My reading life hasn’t always been ideal. The books I was forced to read in middle school could have easily turned me off to books altogether. For instance, when my seventh-grade reading teacher assigned us “The Red Pony” by John Steinbeck, it was pure torture. The endless discussions about allegory and symbolism put me right to sleep. And the fact that my teacher had a thick, British accent and a soft-spoken manner made it even worse.
I had hope that the reading selections would get better. But sadly, they didn’t. I was not a fan of the epic poem, “Beowulf,” “The Old Man & the Sea” by Ernest Hemmingway, “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, or – the absolute worst – The “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka.
Seriously, Kafka in middle school? Who’s bright idea was that?!
Oh, how I missed the beautiful writing of “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White and “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl that I read in elementary school.
It wasn’t until I got to high school that I fell in love with reading again when I discovered Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison, and “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
I will say that my complicated reading life in school taught me one important lesson. Never waste time reading books you don’t enjoy. There are many excellent titles out there, and life is too short to read books you don’t want to read. I don’t care if your best friend or your mom tells you that you will love it. And even if the book is number one in the country, I am giving you permission to put it down and find another one. (Unless, of course, there is a test on Friday, and then you are screwed).
Over the years, there have been plenty of “best-sellers” that I could not get through. At times, I would try to push myself and feel guilty about not finishing it. I would tell myself if I kept reading, it would get better. But it never did. Nowadays, I allow myself 50-75 pages. If I’m not engaged in the story, I move on.
Here are some of the books that I DNF’d (did not finish) that others have enjoyed.
- Educated by Tara Westover (too upsetting)
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (the movie was better)
- Normal People by Sally Rooney (too much high school drama)
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (I may try this one again)
- Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (unrealistic advice)
- Bossypants by Tina Fey (a friend yelled at me because I didn’t like this book)
What books have you read that some people liked, but you did not? What did you read in school that you hated?
MichelleMay 18, 2021 at 2:59 am (2 years ago)
OMG! I also could not get through Educated!
My middle school most loathed was also the red pony…
ElisaMay 18, 2021 at 3:21 pm (2 years ago)
I’m so glad I’m not the only one who couldn’t get through Educated. I read about 100 pages, and I gave up. I hear it has a fantastic ending though. You are the second person to say the Red Pony was awful. I hope they still aren’t assigning that one.
Alice GerardMay 18, 2021 at 12:49 am (2 years ago)
I tried, several times, to read “Gone with the Wind,” but I found the writing style to be annoying and excessive so I gave it up. I also didn’t like the first Harry Potter book. I found it to be poorly written, plus it gave me bad memories of having been bullied in school. And then there is “Catcher in the Rye.” It’s hard to read a book when you dislike the main character. My book club was reading it so I had to re-read this… classic… still disliked it… still found Holden Caulfield to be completely dislikable and self-absorbed. Yuck-a-ronies.
On the other hand, I really liked “The Metamorphosis.” It didn’t, haha, bug me at all!
ElisaMay 18, 2021 at 3:22 pm (2 years ago)
I also wasn’t a fan of Harry Potter, but my mom and sister are huge fans so I didn’t say so in my post.
Metamorphosis as an adult, I might like – as a 14-year-old, not so much.
Florence CallenderMay 17, 2021 at 11:01 pm (2 years ago)
Because of similar experiences with books, I have decided to, not only read only the books I enjoy but also to read only the parts of books that appeal to me. I gave myself permission to not finish a book and not feel guilty about that.
I love reading autobiographies. I am often inspired by them. Oh, by the way, I liked Animal Farm. ?
ElisaMay 18, 2021 at 3:23 pm (2 years ago)
I may be confusing Animal Farm with 1984. I have to check. Others said they liked it too. Yay for giving yourself permission to DNF guilt-free!
@JeriMooreBruntonMay 17, 2021 at 10:29 pm (2 years ago)
Thank you for sharing your story. I thought it was pretty crazy that you had the same experience with reading I did; right down to Shakespeare. YES, read what you love! ♥️??️♥️
ElisaMay 18, 2021 at 3:24 pm (2 years ago)
Too funny. I think my kids had a better school reading experience than I did. I was never assigned To Kill A Mockingbird which is now required reading for them – as it should be.
Dominique Walton BrooksMay 17, 2021 at 9:27 pm (2 years ago)
I totally understand what you are saying (Beowulf- ugh! 1984 — gads!) but I am a book completist. If I start it, I must finish it. So, I am very selective about the books I start! LOL One of my bucket list items is to read more of the top 100 books of all time.
I actually liked Animal Farm — surprised me too.
ElisaMay 18, 2021 at 3:26 pm (2 years ago)
Love it! That is such a good workaround. I should try that too so I waste less time on books that I shouldn’t have picked up in the first place. I wonder if I’m confusing Animal Farm with 1984. One of those I liked and the other not so much.