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Want to Reads and Ought to Reads

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by DragonOfTheAerie, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. I remember when i was like 15 i read all kinds of classics and rated them highly regardless of how much I enjoyed them because it made me feel Cultured and Smart. I feel like there are a lot of books people say you "should" read and that people feel obligated to praise regardless of how they felt about the book.

    Does anyone have one of these "ought to reads" that they honestly didn't like or even hated?
     
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Pretty much anything we had to read in school. It's long enough ago I don't remember what specifically it was though. The only thing I distinctly remember is that when I was allowed to decide for myself what I wanted to read, I didn't like it. Probably on principle.

    It's probably similar with the Oughts.
     
  3. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Sage

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    Any number of long-winded novels from the latter half of the Nineteenth Century—Crime and Punishment, Moby Dick, etc. For me there is kind of a literary black hole between Thackeray's great stuff and the appearance of 'Modern' novelists.
     
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Crime and Punishment was great. Read it when I was about nineteen. That and The Brothers Karamazov sent me off on a Russian authors jag.

    There have been a few books I did not like among the classics. Doctor Zhivago springs to mind. Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis. The Adventures of Augie March disappointed because the prose was so very good, but the ending was not worthy of it. John Cheever's Falconer was too dreary to finish. Catch-22 was a DNF as well, for being far too aware of its own cleverness. I thought Brave New World was way too preachy. So was 1984. The Catcher in the Rye was annoying and I didn't like the MC.

    But liking a book is a flighty thing. It depends on the reader and all human complexity--age, gender, social background, personal history, even that person's reading history. Please don't let your experience with school-designated classics sour you on the great literature of the past. Some of Aristophanes' jokes still make me laugh and they're over two thousand years old. Just remember Sturgeon's Law and you'll never be disappointed.

    And then go read some Sturgeon.
     
  5. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

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    Crime and Punishment, awesome. Moby Dick, not so much. But I also never liked anything just because I should and told my professors just that, LOL. War and Peace, I wanted to like, but it bored me to tears... which was not good when it came exam time, heh heh. I think I was the only person in class who raised their hand to “not enjoying” the book.

    I’d also like to like Moby Dick, just to be a contrarian to all those people who hate it, and wonder if I might like it now, later in life, so maybe I’ll give it a shot again someday. I ”ought” to read more Cormac McCarthy, because I enjoy his stuff, but I just don’t read much anymore. If I’m reading, I should be writing.

    Most modern “literary” work is unpalatable, IMO, outside of McCarthy and a few crossovers between literary/genre writers. I try to read some of the hoity-toity stuff now and again, and it just doesn't work for me. Give me Dickens and Conrad.
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I prefer Moby Dick to Crime and Punishment, but then Moby Dick is one of my favorite books. The Brothers Karamazov is also one of my favorite books. I'm also a fan of Conrad. Going back a bit further, I quite like Jane Austen.

    Books one ought to read that I didn't care for:

    Handmaid's Tale
    Finnegan's Wake
    Wuthering Heights
    Grapes of Wrath
     
  7. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

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    Moby Dick I think I was at least neutral on, I didn’t hate it. I suspect I’d like it now. War and Peace I skiiiiimmmmed... a lot. Wuthering I remember being good with, didn’t love it. jane Austen was hit and miss for me. Been many years, but I think it was Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey that I liked.
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Oh yeah--War and Peace didn't hold my attention either. Moby Dick...love the language, and Melville can be quite funny when he wants to be. I suspect it helps that I didn't ever have to read it and sought it out on my own as an adult.
     
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  9. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

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    Yeah, Melville could write, no doubt about it.
     
  10. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Sage

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    I do love Austen. And British writers before and after in somewhat the same vein. Thackeray, Trollope. In this century, Waugh. Even approaching Waugh's style is pretty much my impossible dream. And conversely, I dislike all those 'psychological' writers who tried to explain what is going on in their characters' heads. It always comes off as simplistic and unbelievable to me. Pseudo-psychology.
     
  11. Firefly

    Firefly Troubadour

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    I did not like Pride and prejudice. It's supposedly one of the best written romances of all time, and I don't doubt that it's objectively well written, but the characters just never came alive for me. I probably wouldn't have even finished it if I didn't have to for school.
    In all honesty, I haven't read as many classics as I should have, but I'm usually pretty underwhelmed when I do. Need to just make myself do it anyway, I suppose.
     
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I just tried to read Edna Farber's Giant but quickly gave it up. The prose is too over-wrought.
     
  13. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Well, no one will relate to this, but I'll still share it. Dutch literature classics as they were taught in highschool when I went there, could essentially be divided into three sections: 1. Medieval folklore, such as Reynard the Fox, which was fun to read because it was silly, topical, critical and had talking animals. 2. Max Havelaar, the great big anti-colonial work by Multatuli. And 3. The numerable Post world war 2 novels, which were all centred on the war. Chief among these was The Dark Room of Damocles.

    I don't think any kid enjoyed reading 2 and 3, but I can appreciate both when looking back, and I do in hindsight believe they deserve the praise, both for their topics and the quality of the writing. I'd like it if people could have read these on their own, removed from a school setting, so they could actually be taken in as they deserve to be. I have the Dark Room of Damocles on my shelf, but I'm hesitant to re-read it, simply because it reminds me of the negative attitude I had to all mandatory reading in highschool. Bit of a shame.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2018
  14. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Yes, I know that feeling! I can't stand the though of reading Dickens anymore because of Great Expectations. Even though before I'd been forced to read that in school I had read and enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities.

    But then I've never believed in books you "ought to read" unless there's a good reason you "ought" to read them, and certainly impressing people or just because a professor says so has never been good enough for me. I am able to analyze and decide for myself what books I ought to read, but would never make such an assumption for other people.
     
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  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >I am able to analyze and decide for myself what books I ought to read,
    I've never been able to do this without actually reading the book. Before reading the book, there's little to analyze except for reviews, which goes right back to being anti-authoritarian.

    So I gave it up long ago, made my list of "great books" (derived from other such lists, some probably made by professors), and have been going through them as I felt like it. Turns out, most of them are pretty good to great, a few are stinkers, and with several I could see the point but the writing wasn't my cuppa.

    BTW, I found I got further by changing one word. Not "books I ought to read" but "books I could read." Turns out the list is only authoritarian if we treat it that way.
     
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  16. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    When saying that I decide what "books I ought to read" I'm obviously doing so within the context of what I want to read or what I think will be beneficial to me, areas that only I can be authoritative in. I have my own list of "important fantasy books that it would be beneficial for me to read (or at least try)" based on my own tastes and my own goals. Making it has led me to many, many incredible book discoveries I probably wouldn't have made otherwise.
     
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