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Top 5 worst books you've ever read
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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3864


Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 5:48 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

I'm one of thse who would have loved to have studied literature at a higher level (I last studied literature formally when I was 16.) I still harbour some hopes of embarking on an Open University course once I've retired.

I don't know, incidentally, that forming opinions is necessarily the point in studying literature. The more I read about literature, both on and off the net, the less interested I find myself about opinions - even my own opinions. More interesting, for me, is the ability to construct argument. Anyone, after all, can have an opinion: what arouses my interest is a well-constructed argument, even - or, rather, especially - for points of view I'm not sympathetic with.

Concerning Paradise Lost and The Prelude, they're both obviously great masterpieces, and I'd guess that consensus of informed opinion would side with the former as the greater of the two. But it is The Prelude that I feel much closer to. It seems to me to be on a more human scale, and is a much warmer, more intimate work.

There- how about that for an unargued opinion? Wink



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verityktw



Joined: 18 Dec 2008
Posts: 145



PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had some incredibly positive reading experiences while studying English too - amongst the panicked reading en masse. I don't think I'd ever have read Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons or spent enough time on Paradise Lost or read Shakespeare well without my degree, but I do empathise with the scarring left by studying some books!

Himadri, I think going back to study literature when you retire would be perfect for you - I hope you get the opportunity to do it. Also, I thought when you mentioned parallel texts of Hamlet and King Lear that I had relatively strong memories of reading them both in parallel texts - especially Hamlet as it was one of the first seminars I did at Cambridge and I had an argument with another girl about whether the two versions could be regarded as two different plays in their own right rather than merely versions. I did a quick search and I think these must be the versions I'm thinking of: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Three-Tex...Quartos-Renaissance/dp/0404623395 http://www.amazon.co.uk/King-Lear...-Edition-Annotated/dp/0582040523. Clearly I benefited from borrowing them from my college library and didn't have to pay full whack!

I think constructing arguments and forming informed opinions are both important parts of studying literature, but a big part of what it was about for me was learning to read better and more richly.

Some of Paradise Lost feels beautifully tender and human to me, but right now I am without my (heaving annotated edition incredibly intimidating to an 18 year old about to start university) copy of it, so will have to come to its defence when I can lay my hands on one. I am without many of my books here - as much as I love my house, it would benefit from space for a library, preferably on a Beauty and the Beast type scale Wink


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verityktw



Joined: 18 Dec 2008
Posts: 145



PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apple, I feel a bit guilty about derailing your thread without having responded fully to your post Embarassed

I've only read one of the books you mention, Jane Eyre. Can you say a bit more about why you struggled with it, or is it really impossible to put your finger on?

I'm also glad you hated 50 Shades and Twilight - both are books I've consciously avoided and it's nice to have my suspicions confirmed by someone who's actually read the books.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2912


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like Himadri the books I would dislike tend to be filtered out before I get to them, not because of the test of time but because I know the sort of books I am likely to dislike and avoid them.  (My book club has shown me that this is not a perfect method since I read books there I would never have read and love them. The ones set in India, especially.)

Ones I rate poorly are often just light ones that I know won't be great.  The disappointing ones are I think often older ones, perhaps because I assume the writing might be better than more modern ones.  But it often isn't and certainly the story and the depth is often barely there at all in older light novels.  But to five books I have not enjoyed when I thought I would:  The Chase by Candida Clark we discussed and almost came to fisticuffs.  She tried much too hard - and failed. Some awful overwritten prose. The Hardy Boys book I tried as an adult.  Lord of the Flies, which I think I have feelings of teeth-gritting because of the subject matter and the rather unrelenting misery.  That goes for Misery by Stephen King.  (Unrelenting misery isn't always a turn-off - A Fine Balance I thought an excellent book, though it did have considerable humour and characters to admire and love; just nothing good happens to them.)  And I was very disappointed when I reread Wuthering Heights as an adult; not only was it not at all romantic as in my memory, but I thought the structure was poorly done, the writing nothing great and a modern editor would probably require considerable rewriting.  Unlike Himadri I am not going to try endlessly to see what others see in this; there are many other books, both classics and other, that I do want to read.


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Apple



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 1751



PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

verityktw wrote:
Apple, I feel a bit guilty about derailing your thread without having responded fully to your post Embarassed

I've only read one of the books you mention, Jane Eyre. Can you say a bit more about why you struggled with it, or is it really impossible to put your finger on?

I'm also glad you hated 50 Shades and Twilight - both are books I've consciously avoided and it's nice to have my suspicions confirmed by someone who's actually read the books.
Don't worry about it, its nice to see the discussion and how the thread evolved.

As far as Jane Eyre is concerned I really can't put my finger on it, the plot should be something which I would enjoy and yet I really couldn't get to grips with it, it bored me and it was like wading through treacle trying to read it, I gave up so many times with it because I really couldn't be bothered with it, all I can say is it really just didn't click with me, but why - I have no idea!

Twilight really bugged me it was so bad, the characters were so annoying, and yet the ideas in the story felt to me like they were lifted straight from (the far superior, in my opinion) Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. As for 50 Shades I can't begin to express just how bad that first book was.



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Marita



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
Posts: 509


Location: Flanders, Belgium

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Five worst books:

I had put a list together of books I had not liked and noticed they were all fairly recent reads. I read the oldest in 2005. I wondered at this. Surely there must have been books I didn’t like before that. But only one came to mind, one I attempted to read for school in the late 70’s. 40+ years of reading and the worst books I read were all bar one in the last seven years? Quite impossible. I must have erased a fair few from my mind. Those I remembered in chronological order:

Gangrene – Jef Geeraerts.
Gangrene is a series of four books but I can’t remember which one I started to read. Probably the first one: Gangrene 1: Black Venus. Geeraerts is considered a big name in Flemish writing but this is one of the very few books I didn’t finish. It is set in what used to be Belgian Congo where Geeraerts worked as a colonial administrator until it became independent from Belgium. It is likely that it contained quite a bit of autobiographical material. It may even be an interesting portrait of Belgium’s colonial past. I don’t know. I was put off by the hard-core pornographic descriptions of sex, rape practically. I could not continue reading it and haven’t looked at it since.

The Professor – Charlotte Brontë
This is the forerunner of Charlotte’s later work Villette but was first published posthumously. I feel it would not have been published if it hadn’t been a Brontë.

Shadows of Glory – William Woodruff
I read this because it was a present. I thought the author had been rather lazy when I noticed a paragraph copied just about word for word. If it was done for effect it failed rather as it only succeeded in irritating me. The characters weren’t well developed either. They were the cliché of the cross-section of society found in war films, etc. Sometimes the writing felt sloppy as if the author was just writing to fill the page, sometimes so overworked it lost all freshness. To sum up: why did I bother reading this?

The Reluctant Suitor – Kathleen Woodiwiss
Kathleen Woodiwiss wrote historical romances. I don’t think of them as historical, only as romance, a kind of fairy tale for grownups. They would be guilty pleasures if I felt guilty about reading them. This particular one started off well but sadly deteriorated quickly.  The story was totally unconvincing – I know, romances generally are, but this was unconvincing for a romance novel – and there were quite a few gaps in the storyline. It seemed there were two stories in the book, neither big enough for a novel on its own. So they were cobbled together and stuffed in the required amounts of pages.

The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance – Trisha Telep (Ed.)
I don’t read much on holiday generally so I took this collection of stories for an easy read. The stories were apparently specially written for this collection. Some were OK, bearable for a holiday read. Most were just silly. I discovered gems like ‘molten liquid’ and ‘gilded with a silver light’ which brought some light relief but also made me sad that this was actually published, in a book, sent by an author who must have thought it suitable to be published, selected and approved by an editor who must have read the stories. The editor should have chosen the stories with more care.


Two that nearly made the list:

Morgan’s Run – Colleen McCullough
This novel covers the first shipment of convicts to Australia and the establishment of settlements there. The history itself was very interesting, but I had a problem with the main character. He is supposedly a real person, but he sounded too much like a romantic hero to feel like a true person. He’s innocent but convicted; he’s kind; he’s intelligent; he’s good-looking …really too good to be true.


Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
This should have been a great read for me - I love history – but it didn’t do it for me. I had to get used to the way it was written and often had to read parts again to know who 'he' was referring to, Cromwell or the previous person speaking. I finished it but nearly gave up on it a few times. The problem was that it didn’t grab me. I definitely couldn't 'smell the rain-drenched wool cloaks' nor 'feel the sharp fibres of rushes underfoot'. I was not transported back to the 16th century. I won’t be reading Bring up the bodies.







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