Reading is subjective. There are plenty of books I love that I’m sure you would hate and vice versa. So it makes sense that there are plenty of books renowned throughout the world as fantastic pieces of literature that I do not enjoy.
These are my picks for the most overrated books of all time.
For this list, you’re not going to see Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey or anything like that. While I don’t think those books are the pinnacle of literature (or even all that good), no one else does either. They aren’t considered literary masterpieces; they are made for a particular audience and did a great job hitting that audience. They aren’t studied in High School, they are esteemed works of art. They are mass-market designed to sell a bunch and they did.
This list is for books that are highly esteemed in the literary world that did not resonate with me for whatever reason.
#5 – The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
I’m due for a re-read of this book, but I remember not understanding the hype at all when I read it for the first time. Which was strange, because I should have loved it. This is supposed to be the ultimate teenage angst book and I was nothing as a teenager if not angsty. I read this in college when I was transitioning out of that angst phase, but I still feel like the emotions of the book should have landed with me. But they didn’t.
Nothing in this book worked for me. I didn’t care about the characters, I even thought Holden quite unbearable. The plot was boring and seemed to amble. The story played second-fiddle to Holden feeling bad about the world and that kind of introspective whining just didn’t do it for me I guess.
Maybe it was too much angst even for me, or maybe I didn’t properly understand the themes that Salinger was exploring. Whatever the cause, I didn’t like this book and I’m always startled to hear people regard it so highly.
#4 – Anything by Charles Dickens
I don’t know how controversial of an opinion this is anymore, I think more and more people (especially younger people) are not resonating with Dickens. He isn’t the literary superstar he once was. That might be because his influence isn’t as apparent as it used to be. He suffers from the same thing the Beatles do: people don’t understand. He was the first to do so many things that every author now does. Because we now see these same things done so often, it’s not interesting when we see Dickens do it. But we forget that he was the first to do it.
I have a lot of respect for Dickens. I have nothing but admiration for all of his accomplishments and influences on this craft that I love so much. That being said: I’ve never enjoyed anything I’ve read from him. When I read fiction, the biggest thing I look for is whether or not I enjoyed the experience. The literary quality is second to whether or not I had a pleasant time reading the story. I’ve never enjoyed reading Dickens, it has always felt like a slog.
This might be a false legend, I heard it once and haven’t bothered to check if it is true or not, but his books definitely read like he was being paid per word. Sentences and paragraphs ramble on. All of his books could be a hundred pages shorter.
I’m not a Dickens fan, but I’m most likely not done reading Dickens. I’ll give him another shot and probably always will. After all, there’s always the chance I just haven’t read the right Dickens yet.
#3 – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
This one hurts. I absolutely love Mark Twain. But I have to be brutal.
I am not saying this is a bad book, in fact it is a very good book, but I am saying that it is overrated. It is constantly considered one of, if not the, best pieces of American literature ever created. I don’t think it deserves that title. I don’t even think it is the best Mark Twain book.
I love Huck Finn. I thought it was a really good book. But Tom Sawyer is better. And the fact that Huck Finn so often overshadows Tom Sawyer makes me not like Huck Finn as much. Huck is slower paced and tougher to get through. Tom Sawyer is full action, adventure, likeable characters, everything I want in a story like this. Huck Finn has all of that, but it isn’t done as well in my opinion.
Although it pains me, because I do like Huck Finn, I think it is overrated.
#2 – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is another book that isn’t bad by any means. In fact, it is a pretty decent book. Especially as a window into the Roaring 20s culture. I was fascinated and entertained by this story. More than that, Fitzgerald is a fantastic writer.
However, my take on this book has always been that is a really boring story told very well. The plot didn’t shine in this. I don’t know if it was supposed to. Gatsby was a fascinating character, but the rest of them felt flat. Sure, Fitzgerald has wonderful, poetic prose and his setting is phenomenal, but the actual story is dull and slow.
The reason this book is on this list is because of how esteemed it is. People love this book and consider it one of the best ever written. It is one of the highest rated books of all time and I can’t say that it deserves that place. It should be considered a great book, but constantly on the list of books high schoolers are forced to read? I don’t think it should be rated that highly.
#1 – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
I hate this book. I will go to my grave hating this book. It is one of my least favorite books I’ve ever read and I will not change my mind about that. Some people might be writing a comment all about how wrong I am, but rest assured: you will never convince me. This is a boring, terrible book.
Ok, that might be harsh. Some people really love this book and they aren’t wrong for liking it. Literature is subjective and I don’t have an issue with people liking books I hate. It is wrong to say that books are bad, it is more accurate to say that, for whatever reason, I didn’t like them. I know that.
But this book…
Let me sum it up for you: “I’m in a submarine and we went to this ocean, saw these fish, and then this ocean, saw these fish, and now it’s over and you have no answers or resolution to anything. But you know the names of a bunch of fish now, so you’re welcome.”
This book is the literary equivalent of Marshall’s fish list stand up routine from How I Met Your Mother. It was boring, slow paced, and painful to read. The only thing that kept me reading was the intrigue. Whose submarine was it? How are they doing this? What is going on? Who is Captain Nemo? I kept reading to get answers to those questions.
I’m not even going to give a spoiler alert, because I don’t think you should read this book. There are no answers. We’re left to speculate about what exactly is going on and I could have done that without bothering to read the names of 3,000 fish.
I cannot stand this book. I think it is terrible. The fact that it is considered a classic really bums me out.
Lord of the Rings – A fantastic story, but a relatively boring read. I respect it deeply for what it has done for modern fantasy, but it is tough to read.
Crime and Punishment – I am no stranger to Russian epics, War and Peace is one of my favorite novels, but this one didn’t hit me right. It was slow and hard to keep up with.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – This is an honorable mention more for the series than it is for the first book. The first book was a charming, refreshing take on Sci Fi. The follow up books became tired and repetitive. I didn’t finish the series because I got tired of their not really being a plot. I don’t think these books deserve the absolute cult love they currently have.
A Brave New World – Although this book should be right up my alley, the writing style didn’t mesh with me and I found it really hard to get through.