Thursday, December 13, 2007

top 10 bad books everyone reads

Anthony Esolen at Mere Comments has given his list for the 10 most undeservedly popular books.
  1. The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
  2. The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels
  3. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  4. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
  5. Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
  6. Sister Carrie, Theodore Drieser
  7. Candide, Voltaire
  8. Catch-22, James Heller
  9. Ulysses, James Joyce
  10. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
The only one I've read is Frankenstein. Although it is in my library, the last time I actually read it was for a college class on science and technology. Shelley presents some very high-minded concepts about the morality of scientific progress, especially for the era in which she lived. The questions she raises are very similar to the ones raised in the film Jurassic Park by Ian Malcolm about the ability to create dinosaurs. I think Esolen should give Frankenstein more credit; after all, where would Boris Karloff's career have gone if he hadn't played the electricity-powered monster?


  1. I realize that although the films give some explanation as to how the monster was able to come "alive," the book gives no such explanation.

  2. Matt,

    I've read seven of the 10 (Catcher in the Rye, The Handmaid's Tale, Breakfast of Champions, Sister Carrie, Candide, Catch-22, and Frankenstein. Ulysses is on my shelf of books to read.

    Of the books listed, Sister Carrie, is probably the most unreadable. By today's standards, it's a ponderous yawner, though I suppose it was quite the literary scandal during the turn of the 20th century.

    So, two Hoosiers made the list (Vonnegut and Dreiser).

    I also know that several of these books were banned for one reason or another, usually because of language, sex, or politics.

    I think this list should be retitled to the top 10 books that people find too difficult to read or too difficult to accept. When our book discussion read Frankenstein, I know there were folks who were disappointed that it didn't have the slam-bang of the movie. "You mean, this is a philosophical book?!!!"


  3. Jawn, you are up at all hours of the night, aren't you? I'm awake only because I'm at work and being paid...

    I didn't think "Frankenstein" was too difficult to read, though Esolen is correct in his assessment of Shelley's verbal prowess.

  4. Matt:
    I've read two: The Communist Manifesto and Breakfast of Champions. It's been years since I read either. But the first was the snoozefest and the second, I enjoyed. (Whether I would still like BoC, I can't say. Tastes do change.)


  5. Matt: I'm up at all odd hours, not necessarily the same ones. As a writer, when I can't sleep, I power up the PC and write. Or check blogs. Or read unreadable books.