The Most Overrated Books

(In no particular order…though, let’s be honest, the first one is probably the worst)

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A Visit from the Goon Squad | Jennifer Egan

The fact that this book won the Pulitzer actually made me question my sanity. I just simply cannot understand how this took top billing at one of the biggest awards in literature. Aside from relatively interesting characters, and some well-placed details (like the man who eats gold dust), I felt like this book was tainted by an overzealous attempt at originality. So desperate was Jennifer Egan to show herself as a true literary innovator that she threw every technique she could think of into one book, and hoped for the best. I mean honest to God there’s an entire section written in the form of a Power Point. You have to turn the book sideways to even read it. In my whole life I don’t think I’ve read a book more disjointed, and I’ve read The Pale King which was basically one giant compiled rough draft by David Foster Wallace. Even now, as I look at its list of accolades: National Bestseller, National Book Critics Circle Award Winner, PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist, Pulitzer Prize Winner I can’t help but think I’m missing something.

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The Scarlet Letter | Nathaniel Hawthorne

In terms of classics, The Scarlet Letter has to be one of the more difficult books to read. The story itself is not terrible, that is if you can get past the incredibly dense prose. For example, below is one sentence (one sentence!) from the book:

“Planted deep, in the town’s earliest infancy and childhood, by these two earnest and energetic men, the race has ever since subsisted here; always, too, in respectability; never, so far as I have known, disgraced by a single unworthy member’ but seldom or never, on the other hand, after the first two generations, performing any memorable deed, or so much as putting forward a claim to public notice.”

And, the whole book is like that! Who honestly, has read every word of the Scarlet Letter? Because I can’t think of a book more poised to be skimmed. I am a classics aficionado and it pains me to admit I couldn’t get through Hawthorne’s most famous work.

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Freedom | Jonathan Franzen

I read this book during thanksgiving. I remember because it gave me such a phenomenal existential crisis that at one point, while my mom basted the turkey she told me to pipe down about how life is pointless, and we’re all doomed because people are having too many children. I am not a Franzen fan to start with. I think his books are pretentious, and purposefully bleak. I don’t think he’s an exceptional writer, and while he’s above decent at character building, that seems outweighed by his nihilistic tendencies. Even for Franzen, though, I’d have to say this book is grim. Must we be reminded of our folly at every page? If he’s going to take on the work of the Bard, who famously wrote: lord what fools these mortals be, then he’s going to have to give us a better protagonist than Patty.

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A Clockwork Orange | Anthony Burgess

When I hear people say they like or love this book, what I really hear is that you’re a Stanley Kubrick fan and either like or love the movie. This book is short, if I were to guess I’d say it’s about 180 pages, but it takes eons to read—mostly because of the strange made up dialect, but also because it’s kind of just a dreary story, if you don’t believe me here’s a synopsis. This book is important in Western literature…for some reason. I just don’t know what that reason is. If you like this book, I’m eager for you to prove me wrong.

I had initially intended for this list to be a top five list, but I actually couldn’t think of a fifth book on par with those previously mentioned. I suppose that’s a good thing. What do you consider the most overrated books?

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