Books I Will Probably Never Read

Here is my list of Books I Will Probably Never Read But Might Try One Day If I Break My Leg Or Something.  Mostly these are books which look either too long or too scary or too difficult to tackle (or in some cases all three).  I can’t say I feel particularly guilty about not having read any of these books – I’m just painfully aware of their presence…

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Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

This book is a staple of pretty much every major reading list and is supposedly considered a masterpiece yet most people I know either didn’t finish it and the ones who did finish it didn’t really enjoy it.  At the moment, it just doesn’t seem like it is worth my time.

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel

I picked up a cheap copy of this book ages ago.  It is an absolute monster of a novel (nearly 900 pages) set during the French Revolution.  I managed ‘Wolf Hall’ probably because I have a reasonable amount of background knowledge about the Tudors but even though I get through books relatively quickly, I don’t think I would have the concentration to finish this one unless I was bedridden and seriously bored of daytime television.

The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt

I am intrigued by the initial scenario behind this novel but I have not enjoyed Byatt’s other work much.  I ended up skimming most of the second half of ‘Possession’ which I found very tedious to read.  I then tried the first of the Frederica Potter novels, ‘The Virgin in the Garden’, which I thought might be easier to get into but that one also defeated me.  Will ‘The Children’s Book’ turn out to be third time lucky?

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

I have seen so many people turn worryingly pale when they talk about this book that I am already terrified by it.  If it is any more disturbing than ‘Crash’ by J. G. Ballard, then I think I might give this one a miss.  Please let me know what you think.

Which books will you probably never read?  Should I give these books a go or continue to ignore them forever?

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40 Comments

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40 responses to “Books I Will Probably Never Read

  1. I have mixed feelings about American Psycho. While I read it, I went back and for between thinking it was barely comprehensible genius or the first draft of a screen play for a snuff film. I could be totally off the mark, but I think Ellis was trying to take behaviors that are considered desirable in one context (cut-throat world of top-tier schools and M&A and finance) and applying them in other areas (interactions with the homeless, relationships with women and his friends and colleagues, etc.) to show us just how gruesome we really are. I think what made it miss the mark for me a bit is that we are just TOLD that he is VP of some financial firm and that he went to top schools. We never really see these behaviors in their “proper” context. We only see him being a horribly sadistic serial killer. That said, his analysis of Whitney Houston and Genesis albums are pretty hilarious within the context of the rest of the book.

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  2. I’ve got a list like that too. 🙂

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  3. I should read Midnight Children and Tristan Sandy as well!

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  4. I couldn’t get through Midnight’s Children. Haven’t read the others and they don’t hang over my head. I should make such a list though. Cool idea.

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  5. American Psycho is brilliant. It’s definitely harrowing, but it’s also very funny, and as a whole is consistent. The whole novel is basically an aesthetic experiment, there’s no breakdown.

    I abandoned MC because my ignorance of the historical context annoyed me too much. I think I’ll return to it in the very near future as it’s a huge book in ‘what I do’ (postcolonialism).

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  6. Why do so many readers conclude that the brutal and gratuitous savagery depicted in American Psycho actually occurred? A close critical reading of Ellis’s book might expose far more subtlety. The author’s unique approach to fiction is fascinating.

    I notice one other conundrum: how can anyone read Stephen King and then suggest that much better authors are excluded from future reading?

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  7. Definitely give a shot at “Midnight’s Children.” It’s well worth your while.

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  8. Dave Quayle

    Agree with the others about ‘American Psycho’ – unexpectedly funny, especially the music, and very sharp. Not for nothing does ‘Midnight’s children’ keep on winning things like the Booker of Bookers – worth the effort. A.S.Byatt – I’ve never been tempted. ‘A place of GS’ is looming over me (literally on that shelf) as I type and for sure … one of these days …
    I’ve read all his other stuff – brilliant writer – and I bought it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get round to Thomas Pynchon’s last book – his longest yet.

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  9. “Midnight’s Children” was required reading in a course I took in college. I’m glad I read it, but I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if it hadn’t been assigned. I’ve never read the others you’ve mentioned and probably never will. There are few books I think everyone should read (I wrote about one of those books today actually), considering how little time there is to read and how many great works there are. Even if you break your leg, which I hope never happens, you’ll probably have no shortage of lighter and/or less scary literary options.

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  10. Nice door stop! I’d say Midnight’s Children won’t require you to break a bone to hold your interest. I can still recall my feelings of reading that book. As an imaginative experience, it was completely rewarding. My trick with big books is to read shorter stuff on the side. It may take me a couple of months to get through, say, Bleak House, but along the way I’ve also ticked off my list some novellas and story collections. Just a thought. Nice post.

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  11. Nikki Hall

    You should definitely read American Psycho. It’s a treat. The book has far more depth than many people think.

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  12. I read the first forty pages of The Children’s Book six weeks ago and haven’t picked it back up. Other books keep leapfrogging over it and it sits there in my in-progress pile, 2% read. Maybe I should acknowledge that it just doesn’t grab me and I’m probably not going to finish it.

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  13. I recently bought a copy of Edward Rutherfurd’s ‘New York’ and then wondered why because at 900+ pages, I just don’t know when I’ll have the stamina!

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  14. I’ve also had A Place of Greater Safety on my shelf for a while. It does have a rather daunting presence. But I’m into the French Revolution, so I’ll probably pick it up eventually. I read and loved Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, but was disappointed by Beyond Black.

    I’ve watched the adaptation of American Psycho, which, much to my shame, makes me less inclined to read the book. Books are usually better, but if it’s a choice between something where I already know the general plot, and something which will surprise me, I’ll choose the latter.

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  15. Gaaah. I didn’t enjoy Midnight’s Children. It felt too connived. But one can enjoy it for its daring scope.

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  16. mindlesslydreaming

    Reblogged this on mindlesslydreaming.

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  17. I won’t read American Psycho, because I picked it up a few times when I worked in a bookstore, leafed through it, and just that was enough to make me sick. It may be a great book – but too violent for me. I read a lot of Stephen King and I don’t think the level of violence is comparable. There’s a difference between writing about scary things and the deliberate, terrifying torture of women that I read in just a few pages of American Psycho. Ellis may be the better writer, but not for me.

    I wanted to love Children’s Book but found it dull and too long. So I think your list of books to miss is a good one.

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  18. Hi, out of curiousity, I checked the books that you stated on goodreads, didnt know if you have heard of it, it is basically an apps or a virtual bookclub that contain countless reviews by avid readers about countless type of books existed and I found that reviews on midnight’s children are generally good though many says that the author tend to beat around the bush, If I am bedridden and are made to choose one out of the four books that you stated here, I might choose midnight’s children.:)

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    • I think you could say that about all of Rushdie’s writing. Although I quite enjoyed Midnight’s Children. If you’re unfamiliar with the subject matter, doing a quick read of a wiki article on the partition of India before you pick up MC is a good idea.

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  19. I’m 60 pages into Midnight’s Children and am stunned to find myself loving it! Not sure if it will last but I’m feeling cautiously optimistic… as always, the secret is having low hopes 😉

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  20. I started reading American Psycho a few years ago and it was just a little too graphic for my taste. I couldn’t read past a scene where the guy kills a homeless man for no reason. It just seemed a bit too sadistic for my liking… I don’t blame you for not reading it!

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  21. I can’t get very far in The Children’s Book. If she would just stick to the story it might be alright but she spends more time on background information that on the story itself.and it gets boring !

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  22. bean's book blog

    Great idea. I often stare at my shelves and look at the many books I should read but haven’t (war and peace, Anna k, infinite jest to name a few).

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    • More shelves of unread books there? Here too. Why do we do it? Fill shelves with books we think are worth reading – and then don’t read them?? I might need a year off, doing nothing but reading, to cope with all those unread books in my shelves. 150 + stopped counting there. Still I hope ONE DAY, once upon a time – in the future … Hope dies last but it dies.

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  23. inspirationalreads

    The violence in American Psycho IS extreme, no matter the intention or point the author is trying to make. If you think that that level of violence is too much for you, then avoid it, you’re not wrong.

    I’m terrible at not reading books I’ve seen the movie for. I know the book is always better, but like nemerrill said, if I know the general plot and what happens, then it becomes a no-go for me. I love Austen, and have only not read Sense and Sensibility and probably won’t because of the movie.

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  24. I’d be interested in your list of “Books I read, but wish I hadn’t.” Lord of the Flies would be first on that list for me.

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  25. Totally with you. Skip the Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt, that one falls under the wish-I-hadn’t category; but definitely read A.S. Byatt’s Possession. Completely worth it.

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  26. Your list is my list, although I do hate to pick on poor Hilary after her gaff about Kate. Or what appeared to be a gaff.

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  27. I also own American Psycho and The Children’s Book. Perhaps I should read them so you don’t have too? Mantel is just overrated though.

    So far I have avoided my 900 page book or Icelandic epics and the longer Dostoyoevsky works.

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  28. Midnight’s Children is definitely worth a read. It is a long read, a difficult one, too. But it’s worth all that!

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  29. I made the mistake of forcing myself to read ‘Midnight’s Children’ last year when I wasn’t in the mood just because I felt I should. Not only is that the wrong attitude to approach any book with, I finished it feeling disappointed and vaguely confused at that disappointment. I haven’t even reviewed as I think I need to revisit at a later date. Hilary Mantel is awesome but ‘A Place if Greater Safety’ is a whopper and maybe best left for the side of the pool? (can’t see it being too hard though?)
    Now, American Psycho is awesome. It is disturbing but no more so than your average thriller/slasher movie (have you seen the film?) I read this when I was 17/18 and was blown away by it, albeit in a disgusted/gobsmacked kind of way……perhaps if you’re a bit sensitive then perhaps it’s better left alone…

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  30. I loved Midnight’s Children… It is a long book, and I see in the comments here that not many people are fans, but for me, it was one of the best books I read in the past five years: very imaginative, with beautiful sentences and fantastic humor. But, of course, don’t force yourself it it’s not going. 🙂

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  31. I’ve read Midnight’s Children and American Psycho. American Psycho is an excellent book, which I don’t think you should pass up. Midnight’s Children I wasn’t very crazy about…..the story turned out to be very different from what I had thought. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to read it ever.

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  32. I just bought midnights children, I don’t know what to do with it now,

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  33. I love the idea of a list that you are not going to read, of the ones cited I haven’t read American Psycho. Actually I found A Place of Greater Safety the only book I have ever read that made sense of the French Revolution! I have read everything HM has written since and agree that Beyond Black is a bit of a failure. Cannot wait for the next (and final) Thomas Cromwell novel. I couldn’t read Jonathan Franzen The Corrections or Q by Luther Blisset.

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  34. I actually did read ‘Midnight’s Children’ but have been totally defeated by other books by Rushdie!

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  35. I hope to read all the books on this post – I actually found I have two copies of MC on my to read shelf the other day. (I love it when that happens as it makes it so easy to knock off one book haha.) I have started and not finished Catch-22, Orlando and Tropic of Cancer, all books I hope to go back to but found really heavy.

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  36. I have a copy of Midnight’s Children, but I really might never get around to reading it.

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