Home > Books and Reading, Middle School Advisory > The worst book I ever read . . .

The worst book I ever read . . .

bring it . .

On the best of days, Beatle sees about 4 hours of consciousness. On most days, he listens patiently to any rants I have brewing. Today he listened to me deconstruct the appeal of literature. The next book display at our library is going to have the tag line, “the worst book I ever read.” Our Middle School Advisors are going to write a sentence or two – a mini book review – to go with their personal worst book. A little fodder for conversation about books and book genres and what constitutes worst. And, by comparison: best.

So I thought about the book that made me the maddest. And why. I was incensed by the choices the main character made: bad choices. Bad after bad, after bad. And then some. No, that wasn’t the worst book.

What about that “memoir” of a famous chef, liberally peppered with words my mother wouldn’t say? Does that even count as literature? Yet, parts of that book made me laugh out loud. Was that the worst?

I decided to ask our resident English major about worst.  The measure of a book’s appeal is its ability to resonate with the reader, Joe responded. You can hate a book because its connection with you is disturbing or too emotional, but that doesn’t make it the worst book. You can love a book that is pure fluff, that wouldn’t even vaguely be considered good literature, but you wouldn’t count that as the worst book. For Joe, the measure of worst  is a book that doesn’t connect. 

Still, I haven’t settled on a worst book.  And,  I’m mighty interested to see what our group will select. And why.

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  1. February 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I enjoyed both your visual confidant and your query. I would be hard pressed to pick my “worst” book too.

  2. Doriot
    February 8, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    This reminds me of laborious discussions I had with visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, when I worked there a really long time ago. It’s so difficult to explain to someone that art is there for you to interact with as well as to passively experience. If it makes you mad, it’s done its job to elicit an emotional reaction and maybe you will even have a response. Your personal judgment doesn’t determine whether the artwork is good or bad. I wonder if Joe’s measurement of worst also applies to the visual arts?

    • February 8, 2011 at 7:49 pm

      Oh, well said! Joe def. believes the visual arts can evoke a visceral response. And our emotional reaction to film (particularly cult film) and other artistic works that speak to our darker side, how that relates to our concept of worst. There is more to say about this topic . . .

  3. February 8, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Most of the actual “worst” books I have read were so forgettable that they simply faded away.

    The book that infuriated me the most was really a masterpiece: Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. As soon as I finished the infuriating last page, I did something I have never but I mean NEVER done to a book. I threw it across the room. Big book. Big clunk. And I sat there and stewed for ten minutes. Then, grumbling the whole way, I walked over, picked it up, and started again from the beginning.

    • February 10, 2011 at 9:52 pm

      I loved your reaction to this book! and the delicious irony of starting over again at the beginning, which is actually the end, which is the beginning. I read This is Water, but Joe and some seniors and faculty read IJ and would agree with your definition of worst.

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