Top 5 Famous Books I Don’t Like

Oh boy, book friends. I have to confess I was pretty excited to see this week’s topic for Top 5 Tuesday–famous quotes, but the ones that we personally don’t like. One of the weird things that drives me slightly bananas is how people like to theme weddings after famous couples like Romeo and Juliet, or Daisy and Gatsby. Because, um… not exactly hashtag relationship goals when you think about it.

However when I sat down to think of specific quotes, I couldn’t quite come up with any. Combing through lists, I found quotes from books I didn’t care for, but the lines themselves were, at worst, fine.

So I’m mixing it up a bit for this week and talking about the Top 5 famous and/or classic books I didn’t care for, instead. To keep in on theme I am including the quotes from the “Top 100 Book Quotes” article that I perused. Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Bionic Bookworm, now hosted by Meeghan Reads. If you’re interested in participating, check out their blog to get the details and the prompts for each week.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Quote that reminded me: “Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.”

Why I disliked it: By the time I reached 8th grade, I was very tired of being forced to read book after book about young boys coming of age. Girls come of age, too, and yet reading their stories was considered “not universal” enough. I couldn’t tell you whether this book was actually bad, but I found it very boring and deeply unreltable. Yet it seems among the pantheon of assigned books that many people remember fondly, for some reason.

The Old Man and the Sea (or anything else, really) by Ernest Hemingway

Quote that reminded me:  “‘But man is not made for defeat,’ he said. ‘A man can be destroyed but not defeated.’”

Why I disliked it: How can a book so short be so boring? Answer: because Ernest Hemingway wrote it. A fun fact about my life is that my academic advisor in college was a Hemingway scholar, and I wound up with an internship helping him write a book about Hemingway’s least well-known work, Through the River and Into the Trees. For all that I learned about Hemingway, I never liked him or his sparse writing style any better. The Old Man and the Sea was the first Hemingway I ever read, and our relationship did not improve from there.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Quote that reminded me: “So we beat on, ships borne ceaselessly into the past.” (Side note: I do really love this quote, however I feel about the work as a whole).

Why I disliked it: Honestly, I liked this book well enough when I read it over the summer one year. However, that was the year I had possibly the worst English teacher I ever had, and by the time she was through teaching it, I never wanted to talk about a green light or the eyes of doctor T.J. Ecklesburg again. I don’t think it was just her, though. This seems to be the “hey, look, this is what a SYMBOL is” book, and now I can’t think about it without feeling I’m being smacked over the head with symbolism. The movie, for all the Tobey Maguire of it, feels similar. I remember sitting in the theater and seeing the film start with the green light washing over everything, at which point I considered running away.

It was worth it, however, to hear Leonardo DiCaprio deliver his “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” line with such delightful over-the-top ridiculousness.

This also led to one of my favorite YouTube film edits of all time, wherein Tobey saying you cna’t repeat the past is spliced in with footage from the original Spider-Man and all the callbacks in No Way Home. I cry every time, so please enjoy with caution if you, too, have a nostalgic obsession with this version of the webslinger.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Quote that reminded me: “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” 

Why I disliked it: Listen. This play is fine, but people will insist upon willfully misrepresenting and misunderstanding it, which has led me to be irritated by the mere mention of Shakespeare’s play. Say it with me, people thinking about a Romeo & Juliet themed wedding: this. play. is. a. tragedy. not. a. romance.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Quote that reminded me: “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

Why I disliked it: I will confess something to you here. I’ve never been able to succesfully finish reading this book. So many young bookish women seem to have fond memories of reading and rereading Little Women, but I just could never get through it.


I had about as much fun writing this as I thought I would. If there’s one thing I love more than talking about a book I adore, it’s complaining about a book I consider overrated. My secret suspicion is that some of these books live on in their fame simply because some people never read another book once their formal education ends, so if pressed they list the book they hated least from assigned reading as their favorite. Surely that’s why people love that green light so much, right? Right?

16 thoughts on “Top 5 Famous Books I Don’t Like

  1. This post is so interesting. I loved The Outsiders. However, it’s not studied in the UK, so I can understand your feelings about it as I have the same attitude towards the books I studied. I also loved Little Women and read the whole series of books as a child. I love reading books that were written around that time- I find it fascinating. I completely agree with the misrepresentation of Romeo and Juliet, my daughter and I were discussing that recently. I have a confession- I haven’t read the other two!

    • I definitely think being assigned something can change how we experience it! We can’t have read everything, and I can’t say I recommend the other two based on my personal feelings lol.

      • It does, I actually dropped English Literature after my GCSE exams (age 16) for that reason. I was worried it the over analysing would
        put me off my favourite books and poems xxx

  2. I remember reading Little Women at school and I think I am not a fan of it because I was forced to read it which is a shame because as I remember it was such a lovely story. x

  3. Good post! I’m definitely a fan of Hemingway’s writing. Andrea di Robilant’s _Autumn in Venice_ provides a lot of rich detail underlying Hemingway’s writing of _Across the River and into the Trees_.

  4. I loved reading this! You’re so funny! And feel the same way about most of these. I had to teach The Great Gatsby many times and never really enjoyed it. And I taught The Old Man and the Sea once and never again! It was painful! lol My senior seminar was all William Faulkner – almost as painful as Hemingway for me. hahaha

    • Thank you! I can’t imagine having to teach Gatsby. I wouldn’t be able to hold back the sass, lol. I never cared for Faulkner much either. A whole senior seminar of his work? Yikes!

  5. Fun post, Amanda. I can’t say I like Little Women, but I read it years and years ago, I’m not sure I would enjoy it as much now.

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