Friday, October 03, 2008

Worst Best Book

What, in your opinion, is the best book that you haven’t liked? Mind you, I don’t mean your most-hated book–oh, no. I mean the most accomplished, skilled, well-written, impressive book that you just simply didn’t like.

Like, for movies–I can acknowledge that Citizen Kane is a tour de force and is all sorts of wonderful, cinematically speaking, but . . . I just don’t like it. I find it impressive and quite an accomplishment, but it’s not my cup of tea.

So . . . what book (or books) is your Citizen Kane?

I've been seeing this one going around and thought it was an interesting question.

One that immediately comes to mind is She's Come Undone, which everyone and their sister seemed to love, and I hated. I thought the herione was completely unsympathetic, and I found the entire story to be one big pity-fest. I get that some people see their own struggles, to some degree, in Dolores, but I just thought it was awful.

Another one is White Oleander, which I had very much looked forward to. I liked this book marginally more than She's Come Undone, but just barely. Maybe I'm just not that into books about young women being abandoned and thrown to the wolves. This book left me cold -- I felt that the writing was very chilly and again, it was just one big long "how horrible can it be?"

And then, of course, there's Ivanhoe. My middle-school advanced English teacher said she'd give me extra credit if I completed this book, but I couldn't do it. The Olde Englishe did me in.

In contrast, I loved The Kite Runner , which I had resisted reading while the rest of the world was in love with it. This was also a story full of horrors, but I could not stop crying throughout the entire last half of the book, and felt that the writing style suited the tale and found all the characters completely engaging in one way or another.

What about you?


Alex said...

Considering it's been called "the great and glorious book" I think the Bible would top my list. It's very dense and repetitive. I can't remember which book (Exodus?) spends pages and pages describing some ark being built. (Not Noah's ark, I think it's the ark of the covenant.) All kinds of spacial detail. Stories go on and on and on. I wouldn't mind reducing all my favorite bits (there aren't many) to my own version of the Bible.

(And, you know, 80% of the book club picks.)

stefanie said...

The Great Gatsby is mine. Didn't like Kite Runner. I did like White Oleander but I read it long before it got made into a movie so maybe that helped.

Sue Jackson said...

Great question! She's Come Undone is on my Top 5 Books Of All Time list, but I agree with your take on White Oleander (and other Janet Fitch books, for that matter) - I find her writing depressing.

For years I had hear that Michael Chabon was this incredible writer, so I read his Mysteries of Pittsburgh and just didn't see what all the fuss was about. I didn't find any of his characters very likable and thought the plot just wandered.

A was similarly disappointed with Iris Murdoch. I loved the movie about her life, Iris, and was excited to read one of her books. I read The Green Knight and was pretty disappointed.

My book group last year read Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert - supposedly a National Bestseller! All of us hated it! It's one of the few books that I actually put down half-way through and didn't even bother to finish.

So, those are my picks. Thanks for asking!


Kate said...

Strange but good to think terms of wretched writing, fact-checking, plot, characters, etc., there was a romance novel I read and reviewed on my blog a few months ago that was probably the worst book I've ever read - even the author dropped in to protest my review, that's how negative it was. (And it was negative, as in this book was not good, and negative as in Negative as well. Back when I didn't know how to write a tactful negative review (not that I do now, but at least I don't go for the snark anymore.))