Yesterday, I discussed a list of the 10 books you should have read in high school, but I’ll admit that not all required reading back then was magnificent. Even some of the most respected authors in the canon drove me nuts. Now I don’t regret reading these because I now know what kind of books/authors to avoid (and because my grades depended on it), but I hope that I can save you from my teenage pain and misery.
Here’s my top 5 literary happiness-killers:
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. First off, this sucker is LONG. Getting paid by the word was a horrible idea back then. Not that I’m against long books (if reading the last two Harry Potter books in 12 hours each is any consolation), but this one sucked fun out of life like a Dementor. My teacher freshman year was my horrendous debate coach who eventually got fired for not getting his credential. He spent the year playing movies and making us do stupid projects, like build replicas of the Globe Theatre. Great Expectations was accompanied by a huge packet of busy work, like vocab lists and summaries; everyone else knew that he would pass everybody whether we completed it or not, but me being the nerdy student that I am, tried to take it seriously. They were right, of course, and now if you talk about any character named “Pip-” and you don’t end it with “-pin,” I might strangle you. ONE SENTENCE PLOT: Orphan boy meets crazy old lady, who secretly leaves him a fortune so he can impress a rich girl, but he loses both her and his money–making Great Expectations a Great Disappointment.
- Beloved by Toni Morrison. Overall, I think Morrison is overrated, and this book is definitely not beloved by me even though it won a Pulitzer. I’m not a fan of ghost stories, and a slavery ghost story is a whole new bag of depressing. I didn’t like any of the characters, and all the voodoo was making me crazy. And as if the novel was bad enough, I had to watch the movie with Oprah Winfrey. Good thing she realized she’s better at giving away cars and getting celebrities to jump on couches than she is at acting. ONE SENTENCE PLOT: Escaped slave kills her daughter to avoid recapture, but suffers from the haunting of her daughter’s reincarnated spirit.
- Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner. Honestly, I don’t really remember what this book was about, because of Faulkner committing my #1 literary sin: STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS. If an author does this, I will probably loathe him/her, no matter how deep the thoughts. It’s called a period, use it! Faulkner’s run-ons made me just want to run away, very far away. I remember pretending to know what’s going on and bs-ing my way through an essay, then promising myself that I would never read Faulkner again. If you’re a fan of his, sorry, but you’re probably too busy scratching whatever first comes to mind into your hipster diary to care about me anyway. ONE SENTENCE PLOT (ASSISTED BY WIKIPEDIA): Black farmer accused of murdering white man “is exonerated through the efforts of black and white teenagers and a spinster from a long-established Southern family.”
- All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Again, another novel which did not leave a big impression on me. It just seemed like one big compare/contrast story between Stark and Burden. Politicians aren’t very exciting in real life, and they aren’t any different in this story. And unlike other political allegories like Orwell’s Animal Farm, the history it’s based on is just as boring. ONE SENTENCE PLOT: The rise and fall of a southern governor, as told by his right-hand man…yawn.
- The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. Having also read Tess of the d’Urbervilles, I know that this book wasn’t just a one-time suck fest from Hardy. I also know that most high school students haven’t read these last 3 novels on my list, but my AP Lit teacher (who was so awesome that she deserves her own blog post someday) branched out and offered us some unique reading. Unfortunately, this was not one of them. Hardy has an amazing knack of being dark and dreary, without being interesting. Another forgettable text. ONE SENTENCE PLOT: Exotic, mysterious fallen woman commits suicide after long off-and-on love affair.