Top Ten Books I Was Forced to Read

I’ve been a reader for life, not unlike a lot of people. I majored in English literature as an undergraduate, completed a Master’s degree in Rhetoric, and went on to begin (but not finish) a Ph.D. in Eighteenth Century British literature. Because of that, I suppose I was “forced” to read a lot of books, but the truth of the matter is that I wanted to read them, all of them, at least at the time they were assigned. Certainly some books, after I’d gotten into them, made me feel resentful. When one has a limited amount of time and an obligation to read many, many books at once, resentment is inevitable. And that resentment is not the exclusive domain of the student–over the years I’ve heard that complaint from book bloggers who have taken on too many review copies or too many reading challenges (although, ahem, that’s certainly never happened to me, ahem).

Since I left school (long ago), all the “forcing” in terms of reading has come primarily from two sources: myself or the book club I attended for the last ten years. Those seemed like the best lists to mine for the Top Ten Books I Was Forced to Read, for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, so here goes:

The Little Friend, Donna Tartt. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time or if you follow me on Twitter, then you know that The Secret History is one of my favorite books of all time and that I am anxiously awaiting my copy of The Goldfinch. That said, I’ve never made it past about 100 pages of The Little Friend. The thing is, I couldn’t tell you why. There’s nothing wrong with it; I just can’t seem to keep reading. But I keep trying. One of these days!

Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor CoverFlannery: a Life of Flannery O’Connor, Brad Gooch. Flannery O’Connor ranks in my top five favorite writers, so when this book came out, it went right onto my TBR list. I eventually acquired a copy and I’ve started it several times, but I keep losing interest. I had the same problem with the Raymond Carver biography I read last year. I eventually made it through that one, but I was left with the overall feeling that maybe I would rather not know all the details about a writer’s life. I’m on the fence still. While I love to read interviews with writers about their latest works or their processes, I’m not so sure I care about their parents’ lives, what kind of students they were in high school, or their various medical ailments.

The Help, Kathleen Stockett. I had to read this for book club. It was not as bad as I feared, but I honestly never would have selected this to read on my own. You can read my review here.

My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult. This was another book I had to read for book club, and I actually made it all the way through the book. The thing about Picoult is, her plots and characters are predictable and cliché, but other than that I suppose she’s not hurting anyone. That said, I won’t be picking up anything else by her anytime soon.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan CoverSnowflower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See. Another book club pick, Snowflower and the Secret Fan was a book I had looked at several times on my own and then moved on to something else. I found it interesting, entertaining, and well-written, which wasn’t really a surprise because I’d seen so many favorable reviews for it. Because I enjoyed that book, I also went on to read Shanghai Girls on my own and thought it was well done.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. You guessed it: book club pick. This wasn’t a book I ever would have picked up on my own, but it turned out to be an interesting and entertaining.

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer. Yep. Book club. I read 30 pages and put it down. Thirty pages was enough. No—I take that back. Thirty pages was way, way too much. I still cannot fathom why adult women swoon over these books, or hand them over to their daughters to read.

50 Shades of Gray, E.L. James. This is kind of a cheat, because it was another book club pick but I didn’t read it. In fact, it was one of the books that drove me to quit book club altogether. If people want to think I’m a snob, that’s perfectly fine with me.

Collected Poems CoverPoetry. I do read poetry, but since I left school I have to make a concerted effort to do so. My favorite poet is Philip Larkin, and his Collected Poems is a book I do read about once a year. I also enjoy Raymond Carver’s poetry and can recommend Where Water Comes Together with Other Water.

History. I have a big stack of history books sitting on my bookshelf. I either heard about them through Nancy Pearl segments or on Fresh Air, or I read about them on this blog, which isn’t a book blog but Cely is a serious reader and when she does do book posts, she always recommends something interesting. I’m ashamed that I haven’t gotten anywhere with them, but I admit to the pull of fiction. I have an easier time picking up and putting down short stories and novels; with history, I always feel the need for a nice long stretch of time to read and absorb.

How about you: have you ever felt “forced” to read anything?

*All links and images are from Powells; they are non-affiliate links, so I make no profit at all should you click through and find something you like!

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4 comments

  1. I COMPLETELY agree with you about Flannery. I had a really, really hard time with that one. It just seemed to drag on and it wasn’t like her life was full of crazy things. I could sum it up, she was girl who liked birds.

  2. Cassie, I hate to admit it, but I agree with you. I’d rather read her letters and essays, which I think reveal much more and in her own voice.

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