21 famous books you don't have to read (and recommendations for better books)

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/04/23/21-famous-books-you-dont-hav.html


I don’t think I could possibly disagree any stronger.


This list of books would better be started off with “My personal preference is for…, YMMV.”


I usually recommend Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast over Tolkein, but that’s just me.


“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."


Pretty much all lists of books should start off that way.


I was annoyed at their hot take on “Catcher In The Rye.”

But dragging “Franny & Zooey” into their cheap petulance kind of pissed me off.

Edit: I responded too soon. Vonnegut-bashing now? Really GQ?


I don’t take style advice from GQ, why in God’s name would I take reading advice from them?


I was completely unaware that I at any time was under an obligation to read anything by Paulo Coelho.


No, it’s me too. It is my favourite way of starting an argument with LOTR Ultras.

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Honest question, can you explain to me what is great about either. I read both because up until my twenties I read all the “great” novels and tried to be the kind of person that finds them great but I gave up because I came to the conclusion I didn’t belong in the world and that literature is only for others, particularly men born in Europe or the US before the 80’s. I’ve always struggled with those in particular, what am I supposed to get out of them? Because what I got was about the same as what I got from Notes from Underground which was “I’ve spent a lot of time trying to sympathize with this awful person and now the book is over…”


I was previously unaware that GQ magazine employed trolls.


As a Tolkien fan - I completely agree. The man did not care at all about crafting a readable story. What he wanted was a history that made his conlangs make sense.

I like the idea of lists like this. I think often “great books” are both well written and the first to capture some important idea. But the first expression of an idea is rarely the best, or the cleanest, or the most enjoyable.


Won’t somebody consider the plight of these dead white male authors?!

Obviously one article isn’t going to change the world (esp. the literary world), but if it gets the name of a few under-appreciated works out there (I’d say Earthsea is at LEAST as good as LOTR), all the better for it.


I recall an obnoxiously pretentious guest on an NPR show many years ago (probably On Point or maybe even its predecessor The Connection) where he was making the argument that you’re wasting your life if you read anything other than what he considered the greatest literature in history. He actually started getting pissed at the host or some callers when they asked about “novel X” and he didn’t feel it was worthy. And he didn’t even offer much discussion beyond “No, that’s crap.” The whole show started getting awkward when the host realized he wasn’t going to get much in the way of debate or reasoning out of the guest. Just judgement.

I think of that whenever I see book or even movie recommendations that take time to trash works rather than simply recommending what they consider worth our time.

I may respond to this by rereading LotR again. Just to spite naysayers like this


Or better yet, read both Earthsea and LOTR!


There’s almost nothing in this world that I call objectively “great” and would recommend to everyone, everywhere, every time. And I don’t think Salinger is “great” in that sense, either.

But he could capture what he knew in words exceptionally well, and his characters and their relationships with each other are nuanced, often bittersweet things. It’s writing that’s trapped in its time period and tied inexorably to its author’s experience, that is not in question. I just don’t see that as a reason to call it worthless, as the rather shallow editors of GQ appear to be doing for clicks.


Was waiting for a bunch of trash-talking about Moby Dick. Lucky for them they didn’t go there. /internet_muscles


What on Earth?


Sounds like a great big phony.