by Jill Earl
Just finished reading the July 3 issue of the Writing World newsletter, edited by Dawn Copeman (which I recommend, by the way). Under the ‘News From the World of Writing’ section, I was intrigued by one of the listings, ‘Books That Make You See Red’. The article, which appeared in The Sunday Times’ (London) June 22 issue, featured a number of authors and critics who listed books that they not only hated, but couldn’t bring themselves to read again. They sought feedback from the paper's readers, too.
Of course, I had to check it out for myself. If there’s any doubt that reading can ellicit strong emotions, those doubts will vanish! Comments such as "harrowing and pedestrian", "putrid morass of unreadability", and "waste of time" came from readers, authors and critics regarding various known and lesser-known works peppered the article.
Now I’ve read some books that I couldn’t get through myself, but I have the tendency to forget what they were. Subjective amnesia, I guess. I do recall two that I came across in my teen years. The first was Herman Hesse’ ‘Sidhartha’, a required read for our English AP Honors class. We tried everything to get through that novel, but 11 of us hit the wall. Even Cliffs and Monarch Notes did nothing for us. However, John, the 12th student, was able to breeze through. We were astonished. He was our rescuer, helping his brain-addled classmates through the text. We couldn’t wait to celebrate once we finished the thing. Can't say that I hated it, though.
The second book was ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert, which I received as a Christmas gift. I tried, but after a year, I gave up, surprised that I hung in for so long. I didn’t even make it to the middle. As for the whereabouts of the novel, I couldn't tell you. As with 'Sidhartha', there was no love, but definitely no hate either.
It was amusing to read The Sunday Times article and experience such strong responses, but I've yet to encounter books that made me see red. I would add the pair of books I mentioned to that list, though.
Want to take a peek at the article yourself? Go to:
Let me know if you find ‘favorites’ among the trashed tomes or any you’d like to contribute to the list. I'd be interested to hear what you think.