When I first saw this week’s topic, I initially thought I didn’t have too many books that I didn’t enjoy. As I started going through my Goodreads list, it reminded me of quite a few books that I’d read over the years that I didn’t like as much as I expected. Or, it seemed like I had already discussed many of the books I didn’t love so much (ie. The Underground Railroad) many times in the past. In most cases, I didn’t outright hate these books and I’ve actually read very few books in general where I couldn’t find at least something I liked about it. It definitely seems like one common thread with these books are that I had to read them for school, or that I read them when I was well outside the target age range. Many of them are still books that I’m glad I tried because I’d been meaning to read them for so long, or because they are such iconic classics.
Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
1) The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
I have tried to read this book at least two or three times over the years, and could never get into it! I first read it when I was in elementary school because I found it in the library and it looked amazing! The book is about a boy named Bastian Balthazar Bux who is on the run from bullies when he discovers a mysterious book that draws him into a world called Fantastica. This sets him on a quest to save the land by helping the warrior Atreyu cure the Childlike Empress. I remember finding the story pretty confusing when I first read it, and I developed such a mental block for it that I’ve never been able to get into it ever since. I’m glad I tried it because it is such a children’s classic, but I definitely didn’t love it as much as everyone else seems to. I’m a little tempted to try it again at some point, but I have so many other books on my TBR that it doesn’t seem very likely.
2) The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
This is a book I was expecting to absolutely love, and ended up finding it pretty mediocre, although it is another one that I think needs a second chance. This book is about a man named Lou Arrendale who has high-functioning autism, who becomes eligible for an experimental treatment that will reverse the effects of autism. This book is along the same lines of Flowers for Algernon (which I would also love to re-read because I didn’t like it as much as I expected), raising questions of what makes Lou the person that he is. I was very interested in reading this book because I work with adults who have autism, so the storyline for this one seemed especially intriguing. I definitely didn’t hate this book, but it didn’t interest me nearly as much as I hoped it would. I think part of the problem is I went into this one not quite in the mood to read it, so I think it will be worth trying again at some point.
3) Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
This is another book that I developed a mental block for when I was younger. I tried to read it a couple of times when I was in elementary school, but always when I was home sick. I distinctly remember trying to read this when I was lying on the couch with a bad flu, and it just made no sense to me at all at the time. I ended up putting it down, and picking it up another time when I was home sick and had no better luck. I finally forced myself to finish it my first year of university, by which point I’d decided it was ridiculous that I had never read the whole thing. I liked the overall message of the book about how animals should be treated, but I found the story a little boring. At the time I first tried to read it, I was absolutely obsessed with animal stories and I feel like I probably would have liked it a lot more if I had read it properly then. I’m glad I read it because it took so many tries!
4) Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but for some reason I always have trouble getting into books that are set at sea. I’ve tried this book twice, and I couldn’t really get into it either time. One of the times I read it was for my children’s literature class in university, and I can’t remember what made me decide to revisit it. This book is a classic about a young boy named Jim Hawkins who finds a map and a logbook in a chest belonging to an old sea captain, which leads him on an adventure involving pirates and a search for buried treasure. To be fair, I went into this book not really expecting to enjoy it much since it was not really the kind of story I would be interested in, but I was required to read it for my class. I think I tried it again a second time because I knew it was such a classic and often have better luck with books when I read them on my own, and not when forced to for school. Unfortunately, I still found this one pretty boring and hard to follow. I’m glad I read it because it’s such a classic, but I didn’t enjoy it much at all!
5) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
Let me just clarify upfront that I did not hate this, I just didn’t love it either. I had to read this book twice for school, once in 8th grade, and again for my children’s lit class in university. I really, really wanted to love this book, but I just found it so slow! It probably doesn’t help that my impressions of this book were completely tied up with my impressions of the LOTR movie series. My school actually took us on a field trip to see at least one of the movies, and I ultimately ended up watching all of them despite the fact that I didn’t really love them either. During one of the movies, I came down with a very bad cold so that completely ruined the experience since I was so congested and practically falling asleep. It was also really hard for me to have patience for 3 hour movies when I was 12, and by the time the others came out, I already had the idea in mind that I wasn’t so into it. One thing I really liked about The Hobbit is that it made the first movie make so much more sense to me, but I found the reading experience pretty dry. The world-building was incredible and the characters were interesting, but I got bored both times I tried it! I’m glad I read it and tried it for myself, and I will probably (eventually) try the rest of the LOTR books, but I definitely didn’t like it as much as I hoped to.
6) Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
I’ve pretty much just concluded that I don’t connect with Judy Blume’s writing in general. I was never very interested in her books when I was younger, and hardly picked up any of them. I think the only book of hers I really enjoyed was the picture book The Pain and the Great One. I had to read Forever for my children’s lit class, and didn’t really care for it much, and I decided to try Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret after hearing about it absolutely everywhere for years as an iconic children’s classic, especially for girls. The book is about a sixth-grade student named Margaret who is trying to explore religion because she’s grown up in an interfaith household, and at the same time she confronts issues of puberty. I’m sure a big reason I couldn’t connect with this one is because I was way too old for it at the time, but I honestly don’t think I would have liked it very much when I was a preteen either but I probably would have enjoyed it a little more. Both this book and Forever should be commended for being very realistic and not shying away from the awkwardness of being a teenager, but unfortunately for me, it was not particularly interesting or fun to read.
7) The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Despite having no interest in fashion whatsoever, I absolutely loved the movie version of The Devil Wears Prada, although that may be primarily because of Meryl Streep. I decided to pick up this book because I wanted to see how it compared to the movie, and unfortunately I didn’t like it at all! The fashion component was obviously a huge part of the plot, but for me it worked a lot better on the screen than on the page. I got very bored reading the descriptions of every piece of clothing, and I found the main character a lot more irritating than I did in the movie version. Honestly, I probably would not have read this at all if it hadn’t been for the movie. It was one of a few books that I decided to bring with me to read between classes in university, and considering this is not a particularly long or difficult book, it took me an unexpectedly long time to get through because I just wasn’t motivated to pick it up at all. I’m glad I read it because it means I wouldn’t have to wonder how the book compared to the movie, but unfortunately for me it completely lacked the same appeal.
8) Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
This one is purely about the bragging rights. I had to read this for an elective course I took about European history in my second or third year of university, which covered a wide variety of topics including art, culture, and a lot more. This book was required reading for a section about colonialism and European expansion, and I did not enjoy it at all! The book is about a sailor named Marlow, who is journeying up the Congo River to meet Kurtz, a man who seems to be both a prisoner but also a god figure to the natives. Marlow sees the native inhabitants of the land who have been forced to work for The Company, and are treated with cruelty and are dying. I didn’t understand the story very well when I read it at the time, and I have so little memory of it ever since that it’s hard to even give my impressions of it. I actually knew the overall plot from other TV series that did versions of it, but the book itself is one I’m glad I read simply for the bragging rights of being able to say I read the original.
9) In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
This is another “bragging rights” case, since I did not enjoy this book at all. I was forced to read this book in my final year of high school, which was by far one of the most stressful years of my life for personal reasons as well as the fact that I had the most strict English teacher I’d ever had! This book was my first encounter with a non-linear story, and I just didn’t get it at all at the time. I’m sure a big factor was because I had so much else going on at the time, and my teacher wasn’t exactly helpful. She was obsessed with this book and very passionate about it, but I can’t remember her explaining it very well. It was one of those assignments where it was mostly left to the class to discuss the book and figure it out together, but my class were all confused and struggling with this one, so it was pretty unhelpful. I did not enjoy the experience of reading this one, and I remember so little of the story because it all completely confused me. I honestly couldn’t even describe what the book is about at all! I’m glad I read it because it meant I survived that class and for the bragging rights, but I didn’t like it at all!
I didn’t hate either of these books, and I ultimately ended up rating both of them 4 stars. I had been meaning to read both of these books for several years before I finally got around to them last year because they were so popular, and because they both addressed some controversial topics. Stolen is about a teenage girl who is kidnapped and held captive, but begins to develop feelings for the young man who took her, and Forbidden is about an incestuous relationship that develops between two teenage siblings who have always acted as the adults in their household due to an alcoholic single mother. Neither of these are spoilers, since they are revealed in the synopsis for the books. In both cases, I enjoyed the book to some extent but definitely did not see why everyone was absolutely raving about them.