Famous Brits pick their most-hated books

Originally published at: Famous Brits pick their most-hated books | Boing Boing


I have to quibble with Ken Russell, ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is not cleverly written. There is nothing clever about it at all. The good guys succeed because they are good, the bad guys fail (at the very same things) because they are bad. The why or how of this is not explained in any way at all other than, well, that’s just how things are, how could you possibly sympathize with someone who would hold back a genius like Galt, etc… Oh and Galt’s speech. Good lord, lay off the amphetamines, Ayn! Ayn Rand is simply a terrible writer, and that’s without even starting a discussion of how that terrible prose serves to further an absolutely repulsive philosophy.


Well with ‘Atlas Shrugged’ already on the list, I’d better choose something else…

A book that made me unreasonably angry was ‘House of Leaves’ by Mark Danielewski. I can’t remember how many times I started it only to grind to a halt, but I kept coming back - and really wished I hadn’t.

Okay,It has a fantastic idea of a book about a book about a movie that might not exist all told by an unreliable narrator - but it just gets more and more pretentious - with the weird formatting and endless digressions - before just - ending…

What a waste of my time.


Ignoring obvious bestseller trash like Dan Brown, I’m going with The Bible.

Also anything by Charles “Obvs paid by the Word” Dickens!

And my man JG is 100% correct re: Joyce


But do you actually like three decker novels?

“Anybody can write a three-volume novel it merely requires a complete ignorance of both life and literature.

–Oscar Wilde, 1890

edit: Only Oliver Twist was actually published in three volumes


Yeah, there’s nothing phoney about Tolkien. Everyone who tried to imitate him (like Gary Gygax or every fantasy writer ever) didn’t quite understand the source material Tolkien was working from but Tolkien himself is incredibly deeply rooted in the scholarship of early medieval literature and mythology. Almost as if he was an Oxford don who had dedicated his life to that field of study, or something…


The 50-page “radio address” is indeed ponderous, contrived and cringeworthy. In recent years, though, I use the train tunnel accident (in which Rand gruesomely kills off not only the archetypes of her enemies but also their spouses and children) as an example of her potboiler style used to convey a genocidal ideological agenda.

I could name a lot of books I hate (pretty much anything by David Foster Wallace, for example), but no book since Mein Kampf has done as much damage to human society than Atlas Shrugged.


There’s a special place in my heart (or perhaps another organ, somewhat lower down) for Orson Scott Card’s “Speaker for the Dead.” I only got about halfway through it before I gave up in frustration. While Ender is in transit, coming eventually to save the day, the story focuses on characters who are so indecisive, so ineffectual, that I just wanted to hit them until they did something. They dithered through chapter after chapter until I couldn’t bear it any more. I’d have stuck my head in the microwave if I could’ve figured out how to turn it on with the door open.


The train tunnel scene is exactly what I had in mind. Taggart gets away with doing something similarly stupid with a train earlier in the book, but she’s one of the heroes, so no problem. And the listing of the victims of the tunnel accident. Seriously, Ayn, everyone who’s ever been a public servant deserves to die of asphyxiation? Wow, get some help. I like DFW, though.


it’s a funny choice because i think “the fountainhead” is cleverly written, and by my experience is the one that turns all the late teens and twenty somethings into ardent disciples of late stage capitalism


You need to read Infinite Jest to figure out the microwave thing. Funny how @gracchus mentioned their opinion of the author!


I’ve never read Rand (I just can’t stomach the idea) - the closest I got was starting to read a detailed synopsis of that book, and even there I gave up because I couldn’t tell if it was a joke or not, as what it was describing was so ridiculous, I couldn’t believe it was accurately representing a book with such a following. I’m realizing now, it probably was a faithful synopsis…


The obligatory John Rodgers quote

“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."

[ Kung Fu Monkey – Ephemera , blog post, March 19, 2009]”

On to my hated book is oddly one almost everyone else loves, The Little Prince. I hated that stupid rose, I wasn’t fond of the Prince. It probably didn’t help that I read it in French class, in French as part of the curriculum. It might well have gone better if I’d been viewing it on it’s own merits as opposed to a lesson.


That sounds like academic philosophy to a T - take something understood, make it hard to understand, and “poof”, it’s philosophical.

I’m going to put in my vote for William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”. I still resent being made to read that book as a sixth grader. Iconic crap.


“Cryptonomicon” by Neal Stephenson.

After having my mind blown by “Snow Crash”, I’ve bought every Stephenson book as soon as he’s released it, like a junkie chasing the dragon, trying to re-experience that original thrill.

While I understand deep down that few books or authors will ever rise again to that gold standard in my lifetime (Gibson consistently does), Cryptonomicon was a particularly disappointing low. It made it painfully obvious that Neal starts every book with a handful of clever technical concepts (van Eck leakage, for just one particularly awful example), and then gins up a wildly contorted backstory that improbably plods along, leading the protagonist toward their fictional-world application.

Mind you, I still buy every Stephenson book that hits the shelves. I thought “Anathem” was delightful (even though it shares some of the same plot flaws.) So there’s always the chance he could still blow my mind again.


Same. I still don’t think I’ve ever finished “Cryptonomicon.” I’ve started it a dozen times. The pages of the first quarter of the book are weathered and warped from my grubby mitts and they get progressively nicer and cleaner as you reach the crisp untouched final pages.


Well, I did finish it back when it first came out. But I remember more about what a pain it was to travel with a gigantic 1,000 hard cover than I do the actual story.

As much as I like the relative permanence of physical books and the solid secondary rights to re-sell them, for me ebooks are way more convenient for travel reading (I use my phone as a reader, so it’s not an extra thing I have to take with me).


Card’s writing got worse as the Ender series went on. Ender’s Game was great (sorry Mark). Speaker for the Dead was okayish. I stopped halfway through Xenocide. When I thought I might get back into it, I looked up that there are so many more books now that I just can’t invest anything more than rereading Ender’s Game. The Ender’s Shadow series is supposedly good but I’m reluctant to bother. It’s all so less clever than I thought it was when I first read it as a teenager.


Although the Rand books are a solid choice, my personal picks would be nearly anything by Charles Bukowski, starting with Barfly. The idea that alcoholism and self destruction and misogyny and nihilism are appropriate responses to personal angst is reprehensible to me. It was all the rage in the 70’s and 80’s to glorify this crap philosophy, but I never managed any feeling but disgust.


Very much this. Although I now find Card’s writing to be unreadable in context of it being written by him, but back when I read and enjoyed Ender’s game, I found the rest of the books to be a series of exponentially diminishing returns.