The Five Classic Books No One Can Stand to Read

Updated on April 5, 2019
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A contrarian list of classic books you should avoid reading because life is too short to waste on them.

Have you ever read the great American novel, or a must-read literary masterpiece only to realize that the book did not live up to its reputation?

These books have somehow become literary icons, with a spot on every list of the 100 books you have to read before you die. However, few people actually read them, and this may explain how they have been able to hold on to their mystique.

The reality is that many of these so-called masterpieces are boring and virtually unreadable.

The Books You Should Not Read

Resist pressure from critics and lists of must-read books. These books are terrible.

1. "Lord of the Rings"

2. "War and Peace"

3. "Moby Dick"

4. "Ulysses"

5. "To Kill a Mockingbird"

The Classic Books No One Really Reads

Here is my list of the five books that deserve to be dethroned and banished from every reading list.

1. "Lord of the Rings"

This is one case in which the film adaptation was a lot better than the book. And I don't just mean the movies directed by Peter Jackson. Even the earlier cartoon version had more charm.

This insufferably long mess of boring and pointless genealogical charts, and contrived ungrammatical languages is enough to make any reader brave enough to plod through it, cheer for the Orcs to slaughter those annoying hobbits and pillage the elves. I have yet to meet anyone who has actually read the whole lot of the books comprising the Tolkien universe.

The rest of the books in the trilogy also bury you in endless charts, and mind numbing irrelevant facts and chronologies. Tolkien usually gets credit for inventing an entire world with its own languages and history; but it is tedious slog to get through this dystopian middle earth. He is also guilty of inspiring an entire generation of fantasy authors to write enormously bloated trilogies about their own worlds, which are often just reworked mishmashes of Tolkien stories about elves and orcs.

2. "War and Peace"

Yes, I get it. The book is supposed to be a sweeping account of the Napoleonic wars and society at the time. But who has ever had time to read it? It's too long. Brevity is the soul of wit, Mr. Tolstoy. Skip the book and find a book summary or Coles notes.

3. "Moby Dick"

This whale of a book (see what I did there?) may have the dubious honor of having being responsible for the Starbucks chain's name. It's also one of those books which is much improved by a film adaptation.

In the movie adaptations, you get adventure, a White Whale, a peg legged captain - what more could you ask for? In the book, you get all of these things, with a hefty dose of plodding sexual metaphors and symbolism, involving Ishmael and Queequeg. And then there is a whole chapter on the color white. Why?

I actually read this book, because I had to. And I regret it.

4. "Ulysses"

I got halfway through it and have no idea how I managed to find the willpower to read that far. The book can claim the distinction of pioneering the technique of stream of consciousness narration. But the consciousness of the narrator is an annoying mishmash of literary allusions, puns, incomprehensible Irishisms and more. No one thinks that way. And if they do, I do not want to be part of their stream of consciousness.

The book was supposedly scandalous in its time and banned in various places. I can only imagine that the people seeking to ban Ulysses had never actually read it, because it is hard to see what they were worried about. All these guardians of morality had to do was keep their mouths shut and no one would have read the book. But by banning it they triggered a Streisand Effect and so everyone bought the book, even though it just sat on the shelf.

5. "To Kill a Mockingbird"

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those books that we have all been forced to read at school. It is a good social justice tome, full of the right message against racial intolerance and prejudice. I have no problem with the book's message. But as a novel, To Kill a Mockingbird is boring and almost unendurable. It makes me want to find a way to kill the book instead of the Mockingbird.

No wonder that the author never wrote another book. She was probably too sleepy from what she had written. (Yes, I know there was a second book that came out just before she died. But this was actually written before Mockingbird, and just never published.)

So there you have it: Hopelessly boring books that have somehow earned the status of classics, but which most of us will never actually read because they are pretentious and boring. It is time that we admitted that the emperor has no clothes, and speak the truth about these classics; they are just not that good.

Why You Should Avoid These Books

The Book
How Long is it?
What Makes It Horrible
Lord of the Rings
1244 pages
Interminable geneoplogical tables, endless lists of kings, and mind numbing invented languages with unpronouneable words.
War and Peace
1,225 Not counting footnotes, and translation notes.
This book has become synonymous with the long, long novel. It is lust too long. Plus it is guilty of the unpardonable sin of inspiring other writers to create enormous bloated literature.
Moby Dick
About 500, but it feels so much longer. Length varies by edition.
An adventure novel that drowned in a sea of inane symbolism and bizarre digression. There is an entire chapter on the color white. An entire chapter!
Ulysses
680 pages. About 500 more than necessary.
It isn't scandalous or erotic if you can't figure out the naughty bits without a dictionary.
To Kill a Mocking Bird
281 pages. The shortest book on my list boasts of concentrated boredom and unreadability.
A gimmicky book that relies on its social justice theme to get every high school to force you to read it.
The must-read books that no one willingly reads.

A selection of book titles and covers so boring they're interesting.

Which Classic Books Do You Secretly Hate?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Robert P

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      • William F. Torpey profile image

        William F Torpey 

        5 months ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

        So you don't like these books. That's OK, but they're classics because they are well worth reading. Some books are better than others, but all the classics have some features (not always the same) that make them well worth reading. Just because they may not be "page turners" does'nt mean they should not be classics.

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