These books are good, but they aren’t that good.
As a bookworm, I’m a connoisseur of good books. But for me, a good book is not limited to its story alone. Good books also have good plot lines, characters, fonts, smells, cover art, etc. However, I like to get some help when discovering NEW good books.
I ususally take recommendations from friends and from society when, and only when, the hype has ebbed on certain titles. But I also occasionally take to the Internet in search of reviews and critiques. Unfortunately, what I come across the most are the all-inclusive 100 BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE lists.
I believe these lists to be a bit melodramatic. I mean, what if you’re on 99 when you kick the bucket? How unfulfilled would you feel? Well, I’m here to say, “lower your expectations.” The truth is society has done a good job of spoiling or summarizing some of these famous titles. So much so that it is really unnecessary to read the entire thing. So, go ahead. Skip these, and go read some of the other titles that you simply must read because they will change your life.
By the way, my tongue is positioned firmly in my cheek. So, if I tell you to skip one of your favorite books of all time, it’s nothing personal. It’s just books. Besides, only you can decide what you actually end up downloading to your e-reader. I’m just trying to do you a solid.
#5–Ulysses by James Joyce
I know, I know blasphemy of all blasphemy! I write a blog post professing my undying love for the man, and then tell you not to read one of his masterpieces. However, I must stand by my decision to love James Joyce, but not Ulysses. Joyce has been fairly candid about the book’s subject matter; he simply wanted to cram it full of allusions, which he was successful at. Yet, there are books on the annotations for Ulysses that are longer than the text itself. So, skip this one. If you must read it, read it once. Not the 45 times that your literature professor will encourage you to read it so you can “soak it all in.”
#4-Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
We’ve been there, done that, and Hugh Jackman has starred in it. Not only has the play been reinvented and recast numerous times, but few fans rarely read the book after they’ve seen the production. And really, why would you? You’ve sat through what can only be a 3 or 4 hour play or movie at minimum (you cut 5 songs, and I’m still sitting in the theatre 2 hours later!) and then you’re going to ask me to read a book that contains over 530,000 words for text-to-stage analysis??? I think I’ll let the Les Miserables be miserable and move onto something with a bit more guesswork for the ending. (Spoiler alert: everyone cries or dies.)
#3-The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
This feels totally wrong to be saying this, but uh, you can skip this one, too. I love Middle Earth, but when I read The Hobbit I found no reason to book my tickets to New Zealand’s Hobbiton. Tolkien is a bit heavy-handed with about everything he does, which includes lots of description and explanations that may make you jump back and forth between the top and the bottom of the page to remember who we’re talking about and where we are in the story. I like a little bit of sensory detail in my reading, but his sentences are more winding than the road that Bilbo Baggins takes to find the ring. It’s weird; all Tolkien fans realize that his writing could be better and clearer, and yet everyone is still swept up in the story and the world he has created. Including myself. So, with this one, I’m not saying you shouldn’t read it. I’m just saying you don’t have to. If books were body language, this Bilbo Baggins adventure would be a shrug for me.
#2-Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
To be honest, this one is a little hazy for me, and I don’t really remember the details or the plot. All I know is that I read it in high school, completed a book project for it, and continued to live my life. That’s just it; I wasn’t overwhelmed or underwhelmed by the story. It didn’t invade my consciousness and set up camp; it didn’t disturb my universe. I read it, I crossed it off the list, and that was that. If you have an affinity for coming of age novels with sassy main characters that curse for no real reason but to seem tough and mature, then go ahead and pick this one up. Maybe Salinger is over my head, but he was out of his mind, so we’re even.
#1-Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
I don’t even like saying this title aloud because it gives me horrible flashbacks of this book and its equally horrible spark notes. It takes place in the heart of the Congo during the Colonial period, which was a time that was rife with ignorance and stupidity on both accountable sides. So, Joseph Conrad felt not only an urge but a life’s calling to take this depressing little point in history and drape dark curtains around it. I had to watch the ending of The Notebook to feel a little bit happier after I read this book. The only thing cool that came out of this one was the literary term anthropomorphism in which the setting or scenery is given human qualities to the point that the very trees become characters in the novel. But please, don’t read it for the neat terminology. And if you are going to read it, have some chocolate on your nightstand. Or don’t because dementors would be able to cheer you better than this book ever could.
Ironically, I used some titles from 100 BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE lists to create this blog post. The bright side is that there were plenty of books on these lists that should be read before your dead. So, like I said, tongue is still firmly planted in cheek. But then again, I’d like to think I’ve saved you some time and space on your book shelves all the same. And hey, if there’s an afterlife, these books would definitely work as numbers 101, 102, 103, 104, and 105 on the list 200 BOOKS TO READ AFTER YOU’RE ALREADY DEAD.