“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” – Ray Bradbury
Today’s 1001 Books to Read Before You Die recap post includes a number of novels by some of my favorite writers. But for me, most of them fall in the realm of “meh.” These might be considered some of the writers’ most famous novels, but I think they tend to be a little over-rated. They are worth reading but they’re not ones I’ll be reading again anytime soon.
56. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse Five is probably Kurt Vonnegut’s most famous novel and while I enjoyed it, it isn’t one of my favorites. There are just other Vonnegut novels that I like better (Mother Night and Cat’s Cradle). Gotta love the Tralfamadorians and Billy Pilgrim as the name for a character, though. Plus there’s an appearance by Vonnegut’s infamous Kilgore Trout.
57. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
This was one of the novels I had to read in my Toni Morrison class in college. It is probably my least favorite of her novels. There’s plenty in it for discussion but I just couldn’t get into it on a basic level. It might be my least favorite if I hadn’t had to read Beloved so many times for so many different classes.
58. Sula by Toni Morrison
In contrast, Sula was one of my favorites during my Toni Morrison class. For the class, we worked through Morrison’s novels in the order they were chronologically written. Her second novel, you can see they way Morrison plays with elements of plot and style that will show up in Beloved. Working through the novels in chronological order like that is eye opening if you’re interested in tracing a writer’s evolving style.
59. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The tale of Huck and Jim’s ride down the Mississippi river is famous. I read it back in sixth or seventh grade but to this day I prefer the more lighthearted Adventures of Tom Sawyer. As much as I appreciate the commentary on social issues that Huck Finn offers, I’ve always loved the white washing scene from Tom Sawyer and the simple, childish fun it possesses. Of course, anything by Twain is worth reading, especially his short stories. I’m sure I’m not the only one to say this, or the first, but I like to think of Twain as the nineteenth century’s Vonnegut (or Vonnegut as the twentieth century’s Twain). But then, I’m a sucker for satire.
60. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
What I remember most about The Age of Innocence is that it was the book I was reading when I had to report for my college freshman orientation weekend. The plot is classic Wharton, dealing with relationships in the early twentieth century as class and social structures were starting to shift and divorce was becoming more popular. As far as Wharton is concerned, I far prefer The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, or Roman Fever (a collection of her short stories). I didn’t care much for Newland Archer as a character which made it difficult to care about what he ultimately decided to do. But I will never forget how desperate I was for my orientation roommate to let me sleep. I’m not a night owl. Two in the morning after a long day of get-to-know-you activities is the wrong time to try and strike up a friendly conversation about what I’m reading.