- Pamela – Samuel Richardson. The problem with Pamela is Pamela, which is a pretty critical problem for a book named after its protagonist to have. She is whiny, sanctimonious, weedy and indecisive. And tedious. Ugh. Of all the books written in the eighteenth century, this had to be one of the most important? Why?
- Ulysses – James Joyce. “It’s a masterpiece!” everyone says. “The defining work of twentieth-century literature!” Maybe; but it is also interminable, navel-gazing twaddle, and I got absolutely nothing out of reading it cover to cover.
- The Prelude – William Wordsworth. I thought I liked the Romantics, until I read Wordsworth’s autobiography in verse. Then I realised I much preferred the Modernists. The Prelude just doesn’t sing like poetry should. And, yes, I appreciate it must be tricky writing a whole book in blank verse, but Shakespeare managed it without sending his audiences to sleep.
- Middlemarch – George Eliot. I think I’m just taking out all my rage on my university reading lists. Middlemarch is like Dickens, except without the humour, the life, the warmth; it’s like Austen without the compressed wit, the angry sarcasm. It’s dry and dull and long.
- Ready Player One – Ernest Cline. This is just one of the most utterly self-involved books, and it doesn’t even have the benefit of good writing. It can see nothing which isn’t white, male and straight. It thinks white-washing is the answer to racism. Fuck off.
- The Dice Man – Luke Rhinehart. The Dice Man was amusing enough, but it’s also sexist and pointless and trashy.
- The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett. How is this novel problematic? Let me count the ways. A narrative that makes a disabled boy magically better by The Power of Nature; that says depression is just a failure to think happy thoughts; that uses its female heroine only as a way to make sure the male line continues in strength and health. Fantastic.
- Catch-22 – Joseph Heller. I was far too young when I first read this; I didn’t get it at all, and now it’s probably spoiled for life for me.
- On – Adam Roberts. I knew there was a reason this was in the second-hand bookshop (which is invariably where bad science fiction goes to die). It’s one of those books that prioritises experimentation above story, and becomes dry and sterile as a result. A shame, because Jack Glass is so good!
- Kraken – China Mieville. I love most of Mieville’s work, which is probably why Kraken sticks out as such a disappointment. It’s another one that puts its literary project above its story, and turns out something that doesn’t really succeed at either.
(The prompt for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)