Everyone has books they don’t love, but some of those books you desperately want to love because your best friend, mentor or boyfriend loves that book. It makes hating a particular book agonizing, at least for me, because a person I admire loves the book. It is interesting to see how what we don’t like or love can shape us as much as what we do.
In junior year of high school, my then-boyfriend handed me Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. At the time, I wanted to love it because he loved it. However, I found it super dry and boring, even though I wanted to love the dry British humor and the jokes. I could not get into the story. Adams’s characterization did not grab me. A decade later, I want to love it because I don’t want to give up my geek card.
Another example, is a friend who told me that she doesn’t like The Hobbit. She said she read it as an adult and did not like Tolkien’s prose. Her major complaint is that Tolkien relied on deus ex machina (literally translated machine of god) as a plot device. Gandalf became the character that solved seemingly unsolvable problems out of nowhere.
However, for those of us who read the book as kids or young adults, the story carried us away and left an impression. The impression that the Hobbit left on me was that of magic, action and adventure. I credit the Hobbit as my discovery of the fantasy genre, so it is fascinating to know that I love the book in a way that my friend does not.
It is amazing to think that how and when a person discovers a book or author can affect their enjoyment of that author. I know for myself, I was an ambitious reader in middle school, and I read Oliver Twist around the time I discovered the Hobbit. I read the book and did not enjoy it. I found Dickens prose to be florid. The characters and plot were interesting enough, but I hated having to slog through seemingly endless passages where it nothing important appeared to happen. Nor have I enjoyed any Dickens since (with the sole exception of A Christmas Carol).
These days, I worry about friends revoking my geek card, because I have had a difficult time getting into Terry Pratchett. He created the series of comic fantasy novels in the early 1980s, and the series is called Discworld because the world is a flat disc balanced on the back of four elephants, which then stands on the back of the enormous turtle Great A’Tuin.
I feel like I should love his work. I want to love his work. And yet, I tried to read the Colour of Magic and could not get into it. I found it amusing, but the prose tried too hard. I couldn’t get into the story and put the book down half way through.
I can hear the internet right now, but there are so many great Discworld novels. And there are other places to get into Terry Pratchett, why did you start at the Colour of Magic? (P.S. I started there because I wanted to start at the beginning–perhaps that is my mistake.) But, how can you not love Pratchett? That particular novel did not strike my fancy and it makes me feel odd when many of my friends love those stories no end.
However, I am holding out hope. I am determined to find a Pratchett novel that I love. I borrowed Equal Rites from the library and I ended up loving it! That novel carried me away into Discworld in ways that the Colour of Magic did not.
What novel do you hate that you wish you loved?