Books I Swore I'd Never Read: The February Challenge

on Sunday, January 31, 2010
Last month I began my year of challenges with the somewhat cop-out theme of "Books I Meant to Read Last Year". Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City, which I named in my end of 2009 list as the book I thought I would most have enjoyed, turned out to be rather anticlimactic though I'm not sure if that was due to its inability to live up to the massive hype or whether objectively it was just, well, average. On the other hand, I was buoyed by both Eleanor Catton's fantastic debut The Rehearsal as well as Shariar Mandanipour's complex and beautiful Censoring an Iranian Love Story. It wasn't all about 2009 though, with me thoroughly enjoying the latest Bolano, discovering Jakov Lind's lost classic Soul of Wood and being rather underwhelmed by Nobel laureate Jose Saramago's first dalliance with the memoir. Which brings me to February...

I can't begin to tell you how much I've been dreading this month. For years I have conscientiously and actively avoided reading those populist smash hits that have made rich folk out of writers I've always assumed to be talentless hacks. I even fought with the editor of a magazine I was reviewing for because I flatly refused to have anything by Dan Brown in my house, let alone read it. But with age has come wisdom (or, perhaps just doubt). I am now willing to admit that there is an outside chance that I am wrong and the countless millions are right. This book snob is finally stepping up to the plate to confront his possible hypocrisy. Yes, I have always been the first to pontificate on the numerous smash hit novels that I have considered beneath me without ever bothering to read them. Now I figure it's high time I stepped off my literary soapbox and gave them a go. God help me!

For a book to qualify, it must have been a massive hit worldwide, been read by a good percentage of my friends or family and have had me comment upon it disparagingly on numerous occasions to anyone I caught reading or talking about it. I also must never have read the book before (eliminating such 'classics' as Harry Potter). And so without further ado, here are the seven "Books I Swore I'd Never Read".

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

I hope you feel my pain. I assure you, however, that I will read them with an open mind and give honest reviews. Most likely in haiku. Thankfully, February also brings me some exciting new releases which I will no doubt devour between the challenge books. So expect my opinion on newies by Don Delillo, Dan Rhodes, Adam Haslett and Tom Rachman as well as the usual dose of uninvited opinions starting with a musing on the hidden stashes of great authors!


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