What is the book I read that was my least favorite? I don’t like this question because it is impossible to answer. In my 65 years I have read some real stinkers (Dick and Jane come to mind) but my literary brain has thankfully wiped all recollection of the many clunkers from my mind: you might rephrase the question: out of all the books you have forgotten, which is your least favorite? See, it’s impossible to answer!
I think it’s important to qualify this question, limiting it to books (novels) that were published with the idea of being successful, well thought-of literature. In fact, it would probably serve to emphasize personal dislike if the book was praised by the deluded masses. So I’ve got my criteria in my head and a wavering list of titles vying for contention; here’s the ones that have floated to the top, only to be rejected (rejected for not being bad enough? now there’s a concept):
- Murther or Walking Spirits by Roberts
- The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Rushdie
- The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Murakami
- The Wonder Boys by Chabon
- The DaVinci Code by Brown
- The Witches of Eastwick by Updike
- A Prayer For Owen Meany by Irving.
I can see now that this list can go on and on so I’m just going to bust out with the one novel I really detested: For Whom the Bell Tolls. That this novel was written by Ernest Hemingway goes a long way in explaining why it is so bad. Add to that a very misguided and ugly attempt to render the grammar of Spanish into a book written in English (which outside of Amish territory, no longer differentiates between a formal and informal pronoun) and the entire novel was a chore to read. And, of course, knowing Hemingway, the novel’s ending was a foregone conclusion. As I sit here today I can’t believe I bothered to finish it.
You might notice my hit list is somewhat contemporary. In fact, For Whom the Bell Tolls is its oldest entry. There are plenty of older novels that I don’t rank too high on my list (Richardson if only because he is so boring) but I don’t feel I can judge fairly if I am applying criteria that didn’t exist when the novel was written; some of that old stuff was really hot and revolutionary back then (Richardson, even if he is still boring). I might even have a rule about that.
One very important criteria for this entry is that it has to be a book I read and disliked. That rules out Stephen King, Anne Rice, J. K. Rowling, and a host of other “popular” writers I successfully avoided. Oh, I read a novel or two by these authors, but an author like Rice started out with a reasonably imaginative and highly readable novel, Interview with the Vampire. The trick was to throw her next novel out the window before I poked my eye out with a sharp stick.