Books I Was Forced to Read.

Posted by on Oct 13, 2013 in Books | 1 comment

I was reading over at The Bookwyrm’s Hoard and she mentioned skipping this coming week’s Top Ten Tuesday, with the topic of Books I Was Forced to Read. My mind immediately began to make a list: I laughingly commented that I would do it for her and quickly wrote down my Top Ten. Then I started giving explanations before finally realizing I had basically written a full blog post in her comment section. So I moved it over here instead.

Therefore, while it is not yet Tuesday, here is my list of the Top Ten Books I Was Forced to Read.  Though maybe this should be more accurately titled Books I Was Forced to Finish Reading, since I usually start reading books willingly enough. While I’m sure there were others I was forced to read through, these are the ones that stick out in my memory.

1. Ethan Frome. If there’s something redeeming about this story, I didn’t find it.
2. Wuthering Heights. I have a real problem with brooding anti-heroes. If the hero wants to brood from time to time, fine. But he better get over it and do something heroic. Otherwise he’s just another villain. And Cathy wasn’t worth it. About the only thing good about the book is Kate Bush’s song “Wuthering Heights”.
3. A Separate Peace. I didn’t get the reason we were supposed to read this one. It dragged. I couldn’t empathize with any of the characters. It ended abruptly and poorly. Maybe 10th grade girls just don’t think the way prep school boys do. However, Parker Stevenson (in the film version) was something this 10th grade girl definitely appreciated 🙂
4. The Red Pony/The Pearl/Of Mice and Men. aka, anything by Steinbeck. Everybody is miserable and dies. The end. I think there’s one Steinbeck book that I’ve enjoyed and actually read more than once, and that is Travels with Charley, about Steinbeck’s transcontinental road trip with his standard poodle.
5. Tess of the d’Ubervilles. Poor Tess. She just can’t get a break, can she? Though I did have a friend who wrote a duet sung by Tess and Angel called “Beneath the Cows” as his end of the year English project….
6. The Red Badge of Courage. I was at the start of a decades-long Civil War obsession when I had to read this for school. My excitement (“Oooooo! Civil War book!”) quickly faded and by the last chapter I actively hated it. Looking back, it’s likely that I was expecting an action-packed story about the Civil War, not an internally-focused psychological drama, and that’s why I disliked it so.
7. A Whack on the Side of the Head. Okay, so most people think this is one of the best books out there on creativity. I found it next to useless. Most of the things von Oech suggested I a) already knew and did, b) already knew, had tried, and discovered they didn’t work for me, c) didn’t know, contemplated, and decided they were a waste of time, or d) were just plain dumb. Didn’t help that the professor assigning it (for Exercises in Creativity) seemed to think that creativity consisted only of breaking rules. I happen to consider myself a very creative person, but I’m not a rule-breaker. At least, not the kind of rules he thought should be broken (social and moral). I’ll put my punctuation outside the quotation marks (makes a lot more sense, you know?), but I’m not going to fill up my shopping cart with groceries, stand in line, let the the cashier ring me up, and then run away laughing without paying (yes, that was what my assigned group decided to do to “break the rules”). I left the group when they first made plans, told the prof I wouldn’t do that, and went back to my dorm. If I remember correctly, I was docked in grading for it too.
8. The Left Hand of Darkness. I enjoyed LeGuin’s Earthsea books, so I was happy to find this one on my Fantasy in Lit class. But all the political and socioeconomic layers buried what could have been a good read. At least for me. Some people like that kind of thing. Different strokes and all that.
9. Riddley Walker. Another from my Fantasy in Lit class, and an absolute mental pain to read. The story involves a devolved English language, and is written phonetically. For a purely visual reader (I don’t hear the words in my head when I read), it was a near impossibility to get through. I was forced to read sections aloud, trying to sound out the words. Another “huh?” moment for me was that the only other place I knew Russell Hoban from was the Frances the Badger books. Quite a switch it was.
10. Heart of Darkness. The only one of this bunch that I found myself enjoying despite being forced to read it. I didn’t enjoy it because it was a good story (terribly depressing actually, especially once I found out it was based on historical fact), but because my Senior AP English class had to teach it to each other. I dreaded that, but once we started analyzing Conrad’s writing style and diction and word pictures, it became startlingly clear what an incredible writer he was.


So what books are on your “Hate” list, and why?

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One Comment

  1. I love your list, and I’m glad you wrote and posted it on your blog! Part of my difficulty in doing this topic is that I didn’t go to a standard high school. My high school didn’t require most of the traditional English and American lit texts; instead, we read, analyzed, rehearsed, and performed Shakespeare. In college, I had to read a lot of short stories I disliked (for a short story class whose professor and I didn’t get along), and a few plays I didn’t care for (for various theater lit and theater history courses), but I also got to read a bunch of great stuff including poetry and a lot more Shakespeare, Restoration comedy, and other good plays . (Yeah, I was a theater major.) While on the one hand, my academic history excused me from reading a lot of the classics before I was ready for them, it also means I’ve never HAD to read a lot of the standard canon. I’ve read some of them on my own; I’ve also started and abandoned a bunch (including some of the titles you listed above. Wuthering Heights just did not appeal to me, nor Steinbeck.)

    Oh, and I liked Parker Stevenson, too. 😉

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