What, in your opinion, is the best book that you haven’t liked? Mind you, I don’t mean your most-hated book–oh, no. I mean the most accomplished, skilled, well-written, impressive book that you just simply didn’t like.
With the standard being books I “just simply didn’t like,” there’s so many, largely due to my illiterati status. This year alone I could name Paul Auster’s Man in the Dark (an admirable premise that Auster lets slide into banality), Peter Carey’s His Illegal Self (another interesting premise that bored me by the end) and Roberto Bolaño’s Nazi Literature in the Americas (as I admitted at the time, I just don’t get it.
Going back a year or two I could add: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (way overhyped), The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco (many of its references and allusions are obscure to an American reader) and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (bad science fiction is still bad science fiction even when we’re told it is “literature”).
But the all-time champ is Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. It likely has that fate because it was required reading for my freshman English composition class in college. Because I was enjoying college life so much, I considered it long, boring and pointless. I probably owe it to myself to read it again and see what 34 years does to one’s perspective.
…the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us it oscillates with the years.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago