Inspired by Megan's comment from my blog on the first book of The Hunger Games in which she suggested that I have never lead her astray when recommending a book, I decided to dedicate a blog to the top 7 worst books I've ever read.
7. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. Rich with commentary on politics, sex, Capitalism, and humanity, Stranger in a Strange Land seems like it'd be a really great read. It isn't. Heinlein's neophyte hero, Valentine Michael Smith, a human by birth but a martian from Mars by blood, descends to Earth to "grok" humans (to understand deeply). After being held in a hospital because he doesn't quite get what Earth is all about, a nurse abducts him so he can live his life, but brings him to a friend of her boyfriend's. This man is an eccentric author/doctor/lawyer who discovers that...wait for it, wait for it...Mike is capable of performing miracles! This is just another Christ story disguised as a science fiction book, and, quite frankly, I liked it better when The Who put music to it and called it Tommy. Read instead: 1984 by George Orwell
6. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. There's no kind way to put it, this book is drivel. It's the Happy Meal of the book world. On the one hand, I'm tempted to like some of its morals - that lasting friendship is more important than abusive family - but I really disliked every character. It was difficult to be sympathetic towards the spoiled brat girls who desecrate on ViVi, one of the Ya-Ya's mothers, crucifix, go swimming naked in the town water supply, and do basically whatever the hell they want and claim that it's their birthright to be obnoxious and get pissed off when people call them on it. It was also difficult to be sympathetic towards Vivi who beat the ever loving hell out of her children. The real point of this book, I feel, is to appeal to womanly catharsis, and Wells assumes that womanly catharsis must be centered around sisterhood and a womanly bond and must end in a white wedding. Read instead: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
5. Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley. A "stunningly uneventful" sequel to Margaret Mitchell's classic, Gone with the Wind, Scarlett reads more like a teenage drama, but boring. The whole book is pretty much attempts by Scarlett to win back her estranged husband, Rhett Butler. She tries and tries and tries, gets into some scrapes, tries some more, and continues desperately seeking Rhett for almost 900 pages. In my opinion, Scarlet is the sibling that Gone with the Wind doesn't ever talk about because it's too embarrassed. Read instead: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I can practically hear you literary purists out there yelling at me through cyberspace that The Great Gatsby is a classic and impressive work of fiction. I have some advice for you: get over it. This is a really smug and conventional book, particularly for an era when Scott's contemporaries (Ernest Hemingway, Getrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Nora Zeale Hurston) were pushing all sorts of literary boundaries. From pretentious beginning to pretentiously bizarre end, this story is an empty, unbelievably shallow read. Read instead: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. I'm really sorry to have to put this on the list, because I know a lot of people love these books - or at least they claim to. To be honest, I'm not 100% sure that all the people who say they love Tolkien do. I think all of them certainly want to love Tolkien, but he is admittedly hard to love. These books are littered with bad poetry, life lessons, and long descriptions written in such a cavalier tone as to suggest that Tolkien is speaking (or writing) down to you. You're better off just watching the movies or getting the cliff notes. Read instead: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis or Lord of the Flies by William Golding
2. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Funnily enough, this book seems to make everybody's "worst books ever "list. It's kind of like when you're with a group of people and somebody picks up a random shoe and says, all disgusted, "Oh my god! This thing reeks!" And it's not that you don't believe them, it's that you have to experience for yourself just how badly the shoe reeks, so you smell it and then regret it. Well, this book reeks. An Amazon.com member who listed this book wrote for its description, "The Queen of Sham delivers her very best to the dull middle class white boy teen crowd who think she was bigger than the Buddha." Her politics are bad, her characters are one-dimensional (and not in a cleverly done, stylistic way to make a point), and the book isn't so much a story as it is an agenda. Read instead: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Here's the thing about Hawthorne: this guy comes up with the arguably the most intriguing plots in literature. I mean, come on! Hester Prynne, a tortured single parent with a precocious, though odd, daughter, spends her existence walking around with a large, scarlet "A" on her dress so the world can see her sins. The cunningly smart and delightfully evil once-husband, Roger Chillingsworth, returns and wreaks havoc on her psyche and on the psyche of a sweet reverend, Arthur Dimmsdale, who always does his best to help Hester and Pearl. Motivated by love and desire to reprieve herself, Hester, along with Dimmsdale and Pearl, works tirelessly to win back the respect she once had, all the while Chillingsworth, consumed with revenge, does all in his power to stop her. That's a great plot! Unfortunately, Hawthorne is a painfully dull writer, dedicating so many pages to tedious descriptions that the plot barely moves. I f•*&ing hate this book and don't wish it upon anyone. Read instead: Silas Marner by George Eliot