Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What was the last book everyone said you would love, but you didn't?


Everyone in my book group loved this book except me. It made me very uneasy to see the case being made that Germans suffered nearly as much as their enemies during the war. How can I pity a people mostly responsible for two world wars. Get over yourselves. 

It made me very uneasy to have sympathy extracted from me. And I also disliked the idea of death having a  voice and trying to gain sympathy for doing nefarious deeds. This was a squirmy book for me. 

What about you? What did you expect to like? 


Kieran Shea said...

There have been many but one that comes to mind is "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman. I mean, I honestly took a running start at it three times and simply threw up my hands because I couldn't grasp the appeal. Taste is a peculiar thing.

Thomas Pluck said...

I'll agree with you, Kieran. I finished American Gods, but felt it lacked cohesion, that he simply chose the gods that he thought were cool and not the ones that would have been worshiped by immigrants who brought them here. It was an interesting idea and he is a good writer, but it just didn't work for me beyond a good story- which is enough to make a good read, but not a great book.

I think high expectations have ruined a lot of books for me, so I try to ignore it, and I usually read popular books a year or two after the hype dies down (or as much as a decade, like with American Gods).

Bill Crider said...

I'm glad to see the comments about American Gods. I've felt guilty for years for not liking the book, though I love a lot of Gaiman's work. I wasn't all that fond of The Book Thief, either, Patti.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - I love the title of this post! I generally try really hard to avoid reading books with a lot of hype because I always end up making my own mind up about them anyway.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Chiming in here, that book AG has been in and out of a bookshelf here a dozen times. I picked it up when Borders went out of business so at least I didn't spend $30.

Anonymous said...

Oh so many.

The last? GONE GIRL. I know you liked it but I need at least one character I can relate to or care about and gave up on this one.

I didn't dislike AMERICAN GODS as much as that, but it was definitely the Gaiman book I've liked least.

And no, I didn't finish THE BOOK THIEF either.

Jeff M.

Jerry House said...

Anything and everything by Dan Brown.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Amen, Jerry. His writing is fairly dreadful.

George said...

THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt disappointed me...greatly.

R.T. said...

While I will not offer a specific book as an answer, I would offer this instead.

You raise an important question. Relying upon another person's recommendation is almost always a hit-or-miss proposition. After all, reading is such a solitary praxis (Harold Bloom's term), and each reader's engagement with a text is an intensely personal affair.

Yet here is the paradox. We all succumb to the same folly. We allow ourselves to be influenced by others about what we will read. But--and here is the problem--how can we do otherwise?

So, whether it makes sense or not, we read reviews, we look at blurbs on book covers, and we listen to friends' recommendations.

Finally, I would say this: a few years ago, at the turn of the century, all sorts of people were publishing lists of the 20th century's best books. If you are like me, if you have tried to work your way through any of those lists, you have run into disappointment. As for myself, I have tried to read some of the so-called great books on those lists, and I wonder: Is there something wrong with the "taste" of other people? Or is there something wrong with my "taste" in books?

Postscript: The one book that regularly shows up on the "best of the 20th century" lists is James Joyce's Ulysses. I would rather have a dozen root canals than attempt that one again. Well, that may be hyperbole, but I think I have made my point about one of the most frequently recommended but unreadable books of all times.

Anonymous said...

I tried Da Vinci Code but it was so poorly written I couldn't get past the first few chapters.

Jeff M.

JTG in Detroit said...

I usually look forward to getting my hands onto a Cormac McCarthy novel, but I struggled through "THE ROAD." Way too despressing and a waste of my time.

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

At Home by Bill Bryson. I'm still trying to read it--I anticipated enjoying it--but I've actually found his style grating rather than pleasing.

Chris said...

I will join the others re: American Gods. In fact I've come to feel Gaiman is generally wildly overrated across the board. His work is okay, and he seems a swell enough guy, but the work never lives up to the hype (don't know whose could, in his defense).

As for me, Cheryl Strayed's Wild is so universally loved, and I can make a huge laundry list of problems I have with it. It's one of those books that the more I think of it, the less I like it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

At Home sits own my shelf too. I enjoyed his earlier books but this one , no.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Hearing her on NPR turned me off, Chris.
Love The Dubliners but Ulysses defeated me.
Sadly, all Mc Carthy is too dark although my husband likes him.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on Bryson. Loved his early books.

And I have to second the remarks on THE ROAD.

My favorite Gaiman remains NEVERWHERE.

Jeff M.

Charles Gramlich said...

American Gods was definitely one. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (although I really liked The Road), White Oleander.

pattinase (abbott) said...

BLOOD MERIDIAN completely defeated me.
I will try that one, Jeff.'
Phil has 15 pages left in THE GOLDFINCH.

R.T. said...

Blood Meridian, when I first encountered it, was a book that I devoured with enthusiasm. A few years later, when I attempted a second reading, I was far less enthusiastic about the convoluted prose and the over-the-top violence. This underscores a point: What is it about the passage of time that causes us to be different readers at different times in our lives?

pattinase (abbott) said...

There is no doubt we can tolerate more violence in books, I think, at a young age. And styles change, prose is more simply written now. No doubt the effect of Hemingway and Leonard among others. I loved LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL at 20 but I wonder if I could get through it now.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Jeff re GONE GIRL, which I have dubbed "a mystery/thriller for people who haven't read many of either." I always get a little worried about reading any book that receives such universal praise--very few books can live up to that level of hype. Also, I was really looking forward to Marisha Pessl's NIGHT FILM, but found it simultaneously over-written and under-written in the worst ways.


Richard said...

My long, detailed comment was whacked away to the ether. Damn it. 2nd try - CLOCKWORK ORANGE, ON THE ROAD, THE NAKED LUNCH, all of James Joyce.

Charlieopera said...

I so expected to love Naked Lunch ... I tried it twice, the last time I tossed it 20 or so pages in with a vow to never attempt it again. And I really want my fucking money back for that one.

R.T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Oerkfitz said...

I have never had a problem with James Lee Burke or Cormac McCarthy.Violence and depressing subjects never bother me. Can't stand feel good books-would rather watch pain dry than read Mitch Albom.
Preferred Gaimans Anansai Boys and The Ocean At the End of the Lane to American Gods.
Could not read The Corrections by Franzen-just seemed like a chore to get through.Didn't help that Franzen always comes across as offputting in interviews.And the less said about DaVinci Code the better-terrible writing.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

That's supposed to be paint dry.

Cap'n Bob said...

The Virginian and Pride and Prejudice. I've made several attempts to read both and bogged down within 20 pages. I was hugely disappointed in On the Road but that may be my fault. I was expecting it to be something other than what it was. I didn't find The Great Gatsby that enthralling. Finally, The Day of the Locust. I saw the movie first and didn't think the book was near as good.

John said...

I have a very long list of these. You'd think I'd learn my lesson because I tend to be very resistant to the bestseller concept, but sometimes the hype pulls me in. Mostly out of curiosity I end up at least trying some of these "sensational" and "fabulous" books, usually with bad results.

THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold
Resented the entire concept. Never finished it.

THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova
Bored me. Never finished it

THE MAGICIANS by Lev Grossman
Near plagiarism. Deriviative of both Harry Potter and C.S. Lewis

A good case for mature adults to avoid YA titles no matter how hyped they are. I liked the creepy photos though.

Anonymous said...

'It made me very uneasy to see the case being made that Germans suffered nearly as much as their enemies during the war. How can I pity a people mostly responsible for two world wars. Get over yourselves.'
Well, the Germans may have sown the wind, but they did reap the whirlwind. All of them, young or old; guilty or innocent.

'It made me very uneasy to have sympathy extracted from me. And I also disliked the idea of death having a voice and trying to gain sympathy for doing nefarious deeds'

Death is a regular- and good- character in Terry Pratchett's fantasies. HE SPEAKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS AND RIDES A PALE HORSE NAMED BINKY.
I've never seen why anyone admires Saul Bellow. Not hatred, dislike or inability to read him- just that I don't think he's a very good writer.

Bill Crider said...

Interesting to look through these. I see Gone Girl mentioned, and I couldn't get past the first 25 pages. Same for Night Film. Tried Blood Meridian twice. Just not for me.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Must read Terry Pratchet

Dave Zeltserman said...

I'm made it a few more pages than Bill with Gone Girl, but only because I pushed myself (I quit after 50). OTOH A recently highly touted book that I thought was well worth all the hype was Defending Jacob.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I liked DEFENDING JACOB a lot.

neer said...

How can I pity a people mostly responsible for two world wars.

Not to disregard your views on a book that you didn't like (I didn't find it too earth-shaking either) but isn't this a very sweeping statement? I am sure there were many complex reasons for the two wars and just to blame one set of people for it seems to me to be a little simplistic.

Regarding the question asked, some of the biggest disappointments have been THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Really disliked BEFORE I SLEEP. So many holes.
Two,copies of SHADOW (gifts) which I have never read!

pattinase (abbott) said...
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Kathy D. said...

There are so many books I don't finish because I don't like them -- or I just don't bother to start them because I know I won't like them, like Gone Girl.

About The Book Thief, friends of mine liked it, two friends, one Jewish did like it.

I don't have sympathy for the Germans who went along with the Nazis, but life was tough enough so that there were hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in Germany's jails before and during WWII. The NY Times published an article a few years ago that said it was 800,000. There was opposition that we don't know about. As we know, many were executed.
The film RosenStrasse depicts German women, non-Jewish, who demonstrated against the Nazis to get their Jewish husbands out of detention every day, until they did.
Their lives were not too good, with constant harassment.
There's a book Alone in Berlin about a couple who began a postcard campaign to find their son, and they were executed.
The writer, Binnie Kirschenbaum, tells of a street in a major city that people could run down to avoid having to give a pro-Nazi salute. Lots of people used that street.
So, I would say that life wasn't good for anyone who opposed the regime, even in a small way.
I wouldn't read The Good Thief because I don't like to read about the horrors of that war. I read for distraction, diversion, etc.

Kathy D. said...

Oops, meant The Book Thief. (I think I was thinking of The Good German, which I would not watch in movie form or read.)