Books I Regret Reading

It is only by experiencing the bad that you know when you’ve found the good. Past relationships can steer you in healthier directions; a clear nose is only a blessing after a week-long cold. But, I don’t need to eat mouldy spaghetti to know when I’ve got the good stuff. So, here’s to the sour books I wish I’d never tasted:

  1. Paradise Lost by John Milton. I forced myself to listen to the ten hour audiobook of Paradise Lost at the beginning of my first year of university (the only way I could take in this 17th century blank verse was by forcing it into my ear canals) and I will never get those ten hours back. What did I gain: bragging rights, maybe? But any insight into Milton’s poetics beyond ‘Satan falls’ has been lost to the passage of time/never acquired in the first place. So, my boasting has been limited to the declaration that ‘I read it’ and has forced me to shrivel away from any follow up questions.


  1. Felix Holt: The Radical by George Eliot. I may have only read forty pages of this four hundred page book but by god that ten percent was enough.


  1. Starter for Ten by David Nicholas. This book is not passionately bad, but I could have used to time to learn how to knit or something. I have never felt further away from what was presented as a universal and relatable university capital ‘E’ Experience.


  1. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. 1/10 is nothing like Gulliver’s World. This novel is only above a zero because it makes anything you read immediately after it feel an absolute joy. 


  1. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The only good thing that came from this book was the following Good Reads review:

‘It was like raking my fingernails across a chalkboard while breathing in a pail of flaming cat hair and drinking spoiled milk, meanwhile Conrad is screaming DARKNESS DARKNESS OOOH LOOK AT MY METAPHOR ABOUT THE DARKNESSSSSSSSSSS like a fucking goth on a loudspeaker. Recommended for: someone who enjoys a good tenth level of hell. 

After spending an entire year writing a single piece of coursework on this text in sixth form I can say with authority that it is not the one. Even SparkNotes knows: ‘Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this section, though, is how little actually happens.’ (A section, might I say, that is true of the text as a whole.) 

  1. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. If you enjoy 1950’s sexism then this is the book for you. For me, Fleming is not worth the paper he is printed on.

By in large, this is a take-down of my university reading lists. I paid money to be told to buy and read these books. From which I have concluded: high-brow doesn’t mean good and doesn’t mean enjoyable.