1. J. R. R. Tolkein: The Lord of the Rings series
why? Long walks through detailed landscapes. Enh. I managed to burn out on this sub-genre before ever reading the series that started it all. My husband married me anyway, but it was a close thing.
2. John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
why? I just don't care for depressing with a side of poverty.
3. J. D. Salinger: Catcher in the Rye
why? Because I was already a teacher by the time I read this one, and I just wanted to slap the protagonist. Perhaps, if I'd read it when I was a teenager myself, it might have stood a chance. Nah. I still want to slap him.
3. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlett Letter
why? Hester dares to reach for the life she wanted, has lousy sex, and then spends the rest of her miserable existence being ostracised and punished. Why does this make her a heroine? Why are we still reading this???
4. William Golding: Lord of the Flies
why? Despite having taught middle-school for many, many years, I just don't believe that humanity is essentially evil at the core.
5. Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
why? I just don't think it's romantic to be involved in domestic violence. Love doesn't have to destroy everything and everyone around it. Think about it.
6. William Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury
why? Why should anyone have to work THAT hard to undertand what is happening in the story? Is it artistic because it's complicated? Blah.
7. Dave Eggers: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
why? I picked it up for the ironic title, and put it down about halfway through because I just couldn't stand the narrator.
8. Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
why? The spelling killed me. For someone who'd never heard anyone speak with that accent, it was nigh incomprehensible. I hate that a typographical issue gets in the way of enjoying a good story.
9. Toni Morrison: Beloved
why? This is one of those books that is often assigned to people when they are too young. As an adult, I might like this book --as a young woman on the brink, it was a tedious slog with moments of sheer horror.
10. Herman Melville: Moby Dick
why? Were I ever to be trapped alone on a whaling ship, this is the book I would want. Had someone told me to skip the parts about the boat and the whaling industry, I might have stayed awake.
Focus for this list:
Mentioning that you're an English major creates certain assumptions about your reading habits. One of the most annoying is that you read for language, not for story. Also, it tends to mean that you like (or at least pretend to like) depressing books. Well, I'll stand up and say it right now: I love to read good stories, and I like happy endings. So there!! (Ok, I'll turn in my English Major Badge now.)