The OF Blog: List here the "classics" or other recommended readings you didn't enjoy earlier in life

Saturday, January 08, 2011

List here the "classics" or other recommended readings you didn't enjoy earlier in life

In the near future, I'm going to be starting a little project.  But first, I could use a bit of help.  Over the 10-11 years that I've been active on various online fora, I have seen several passing references to hating certain books, often "classics," that were either assigned to be read in school or were tried at a certain time without much success.  As someone who teaches both history and language arts/reading/grammar, this interests me for professional reasons.

If you would, please list some of the books you read years ago that you remember hating.  Don't tell me why you hated it (unless you feel driven to do so, I suppose), but just give me an idea of whether or not that book was assigned reading and the approximate age that you first read it.  Thanks!

P.S.  Robert Stanek and Terry Goodkind do not constitute "classics" for purposes of this post.


Anonymous said...

I think I will go with Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles.



Anonymous said...

Bum... forgot to say when I first read it. I *think* I was 15.

The Saddling Saint said...

Charles Dickens - Hard Times. 19 years old. Assigned reading for Intro to Lit.

Daniel Ausema said...

Thomas Hardy for me as well, though that was Mayor of Casterbridge (age 17 or so, assigned reading). I reread it a decade later and found it much better, though still not a favorite.

Seak (Bryce L.) said...

Mainstreet - Sinclair Lewis

I think now I might like it, but at around age 15 I hated it with a passion.

Jason said...

I liked all the classics I was assigned in school, except for The Great Gatsby. Bored. Age 16.

(Re-read at 37 and loved it.)

Gerard said...

(disclaimer: I'm from the Netherlands, so my list will contain some Dutch classics)

I loathed Multati's Max Havelaar when I was about 16 (haven't reread it since).

My overall experience with Literature in Highschool was a mixed bag.

Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being was another classic I disliked a lot (have since reread it and did a 180)

I didn't like Eco's The name of the rose (now an absolute favorite) and The Island of the day before (haven't reread it since).

Gail O'Connor said...

In junior high I hated A Light in the Forest. We also had to read The Old Man & The Sea and, while I didn't hate it, I think I didn't really understand it. Just very dull, and his musings didn't mean much to a 14 year old.

In high school I didn't much like The Crucible.

In college I hated Hamlet and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

Anonymous said...

To Kill a Mockingbird, when I was 14. It probably didn't help that we spent pretty much an entire year reading it aloud in class, mind you.

Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd the following year didn't entirely grab me, but I wouldn't say I hated it either. Othello, on the other hand, I really enjoyed.

Karen Burnham said...

Most of my dis-liked forced classics came from high school:

Catcher in the Rye as a sophmore (age 15) was one I particularly loathed. The Great Gatsby didn't do a thing for me the same year. The poetry unit that year went straight from "Ode to a Grecian Urn" to ee cummings, with the teacher claiming you were wrong if you interpreted cummings in a way different from the course guide--that killed my enjoyment of poetry until my late-20's.

Sam Kelly said...

Catcher in the Rye, somewhere between 14 and 17. Personal choice, not assigned; got 50 pages in and hated it enough to stop, which was a big deal for me in those days.

Jane Eyre, assigned at 17 for A-level English. Disliked intensely; keep meaning to try re-reading.

Tea and Tomes said...

Thomas Hardy's "Mayor of Casterbridges." Assigned reading in high school, and I think I was about 16, maybe 17 when I was forced to sit through it.

Brian Lindenmuth said...

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter . It didn't work for me then and it still doesn't.

Anonymous said...

@Karen Burnham

Catcher in the Rye is a funny one. I didn't read it when I was younger. I read it recently (at 31) and - while I could see why it is considered a classic - I really didn't enjoy it. I could see the 15 year old me getting a lot more from it.

Roh said...

Les Miserables, I must have been sixteen or so. I mostly liked the classics. I have the opposite problem - I grew disenchanted with, for instance, Dickens, much later. (When I first read Oliver Twist I liked it. Now I am bored by it.)

The Mad Hatter said...

Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene was assigned for a 16th century lit class when I was 19 or so. Read it three times just to absorb something and hated it more each time.

Larry said...

Interesting responses so far. Much of it falls in line with the general expectations I had coming in, based on prior experiences, but there were a few surprises.

Seems the 19th century is the whipping boy here; same goes for realist/Naturalist fictions of the period. Also seems 14-19 is the "magic age" of being exposed to works that did not suit the reader.

Thought there might have been more poetry there, although I am surprised to see that Spenser was assigned in full even at 19; I usually associate that with an upper-division or graduate course in Renaissance poetry.

Anonymous said...

Jane Eyre. Only tried it a few years ago though. However, I do not doubt that if I had read it when I was in school I still would have disliked it.


drxray said...

Moby Dick. First read at age 37

Anna Karennina. Read at age 40. I've read and loved almoast all of the famous Russian novels but couldn't get through this one

Dave Cesarano said...

In high school I detested Catcher in the Rye, but that's because the book was never written for teenagers. When I reread it in my late 20s, I realized the nostalgia had been lost on me. I was Holden's age, and all I wanted to do was deck him for his stupidity. Ten-to-fifteen years later, I could remember how I had been that stupid and silly myself.

I think a lot of it has to do with what you're used to reading as a kid. I loved SF and fantasy, so works like Dune, 2001, and The Lord of the Rings were right up my alley. Perilous quests, distant worlds, and magnificent adventures were what I was after. I also liked contemporary authors like Chuck Palanhiuk and David Foster Wallace because they wrote about things that I felt I could connect with, especially things critical of contemporary American society. But all of that stuff were things I read OUTSIDE of English Class.

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