The Historian The Historian discussion


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There's No Worse Thief than a Bad Book

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message 1: by Chuckell (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:22PM) (new)

Chuckell Sorry, I messed up on the title the last time I tried to start this discussion.

The Historian is a book that truly lived up to that Italian saying--I was angry at myself for every second I spent reading it. When I was done, I took out a calligraphy pen and inscribed the title page: "To Whomever Has the Misfortune to Read this Book Next--I curse you to many hours of frustrating stupidity and plodding plotting and wafer-thin characterization. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!" and then left the thing out in the street.

Besides such obvious candidates as The Da Vinci Code and The Celestine Prophecy, what other books have you found truly, despicably hateful? And what are the subtle, or not so subtle, factors that make a bad book bad to you?


message 2: by Bess (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:23PM) (new)

Bess Having been written past approx. 1925 usually does it for me in terms of not being able to stomach a book.


message 3: by Coco (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:32PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Coco I realize hate is a strong word, but I HATED A Confederacy of Dunces. Not a single character did l like and the whole time I kept hoping that Ignatius would get hit by a bus or die some other painful death.


message 4: by Jessica (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:40PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jessica The Historian - it was the story structure that moved me over the line from 'didn't like' to 'hate.' There's nothing like a story within a story that is so distracting (i'm referring to the 'letters' that were just too detailed) that it keeps you from appreciating the story being told.


message 5: by Ellen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:04PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Ellen Cheers to that. I had a co-worker who raved about this book and it only made me want to kill myself so it would be over. I got into one of those "I will finish this book because I am smarter than it" battles with it. I finished it but, in retrospect, wish I hadn't wasted the time.


message 6: by Little (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:46PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Little It took me forever to get through Confederacy of Dunces, but I did enjoy it. I mean, it was funny. Not funny enogh to inspire me to pick it up very often, but somewhat funny. It's probably in my "read it once, but probably not again" pile.


message 7: by Merrin (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:53PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Merrin I finished Stranger in a Strange Land and threw it across the room. I hated that book. I hated the misogyny rampant throughout, culminating in the line "you know, rape is almost always the fault of the woman" spoken BY A WOMAN.

Mostly I dislike pretentious books or books dripping in misery for no other reason than the author feels that that's what good fiction should read like. If that makes sense. For example I offer up A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley.


message 8: by Jackie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:55PM) (new) - added it

Jackie Oh no, I just started The Historian and now I'm nervous...

The one book I remember HATING was The Virgin Suicides. And I can't even remember why (I read it a few years ago), but I hated it so much that I won't even consider reading the author's other books.


message 9: by Tamela (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:57PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tamela Always form your own opinion about a book. Then, if you wish, you can throw it across the room.
Personally, I found the Historian a very interesting read. I thought it was clever and mysterious. Obviously, others found it difficult and tedious.
I would like to know what you really think,when you're finished.


message 10: by Jennie (last edited Dec 29, 2007 07:37PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jennie Ha! I'm glad I'm not the only one who hated A Confederacy of Dunces. I could only get through about 20 pages of the book, and I NEVER put a book down.


message 11: by Amy (new)

Amy Hughey I too am relieved to find I am not the only person to develop a hatred for A Confederacy of Dunces. I hated every character in it and didn't make it past about 50 pages. I've had a bit of an inferiority complex about this considering how consistently that book shows up on "Best" and "Must Read" lists but it wasn't worth my time.




message 12: by Chuckell (last edited Jan 03, 2008 10:32AM) (new)

Chuckell YES, Jackie--The Virgin Suicides was intolerable. Hateful. Agonizing. I vowed never, ever to read another Jeffrey Eugenides book as long as I lived. . . . A promise to myself which, I am happy to say, I eventually broke when I read Middlesex--and loved, loved, loved it! Weird, huh?

I also vowed never to read another Tom Robbins book after forcing my way through Still Life with Woodpecker in junior high in an attempt to impress a girl. But years later I broke down and--in an attempt to impress a girl--read Skinny Legs and All. And may I just say I was right the first time around: Tom Robbins is the WORST.

One might argue that reading bad fiction was never the kind of thing that impressed anyone, anyway, but oh well.


message 13: by Adornable (new)

Adornable  I totally agree with you, Chuckell. I do lump together The Da Vinci Code and The Celestine Prophecy. The difference is, I stopped reading after about 100 pages when I realize that I am being robbed - of time, brain cells, etc.

What makes a bad book: characters that are flawed - completely unreal, and not fantastical; situations that cannot exist in reality (again, excluding fantasy); poor research on the author's part. I read a book years ago that had a so-called Mexican female gang member that lived in the inner city of L.A. The author had her speaking heavily accented Spanglish, but did not bother to use any real life basis for the made-up words. It lacked authenticity. I should know, as I speak it myself.


Little I heard once, subtract your age from 100, and that's the number of pages to give a book you don't enjoy before you give up on it forever. Makes sense to me. There are too many good reads out there to waste your time on, say, The Magic Mountain or V.


Laura Jackie, you should really give Eugenedes another chance. Middlesex is really good and quite different from The Virgin Suicides. In fact it's one of my favorites--probably good that I read it before I read The Virgin Suicides!


message 16: by Bev (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bev Sorry, but I loved the DaVinci Code. I found myself wanting to find time to Google all the works of art and the places mentioned. As to the plot, well, it was queasy in places but it still kept me engrossed. Books like this that are based on religious beliefs,experiences, historical references, etc., capture my interest. I've enjoyed reading many of the "Templar" type books only because they've made me aware of a part of history/religion I was unaware of.


Heath Hughes I thought the book would never end! It started out ok and for a while I wanted to see how things would turn out. At some point I just refused to give up on it--in retrospect, yes, I should have tossed it and moved on...


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

everyone's felt that, i want to finish but its too damn slow!


message 19: by Kami (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kami Bone I'm sorry to disagree with so many of you. However, with a master's degree in reading and almost ten years of teaching writing experience, I must say that Kostova has one of the most engaging writing styles I have seen in a long time. I thought this book was absoulte magic, especially compared with the amature writing we have seen in other recent vampire books (Twilight). I can't believe anyone wished for it to end. I am desperately waiting for Ms. Kostova to write another novel.


Kristen Jackie, I agree with you--I totally hated The Virgin Suicides. However, Middlesex is one of my favorite books. I also wasn't such a fan of Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, but loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

As for a book I hated--The Kite Runner, hands down. The fact that it was set in Afghanistan was the only interesting thing about it to me. I do not get why people love this book. All of the melodrama and the ridiculous plot left me cold.

On a fluffier note, I also hated Jemima J, by Jane Green. I can't even explain why--it just filled me with an almost irrational anger.



Jennie Confederacy of Dunces and the Historian were both highly recommended to me. But at least I got through the Historian, though there were quite a few pages I skimmed. I Hated Confederacy.


message 22: by Lee Ann (new)

Lee Ann I will never understand why people waste their valuable time reading a book they hate when there are so many good books out there waiting to be read. I always give a book a good chance but if after a third of the way through I still hate it, not just the characters but everything about it, I just put it down and don't think about it again. BTW, I loved Kite Runner but was not so crazy about Thousand Splendid Suns although I did read it all.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

No one can doubt the Historian is superbly written but it does get boring half way through. Its a problem with the storyline not writing style.


Amanda I'm with you. Never before have I been so utterly disgusted by a human being--literary or real life... Don't you wonder, though, if that was the whole point of the book? I think so. I don't think we were supposed to like Ignatius. But the fact of the matter is, by the time I got to the end, I really DID want him to get away with what's-her-name so he didn't get locked in an asylum for the rest of his life. I hate myself for that...


message 25: by Jackie (new) - added it

Jackie Okay, I FINALLY finished The Historian. I, too, thought it would never end, and I'm so glad it finally did. There's 2 months of my life spent on a book I didn't even enjoy, but I kept at it, hoping it would get better at some point because the concept is such a good one. Once I realized I hated it, I felt that I was too far along to quit, and I did want to see how it would turn out. The only book I ever quit on was The Poisonwood Bible, about 20 pages into it, I couldn't take it anymore. BTW, I think I'm going to give Jeffrey Eugenides another shot, thanks for everyone's suggestions!


message 26: by Lee Ann (new)

Lee Ann Give Poisonwood Bible another chance, too! It took me three starts to actually get into it but it is well worth the effort. I don't usually try so hard but so many people loved it that I figured it must be good.


message 27: by Pam (new) - rated it 1 star

Pam I hated it too. It might compare favorably to other vampire fiction, but that's damning with faint praise IMHO.

The book was full of improbabilities and unbelievable coincidences. The characters were humorless and humdrum. Kostova's descriptions of the places the characters traveled to read like they came from a travel brochure, and I wasn't the least bit surprised to find out that Kostova had never been to any of those places. I caught an interview with her on a TV news show, and she was incredibly dull, just like her book. Worst of all, the book's pay-off was just ludicrous.

If you want a good book about an historical mystery, try Gospel by Wilton Barnhardt.


message 28: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa I once made the mistake of purchasing a Jan Karon book. I'm a person who never quits a book before finishing (okay, I've given up on Ulysses a few times, but who hasn't?), so I stuck with the annoying, cloyingly ernest main character. Not only did I waste a few hours of my life on that book, but I made the mistake of reading it in a coffee shop, and an acquaintance saw me reading it!!


Little Oh come on, Cody, don't be a snob. You know and I know that there is no "quality" in fast food french fries (or doughnuts, or candy bars, or fill in the blank with your guilty pleasure food) but sometimes you eat them anyway because they are enjoyable despite their blatant lack of quality. You're right, all of those authors write schlock, and that's what makes them guilty pleasures. Even if they aren't your personal guilty pleasure, you can't fault other serious readers for indulging in junk-food reading every so often.


Richard I am writing this to console Mirren with the suggestion that she might want to do a bit of sleuthing into Mr. Heinlein's, er, pecularities to make sense of his ridiculous statement about rape. From everything I have read, he was waaaaay round the bend when it came to his perception of sexuality.


Debbie Speaking of book thief...that was a great book. Historian -didnt like.loved a thousand acres by jane smiley.have started Cloud Atlas twice, thinking this time im going to like this and understand it, once again didnt make it far.i keep getting lost and its not a good feeling.


Richard Gee, I guess this just proves why they have horse races. Found The Historian turgid and laborious. Enjoyed quitting but regretted the wasted time. I am becoming convinced that ever since Anne Rice, the vampire genre is mainly just Harlequin Romance in fright drag.


message 33: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill Cox Just started Historian and so far I'm intrigued. We'll see if that changes over the next 500 pages. I have made a new pact with myself, though. I will no longer read other people's reviews of books, CDs, movies, plays, restaurants, etc., until after I've finished my own experience. Nothing like prematurely wondering whether the investment of time or money will prove to be worthwhile!


Jessicalynnburkhart I really loved the book... there were a few pages about 2/3 the way through that seemed to drag on and they just had too much detailed information that wasn't appealing to me at all, however the rest of the book kept me on the edge of my seat guessing what the outcome would be ... I liked it.


Linda Mc Jill, I agree with you.

I've now finished The Historian and I enjoyed it. Not the best book in the world but very interesting and one I will remember. I'm glad I stuck with it in the dull patch (and I know how to skim read those bits anyway).


Kristin Frane I must agree with the majority. I forced myself to read it, but then afterwards hated myself for wasting my time on such a boring, tedious book. When I finished I too was ready to throw it across the room.


Heidi I agree that I likened The Historian to Da Vinci Code, but I actually thought the writing was much better and the historical aspect more intriguing. While there were a few sections that I kinda skimmed, overall I really enjoyed the book-- in fact the only thing I didn't like was the abrupt ending.


message 38: by Britt (last edited May 30, 2008 02:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Britt Bless you Coco bless you. I worried I might be the only one who went huh? after reading Confederacy of Dunces.


message 39: by Karen (new)

Karen Just about half the books in Oprah's book club have qualified for me. Where the author wallows in the misery of self absorbed people who are annoying. "House of Sand" and Fog and many more


message 40: by Karen (new)

Karen That book was written as a screen play, not a novel, with an eye to the movie that was intened to be made. I kept looking for Scene 1, Scene 2. Exhausting to read and on my list of annoying books.


message 41: by Bluedaizy (last edited May 31, 2008 09:41AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Bluedaizy I really can't add anything to what's already been said about the Historian. It was a truly disappointing book, but I'm not a big vampire genre fan either. I was suckered into reading it and kept hoping it would get better. I felt obligated to go to the bitter end so I could discuss it knowlegably. Shudders. I then loaned it to someone and as much as I hate to part with my books, I was very happy not to have it returned to me.

I've really enjoyed all the comments about other dispointing books. Thank you! :)


Debbie another awful book ,or should i have pushed on even further, the tin drum by gunther grass. anyone tried that one?


Heidi I never bothered reading The Tin Drum-- the movie creeped me out so badly, I didn't think I could face even more depressing and creepy details. I've been tempted... will be interested to hear what others thought of it.




message 44: by Erin (new)

Erin i am sorry you hated such a well crafted book. Have you ever been to new orleans? this book is every locals favorite, a true embodiment of our city and a great recording of all our twisted characters..in all honesty i had to put it down the first time i tried to read it, give it a second shot..it'll be worth it


message 45: by Erin (new)

Erin get past the 20 pages...!!! your loss


message 46: by Pandora (new)

Pandora As to Mr. Heinlein I did read some of his stuff and found him to be horrid. The plot and titles were intresting. I stop after reading the one where the girl was happy to get breakfast in bed after being raped. His sexism is unbeliveable and he became an author I hate. I'm not sure Richard what you were getting at? There is no defense for such stupid writing.

I didn't enjoy The Historian - the style I found to be dull. I also had trouble understanding that if the vampire's head was cut off how come he was still walking around? I wouldn't say I hated it though. I reserved that for books that offend my sense of self.

Another book that I developed a hatred for was Orson Scott Card's The Lost Boys. First it was unbelieveable that a small town could have so many whacked people in it. It also became a bully publit for his Mormanism. Good for him but, it's not my bag. Finally it did the most unforgiveable sin to my mind a book can do. It u-turn at the very end with a death that came out of nowhere. The Man Who Laughed by Victor Hugo also did a u-turn but, at least it was a good book till the finally twenty pages or so.




message 47: by Peter (last edited Aug 21, 2008 05:23PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Peter AMEN to the original comment in this thread. Please see my recent review.


Laura I didn't HATE The Historian but remember feeling like my time had indeed been wasted. And to the person who mentioned their master's degree and years of teaching experience as, I assume, a way to make everyone who didn't like the book feel like they just weren't smart enough to get it, I call foul. So many people out there don't talk about books and don't even read because they think they're not smart enough because of comments like that. I personally think that Jodi Picoult is a talentless, mean-spirited (in her heart of hearts), manipulative hack but I would never tell someone who was gushing about her books that they only liked it because they were too stupid to know better. Get off your high horse, babe.

Phew. Had to get that off my chest.

This thread got me thinking about those few books that I've stuck with that DID pay off. As lousy as wasting one's time reading something that doesn't pay off feels, when you stick with something and it does... That's awesome. We Think the World of You by J.R. Ackerly was like that. I remember feeling breathless at the end of that book although I only stuck with it becauase, at that time of my life, I finished EVERYTHING I started.


Claudia I have to stick up for the Historian - I LOVED the way I learned so much about the history of the Ottoman Empire, and (what's now known as) Hungary and Romania. I am a hopeless history nerd, and I did find the vampire stuff pretty engrossing as well.

Books too bad to finish: Wuthering Heights - I tried, and gave up, 3 times! Also gave up on a Confederacy of Dunces. And I truly, truly hated the Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. It was written by a man from the perspective of a woman, and he got so much wrong, and it just dragged on for EVER.


Mary Todd I'm wondering how old the person with a Master's degree in reading is. In READING? There is no Master's in reading. If she is a writing teacher, she doesn't know much about grammar.

That said, I liked The Historian, but I listened to it on tape while I gardened, rode horses and puttered around the farm. That sometimes makes a difference.

Also, as a born again pagan, I love Tom Robbins, but also Jan Karon. I listen to the tapes of the Karon series and just adore the reader.


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