Friday Book Chats: Books I’m Supposed to Love But Can’t Help Hating

The title of this post is self-explanatory, but this is my list of books that other people seem to love (or at least hail as classics), but that I really hated. And I am NOT linking these up to make it easy to purchase them because I don’t think anyone should purchase them ever because I think they stink. I am including a Curently On Sale Kindle list at the bottom of the post for books I actually do recommend.

Classics

Moby DickMoby Dick by Herman Melville. I read this in both high school and in college so it’s gotten two chances which is more than I usually grant a book I hated the first time around. When I read this in college I was very open-minded since my professor was amazing and had made other classic works come to life for me in a way I hadn’t expected. Sadly, even the tremendous passion of Dr. Lundin could not make me see the light with this one. Every time this is called, “The Great American Classic” I shudder a little in embarrassment for America. This book is 700 + pages of watching paint dry. The worst.

wuthering heights

 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Cathy is an idiot and Heathcliff is an ogre. Everything is super dramatic for no reason. There is no romance here for me.

 

 

Scarlet Letter

 

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. No. Just no.

 

 

 

Huck FinnAnything by Mark Twain: Perhaps it’s because reading so much dialect gives me a headache, but I have just never enjoyed anything by Mark Twain unless you count the Wishbone episode where he does Tom Sawyer. Because that I could get behind.

 

 

On the roadOn the Road by Jack Kerouac. Well, the reason I first read this book was because the guy I had a huge crush on in high school loved Kerouac. Should have been a sign.

 

 

AwakeningDishonorable Mention: The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I mention this because it’s so highly lauded as this amazing example of feminist literature and I just don’t know why. I know it was “revolutionary” at the time or whatever, but I just think we have so many better examples of feminist literature – why do we continue to hold this up?

 

Contemporary

The RoadThe Road by Cormac McCarthy. The action of this book could have been condensed into about ten pages. “But he is being so literary –evoking weariness and boredom through constant repetition.” Or perhaps he’s laughing his butt off because all you suckers bought a book that took him about 30 minutes to write and are calling it a masterpiece.

 

goldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. People RAVED about this book. I mean, it won the Pullitzer Prize. But you know what? It just isn’t that good. To quote me, “The main character and narrator (Theo Decker) is neither interesting nor sympathetic. Apart from the very beginning where you feel bad for him because of his family situation, he really turns out to be a pretty terrible person, but he’s not even an interesting terrible person. I don’t think all the characters in good literature need to be likeable. But they do have to make me care what happens to them. I did not care about him. Some of the secondary characters, on the other hand, were fascinating. At the end of the book Theo goes into this long tangent where he philosophizes on life in a way that I found really unsatisfying. He ends up saying essentially that life is really difficult and sucky and meaningless but it’s all we have so we should maybe try to find some joy in it. And I just didn’t understand how that was even logical. If life is sucky and meaningless, what possible motivation is there to try to be a good person and find joy? I was pretty frustrated at the end of the book – dissatisfied with both the story itself and the author’s conclusions on life. And it was a lot of pages to read to feel that disappointed.”

outlanderOutlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve only made it through two and half of these. And I started reading them 3 years ago…Even before the TV series came out (which I think I’d like better as a guilty-pleasure show) lots of people I knew LOVED these books. I just can’t get into them. I don’t connect with the characters super well, the history doesn’t especially interest me, the time travel isn’t cleverly done, and the prose is just OK. I’m underwhelmed. And I have lots of other things I’d rather read than eight 800-page volumes of this.

Gone_GirlDishonorable mention: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Again, I didn’t actively hate this book, I just really disliked some parts of it. I saw the movie version of this and actually liked it much better. If you haven’t read it/seen it this is a SPOILER ALERT*** Here’s what I didn’t like. The book seemed to be trying to say something deeper about marriage and relationships and how a good marriage can go badly, badly wrong. But it epic-ly failed to do this because of the nature of the plot. When there are psychopaths or sociopaths involved you can no longer treat any of their relationships as an effective commentary on normal society. I also found the ending upsetting and deeply dissatisfying. I thought it worked so much better as a movie where you could appreciate it as entertainment without trying to extract this deep message about marriage and society.

Christian

Crazy LoveCrazy Love by Francis Chan. If you’re super into “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” this book is for you. I read this book with my friends for Bible study and while I could agree with some of his points and the challenge to live a fully-committed life I found his tone and illustrations incredibly off-putting and problematic. To give you one example, he writes several times about his wife’s Grandma Clara holding her up as a picture of virtue and a lesson to us all. In one story the family goes to a play together and after the play Chan asks her, “Did you enjoy the play?” and she responds, “I was just sitting there the whole time thinking how ashamed I would be if Jesus were to come back right now and find me here watching a play.” And he was using this as an example of how devoted we should all be to Jesus. And I just thought…actually, I think if Jesus came back now he would love that you were spending your time investing in the family he gave you and loving them well by being there for their important moments –but maybe that’s just me? That’s just one example, but it gives you an idea of what the book was like.  Not a fan.

What about you? Any books you love to hate?

Currently On Sale For Kindle

*As of February 13th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New on sale this week:

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way , Shauna Niequist ($.99)  This book of essays focuses on change and the bittersweet ways that we grow through challenges and difficulties.

Me Before YouJoJo Moyes ($2.99) Ambitionless twenty-six year old Louise loses her job and takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a 35 year old quadripalegic who challenges her to live life on a grander scale. This is a quick read, but not a particularly light one.  Be warned that you’ll need Kleenex.

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd ($3.99). There’s a reason this book is so popular. It’s great.

Still on sale from last week:

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green ($2.99) So good, but read with tissues.

The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd ($3.99) This was on many “best of the year” lists for 2014.

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell ($4.99) Just finished this a few days ago. One of my new favorite young adult novels. So sweet.

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, Barbara Brown Taylor ($3.09)

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith CrisisLauren Winner ($1.99) I just finished this book recently and it was one of those books that didn’t stand out as a whole, but there were certain bits that were very, very good.

Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty ($3.99) Wrote about this here. Really love all of her books.

Three Wishes, Liane Moriarty ($2.99)

Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss ($4.99) I’ve already talked about this like 7 times, but if you need a refresher, read the blurb on this post.

The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss ($5.99) See above.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern ($4.99) I adore this book.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use a link to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

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66 comments

  1. Well, we do have some similar tastes… The greatest reading disappointment I ever experienced was Moby Dick…once as a young kid (who thought it was just my youth that made it an impossible read) and then as an adult who truly wanted to enjoy it and truly hated it halfway through. Bronte and Hawthorne the same (in high school I remember asking my teacher why these books were classics and she laughed and agreed with me).

    Twain is where we disagree… Love Huck and Tom, they were my idols growing up 🙂

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    1. I know a lot of people really love Mark Twain – I think my beef is more with the writing than it is with the stories. One of my favorite parts of Disneyland was always Tom Sawyer’s island. But I just found it so difficult to read and get into. And, you know, Huck Finn is racist as all get-out. But…agree to disagree. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that is the one thing that makes Twain so hard to read these days is the writing is definitely not PC. The writing is different, not sure I’d enjoy it as much as I did as a kid…and I think that it simply is that Huck and Tom live the adventures that boys dream about. The writing puts us back in the time…and yes, we definitely can agree to disagree 🙂

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    1. Haha. Many people do. I read it a few years back (after college) and I just didn’t understand what we were all being so dramatic about. I may have responded differently if I’d read it as a teenager though!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Of those i have read the only place i differ is the scarlet letter. It has been years but i recall liking the novel. More recently read Jane Eyre which i hated. Appreciated the links, just picked up two more reads.

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    1. That’s great (that you got new books)! I watch Amazon like it’s my job because I love getting good books for cheap! Glad you found some. I wanted to like the Scarlet Letter, but I just found everyone to be either cruel or spineless. I pretty much hated every character. Right up there with Tess of the D’ubervilles which I should have mentioned, but didn’t. You’re supposed to feel bad for Tess and Hester, but it’s hard when they are being so annoying. 😉 Obviously, lots of people feel differently though!

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      1. I’ve had “Tess of the D’urbervilles” for like forever. My friend gave me her copy. I haven’t read it yet. For a book lover, i’m really a lazy reader! Ditto with “The last of the Mohicans” from another friend. What I’m just happy about is when the reading bug bites me and I’m at home, I will never run out if books to read ’cause they’re just THERE.

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    1. Haha. I felt so guilty for hating it so much because it seemed really judgmental and I’m sure Francis Chan is a wonderful man and is very sincere. I just didn’t find it inspiring or even challenging at all. I just kept thinking – “I don’t think that’s true…” or trying to make excuses for him like, “I think what he means is…”

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  3. I loved Wuthering Heights! The other ones I haven’t read or am so-so on. I will say, I just read Little Women for the first time this year and absolutely hated it. It’s just a bunch of outdated, sexist rules. 🙂

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  4. I read ‘The Road’ because a guy I’d started a relationship with recommended it…really liked the book (though it scared and moved me too much at times)…wish I could have read the relationship’s ending ahead of time!

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    1. It’s true, many of the classics can be tough to get into. But there are plenty of classics that I came to really appreciate once I read them – The Brothers Karamazov, Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Cristo, David Copperfield, Emma, To Kill a Mochingbird, The Great Gatsby, Light in August – all classics I came to genuinely love. But some of these were just a waste of my time, haha.

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      1. Love “Les Mis”! And even “Hunchback of Notre Dame”! Hugo is a bit of a hard read (I imagine it would be harder if I read his original French version — I don’t know French), but he’s good, in my book.

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  5. hi Lily I am here form Pakistan in city of Gilgit baltistan…I look for your history you r a good book writer.so continuous your work and promote to education,i am study at college and I study your good helpful books..

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  6. I actually like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer stories because of the adventure. But he is not a fave writer. Meanwhile, classic love stories bore me and I never really say that to other book-lovers and definitely not mention whose works they were/are.

    One classic I actually HATE is “Catcher in the Rye.” I read it because people said it’s good. I just hated the characters and the supposed protagonist didn’t seem likeable at all. I mean I get it, it’s supposed to be some angsty whatever, but I still need to like the protagonist no matter his circumstances.

    I was disappointed when I read it. One said, “But it’s supposed to be like that! It’s supposed to be angsty!” Then I let her read it then after, she went from defensive to “Neh.” I swear I’d like to find someone who likes it so I can rid of that copy. No offense meant to those who dig it, but I don’t dig it. i do want to bury it. To each his/her own, I guess.

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    1. Yeah, i don’t mind the Tom Sawyer stories, I just don’t like the actual books. My hubby feels the same about Catcher in the Rye. I never had to read it in school and since hearing about his adamant hatred of it I decided not to bother. 🙂 But that is another one that so many people love or consider to be so great.

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  7. I really enjoyed reading your hate list and especially love that it includes Wuthering Heights! I was expecting a tale of high passion and romance, and instead found a murky and depressing story of obsession – without a hint of genuine love.

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  8. this is hilarious! i so agree with you on quite a few of these titles. so true about the goldfinch! i wanted to read it because everyone i knew raved about it, but it just made me angry.

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  9. Great list! I particularly agree with you about Wuthering Heights: it is most definitely not romantic! And thank you for your review of Gone Girl. I already knew I didn’t want to see the film (explicit, graphic violence/gore in movies is a no-no for me), but now you’ve made me certain that I don’t want to read the book either. I was wavering, but your review decided it for me. 🙂

    Ooh, I heard The Night Circus is good! I’ll add it to my TBR list. I’ve heard of most of your recommended titles but the only one I’ve read is The Fault in Our Stars and, in contrast with most people I know, I didn’t get along with it very well (I blogged about it here).

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    1. No problem! I think the reason I didn’t mind Gone Girl so much as a movie is because I already knew what was going to happen. But if I’d gone into the movie blind it probably would have been too intense for me. 🙂 In general, I’m disturbed by psychopaths and this one was particularly disturbing since it ends so poorly – there’s no kind of redemption whatsoever.

      I really loved the Night Circus. I think it’s sort of mesmerizing. I thought The Fault in Our Stars was beautiful because it didn’t try to sugar coat things and the characters were so fun and there was hope there in the middle of something that is truly awful. I didn’t feel that it trivialized the situation or was melodramatic, but that’s just my opinion. 🙂 I will read your post about it though because now I’m curious!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I read Gone Girl. It was nauseating for me. A constant roller coaster. I hated it because there was nothing good in it, no redemption. No hope. nothing. Just hopelessness. And as a person who has her own set of issues with relationships, I really didn’t find that the book helped my view on relationships. Especially with sociopath/psychopath in the mix! 😮

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    1. Yeah, it’s definitely a psychological thriller so if find that stuff disturbing anyway it’s definitely not for you. In general psychopaths make me uncomfortable, haha. I find them much more disturbing than any kind of fantasy violence or even a regular crime type story. So, I hear you! I think the reason I didn’t mind it so much as a movie is because I already knew what was going to happen. But if I’d gone into the movie blind it probably would have been too intense for me. 🙂

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  11. Interesting list! Many of those I haven’t read, some I have. One disagreement with you is the Outlander series. Just love them. But then I love long books, and I think the characters are great. Too much sexy-sexy sometimes but a person can skip pages….
    And I totally agree with you on Rothfuss although I’m not completely ga-ga over it, mainly because of the contrived set up of telling the story to someone else over one day (!) I mean that’s a lot of storytelling…..anyway I would have really enjoyed it if not for that. But I totally agree about The Night Circus….love, love, love…..LOVE!

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    1. Yes, I know, almost everyone I know really enjoys the Outlander books. And it’s not just because they are long – some of my favorite books of life are 1,000 pages a piece – just for whatever reason they don’t read fast enough for me. I even tried listening as an audio book. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that doesn’t jive with me. I agree with you about the explicit stuff – sometimes I get myself in trouble because I recommend something to someone that is a bit risque, but it’s because I genuinely forget about it. I’ll skim over things I don’t want to read in detail and when I think about the book I remember how I liked it as a whole. 🙂 The telling the story over the 3 day period thing is the ONLY part of Rothfuss’ books I don’t love. But I’m curious when the 3rd one comes out if there will be more present action that will make it feel less contrived as a whole. And yes on the Night Circus. It’s utterly captivating. I’d like to read it again.

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  12. Several years ago, I came to a conclusion about myself. I do not like depressing books. If a book (The Road) makes me want to do myself in with a butter knife before I’m finished with the first chapter, I put it down. If it becomes a cultural phenomenon that I feel I have to know about, I watch the movie. That only takes 1.5 hours. If I experience Gone Girl, it will be in movie form. I also agree about the Outlander series. I thought it might be fun to buy the audio book before I went on a long flight. The narrator’s voice was so sonorous that I kept falling asleep. I’d go to sleep when Claire was riding a pony across the meadow, and every single time I woke up, there was some down and dirty sex going on. Lead with the good stuff, Gabaldon!

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    1. Hahahaha. I loved this comment so much. 🙂 I have a bit of a melancholy streak, so it’s not that it being “sad” in general is always a turn off for me, but if it’s more than sad – just outright depressing – or if it’s realllllly boring, or if it’s disturbing in some way, then as you said, I’d rather not waste my time. It’s pretty rare for me to stop reading a book because I always try to give it a fair try and then once I’ve decided I don’t like it I’ll be like, “Well, I’ve already spent this much time on it, I’ll just try to hurry up and finish.” So any book that I actually put down and don’t finish is a REALLY bad one in my opinion. I’m also one of those people who doesn’t mind reading the book AFTER seeing the movie, especially if it’s something I’m not sure I’m interested in. And occasionally (like with Gone Girl) I actually think the movie is better. Maybe I’ll do a book chat on that sometime soon – movies that were better than their book. 😉

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  13. YES! I hated Wuthering Heights so much I couldn’t even finish it. I just stopped a little over half way, just couldn’t do it anymore. Not only was there no romance (or anything else interesting for that matter), I hated the characters more and more the farther into the book I got. It painful to read, and I didn’t even finish it.

    Thanks for the short review of Crazy Love. I’ve noticed it’s a very popular book, and I’d wondered if I should check it out. I’m just pretty leery of Christian books right now if I’m not familiar enough with the author that I trust them to not say anything that’ll set off my Post Traumatic Church Syndrome. That definitely is not the right book for me.

    I haven’t read The Scarlet Letter. It’s one I’ve sort of felt obligated to read eventually, because it played at least a small part in the sexual awaking and so forth. And it’s sort of a cultural reference. But it’s not something I actually know a lot about honestly (besides the obvious). Out of curiosity, why did this one make the list?

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    1. Yeah, from the little bit I know about you I don’t think you’d like Crazy Love at all. 😉 And as far as the Scarlet Letter goes, first off, the prose is very dry and hard to get into. Then there’s the issue of all of the characters being so annoying. 🙂 So, the story is that Hester Prynne has had a child out of wedlock and has to go around with the Scarlet “A” of adulteress on her clothes. And the reader knows who the father of the child is (someone else in the community) and he’s just in agony over his guilt. But he just lets her suffer and be shamed without taking responsibility, but then we’re supposed to feel sympathy towards him for all the mental anguish he’s in. And I know this is a very modern perspective skewing this, but I can’t help being like, “No. You did it. Fess up. I’m not feeling sorry for you,” and being annoyed with Hester that she doesn’t just tell people what happened and take some of the heat off of herself. etc. I suppose it was progressive for it’s time, but not progressive enough for me. 😉

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    1. Haha. I always thought I was just being a moody teenager when I hated the ones we were assigned in school but then I read a few as adults and it didn’t seem to change anything. Some of them just aren’t great. 😉

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  14. This is an awesome hate list! Sometimes we handle books in the canon with kid gloves, like they’re somehow immune from our judgment because they’re established ‘classics.’ It’s a free country! We don’t have to pretend to be gripped by 18 pages of dialogue-free prose in the Scarlet Letter.

    I never did finish Moby Dick. That book was nauseatingly boring. I haven’t personally met anyone who has made it all the way through Moby Dick, including my college English professors. I’m not even sure Melville finished Moby Dick. I imagine him handing the incomplete manuscript to an assistant: “Uh, you’re gonna have to finish this up…that whaling stuff is boring the crap out of me.”

    I read Wuthering Heights once and hated it. I love Charlotte so much that Emily was a huge disappointment. If all of the characters would have just taken a deep breath and FREAKING CALMED DOWN, it would have turned out fine. The one interesting thing about this book is that the story is perfectly symmetrical. In the center of the book, the first Cathy dies as the second Cathy is born. The first Cathy’s story is a tragedy while the second is a romance. There are tons of mirrors in the two stories. It’s kind of brilliant, but the characters are still super annoying.

    I also don’t enjoy the experience of reading the Scarlet Letter, but I like what it has to say about the effects of public guilty versus private guilt. Hester has a visible A; Dimmesdale has a hidden A. Hester grows stronger as Dimmesdale grows weaker. But again, not one to pick up by the fireside with a good cup of tea.

    My theory about why The Awakening is a popular piece of feminist lit even though Edna Pontellier is *seriously* annoying is that it was groundbreaking at its time. As part of first wave feminism, it showed us a woman who felt repressed but didn’t even have the vocabulary (certainly not the chutzpah) to articulate her rebellion. In consequence, she experiences something of a delayed adolescence in how she chooses to rebel (painting! piano! interior decorating! adultery! dinner parties! swimming!).

    Anyway, those are my two cents. I enjoyed your list and your writing as always.

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  15. LOL i found the intro to this post absolutely hilarious precisely because I’ve felt exactly the same way about MANY popular books *ahem* the *ahem* alchemist *ahem* Lol!

    I liked Crazy Love though — I thought it was very thought provoking and brought a nice balance to the “relax and do nothing because God loves you” books out there

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    1. I get what you’re saying about Crazy Love – that was the one thing I thought was good about it – we SHOULD be challenged to work for justice and serve God in big ways in the world. But the way he communicated this really rubbed me the wrong way – he kept saying this was love-based while heaping on guilt and shame and I found his theology problematic in a few key areas. I also came from a background that placed a huge emphasis on your deeds – it wasn’t like your deeds earned your salvation, but it was like you needed to do a lot of good works to prove to everyone that you really were a Christian. And that bred both self-righteousness and judgmentalism towards those who didn’t seem to be doing enough. There was a part of the book when Chan talked about being so saddened to realize that there were so many people in church who aren’t even Christians and the reason he knows this is because he doesn’t see them doing enough Christian things that show evidence of their love for God. I just think it’s really dangerous and out of line when we start judging other people’s hearts/salvation based on the actions we see in our limited time with people. Obviously, Christians should be growing and bearing fruit, but sometimes we go through seasons of struggle and that doesn’t mean we’re not really Christians.

      The Alchemist seems to be a popular book that people love to hate. I’ve heard many people say they hated it even though it’s supposed to be so good. 🙂 I haven’t read it, but the more reviews I hear, the more I don’t think I will!

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  16. It wasn’t until I saw Hal Holbrook performing Mark Twain Tonight that I realized that Huckleberry Finn was meant to be heard, not read. Mark Twain was a western humorist and much of his storytelling technique came from that tradition. If you can, get a copy of that performance. On top of everything else, it is extremely funny.

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  17. I’m slowly making my way through your posts and just read this one. I Could Not Agree MORE with The Scarlet Letter!!! I hated that book with a passion. Ugh! I remember reading that junior year of high school and I felt like we discussed it for weeks and weeks and weeks. I’m not a very avid reader (although I’m definitely going to find some books to read through your posts!), but I would like to add a more modern book–Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It’s about 15 years old and everyone was raving about it, so I read the whole darn thing and it was just time I won’t get back. 🙂 I looked it up and it was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist! I don’t get it.

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    1. Hahaha. So glad you’re with me on The Scarlet Letter. Ew. And it’s funny you mention A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I have another post on here about books I’ve abandoned and could never finish and that is one of them. I have tried to read it 3 or 4 times, even once as an audio book, and I just can’t get through it! Based on your review, maybe I should just give up, haha.

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