My husband points out to me that following this exercise, he has realised that I appear not to like three quarters of the books on our shelves. My sister-in-law says I am difficult to please. Looking at the list below, I think they may be right. Here are some of the books I have that I didn’t include in my favourite books list for NaBloPoMo. And also some that I should have and forgot. But mostly, they’re books I hate, yet won’t give away.
Albom, Mitch – I bought “The Five People you meet in Heaven” before boarding a plane because Waterstone’s had put one of those “our booksellers like” handwritten labels on it. It is the worst book I have ever read. Never trust Waterstone’s. I’d give it away to anyone.
Alcott, Louisa May – Fine but certainly not a favourite.
Ali, Monica – “Brick Lane” was not enjoyable. I just didn’t like it. I don’t care if my consciousness was raised.
Amis, Martin and Kingsley – Very readable, funny in places and, if their names began with Z, they would definitely have made the cut.
Auster, Paul – When “The New York Trilogy” came out, a number of my friends loved it. I did not. It is baffling.
Bainbridge, Beryl – I read “According to Queeney” and it was grand but I wouldn’t be rushing back for more.
Barker, Nicola – I read “Five Miles from Outer Hope” because it was set in the South West of England and I am very fond of that part of the world and in particular Burgh Island which is fabulous (though the food in the hotel is dear and bad, the hotel is absolutely wonderful). My sister used to work in Plymouth and I visited her there many times. It was a pity that she hated it and doesn’t like beaches. The book is literary and a bit tiring. Great setting though.
Barnes, Julian – A bit clever for his own good, isn’t he?
Bennett, Alan – I know everyone loves him. I don’t. He’s alright.
Bennett, Ronan – I actually really enjoyed “Havoc in its Third Year” but I’m reserving judgement until I’ve tried another book of his. He is has great potential to be gloomy, difficult and unrewarding.
Borroughs Augusten – “Running with Scissors” got such great reviews and it was so disappointing.
Byatt, A.S. – I did like “Possession” but it was so long I just couldn’t face rereading or trying anything else.
Burney, Fanny – I did like “Evelina” in a sort of “look, it’s famous, I’ve read it and it wasn’t too bad” kind of way. I’m not going to rush back for more.
Carey, Peter – I have read two books by Peter Carey. I am now sure that I do not like him.
Carter, Angela – Fine, I suppose. But not earth shattering.
Chevalier, Tracy – I got given one of her books “Falling Angels” by a friend. I felt it was one of those books that deliberately exploits the sentimental. I am sentimental. I don’t like that.
Cooper, Jilly – I finally read a Jilly Cooper. “Wicked” is rotten. I am devastated.
Coetzee, J.M. – Oh God, so hard and so depressing.
Cunningham Michael – I got a present of “Specimen Days” just before the boys were born and took it into hospital with me. It was too weird and science fictiony at the end (and I am a friend of science fiction). It was well written and something of a page turner so I suppose, not too bad when you are in labour. Not great either though.
De Bernieres, Louis – I don’t see it. Why does everyone love these dull, dull books with their twee characters? I bought Kathryn Flett’s “The heart-shaped Bullet” because I really enjoy her journalism but I didn’t like it all. The icing on the cake was when she described going on holidays with her ex-husband and reading bloody Captain Corelli. She felt that that the ex was dreadful because he couldn’t like that book. I really warmed to her ex at that point.
Eco, Umberto – Too hard. “The Name of the Rose” was OK but I am going to draw some sweeping conclusions on detective fiction later so wait for that.
Edwards, Kim – I am a sucker for things that look like they might be readable. I was bitterly disappointed with the best-selling “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter”. I won’t be trying her again.
Eliot, George – We did “Silas Marner” in school. Arguably, it’s not that great a book to do with teenage girls in a convent school. Anyhow, I knew where I stood with George Eliot until, some years later, I got chatting to a handsome man at a party who said “so many people are put off George Eliot because of ‘Silas Marner’ [it’s a standard text in Ireland], you have to read ‘Middlemarch’ it’s wonderful”. It’s not. Or, at least, not for me. And worse, I read it twice because I felt I might not have given it a fair hearing when I read it first. My sister-in-law sent me “The Mill on the Floss” on tape. Now I appreciate that that may not be entirely fair to the novel but it was quite enough to finally convince me that there will be no more George Eliot in my life, I’ve suffered enough.
Faulks, Sebastian – Am I the only person who found “Birdsong” tedious?
Franzen, Jonathan – Not for me thanks. You know, dysfunctional families, they’re fine but how many do you need?
Frazier, Charles – When the Princess was born, I took two books into hospital. One was the wonderful “What I loved” possibly my favourite grown-up book. The other was “Cold Mountain”. God, I hated that book. I don’t care about his trip home, I just wished he would bloody get there and it could all be over.
Fowles, John – I have only one comment on “The French Lieutentant’s Woman”. Why?
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel – I tried three of his books before washing my hands of magical realism for good.
Gaiman, Neil – Oh, so dreadfully disappointing. I had great hopes.
Golding, William – We did “The Lord of the Flies” in school. I can see that it is good. But I still don’t like it.
Gordimer, Nadine – Good. I suppose. But hard work and depressing.
Graves, Robert – Misfiled. I liked “Goodbye to all that” and the Claudius books.
Grisham, John – Dreadful.
Haddon, Mark – Misfiled. Only read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” but enjoyed it.
Hardy, Thomas – I loved Hardy’s poems in school but I have never read any of his books. I was given “Jude the Obscure” on tape by my sister-in-law and it convinced me not to try the novels. I could be unconvinced, possibly.
Hollinghurst, Alan – God, wasn’t “The Line of Beauty” tedious?
Heller, Zoe – “Notes on a Scandal” was good but in a way that wouldn’t remotely tempt me to try any of her other work.
Kadare, Ismail – I’ve read a couple of his books because they sound so interesting and I like the Balkans. I think I’ll stop now though.
Kerouac, Jack – “On the Road” is tedious like a long, long trip in the back of the car.
Kundera, Milan – Unbearable. At length. Lots of sex
Kureshi, Hanif – Really unbearable. Lots of sex
LeCarre, John etc. – I have never tried one of Mr. Le Carre’s books. For some reason, I don’t like thrillers. I should because I love plot driven books but somehow thrillers don’t engage me. I have tried authors as various as Patricia Cornwall, Ruth Rendell, Michael Dibden, Rex Stout, Raymond Chandler and Kathy Reichs and I don’t like them. Mind you, I didn’t mind that Robert Harris thing “The Ghost” but I think that was mostly because I was thinking about Tony and Cherie.
Lee, Harper – Misfiled. Everyone loves “To Kill a Mockingbird”, including me.
Lee, Laurie – Don’t like him. Tried “Cider with Rosie” and “As I walked out one Midsummer morning” and I didn’t like him. I also usually blame him for “Fair Stood the Wind for France” but, in fact, that’s H.E. Bates.
Lessing, Doris – I have only read “Ben in the World” and it was brutal, to be honest. Perhaps not one of her happier works. Prepared to give a volume of her autobiography a go. Particularly since I bought it a couple of years ago and it is still in the pile beside my bed.
Lodge, David – Alright, I suppose, can be funny. But, if I’m looking for funny, I’d look elsewhere first.
Lurie, Alison – I feel that I should like Alison Lurie. I have only read “The War between the Tates” and it didn’t exactly encourage me to try anything else.
McCabe, Patrick – Just too weird and disturbing for me. Brilliant and all that but not nice.
McCourt, Frank – Twee.
Mantel, Hilary – I read “The Giant, O’Brien” and I could see that it was very good but I found it depressing and disturbing. Enough thanks.
Mitchell, David – Actually, “Black Swan Green” was very good but “Cloud Atlas”? I dunno.
Morrison, Toni – Now, there’s depressing.
Munro, Alice – I know I should like Alice Munro: short stories, domestic, beautifully written, but I just don’t.
Nabokov, Vladimir – “Lolita” is good but “Bend Sinister” has been waiting for my attention for a long time.
Nazeer, Kamran – Misfiled. A brilliant factual book about autism by an autistic author.
Niffinger, Audrey – I didn’t like “The Time Traveller’s Wife”, it was unconvincing and not for the reasons you might be entitled to expect.
Norton, Graham – I got a present of his autobiography. He’s from Cork, you know. He wrote the book himself (I mean it wasn’t ghosted, don’t be sarky) and it’s very, very good until he becomes famous. Then it’s dull.
O’Connor, Joe – I quite liked his early stuff, the funny books. I most emphatically did not like “Star of the Sea” and I have no intention of subjecting myself to “Redemption Falls” which in a way is a pity because he seems like such a nice man. In fairness, he never ever made anything of the fact that his sister is Sinead O’Connor even when she was famous and he was not. Is he more famous than she is now? I looked up one of his old books and, as far as I know, this is the only mention he ever made of her. It was his world cup diary:
“I am overjoyed to discover that there is a karaoke lounge directly beneath my bedroom. the fans are loudly singing hit songs and inserting the world ‘Ireland’ into them at every opportunity… the high point of the evening, for me, is when my dear sister Sinead’s poignant lament “Nothing Compares 2 U” is sublimely reinterpreted as “Nothing Compares 2 Phil Babb”.
Okri, Ben – I have been reading “The Famished Road” for well over a year. Maybe Ben and I should call it quits.
Orwell, George – Yeah “1984” and all that. Hmm.
Oz, Amos – Have only read his immensely depressing autobiography. I suppose I learnt a lot about Israel and Eastern Europe.
Pearson, Harry – Misfiled. “Tall Man in a Low Land” is the funniest book I have read about Belgium.
Picoult, Jodi – “My Sister’s Keeper” is very readable in an exploit the sentimental reader kind of way. “Vanishing Acts” didn’t even have the page turning thing for me. I’m full thanks.
Plath, Sylvia – I read “The Bell Jar” when I was in college. It’s that kind of book. Gloomy. I know, what do I expect?
Proulx Annie – “The Fishing News” had its moments but I didn’t think much of “Brokeback Mountain” and “Accordian Crimes” is very much at the bottom of my pile to read.
Pynchon, Thomas – “Vineland”, oh God, even the memory is painful.
Rushdie, Salman – Quite liked “Midnight’s Children” actually but not enough to want to try anything else.
Salinger, J.D. – I don’t like “The Catcher in the Rye”. Anyone else out there? Anyone at all?
Sebold Alice – I thought that “The Lovely Bones” was grim and not really very good either.
Sebold, W.G. – Too vague in Austerlitz, too detailed in “The Rings of Saturn. At least I can see why other people like him, even if I don’t go for him myself?
Sittenfield, Curtis – Wasn’t “Prep” a very smug novel?
Smiley, Jane – I did like “A Thousand Acres” though my knowledge of King Lear is not extensive [Why do you think my father calls me Goneril?]. I did not, however, enjoy “The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton” and I’ve given up on her.
Smith, Zadie – “White Teeth”, very clever and insightful for a 22 year old or whatever but I did not love it. I am heartless. Didn’t even like it much.
Steinbeck, John – Is it bad to say that I think he’s a bit sentimental?
Strachey, Lytton (or do you think that’s actually a double- barrelled surname?) – Misfiled. “Eminent Victorians” is a fantastically entertaining read. In fact, I think I’m going to haul it out again and contemplate his destruction of Florence Nightingale over the weekend.
Tan, Amy – I read one of her earlier books and quite liked it in a mild way but I thought that “Saving Fish from Drowning” was disappointing.
Tartt, Donna – I came to “The Secret History” under the inexplicable misapprehension that it was going to be about the hidden histories of women over the centuries. After that, it took me a while to get into it and I never really stopped wondering when they were going to talk in more detail about the serving women at the Bacchanal and what their back stories were.
Tremain, Rose – I found “Music and Silence” a bit slow though I now know a lot more about Denmark. Since I’m touching on Denmark, I didn’t like “Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow” much either. Well, not after she went off on that boat about half way through, anyway.
Trevor, William – A brilliant writer who writes dreadfully depressing stories. I’m sure he’s a very nice man. Somebody should gather up the courage to tell him that the young people don’t smoke Sweet Afton any more, see “Felicia’s Journey” for details.
Tolstoy, Leo – “War and Peace” had much too much war and not enough peace. I found the descriptions of endless battles dreadfully tedious though, as my then boyfriend unkindly pointed out, I had an added element of excitement as I was unsure whether Napoleon would or would not take Moscow, something most readers might be expected to know.
White, Edmund – The beautiful room is completely empty.
Wolfe, Tom – “The Bonfire of the Vanities”? Please, no. Good title though.
My God, are you still here? Well done. As I went through this list, I kept thinking of other books that displeased me, but you will be delighted to hear that I decided that, surely, this is enough.
You may also have noticed that I haven’t included any poets. I don’t dislike all poets; I am saving them for next November.
Tomorrow, I will gather together your suggestions and maybe I’ll have read at least a selection by next year.
Well Ms Waffle you may be a tiny tad curmudgeonly about books, but you are very well-read! One day, when you are lounging on a beach and your children are far away from you being cared for by people as loving and hands-on as their parents, please give John le Carre a go. You might prefer his later, less Cold War-ish novels to the earlier ones, but the spy ones are pretty good too.
In my husband’s words, “Tom Wolfe is a great journalist, but a competent novelist.”
How, how, how do you keep up with reading when you have a full-time job and three small children (including twin boys)? I ask again: how? What is your secret?
I read “Prep” right after I had finished “The Secret History.” So now I have to think really hard about which is which. Too many torrid class war dorm room scenes. Also, with you on Pynchon. Someday I will feel okay about admitting that I could not even begin to finish “Gravity’s Rainbow” although I tried many times.
I would second Charlotte and suggest that you give Le Carre a shot. I became absolutely hooked on him after reading the Karla Triology (The Honourable Schoolboy, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People). His very early spy books (eg The Spy Who Came in From the Cold) are perhaps not as good but the post-Smiley stories are excellent – very well written. For something in a similar vein (although again more in the thriller mould but still very well written) take a look at Martin Cruz Smith – the Renko books (Polar Star, Gorky Park et al) are worth reading particulaly for Russian psychology fans and I thought Tokyo Station was riverting. Finally, maybe I missed something in your earlier posts but I don’t recall any Clive James being mentioned – his Falling Towards England, May Week was in June etc. were very funny (although not so impressed with North Face of Soho which is I think his most recent one).
At the risk of being repetitive, I too would recommend Le Carre – I adore his earlier cold war stuff, however he has a very particular style and if you don’t like it then you will hate it. His novels are about far more than spying although that is the medium he uses to write about lost innocence, betrayal and his relationship with his father. The Perfect Spy covers all that remarkably. (I shall now go and sit in Pseuds Corner).
Hear hear on Franzen, Lurie, Niffeneger (and others I’m sure).
re: Michael Cunningham – The Hours is much much better if you have the courage to try again
Not sure if I’ve de-lurked before or not. I will join the chorus of “I’m so impressed with your reading.” I will also say that you might give Thomas Hardy another shot (although it looks like you will be very busy with the list you already have). Like you, I started with Jude the Obscure and I was ready to hang myself by the end. I have since read four other of his more well known novels and discovered that I like him a little better. Jude the Obscure was the last novel he wrote, and I believe that if you read his novels chronologically they *do* get worse (more depressing) as you go along. My favorite is Far From the Madding Crowd and in some ways it is hard to see that it was written by the same man.
I never knew there were so many authors in the world. I don’t think you mentioned Thomas Aquinas. His Summa Theologica keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Seriously, I concur with Mary on Thomas Hardy. Yes, they’re depressing, but it’s a good depression.
disgruntled commuter says
Alphabetical and everything …
If you choose to give Hilary Mantel another go, try A Place of Greater Safety which is utterly unlike The Giant O’Brien but, now I come to think of it, also quite depressing in the end. In fact, Every single one of Mantel’s books that I’ve read have been quite different from each other which is one of the reasons why I like her so much. I bet her publishers despair of her.
I agree with an above commenter that The Hours is a much better book than the other, which I could not finish, but perhaps it is only enjoyable if you really like Virginia Woolf (I do).
Coetzee’s a good writer, but I had to read a book of his a few weeks ago for a class and it nearly gave me an emotional breakdown, it was so unendingly grim and violent. I hate Hardy with a passion — Jude made me want to die this summer.Love Eliot, though! My favourite is Daniel Deronda, which has less lengthy pastoral rhapsodies and more lovely and incisive observations on humanity. I can understand that she’s not everyone’s cuppa, though. I have not yet read Middlemarch.
You should read more Nabokov if you liked Lolita! I think that Pnin — a very short, rather plotless little book — is a fantastically wonderful, sad, and funny character study. I have waxed about it at length in my blog probably more than once. Also Rushdie! I got bored with Midnight’s Children (too much Rushdie all at once) but really liked The Ground Beneath Her Feet.
I’m curious — which Gaiman book(s) did you read? I really liked him when I was a kid and now can’t read him at all, though I do visit his blog once every few months because I find him rather hot.
P.S. Thank you for your kind words on the State of My Blog. Things like that are inspiration to actually keep writing at it.