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Reading Challenges > November 2014 Reading Challenge: Revisit a Disliked Book

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message 1: by Justin (last edited Nov 01, 2014 12:45PM) (new)

Justin (ars_legendi) | 75 comments Mod
Ready for a real challenge, everyone?

There was a recently a New Yorker opinion piece that questioned whether kids who read popular fiction really do move on to more sophisticated books, and it started a conversation between me and a few friends about how our tastes and opinions as a reader grow and change as we do. It got me thinking about some of the books I decided I hated as a teenager/young man, but haven't really looked at again since.

Your challenge this month is to revisit one of those old enemies. Maybe you remember some assigned reading from your school days that vexed you, or maybe you can think of a book that let you down long enough ago that you can now read it with a new set of eyes. For a real twist, see if you can think of an old childhood/teenage favorite that you suspect won't age well, and see if it holds up.

For the featured challenge book, I present my lifelong nemesis: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I was assigned this book in high school, and couldn't finish it. I picked up the Cliffs Notes, and couldn't finish them. In my mind, it's a story about awful people being awful to one another that still somehow manages to be boring. Many, many people who love this book have told me that I should try reading it as an adult, though, and they are right; I have developed an appreciation (if not love) for this style of fiction in the intervening years, and am willing to give it another shot and see what I think.

Post your literary nemesis and story of attendant woe below, and let us know if it really does look different with new eyes.

message 2: by ❤Marie (new)

❤Marie Gentilcore (rachelx) | 39 comments What a fabulous challenge. I think I'll give The Shell Seekers another try and from high school either The Old Man and the Sea or Moby Dick.

message 3: by Susan (new)

Susan (yetanothersusan) | 203 comments I will have to think on this one. I can't remember disliking books from high school.

message 4: by Steven (new)

Steven | 57 comments The Great Gatsby. But I reread it a few years ago and still didn't like it. Can't think of any thing else that I didn't like.

message 5: by Steven (new)

Steven | 57 comments I got it. Watership Down. I didn't dislike it as much as I thought it overrated. Does that count?

message 6: by Justin (last edited Nov 04, 2014 09:56AM) (new)

Justin (ars_legendi) | 75 comments Mod
Overrated definitely counts. There's at least one book in my past that underwhelmed me partly because of how much hype it had received, but that I appreciated more the second time around, years later and without the buzz.

message 7: by Justin (new)

Justin (ars_legendi) | 75 comments Mod
Also, this should be said: "Yup, I still hate this" is a valid response, as it still reveals something about how our reading tastes have (or have not) changed.

message 8: by Brendle (new)

Brendle (akajill) | 235 comments Mod
While I did like most of our assigned reading in school, several haunt me to this day. No matter what the challenge, I'm not reading Wuthering Heights again. I admire you for giving it a go, Justin, but I think I'm still too traumatized by that particular story to revisit it. The Red Badge of Courage was another I disliked intensely. I hated the overuse of symbolism in particular. I'm not keen to revisit that one either as I have had enough of war stories for a while. Nor will I re-read Little Women as I have given that a chance on 4 separate occasions, plus watched the movie version. I still hate it with a passion and cannot see for the life of me why it is so beloved.

No, the one I think I will try is The Pearl by John Steinbeck. I disliked that one quite a bit. I still remember tossing it on my desk in English class in total disgust after I finished it. Can't think of why, however, and I have truly loved all of the other Steinbeck books I have read thus making it perfect for this challenge!

message 9: by Susan (new)

Susan (yetanothersusan) | 203 comments I know why you disliked The Pearl! I read it in February.

message 10: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea Couillard-Smith Brendle, I'm intrigued by what you say about LITTLE WOMEN. I too have never made it through the book despite many attempts, yet I adore the Winona Ryder movie version. It came out when I was about 10 or 11, and I just cherish it for lots of reasons. I also have my mother's copy of the book from her childhood, so I've always wanted to be able to read and enjoy it. You've inspired me. I'm going to attempt LITTLE WOMEN again. I've enjoyed so many similar books from that era, so I can't understand why I struggle with it.

message 11: by John (new)

John | 105 comments I hafta go back and read Kafka's "Metamorphosis"? The book where the guy wakes up one day and he's turned into a giant cockroach?? I was assigned that in high school, hated it, and got into trouble when I suggested that there was no theme or moral in the story and that Kafka just wrote it to make a few whatever-the-currency-was-at-the-times.

OK, a few (a lot) of years have passed since then, so I'll give it a try. If the plot has stayed with me all this time maybe it's actually got some redeeming value.

message 12: by Brendle (new)

Brendle (akajill) | 235 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "I know why you disliked The Pearl! I read it in February."

Oh dear, that doesn't sound promising for this challenge! I shall give it a go nonetheless and we shall discuss after :-)

@chelsea Best of luck with Little Women! You're a better woman than I for trying to read it yet again.

message 13: by Steven (new)

Steven | 57 comments Wow, I must have disliked the books that Brendle mentions so much that I blocked them from my memory. I know that I read them, they were required reading back in the 70's. After I finish Watership Down, and a few corny space operas that I am enjoying, I may give one a go.

message 14: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (gxeninjo) | 9 comments I was not able to finish "Wuthering Heights" when I tried to read it, but this challenge may help me. I also remember hating "The Great Gatsby" when I read it in high school- I read it twice to try to see what other people liked about it but I could see nothing good about it. I will try that one as well I think to see if getting older helps it. This is a great challenge. I also hated "A red badge of courage" and I had no idea what was going on in it with the dialect, but I am not ready to brave that one again yet. I have enough linguistic challenges in my life right now. I also had problems with "Little Women" and I just managed to read that last month. For some reason it just hit me in the right place and I speed through it even though I had had several failed attempts in the years before.

message 15: by Justin (new)

Justin (ars_legendi) | 75 comments Mod
The Great Gatsby usually comes up in conversations like this. I liked it just fine, though I think there are better books out there that cover the same themes.

message 16: by Chip (last edited Nov 08, 2014 09:29AM) (new)

Chip | 89 comments The only book I can say I really hated in high school was Moby Dick, but I think that might have been at least partly due to the fact that I had a tough year that year and I really hated the teacher, too. I re-read it a few years ago and was blown away by it - easily one of the best books I'd ever read!

I'm still trying to decide what to read next. I remember reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and being very disappointed in it. It seemed to go on forever after the climax, proselytizing. (At least, that's how I remember it.) I tried Frankenstein once and wasn't able to get into it. I was also supposed to read Vanity Fair and Tom Jones my freshman year of college, but with a combined total of over 6000 pages of reading in Freshman English and Western Civ that quarter, I decided to go the Cliff Notes-route on those two. I could see reading any of those books for this challenge.

It also occurs to me that I really hated The Turn Of the Screw by Henry James. I've started it a couple of times and not been able to read more than a few pages. There's something about his writing style that just annoys the hell out of me - so stilted and convoluted. Does this sentence have a subject? What is the antecedent of the "which" in this sentence? Just thinking about trying to read this book again makes me angry. (His brother William has the same effect on me.)

Having recently seen the movie Birdman, I'm now reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, a short story collection by Raymond Carver. (The title story is featured in Birdman.) Jeez - I haven't read Carver in about 30 years. I remembered that he was really, really good, but I'd forgotten just how good! I highly recommend the book and the movie!

message 17: by Chip (new)

Chip | 89 comments For what it's worth, back when I was in college and everyone was reading Herman Hesse (late 60s, early 70s), I read Siddhartha, The Glass Bead Game, and Journey to the East but when I tried Steppenwolf, I just couldn't get into it. I tried it again , and still couldn't get into it. Then I tried it a third time and absolutely could not put it down! It's funny how sometimes a book has to catch you at just the right time...

message 18: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea Couillard-Smith I totally agree, Chip! I've never tried to re-read Wuthering Heights because I don't think I would like it. When I read it as a teenager, I loved it, and I think being a teenager, with rather melodramatic views on romance and the like, as well as an obsession with the English landscape, it just hit me at the right time. I kind of cherish that response to it, so I'm loath to read it again as a more realistic adult.

Also, still haven't managed to pick up Little Women again. It's a hard challenge to motivate yourself for, especially when there are other appealing reads lying around the house. :-)

message 19: by Justin (new)

Justin (ars_legendi) | 75 comments Mod
I am much more struck by the setting of Wuthering Heights this time around. And considering how angst-filled I was as a teenager, I'm surprised I didn't react better to all of this gloom.

message 20: by Steven (new)

Steven | 57 comments Finished Watership Down, my review:
I first read this book over 40 years ago while a Senior in high school shortly after it was first published. I liked it then, I like it now. I did not think it lived up to all the hype then. I still feel the same way. At the time it made me think there seems to be nothing new in the literary world, just different ways to say the same thing. As I've gotten older I've grown to accept that and learn not be so critical. So why only 3 stars? That seems pretty critical. This is solid 4 star book. I want it to stay there. I just have to offset the 5 star "OMG, this is the greatest book ever!!" crowd.

message 21: by Brendle (last edited Nov 29, 2014 09:36AM) (new)

Brendle (akajill) | 235 comments Mod
So, I read The Pearl yesterday as part of my #thankfulreading and was immediately less than thankful I was reading it. Yep, I definitely still dislike this book rather intensely and now I know why. It's the story. It's a parable and the lessons are brutal and heavy handed. Then there's the horrible, horrible ending. I remember pitching it down on the desk in disgust as a teen and I am now surprised I didn't pitch it right out the window!

I have had the experience of re-reading a disliked book and suddenly loving it (The Great Gatsby) but that certainly didn't happen this time around. I can, however, see why it is treasured by many instructors, and I can see it being a very popular classroom selection today what with the major themes of income inequality and greed. Still, I am glad I don't have to be the one discussing it.

message 22: by Justin (new)

Justin (ars_legendi) | 75 comments Mod
We're coming up on the end of our challenge, so it's time to check in and see how the battle has gone.

Now that I've become a little more patient as a reader, I can appreciate what Wuthering Heights does well, most notably its quasi-epic scope and the long game of Heathcliff's resentment and revenge. I still didn't finish it, though, partly because I'm not a big fan of the style, but mostly because I still find both Catherine and Heathcliff to be abominable people. It brings Gone Girl to mind; like that book, I found it almost impossible to sympathize with anyone (except Isabella), but unlike that book, the story doesn't move fast enough to interest me despite not rooting for anyone.

All that being said, it was definitely worth a revisit. I needed to understand the good parts of this classic that I couldn't absorb when I was younger, and now I can articulate better why it's not for me.

Thank you, everyone, for taking on this difficult challenge with us! There are relatively few brave souls this time around, so if you took up the mantle, message me with your home branch and reading preferences so we can send you an ARC as a reward.

message 23: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea Couillard-Smith I really appreciated this challenge, but it's hard to find the motivation to pick up a book you don't like when you have a stack of titles you want to read. :-) Next time!

message 24: by ❤Marie (new)

❤Marie Gentilcore (rachelx) | 39 comments I agree Chelsea. I had every intention of reading a book I struggled with in the past, but I had too many that I was enjoying and the library cancelled my request for some reason so I just never re-requested it. It was a great idea for a challenge though.

message 25: by John (new)

John | 105 comments I'm afraid I'm another of the "I intended to get around to it but never did" group. I did read the first section of "Metamorphosis" but didn't get any further. This was National Novel Writing Month and I didn't read much of anything in November.

One thing I did discover though: In high school I actively disliked the book. This time...nah, not so much.

message 26: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (gxeninjo) | 9 comments I did not manage to get my hands of Wuthering Heights in time to do it for the challenge, but I did reread The Great Gatsby. This time I did not want to chuck it across the room, but I am still not a fan. Still seems pointless to me, but it did not make me mad.

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