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?