Read Any 'Books That Make You See Red' Lately?

Sunday, July 06, 2008
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.


Annette said...

Ah...the books that move us to throw a fit.

I can only say I've found two books like that in my life.

There, of course, have been some books that just didn't resonate with me for whatever reason, so I didn't finish them--like "The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time." Not that it was bad, it just didn't pull me in like I had hoped it would.

As for the two that sent me to the homicidal brink... The first and ugliest was "A Thousand Country Roads: An Epilogue to The Bridges of Madison County."

I was so invested in The Bridges of Madison County--I listened on unabridged audiobook on a cross-country drive and was completely transported. I don't even remember crossing state lines.

Then I picked up the unabridged audiobook of ATCR; I was sooo excited to see what happened to the star-crossed lovers Francesca and Robert. I was so frustrated and disappointed with where the author took the story that I wanted to smash the CD into a million pieces. I thought about throwing it in the trash, but I hate wasting money and I somehow can't make myself throw a book away. I thought about registering it with Book Crossings and setting it somewhere on a park bench, but I didn't want anyone to be as disappointed as I was. So, it's sitting in a box in my garage with other things I don't know what to do with--including the other offending book on my "Red List."

That book was "Sam's Letters to Jennifer" by James Patterson. I read "Suzanne's Diary for Nicolas" at the urging of my mother. I thought it was sweet and touching (and yes, I cried through it). So, I grabbed SLTJ, mistakenly thinking it would be as good. I was so pissed off by the end of Chapter Two that I didn't even finish it. The entire first chapter leads you to believe that "Sam" is a GUY who is in love with Jennifer. Then in Ch. 2 you find out HE is actually her grandmother!?! WTF?

Not only was it a hot mess (I reread the first two chapters three times trying to see if I missed something), but the rest of the story was just a Mr. Potato Head copy of the first book, SDFN--just switch the gender of the characters and slightly alter the plot and VOILA! Another book churned out. What a sell out.

Ok, so I'm done ranting. Great post, Jill. You hit one of my emotional writer hot buttons! ;-)

Obviously. LOL

TheWriterStuff said...

The one book that I've tried time and again to read and have yet to finish is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It's like my white whale. One day I will get through it and I'm sure I'll be a better person for it. (BTW, I not only read Dune but I enjoyed it too.)

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