I’m always disappointed when I read a much-hyped book that all of my favorite reader friends loved, only to find that I just didn’t get it.
I mean, I understand that everyone has different tastes. Books come into your life at the right or wrong time. Every reader is unique. Et cetera. Et cetera. So not liking a popular book says nothing about the book itself. It just means it wasn’t for me.
Still, it bums me out when I don’t love popular things because I always feel like I missed something obvious that everyone else can see.
Like Star Wars. I’ve seen three of the 400 interminable movies and they are just dumb and boring, right?
Same with Lord of the Rings. I saw the first movie and found myself wishing I was watching paint dry–or worse–watching golf.
I tried to read The Hobbit in junior high and decided I’d rather read my algebra book. Around the same time, my best friend lent me her beloved copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I couldn’t get past the magic closet.
It’s pretty clear that I just don’t do fantasy well. I read the first three Harry Potter books and heartily agree that they are charming, imaginative, and well-written. I just didn’t care what happened. I don’t like reading anything where an elf or a magical wood sprite or something could appear at any moment.
Unsurprisingly, I tend to avoid fantasy books, but occasionally I’m willing to try magical realism, especially if trusted readers recommends something. Here are four (relatively) recent books that the world loved but that gave me Hobbit vibes.
4. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I was really disappointed that I didn’t like this one because I love Saunders’ short stories, especially the kooky ones. But this novel just made me feel like the voices in my head had ADHD. Too many people. Too much talking. Too much chaos. If I wanted that, I’d socialize on the train at rush hour.
3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I should have known this one wasn’t for me because I hate magicians. I feel like they are always just waiting to pull a rabbit out of a hat when I’m not looking. The writing is beautiful, of course, but it just wasn’t for me. Maybe if it been, say, The Night Library or the The Night Movie Theatre, I would’ve liked it more.
2. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
This book made me feel the same way I feel when a couple I don’t like hold me captive and tell me their uncondensed how-we-met-and-fell-in-love story. I get it: You overcame odds. You are still insufferable. Please stop telling me your “love” story
1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (RIP)
On the plus side, there was no magic, no talking dead people, and no time travel. On the negative side, there was a mediocre white man solving mysteries while objectifying a manic pixie dream girl. My favorite parts where when Blomkvist was making sandwiches. I estimate that was at least thirty percent of the book. I’m classifying this as fantasy because I don’t believe Blomkvist would ever be irresistible to any human woman.
What books did you hate that everyone else seemed to love?