I’m a big fan of List Universe. They have lists for everything and anything: the top 10 most common medical myths, the top 10 most interesting Jack the Ripper suspects, 10 notable stops on historic Route 66, and another 10 stops on Route 66. You get the idea.
The other day, however, I ran into one a little too close to home: the Top 10 Most Overrated Novels. As an all-too pale library nerd with nose perpetually inserted in, er, a book, I instinctively cringed.
Be forewarned: for every book on the following list that has you gleefully cackling “Oh, yeah!,” there may be a book or two that is on your list of, well, Top 10 Favorite Novels of All-Time.
Take a deep breath and, in so doing, prepare for karmic joy and/or unabashed sorrow, perhaps in remarkably equal proportions. Here it is, in ascending order from bad to worst:
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
White Noise & Underworld by Don Delillo
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Emma by Jane Austen
Ok, how’d you do? My cackle meter registered a 4, but on the blubbering scale I wailed a whopping 5.
How can this be? Aren’t there many other overrated books that easily surpass the consummate badness of some of those listed? Has no one ever been forced to read The Last of the Mohicans, The Brothers Karamazov, or Midnight’s Children? Couples by John Updike (RIP, but, really …), A Hazard of New Fortunes by William Dean Howells or, come on, Finnegans Wake? Ethan Frome? A Separate Peace, A Farewell to Arms? A Stranger in a Strange Land?
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, anyone?
Well, obviously, one person’s stash is another person’s trash. As much as I was sadly appalled at 5 of my fave novels popping up on the most overrated novels list, I’m sure that some of the books I’ve mentioned are probably near and dear to someone else’s heart.
Even if you haven’t ever been tortured by any of the above (or, like me, find a handful of your favorite novels there), somewhere along the line you must have run across a classic that turned out to be a clunker, a supposed dazzler that turned out to be a mighty dud.
Feel free to share your pain. Obviously, the rest of us have.
PS. I think the finest novel ever written is on the List Universe list. Care to venture a guess which one it is? And, strictly for bonus points, two of my favorite novelists who typically appear on overrated classics lists have dodged the bullet here. Bet you know who they are …