Utne Blogs > Literature

Not-So-Great Writing? Ten Books Not to Read

by Jake Mohan 

Tags: books and publishers, lists, literature, classics, humor, Minnesota Reads, the London Times, Richard Wilson, Ulysses, A Remembrance of Things Past, War and Peace, A Confederacy of Dunces,

booksBritish television writer Richard Wilson can’t be arsed to do a lot of things. (Translated from the British, that means he’d rather not do them.) There are 101 such things, to be precise, collected in his new humor book Can’t Be Arsed: 101 Things Not to Do Before You Die, excerpted in the London Times.

Ten of those things are “essential” books that Wilson argues are overrated piles of rubbish not worth our time. His own book isn't on his list of 10 Books Not to Read Before You Die, but you will find such classics as Ulysses, A Remembrance of Things Past, and War & Peace.

Best/worst lists are primarily meant to provoke debate, and one assumes Wilson is being contrarian for humor’s sake. All the same, I’d love to see the angry emails he’s been getting from literature professors and other bookworms in response to this list, and plenty of readers have already weighed in with their comments.

This list made me wonder if there are books I couldn’t be arsed to read. There aren’t many, but I will admit that I have never made it beyond the first hundred pages of A Confederacy of Dunces. 

There. I said it. I feel so much better now.

What Big Important Books do you find not-so-essential? Are there sacred cows you’ve always been afraid to slaughter? Let us know in the Great Writing Salon.

(Thanks, Minnesota Reads.)

Image by Ian Wilson, licensed by Creative Commons.