who like to think they are deep and thoughtful but don’t really understand much about anything. Also, it’s a book beloved by intellectual bros (including female bros) who want to appear intelligent without actually being intelligent.

    I despise that book so very much.

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  2. Beloved, Ethan Frome, and The Odyssey. I read all three my junior and senior years of high school — it was IB English, so it was more like a college course stretched over two years. But my class was the most unmotivated class ever, and they ruined it for those of us who really would have gotten something out of it.

    I hated Beloved. Not entirely sure why. I don’t know if it was my class’ inability to really discuss what disturbed everyone in the book. Ethan Frome just bored me to tears, and The Odyssey could have been great if we could have discussed something other than the plot. At that point in the year the unmotivated majority just gave up and the rest of suffered because of it.

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  3. I love “Little Prince” and enjoyed studying it in Israeli junior high school.

    I remember being driven insane a bit by “Mrs. Dalloway” and immediately switching seminars to escape Virginia Woolf’s writing. There was some paragraph written like a poem in prose, with repetitions of some (bits of) sentences every few lines and I just could not bear to read it. I even had difficulty in understanding what was (or may be was not?) going on since the writing grated on my nerves so much.

    Another book I tried reading- and after half an hour and around 25 pages understood I would never try reading it again unless somebody pressed a gun to my head – was “Brothers Karamazov.”

    The last book I was supposed to read at school (and may be should try it myself in the future, unlike the previous two books) was “The Stranger” by Albert Camus. I hated Meursault’s indifference towards his own mother (!), his misogyny towards the girlfriend and the protagonist’s remorseless killing of an Arab made me think of the Middle East conflict, even though the author surely hasn’t meant this. I may enjoy reading about bad people, but in this case felt the protagonist was like a psychopath from one TV program who described murdering another inmate for refusing to sleep with him in the same fashion I would describe a tree, without any feelings at all. It was freaky. Both the TV program with the criminal and Meursault in the novel. That’s why I may try rereading it one day: if a book makes one experience strong feelings, one may discover something worthwhile from reading it.

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  4. Like el, I too have failed to finish reading, ‘The Stranger’ (Camus). I know it’s meant to be about detachment and isolation, but it’s so detached that nobody could possibly care. Thus it’s just a literary exercise examining the phenomenon of detachment, it’s hardly a novel. So why bother reading it?

    But worse is Heart of Darkness (Conrad) – my reaction has been, ‘.. just die, you whining, entitled xenophobe and stop wasting my time!’ No, of course I never finished it! I have a life, unlike the protagonist whose name I can’t be bothered to look up, let alone remember.

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  5. I’m actually hard pressed to come up with a work of fiction that I really hated, as opposed to just didn’t care about.

    Maybe On The Road? Mostly because it failed so totally to live up even a tiny bit to its outsized reputation. As for the main characters, far from being Lost Rebels or whatever it was they were supposed to be, my reaction was “Huh, these guys are pretty…pathetic.”

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  6. Ooh. Which is the offending bit of the Little Prince in terms of people staying with their abusers? Befriending the fox?

    My sister tells me that I remind her very much of the protagonist of the Stranger in terms of general manner. Amused to see El have such a visceral reaction to him.

    Even though there’s plenty of books I dislike, I find it difficult to remember one I actually hate. I think it may have something to do with how a book you hate must somehow be imposed on you, if only by reputation, regardless of your dislike of it – otherwise you’d just toss it aside. As far as reading fiction goes, I think I established my own taste in books as the only criterion worth following way too early, and so have stopped reading books I likely would have hated had I felt obligated to finish. In a way, I now feel like I’m missing out!

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    1. I don’t know what it is in the English translation but it’s something like “we are responsible forever for what we’ve tamed.” These poor idiots repeat it like damn zombies.

      I love The Stranger and totally identify with the protagonist. L’etranger c’est moi. 🙂

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      1. Hah, chalk me up for identifying-with-the-Stranger-protagonist. It was probably the book with the best effect on my life – I hadn’t figured out no is possible until reading it at age 14.

        One book I hate is Yukio Mishima’s “Sun and steel”, because fuck that glorification of purity so strong it leads to death, and fuck glorifications of no-mind submission that use as a justification martial arts techniques that teach you a lot about not slowing down your reactions in a fight by overthinking and nothing about how to act in society.

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  7. I hated A Canticle for Leibowitz. I don’t read much science fiction, but some smart people, including some professional philosophers, were talking about how great it was.

    It was awful. Terrible writing; worst of all, it was really manipulative. And in the service of really obvious Catholic propaganda (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

    Soon I was just skimming through it in order to see what happened next and how it ended. Then it occurred to me: I don’t have to read it, I can just read the plot summary in Wikipedia instead. So I did. And the Wikipedia entry was better written, too.

    I tried to read Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Hated it. It’s like, I get the jokes, I understand where it’s supposed to be funny. But it’s not funny.

    We had to read The Deerslayer in high school English, which I hated (the book and the course). Our teacher even said, it’s not a very good book but it’s the first American epic, so… She also mentioned Mark Twain’s famous diatribe against it, which was pretty good.

    I’ll just add that I did not hate the Jonathan Franzen novel I read, Purity. Everyone else hates Jonathan Franzen, but I don’t.

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    1. I hate Deerslayer, too. It was extremely popular in the USSR, and everybody went crazy for the book. Except for me. I still don’t get it. But thank you for mentioning that Twain denounced it. I didn’t know that and will look it up.

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  8. My two most hated books (that I finished…. sort of) were

    Penguin Island (Anatole France) At 15 or so I was intrigued by the set up (a nearsighted missionary baptizes a flock of great auks which are then turned into people with souls by God) but was not remotely prepared to appreciate anything after that since I had no knowledge of anything it was commenting on or satirizing . I had never even heard of the Dreyfuss Affair then although that section ended up being the most interesting for me.

    Moby Dick (Melville) Great American novel? When I started that one I was in my 20s and had been reading between 200-300 pages a day (including some classics I’d been curious about) but that one stopped me dead in my tracks. Bits and pieces weren’t too bad, but I’m really not interested in killing whales so I don’t need long precise descriptions of the equipment needed or how it’s used, Ahab lecturing the dead whale’s head for what seemed like 50 pages (it might have been two or three but seemed like 50) was a lowlight.

    Part of my realized I’m not being fair to either, but another part doesn’t care.

    ps. I always loathed the Little Prince just from the descriptions of it I’ve read and have vowed to never read it.

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  9. I hated War and Peace and hated Anna Karenina even more; I suppose I just hate Tolstoy, the misogynist ass who should’ve never written women. I loved the Dostoyevsky I’ve read (The Bros Karamazov, Crime and Punsihment). Most recently, I absolutely hated and couldnt go past the first chapter of DFW “Infinite Jest” — it’s completely unreadable. I also can’t with anything by Meg Wolitzer. I read also a lot of speculative fiction but hate high fantasy — anything with mideaval onania or magic is out for me; I do like horror and sci fi. I hated Harry Potter books; the style is obnoxious. Will never read Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings.

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    1. I’m totally with you. Hate Tolstoy, love Dostoyevsky. Couldn’t get past the first two pages of Infinite Jest. I hate American postmodernism.

      I never tried Harry Potter and I hope not to have to. But that will be up to Klara. I hope she likes Frances Burnett for kids’ books. I love these books.

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