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Friday, November 30, 2007
It was the Best of Books, It was the Worst of Books

The 34th annual Dickens on the Strand is this weekend in Galveston. In the 19th century, there was apparently some link between the then richest city in Texas and London (I know, hard to imagine, right?). In any event, when some historic buildings were in danger, this fundraiser festival was born. Now, it's one of the most popular in the country.

My friends, David & John, plan to attend this year. (And my friend, Bethe, and her family usually go every year.) As a result, we had a discussion of, among other things, Dickens' literary works. I'm a fan of David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities. David is not as enthusiastic about Dickens' work, owing to having to read some of the more dreary choices when he was in school.

Now if you have a moment, it's time for audience participation. Tell me which book you loved or hated most that you had to read for high school or college.


  1. See my comments on familyman's blog re losing my memory at 30. I took all kinds of literature classes in high school AND college, and read voraciously, but couldn't tell you what books if my life depended on it.

    I do know I loved Shakespeare in college. And I remember liking William Blake in high school, because he wrote in mirror writing. Which my best friend and I used to write notes to each other.

    I'm a sorry first posting - I look forward to hearing about others' faves and non-faves! Maybe it'll spark a memory of my own...

  2. Loved: The Great Gastby. Vanity Fair. Catch 22.

    Hated: I didn't read the ones I hated. We had Cliff Notes for that. But let's say The Mill on the Floss. And, sadly, anything by Henry James.

    I probably should go back now and give James a chance.

  3. Nah.

  4. I hated "Heart of Midlothian" and it's one of my proudest moments that I convinced the prof to never again include a Scott book in his 19th century novel class by arguing that he could easily discuss Scott's historical importance without subjecting his students to his sheer unreadability.

    I was an English major so picking a most loved is really too daunting a task but I know that book I'm most grateful to have been introduced to: Tristram Shandy.

  5. This is just about assigned reading, right?

    Least faves: anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and I know this is heresy to many writers, but also anything by Ernest Hemingway. ::snoozers::

    Faves: in grade school we started reading John Steinbeck and Shakespeare and I liked both right away. In high school, probably my favorite bits of assigned reading were All Quiet on the Western Front, Animal Farm, and Lord of the Flies.

    In college, I dodged lit classes in favor of theory classes, so my assigned reading wouldn't count for this exercise. :)

  6. Ghost - "We had Cliff Notes for that." LOL

    Everyone -

    I already love this list. I so enjoyed Animal Farm and Catch 22 as well, though Catch was not required reading. I discovered it on my own a few years ago.

    I think the most vivid/memorable read for me in high school was Ray Bradbury's The Veldt, but since it's a short story it doesn't count in this fave/least fave book recollection.

    I'm still pondering, but Homer's The Iliad might have been my least favorite assigned read in college. As probably the oldest book in existence, it's kind of terrible for me to say that, but epic poems are so hard to get into, you know?

    Still thinking...

  7. Assigned ones? Hmm. I remember loving Shakespeare, hating Moby Dick, loving The Great Gatsby, liking but not absolutely loving The Catcher in the Rye (though it led me to other Salinger work that I did love, like Franny and Zooey and Nine Stories), hating really hating The Canterbury Tales, loving The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. . .

  8. Prufrock! I loved Prufrock! And Ben Jonson, since I was living in London at the time.

    All I remember is the poetry I studied in high school - wonder why that is? I haven't studied any since. Although I'm getting ready to again.

  9. "Silas Marner," twas the worst of books; "Light in August," Twas the best of books. And yet, in between, were all the greats. I never met a Shakespeare that wasn't great, although "Hamlet" droned on a bit, as long as you had a play to back it up, because, after all, they were plays not novels and who reads plays?

  10. Ricky B. - you're right about Will S. Great, though the old English was off-putting when I was thirteen.

    Still thinking...

  11. some ppl hated readin The Iliad so much that their heads banged down on their desk in the middle...

  12. While Hard Times and Martin Chuzzlewit were difficult for me, I think Washington Square by Henry James was the most agonizing. I often space out and realize too late that I hadn't absorbed anything in the last five pages, but with that book it happened on every single page. However, the Olivia de Haviland movie (titled The Heiress) was not bad at all, although I did see that as an adult, and it wasn't required to watch it. My favorite would probably be Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. That's one of the few books that I "got" so completely that I could probably teach it. That and Lord of the Flies. There's another book I read for school called The Butterfly Revolution which I've since read and reread. They don't teach it anymore, possibly because it's too controversial and possibly because it covers the same ground as Lord of the Flies.


  13. LOVED: Jude the Obscure (any Hardy, actually), Silas Marner, Catcher in the Rye, The Invisible Man (the Ellison, not the SF version), all Shakespeare, The Great Gatsby (which I still read once a year or so), Anthem (still a big Rand geek), Sun Also Rises, 1984, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, The Scarlet Letter...Sheesh, I guess I loved a lot of books!

    HATED: Watership Down (I guess that was actually middle school), Vanity Fair (talk about a snooze!), Babbit (snooze times a kabillion), and The Good Earth, to name a few I can conjure. Much easier to remember those I loved than those I loathed!

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