Forced Books

My friend over at Sueys books just had a fun post on book she was forced to read.  She uses ‘forced’ in quotation marks because she says “I’ve never in my life felt at all forced to read something. The word forced and read just don’t go together in my brain.”   I don’t know if I can agree with that but I liked the concept.

I wasn’t a veracious reader until I was an adult in college (thank you Jane Austen!) so there were definitely books growing up I was forced to read.  Anyone else out there a late reader like me?  I certainly read growing up (and my parents read to us every night.  One of my best memories) but it just wasn’t a huge part of my life like it is now.  I also don’t remember reading much in high school.  I was pretty busy.

Anyway, I thought this would be a fun little post while I’m eating my lunch.  What are books you were forced to read?

 Books I was “Forced” to Read

“Forced” by a book club or group:

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller-  I hate this book.  I thought it was cynical and cold.  I don’t get why anyone would find it funny.  I disliked every character.  I hated that all the women were either nurses or prostitutes.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison-   This book contains well written prose but for a story that made me roll my eyes.  It is so dismal and pessimistic and its a long, dismal and pessimistic

March by Gwendolyn Brooks- The people over at pulitzer prize should be ashamed of themselves.  How they could pick this atrocity as a winner blows my mind.  Brooks twisting of the first novel I ever read, Little Women, into a soapy story about the father as a slave philanderer and Marnie as the wise and forgiving wife, really ticked me off.  I thought it was almost unreadable.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith- I was the lone wolf in my book club on this one.  I hated it.  Everyone else loved it.  I thought all the characters were one note and obvious.  I knew exactly what was going to happen because it included every braniac makes his/her way out of slums cliche down to the alcoholic father.  Cliches can work if they are done in an endearing way but I hated all the characters except for Francie.  Maybe hate is too strong a word but I certainly didn’t think any were compelling or sympathetic.
“Forced” by another reader:
Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte.  This is a very well written book but the characters are so hateful to each other I found it hard to root for any of them. Heathcliff and Catherine are such beasts that you are almost glad when their story does not end well.  Maybe that was Bronte’s point but I still left the book with a sour taste in my mouth.  Plus, the ending feels so tagged on.

The Awakening- Kate Chopin. This is one that many women told me to read, so I finally did and I hated it.  I hate books that rationalize adultery.  Make it seem somehow more enlightened. It’s even worse when the husband is a good person and hasn’t done anything particularly wrong.  It’s just the institution of marriage that stifles our heroine.  Kill me now.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell- I had heard about this book from a number of sources and I thought it sounded cute.  I’m a huge Julia Child fan so maybe I’d like it.  I hated it!  I have to say that pretty much every blog I have read in book form has been awful but Julie took it to another level.  She is whiny and shrill.  Plus, very liberal with the f-bombs and I don’t want to read that when I’m trying to break away in a chick lit book.  Maybe a world war 2 gritty action book but not here.  She complains for 300 pages. That’s the book.

Hunger Games 2 and 3- Ughh…What a disappointment.


“Forced” to read at school:

I guess pretty much any book I read in school I was technically forced to read but a few ended up being winners and some big losers

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne- always hated this book.  The symbolism is so over the top. Hester can’t go by a red rose without it symbolizing her sin.  Geesh…

Lord of the Flies-  Does anyone like reading this book?

A Separate Peace by John Knowles- Why do kids read this in school?  It is so manipulative and annoying. As I said in my goodreads review ‘it’s like Dead Poets Society without Robin Williams’

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger- I don’t really like books with people complaining the whole time which is pretty much what this book is with some flowery language thrown in there.  I get that it is portraying that stage of growing up but even when I was at that age I thought that stage was annoying so why would I want to read about it?  It was painful for me to finish.

3 I liked-

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- I think one of the testaments of this book is that most have to read it at school and most still like it.  A noble man fights for justice that he knows is a lost cause, but he hopes he can at least teach his children something about how to live their life.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs as Linda Brendt- I was given this book by my favorite professor in college, Dr.  Matt Holland.  Naturally, I had to read it and was so moved by the story of a woman who does everything to get out of slavery even hiding in a floor slat for 7 years.  Since my first read-through I have heard that it may be the collection of a number of stories put together by the abolitionists to help their cause but the fact that anyone had to go through any of these events is worth reading.  Its shocking and yet inspiring.  The message on friendship at the end is one of my favorites in literature.

Red China Blues by Jan Wong-  I had to read this book for my Chinese politics class and have loved it ever since.  In addition, every one who I have recommended it to over the years, including my Dad, has also loved it.  Jan becomes one of the first westerners allowed at Beijing University during the Cultural Revolution.  She is a die hard Maoist to begin with but as she spends the next 20  years of her life in China she undergoes amazing philosophical and physical changes.  Great, gripping read.

So there you go.  Books I was forced to read.  What are some for you?

This is books scramble. Many books on white background.


15 thoughts on “Forced Books

      1. I’ve been reading rapaciously since I was age 4, so you’re making me go back a ways…. “Dick and Jane,” for starters. I was already long past that, by the time I began going to school. Some idiotic book about rabbits that I flatly refused to finish reading or to write the associated book report, when I was in the 5th grade, garnering me the only F I ever got in that subject. “The Grapes of Wrath.” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (especially since it’s documented that many of the worst offenders among real slaveholders were freedmen).

        1. Ha. That’s funny. Dick and Jane is a controversial pick. I didn’t like Watership Down until I was older. I think its too heady for little kids to enjoy even if it is about rabbits. Ha

        2. I tried to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin once and I remember an entire paragraph about a chair. It was too slow for my taste. Agree with you on that one! I’ve also never been able to get through Les Miserables even though I love the musical. It’s too slow and I like long books (George Elliott, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell)

  1. What do you like in nonfiction? I’ve become something of a Hiberno-anorak since the first novel I wrote ate my brain (see ), but I even like sitting down and reading the World Book Encyclopedia (I gave my first set with all its update volumes to my youngest son when he left home, but I missed having it around, so when I found the 2010 edition on offer at a deep discount, I bought another set).

    1. I love non-fiction especially one’s that focus on a sociological issue I can relate to. Examples- Urban tribes by Ethan Watters, Big Sort by Bill Bishop, The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg, and Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam.
      I also love memoirs and biographies.
      Also books about politics and swimming are very entertaining for me.
      Boomerang by Michael Lewis was a favorite for me last year.

  2. I’ve never been able to get through “Moby Dick,” or “War and Peace.” Oh, and when I asked my mother if she’d seen “Les Miserables,” she said, “No! I read it years ago, and that was enough for me!”

  3. I loved reading Lord of the Flies! I had an awesome teacher who made it super interesting.
    I didn’t like Brave New World and I didn’t finish Cather and the Rye

    1. Don’t you think lord of the flies is pretty pessimistic view of human nature? I think of catcher in the rye I groan without helping it…automatic response

        1. Thanks for the comment. You’ve had to read some doozies in college. I’m sure some would make your fourced list

  4. Awesome list! Yes, I tried to think back to school and even if I didn’t like some of the books I had to read, I enjoyed the experience anyway. So yeah, I can’t think that I’ve ever been literally forced to read! 🙂

    I agree with you on The Awakening, I did not like that book at all. However, I love Wuthering Heights and think Heathcliff (though I know he is “bad”) is a fascinating character. I will continue to defend him forever! 🙂

    Many of the books on your list, I haven’t read. Sounds like I don’t need to bother either!

  5. The 3 under the like section are worth a read-through. It’s funny that the post ended up being so many books I dislike so much. Who knew I had all this hidden book resentment? :).
    I get what you are saying. Wuthering Heights is very well written. The characters are in technicolor and it one of the better depictions of jealousy, greed and spite. I will give it that for sure. I guess I needed some redeeming trait and I didn’t get that. I guess it could be a cautionary tale. ‘How not to fall in love’. 😉

  6. I think that high school reading lists (those forced reads!) should be a combination of classics and great new current YA fiction. I understand that there are certain culturally prominent books that teachers want to expose kids to (the classics) but I think it would help develop a love of reading a lot more if new, more accessible fiction was used more prominently as well.

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