A book I loved, I now hate.
July 19, 2010 9:10 AM   Subscribe

What book(s) did you once adore and now cannot stand? And why?

I ask because my literature professors seem either completely enamored by the books they're teaching or utterly bored by them and I'm curious if others have gone through something similar.
posted by mizrachi to Writing & Language (96 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Books by Stephen King.

Why: I majored in English in college and discovered what real literature was.

Cue the claims of cultural snobbishness.
posted by dfriedman at 9:12 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can no longer read the Chronicles of Narnia. I loved them as a child, but as an adult I can't stand the ham-handedness of CS Lewis's allegory. I've also grown more sensitized to the inherent racism and islamophobia of The Horse and His Boy, which used to be my favorite of all the books. And the whole thing about Susan not getting to go to heaven because she was a woman.... WTF?
posted by pickypicky at 9:33 AM on July 19, 2010 [27 favorites]

I stopped being so into Lord of the Rings once I noticed that all the good guys were called out as fair-skinned and all the bad guys as swarthy.
posted by mkb at 9:36 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorta chatfiltery, but I'll bite... Tom Clancy novels.
posted by cross_impact at 9:38 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Anything by:
Dick Francis
Clive Cussler
Craig Thomas
Tom Clancy
J.K. Rowling

I've grown to dislike them because I can't tell them apart. For example, I know that Dumbledore dies but the books are all so similar that it could be any one of them that he dies in. So I stopped caring.

Another example, I've read perhaps 6 of Dick Francis' books, they all involve horses and beyond that the plots are essentially interchangable.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:39 AM on July 19, 2010

Hesse, Heinlein, Tolkien.

With the first two, I probably put too much into them at sixteen or so that wasn't really there. The third is a case of becoming sated, and perhaps because the movies, if not actually better, are at least more than good enough.
posted by Some1 at 9:39 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I loved I Capture the Castle (and would still recommend it as a lovely read) but Cassandra (the main character) grates on me now; she is too precious and introspective for me. And she has terrible taste in men. But that's just me.

Still a good book though.
posted by Ziggy500 at 9:40 AM on July 19, 2010

Ender's Game. While the book is still excellent, I can't stand the author. Completely wrecks the experience.
posted by purephase at 9:40 AM on July 19, 2010 [28 favorites]

I imagine that teaching the same books, year in, year out, could get pretty old. Especially if you are stuck in a survey course that needs to cover the same agreed-upon canon every semester. I like Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales, but I think I would stab myself in the face out of boredom if I had to dedicate a few months a year to teaching them in the same way to the same level of students.

Also, yes, there are lots of books I read as a kid that I realize now are shite. I know they're a generational favorite, but The Babysitter's Club series is something I probably would not want my hypothetical future daughter to read - not because they're offensive or a bad influence, but just because there's so little there. Half of each book is recapping things that happened in other books, and a third of the remainder is elaborate descriptions of questionable fashion choices. I want my hypothetical future daughter to have more than that on her bookshelf.

I am ashamed of the relish with which I devoured V. C. Andrews. Also novels based on popular science fiction television series.
posted by Sara C. at 9:42 AM on July 19, 2010

Catcher in the Rye -- when I was a kid, Holden Caufield was so cool. Now, as a parent of a kid older than Holden was, I have no patience for his"problems."
posted by kidelo at 9:44 AM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

Seconding Narnia.

Some of Larry Niven's stuff. I can still enjoy Ringworld and a couple others, because he's good with tight action-y plots, but my god, his view of women...
posted by equalpants at 9:44 AM on July 19, 2010

The Fountainhead.

I got a little older. I learned things. Consequently, I began to hate Ayn Rand.
posted by goodbyebluemonday at 9:49 AM on July 19, 2010 [17 favorites]

The Xanth books. When I was a kid, I thought they were great, with puns and fantasy stuff! Now I'm ashamed to admit I read some of them, having realized the pervy nature of Anthony's writing.
posted by The otter lady at 9:51 AM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Sweet Valley High series and Catcher in the Rye. I was told the latter was great and had to read it during a pre-college course I took, and thought it was meaningful, and now I think it's silly.
posted by anniecat at 9:53 AM on July 19, 2010

Henry Miller. As a kid I thought he was so deep and alternative. Recently I tried to read him and found it all mental masturbation and self fascination. Yawn.
posted by Vaike at 9:53 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

David Eddings' books.

Loved them as a kid, but now realise that he essentially repeated the same plot in each of his different universes.

And, at the risk of speaking ill of the dead: every interview I have read of his invariably has him coming off as.... well.... a prick.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 9:58 AM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Nthing Heinlein and Orson Scott Card. I had the pleasure of living in Greensboro, NC from 1997 to 2002 but the displeasure of masochistically reading Card's articles in the local Freeper-esque rag. Reading his undiluted crazy on a weekly basis--especially after 9/11--forever cured me of any of his works.

I would also add some comicbook writers, especially Frank Miller and Jeph Loeb (uninspired choices, I know, but it's true).
posted by zombieflanders at 9:59 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Confess, Fletch: Another example, I've read perhaps 6 of Dick Francis' books, they all involve horses and beyond that the plots are essentially interchangable.

For some of us, that is the attraction. They are formulaic and dependable and they always play out in a satisfactory way. They are well written if not ground-breakingly plotted. I prefer that to something like Dan Brown. The man can plot but the pity is, he can't write.

Anyway, Atlas Shrugged and The Catcher in the Rye are two books I read frequently as a teenager and now have no patience for. Ego and angst are just tedious combinations to me now but oh how they resonated back in the day.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:00 AM on July 19, 2010

Tom Clancy - post 9/11 I didn't want to read his stuff anymore.

Stephen King - can't say I hate, and there are some of his older books I will go back to...but it just doesn't do it for me anymore.

David Eddings - recycled plots, characters, and elements.

CS Lewis - I loved the whole Narnia set as a kid...when my wife gave me a brand new set as an adult, I couldn't get back into them. They sit on my shelves in hopes that my boys will love it as I used to.
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:03 AM on July 19, 2010

nthing Stephen King. He is not really as good with language as I used to think (and he's written maybe two solid endings in his life).
posted by shakespeherian at 10:13 AM on July 19, 2010

The first Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake book was amusing. The second was OK... and then I realized that this was Tom Clancy with vampires.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:15 AM on July 19, 2010

Piers Anthony here too. I got turned off his writing when I noticed that his male characters went on adventures but his female characters went out searching for a husband.

I noticed Eddings's recycling on the first go-'round but for some reason I can still read his work. Maybe it's because I don't try to re-read anything but the first books.
posted by galadriel at 10:18 AM on July 19, 2010

In high school I was completely won over by John Irving's novels, especially A Prayer for Owen Meany. In retrospect I feel like the plots are contrived and the symbolism is laid on in great wet slabs. I think I wouldn't like Owen Meany if I went back and read it now, but I have such good memories of it that I've avoided the exercise.

also, J.D. Salinger rules to this day, sorry haters
posted by escabeche at 10:18 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and re Stephen King. Loved him when I was a kid. Then as a late-teenager started to understand that he was relying on cheap, unliterary effects. Now have come to feel realize that he has an almost superhuman gift for effective deployment of cheap, unliterary effects, which no one has ever been able to imitate in decades of trying, and which deserves respect. So yeah, I still read him.
posted by escabeche at 10:20 AM on July 19, 2010 [15 favorites]

Isaac Asimov's fiction, including the Foundation series, for most of the same reasons given for other authors above.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:21 AM on July 19, 2010

Just yesterday I re-read Roald Dahl's "The Fantastic Mr. Fox", which I had as a kid and remembered generally liking. As an adult I found myself kind of annoyed by the thieving Mr. Fox, ugly people though the three farmers may be.

As a dumb teenager I went through the same brief Ayn Rand phase as goodbyebluemonday. I thought Atlas Shrugged was pretty cool (although even then I skipped about 89 pages of the 90 page John Galt monologue), then I entered the real world and realized that the titans of industry are mostly ruthless f***s who will exploit the law and their workers to the greatest extent possible. (See also: Bob the Angry Flower.)

Tolkien has become a bit tarnished for me, for the reason mkb mentioned; the whole noble pure race white guys versus swarthy bad guys aspect.

I plowed through the first few of Terry Brooks' Shannarah novels in high school and remember thinking they were pretty good, but when I tried picking them up again a few years later I couldn't even finish the first book, partly because of the writing, mostly because I recognized it as a clumsy retread of The Lord of the Rings.)
posted by usonian at 10:25 AM on July 19, 2010

"A Wrinkle in Time" is actually kind of... omg bad. And I remember thinking it was quite possibly the Best! Book! Ever! Written! Not so.
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:35 AM on July 19, 2010

Unlike many of the posters above me, I never liked Tolkien or Lewis or King. However, I went through a hardcore Anne Rice phase when I was 12-14. It was ridiculous. I can still appreciate certain aspects of her in very small doses, but everything is so overwrought and completely humorless. As my friend pointed out to me when he read her (in his early 20s), in her books, "everyone is always laughing and nothing is ever funny." It's true!
posted by millipede at 10:36 AM on July 19, 2010

Most of the Anne McCaffrey stuff I used to love, particularly the Pern books. I somehow didn't notice the freaky sex stuff as much at first, I was just all 'yay, dragons!' (or in some cases, 'yay, spaceships and/or magic!').
posted by Lebannen at 10:37 AM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

I agree with dfriedman. Books by Stephen King.
posted by murtagh at 10:40 AM on July 19, 2010

Almost any sports book, because I just can't stand the low standard of writing anymore. I used to think "This Side of Paradise" was better than "Gatsby;" boy is it not.

To you people talking about Tolkien being racist? Really? I mean, Really?? You do know that McSweeney's thing was a parody of insufferable, over-analyzing academics, right? And as for the movies being better, I don't even know where to start with that.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:41 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wuthering Heights. Loved it as an emo adolescent, and now - while I think it's a good book - I can't stand to read it as I find all the characters insufferable jerkwads or outright sociopaths. I guess I've gotten a really jaded view of Byronic heroes.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:46 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. when i read it in high school, it was so awesome. it like, spoke to me man. read it again a few years ago and i hated that whiney fucking fuck holden caufield. get over yourself you douche! it's because i grew up and moved on, and he didn't (as it were).
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:47 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Not to derail, but Holden's immaturity in Catcher is really the point.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:49 AM on July 19, 2010 [8 favorites]

On the Road. Thought it was so amazing in high school but now I just see it as sort of sloppy and naive.
posted by the foreground at 10:54 AM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Tom Clancy. The end of the Cold War really ruined him for me.
posted by tommasz at 10:54 AM on July 19, 2010

Anne Rice's vampire novels. I actually just gave away my collection of 1st edition hardcovers to the local library (I'm moving soon, don't have room for them). As an adult now, I find her stuff just boring.
posted by King Bee at 11:06 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

(is so glad she isn't alone with her dislike of Holden Caufield. St. Holden of the Ryecliffes.)
posted by kidelo at 11:07 AM on July 19, 2010

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard. As a beginning philosophy student its prose excited me. As a slightly more advanced philosophy student I saw that beneath the flowery ornamentation it wasn't especially original or profound, and more than a little self-centered.
posted by resiny at 11:18 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Tom Clancy used to be fun, but post 9/11 when he started getting treated as if he actually knew what he was talking about and endorsing counterterrorism games... too much. It didn't hurt that I realized after a few books that every goddamn character he writes is the same. Same phrases, same vocabulary, same personality. The writing got progressively worse in every book he wrote. He apparently now lives in a world where people spend all their times masturbating to reruns of 24 and polishing their guns.

I used to read Clive Cussler for a while (especially when I could steal the latest novel from my dad after he was done with it) but I got completely sick of his characters. He also spends so much time describing everyone's clothes that I suspect he has a sideline as a writer for a fashion magazine. It is amusing though to watch how many of his books start with a note stating what year the US moved to the metric system, explanations of how it works, and compare novels to see how the predicted date changes every year that it didn't happen. (Also his use of metric actually hurts some of his writing - in one scene I recall, a car careens to a halt "scant meters" from a character. Wow, so it's like 6+ feet away? How about trying "centimeters" for some suspense there, Clive?)

Of course I feel like these kinds of writers don't actually write all that well to begin with. Clancy, Grisham, Cussler, you can name your favorite well-known prolific author. They're not trying to make one Great Novel, they're trying to make a living using a formula. So even though I don't read them any more, I don't get too bent out of shape about what they do. It's a formula, it works for some people, but it doesn't really hold my interest any more. I might read it if there's nothing else around, but I'm more likely to pick up something old and good that I've read once before, and read it again instead.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:19 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Totally concur with A Wrinkle in Time. Thought it was brilliant when I was 10, but when I went back to it as a grownup, all the kids' precociousness was incredibly cloying. Nobody appreciates Meg's genius because Charles Wallace is a SUPER-genius. Please.
posted by mneekadon at 11:21 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

The wheel of time series. I thought it was really cool as a teenager. There were warrior women and women doing magic controlling the world.

But then it just went on an on and on, a big part of the plot was how three women adored the main character for some completely incomprehensible reason and everybody was really concerned about looking cool all the time. The final blow to my love of the series was when I found out that it was never finished.
posted by furisto at 11:23 AM on July 19, 2010

A Fan's Notes, by Frederick Exley. I still admire his prose, but what struck me at age 18 as the courageous work of a steely-eyed dissector of the American psyche now looks a lot more like one man's extended excuse for clinging to a state of virtually infantile narcissism, paralysis and irresponsibility.
posted by newmoistness at 11:47 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I liked Nickle and Dimed when I read it, but then I saw Barbara Ehrenreich speak and she was condescending and awful, so now I have tainted memories of the book. Ick.
posted by hungrybruno at 11:59 AM on July 19, 2010

I am ashamed of the relish with which I devoured V. C. Andrews.

Oh, god, yes. I loved those books. But then it was like a switch was flicked, and it was like "Wait, this is kind of rapey. And incestuous. And this book's plot is awfully similar to the plots of the others I've read."

Also, I used to love Jackie Collins. Can't read her now.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:59 AM on July 19, 2010

I have the same problem with Orson Scott Card as everyone else-- it's impossible for me NOT to read all of his bigoted, jackassy opinions into his writing now, and I thought Ender's Shadow was the best! book! ever!. (And this is as someone who read ALL the Ender books and Bean books and the ones that are sci-fi retellings of the books of Mormon. For some reason his misogyny only hit me when I read Hart's Hope.)
posted by NoraReed at 12:18 PM on July 19, 2010

Another vote for David Eddings and (especially) Piers Anthony. I must have read at least a dozen of the Xanth books before they started to grate, and when I picked up my favourite a couple of years ago and tried to read it I was appalled.

Actually, almost none of the fantasy literature I devoured as a teenager holds up well at this point. Tolkein, Dragonlance, Tad Williams, Lewis, Brooks...really, the only ones that got better with age were the Earthsea books.

I also went through a brief Tom Clancy phase that I leave off my resume.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:21 PM on July 19, 2010

I doubt I could read every single one of the Walter Farley books in my local library system with utter devotion, starting with The Black Stallion, crying and sobbing at the cruelty the main characters were forced to endure, the way I did when I was ten, nor would Albert Payson Terhune be able to keep me from sleeping most of the night by causing a bone to become stuck in Lad's throat the way he did that one time.

On the other hand, rather than making me laugh contemptuously at him as I did at 18, James Herriot brings me to my knees with the brilliance, economy, and emotional power of his writing these days.
posted by jamjam at 12:23 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a [grownup], I put childish ways behind me.

When I was a child I read books. Now I look at those books and they don't appeal to me. They may carry nostalgias, and they certainly have a place in my education, but they serve no purpose past that they've already served. That's because I've grown past them. Like your professors, I may be able to recommend a book that's served me well in the past and that may be appropriate for you now, but that doesn't mean that it needs to be a timeless work or something to rely upon. As people grow they change, and their tastes and preferences and perspectives change too. All those books I've consumed may have been important in bringing me to who I am today, but that doesn't mean they're necessary moving forward.

I think this is a pretty common occurrence among people.

Er, guess this addressed the 'And Why?' part of your question more than the first part. Catcher in the Rye is an example from my reading history.
posted by carsonb at 12:24 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Also, and I hate to say it, The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy. I received a copy of the original trilogy for Christmas when I was in high school and remember laughing so hard I was out of breath. When I tried to re-read them last year they seemed too self-consciously "wacky" (and even Marvin wasn't as funny as I remembered).
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:26 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Seconding escabeche; no one has ever taken up the cliches of a genre and brought them back to the raging life King did so apparently effortlessly in The Dead Zone.
posted by jamjam at 12:36 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I too used to dig the Xanth books, and am now utterly repulsed by them and creepy creeper Piers "Pedobear" Anthony.
posted by elizardbits at 12:38 PM on July 19, 2010

So many commenters mention not being able to recapture or even understand the interest they had when first approaching a work or an author when revisiting the experience later in life. Perhaps it is simply a case of "you can't go home again" because home is not the same and neither are you.
posted by Cranberry at 12:51 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

At some point in my late teens, I stopped being a Dean Koontz fan when I realized I was reading the same book over and over again.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:12 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

I will second the Anita Blake, though it took me longer to get sick of them. If you know anything about the controversies of the series, you can guess at what point I stopped reading.

Ditto the House of Night series, which I used to read in that fun, silly, True Blood sort of way, and then around book 5 suddenly started hating everyone or thinking they acted stupid and dear god, the plot just went to hell and it wasn't fun any more, just irritating.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:21 PM on July 19, 2010

Funny, I was the same with Tom Clancy, but I might have gone back the other way now!

I have trouble getting to sleep without reading, so I was desperate to find something that could keep me moderately interested until I felt a bit tired, and that I would then have no problem putting down when I felt like sleeping. There have been far too many times when I've been reading a genuinely good book that has gripped me and I then don't get to sleep for hours and hours.

Tom Clancy really hit the spot though. Ten pages about a carrier group in the Atlantic steaming towards Iceland really knocked me out! I'd go so far as to say I enjoyed it!

Incidentally, some of the discussion in the laser vs UAVs thread on the blue makes me think of Clancy fans.
posted by knapah at 1:32 PM on July 19, 2010

I second the David Eddings books. It's not so much that it's the same five-book plot over and over again, but that every female character he wrote fell under one of two personalities - the manipulative shrew who gets her way by nagging and the manipulative shrew who gets her way by flirting. And there were long loving digressions in the books about how women are just like that, they can't help it (partially, of course, because men are hapless goobs who secretly like being treated that way.)

Dick Frances, on the other hand, was writing the same book over and over, but I don't mind. It's like the McDonald's of literature. It's not going to be the best thing you ever had, but you know exactly what you're going to get.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:35 PM on July 19, 2010

Used to like the Twilight saga, but the fandom quickly ruined that.

Also used to like the Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop - tried rereading it again this year and couldn't bother to finish the first book.
posted by Anima Mundi at 1:42 PM on July 19, 2010

Chuck Palahniuk.

I loved Fight Club when I was about 16, and was really in to Invisible Monsters, Choke and Survivor as well. One Diary and Lullaby came out though, I was starting to get sick of all of his protagonists having the same "voice," and felt like I was just reading the same book over and over. It took the fun out of it when I tried to re-visit those books more recently.
posted by Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld at 1:49 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

For me it's been fiction all together. It's so much work to sift through the bookstore to find a fiction book i can read past teh first 10 pages. The nightly news is much more interesting, horrific, funny, and current.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:50 PM on July 19, 2010

I used to love love love Anaïs Nin. I could read her (and did) for days on end. When I look back at journals form then I see the influence she had both in form and content.

Now when I try to pick up one of her journals or anything else, I can barely make it through without lots of sighing and eye rolling. It is just too much.

Funny, because in a lot of ways she really shaped the way I approach romance and sexuality.
posted by Tchad at 1:52 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anything by Dean Koontz.

I loved his books when I was in my early to mid-teens. I recently re-read a couple of the same books as an adult, plus a couple of his newer one, and they are appallingly bad. I maintain a nostalgic fondness for the ones I read, but good grief, they're badly written, ridiculously repetitive, and they all seem to have exactly the same plot - just with slight variations in protagonists and detail.

It's like with children's TV and films. You have such fond memories of programmes, but then watch them as an adult, and you wonder what you ever saw in them.
posted by idiomatika at 2:05 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Count of Monte Cristo. One dimensional characters (either good or evil) aren't very realistic. But neither is the plot.
posted by gumtree at 2:17 PM on July 19, 2010

I devoured the Redwall series as a kid, but I went back to reread one of my favorites (The Long Patrol) a few months ago and couldn't get past all the written-out dialect.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 2:23 PM on July 19, 2010

All of JD Salinger's non-Catcher books. I think I was attracted to them as a teen because I believed that I, like the Glass children, was precocious, brilliant, and tormented.

Sometimes I think the shift is that you can read a mediocre book when you're under, say, 24, and the ideas in it can nonetheless be completely new to you and therefore mind-blowing, eye-opening, and fascinating, even though the book isn't very good or the ideas are actually familiar cliches to people with more experience. I remember one of my students (college freshman) recommending a fantasy novel to me that, to him, was the most amazing thing he'd ever read. I gave it a shot, because why not give it a shot, and it was not only very badly written but was a tired retread of a tired retread of a mediocre rip-off of Lord of the Rings. But all those tired fantasy tropes were totally news to this guy. Probably he went on to read more and better fantasy. I hope so.
posted by not that girl at 2:25 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Robert B. Parker's Spencer mysteries, which I read as they came out and re-read over the years, just got more and more self-similar and pointless so now I can't sustain any interest in the old ones. God I hope Lee Childs' Reacher books don't do that...
posted by nicwolff at 2:30 PM on July 19, 2010

To Kill A Mockingbird was my favourite book. Then I had to study it in school. It took seven and a half years before I could read it for pleasure again.

I don't think I ever really loved a novel at the same time I was analysing it for school or college. I may have loved it beforehand, or come to love it later, but never during.
posted by the latin mouse at 2:51 PM on July 19, 2010

The Bobbsey Twins. I guess I just outgrew them.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:56 PM on July 19, 2010

Also, I used to think that Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty trilogy was a great work of literature. But now, it seems just a bit repetitive.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:57 PM on July 19, 2010

But I used to love the Dr. Doolittle books when I was a kid. And guess what? I still do!
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:58 PM on July 19, 2010

I loved The Phantom Tollbooth as a younger kid, and really enjoyed reading it to my "kids" (I was a junior counselor) when I was a teenager. Just a year or two of a Liberal Arts education ruined it for me. I was reading it with a friend, junior year of college. There's some part where there's this lovely princess talking about how the country used to be filled with ignorant savages but then wise people came from over the seas and chased away the ignorance and my friend and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes, and since then I've pretty much never liked the book. The first part is pretty good, but it's pretty hamfisted about the ignorance part and the, er, imperialist undertones were a bit much. I'd feel comfortable reading the first part of the book to my "real" kids (when I have them), the second half not so much.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:07 PM on July 19, 2010

Also -- If you hate Stephen King you hate Stephen King, but one thing I do like about him is he's pretty dependable in terms of spinning a yarn (although man oh man is he lousy at endings). He's my go-to author when I'm in an airport and realize I've forgotten to bring something to read on the plane (he's also a wordy writer so you get more pages for the dollar).
posted by Deathalicious at 3:11 PM on July 19, 2010

I used to love anything Bukowski (anything prose, at least - poetry has never really been my thing), but, really, it isn't very good, and I just kind of grew out of it. As a fresh voice, which he was in his time and who he was for me when I was a teenager, well, yes, his work was excellent, for me when I was 14 it approached genius, but now? Sloppy, repetitive, faintly boring. I was reading an essay by Theodore Dalrymple recently, don't ask me why, but he made an observation along the lines of "an author devoured as a young man one becomes permanently immune to in maturity". That's a butchering of what Dalrymple said but, yeah, for me, that's Bukowski: I'm immune to him now and my eyes just slip off the page, whereas once I was riveted. I could probably do Ham On Rye again though, as it's easily the best thing he ever did.

I went through a Brautigan phase as well, but apart from Confederate General At Big Sure all of his stuff is rubbish. You know who I'm digging now though? Samuel Johnson. That's one awesome motherfucker.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:41 PM on July 19, 2010

Here's the quote in question that put me right off Phantom Tollbooth:
"Once upon a time, this land was a barren and frightening wilderness...[snip]...Evil creatures roamed at will through the countryside and down to the sea. It was known as the land of Null.

Then one day a small ship appeared on the Sea of Knowledge. It carried a young prince seeking the future. In the name of goodness and truth he laid claim to all the country and set out to explore his new domain.
Yeah, I've heard that before
posted by Deathalicious at 3:43 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

As a professor, it's easy to get bored with something you love if you wind up teaching it every semester. I love Jane Eyre, but the year I taught it in four different courses, I began to feel a certain...ennui.

When I was an undergraduate, I could read just about anything. Now, it's very hard for me to read mass market fiction--which is not the same thing as saying I can't read bestsellers, having just enjoyed Iain Pears' Stone's Fall. That being said, although it's been years since I read anything long by Stephen King--I've read some of his short fiction--I still think some of his work stands out as fine storytelling (Carrie, the stories in Different Seasons).
posted by thomas j wise at 4:04 PM on July 19, 2010

Richard Tregaskis' Guadalcanal Diary made a big impression on me as a teenager. It's an exciting, first-hand account of the beginning stages of the Guadalcanal Campaign in World War II. (Tregaskis was a combat reporter, or what we now call embedded journalist.) The book's verisimilitude extends to accurately reporting the racially-charged ways the Marines referred to the Japanese, which I couldn't get past even when I tried to reread it several years ago even though I generally try not to judge people in the past by today's moral standards.

Another vote for Narnia and Catcher in the Rye.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:18 PM on July 19, 2010

Lord of the Rings, definitely. It was my favorite book from when I was 10 until I was 12, and I think I read and reread it so many times during those years that I never need to read it again.

Still love Narnia. The Horse and His Boy is problematic, but it was the only fantasy novel that I read as a child that had a non-white female heroine.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:48 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Michael Crichton, holy moly. Reading his books when I was 9 made me feel all grown-up, but I just cannot fathom going anywhere near one again. Nthing Tom Clancy and John Grisham as well.
posted by just_ducky at 5:39 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing Orson Scott Card. What a pity, too, as Ender's Game had long, long been one of my favorite books. It might still be good, but I just can't view it the same way anymore.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 6:33 PM on July 19, 2010

Like a few people up-thread, I also used to be a fan of Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler – my dad reads these sorts of novels and I'd nick them off him when he was finished. Until I read one Cussler book and realised that it seemed more like a caricature of the genre than something that could be read with a straight(ish) face. I never went back and read any of the old ones, but I imagine that his writing was always like that, but that it had never bothered me before. And the way Cussler writes himself into his books as a character is particularly grating to me now – way to destroy suspension of disbelief. It's probably a good thing I'd never actually bought any of these for myself.

As a rule, however, I don't tend to re-read things, as there is enough new stuff to read to keep me busy.
posted by damonism at 6:38 PM on July 19, 2010

Gone With the Wind; OMG, it was painful to re-read. 2nding Wuthering Heights. Nthing Ayn Rand. She had some things to say, and then she had some crazy things to say.

I still like Dick Francis. Predictable, formulaic, but fun.
posted by theora55 at 6:42 PM on July 19, 2010

Michael Crichton, holy moly. Reading his books when I was 9 made me feel all grown-up, but I just cannot fathom going anywhere near one again.
posted by purpletangerine at 7:18 PM on July 19, 2010

Phantom Tollbooth was amazing, mind-blowing, when I was a kid. When I tried to reread it as an adult, it just clunked. It annoyed. It was clumsy. It was ham-handed.

I like YA lit and kiddie lit and willingly read it, and much of it holds up surprisingly well (as long as you accept it for what it is, which is kids' lit), but Phantom Tollbooth broke my damn heart when I tried to reread it and the magic was gone.

(Speaking of teaching things to death, I teach Plato's Apology (aka Trial and Death of Socrates) about 3 times a semester, every semester, and it actually gets BETTER every time. Other things, not so much.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:21 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

"I ask because my literature professors seem either completely enamored by the books they're teaching or utterly bored by them and I'm curious if others have gone through something similar."

I actually also wanted to answer the implied question. Some of this has to do with the piece itself -- Socrates's Trial is epically timeless and awesome -- but some of it has to do with how students respond. Students LOVE the Trial and Death of Socrates and it resonates and they dig into it. For a while on my required syllabus was this really very interesting article about constructing public personalities, but students hated it, didn't get it, went off sideways, missed the point, so I burned out on teaching it really fast. It's hard for me to even remember that it was interesting when I started with it because I ended up hating it so much.

A lot of it has to do with how well *I* teach it; I overhauled my unit on Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy a couple years ago and now even though I teach the WHOLE THING 2-3 times a semester, I actually really enjoy it every time, whereas before the overhaul I was starting to burn out on it. There's plenty of depth in Descartes to keep me interested time after time, but now that my unit is better, students connect with it better, I'm making better points and having more fun teaching it, and I think that allows me to keep digging into it.

Of course in a philosophy survey course you get to cherry pick the most interesting and influential pieces of writing of the last 3,000 years or so, so I do have great underlying material most of the time, which helps.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:28 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are certain books and/or authors that lose their magic if you read them for the first time as an adult. The example I've come across most is A Wrinkle in Time. I know lots of people (mostly women, for whatever reason) who are fervent evangelists, but they all grew up with it. I haven't yet met anyone who read it as an adult and liked it.
posted by sdn at 8:31 PM on July 19, 2010

As a teenager and early twentysomething, I was really into writers (and artists, movies, and music) that I thought were deep. If I didn't totally understand it, then it was on my bookshelf, and I carried it around to all my classes.. sort of like an intellectual accessory. As I've matured (I hope, anyway), I've determined that many of the writers that I embraced for their supposed intellectual value, their obscurity, and/or their iconoclasm, weren't worth the time or hero worship; essentially, they've been overhyped. A small list of writers or groups that I have since expunged from my bookshelf: all Beat writers, though namely Kerouac; Samuel Beckett, who used to be my favorite.. though I have since decided he's basically unreadable; those Salingers and Burroughses whose works are merely immature teenage rites of passage; the Oulipos.. anything avant-garde.. Alfred Jarry, Andre Breton. Actually, many writers who emphasize a style (or who just wallow in obscurity for the sake of obscurity) over content. I don't know what it is.. as time goes on, I think I've just become more restless and impatient. I'm still just as avid a reader as ever, but I don't know.. I just feel like I've kind of outgrown whatever it was that those writers represented to me.. Rebellion, some sort of wild realm of intellectual discovery. Mind you, these are writers that I once respected and now I'm sort of repulsed by. I've never been a New York Times Bestseller reader, and I'm still not.. So that doesn't count. Sorry for the ramble! Interesting question!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:39 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

As far as a book that I've LOVED for twenty years (as far as kids' books go), and still think is pretty mind-blowing.. D. Manus Pinkwater's Lizard Music. I'll never outgrow the Chicken Man. "And that's the way it is."
posted by Mael Oui at 8:53 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

I really enjoyed some of the Ayn Rand novels, until I learned how much everybody hates them, and why. Whereas I just naturally looked past a lot of the objectivist stuff as period baggage that could be ignored, and took it as something that I now know wasn't the author's intention, I now know what the author intended and cannot get past it -- nor do I feel like "admitting" I liked them and then suffering under a deluge of people wanting to tell me I'm wrong for liking them.
posted by davejay at 9:30 PM on July 19, 2010

I read the Time Traveler's Wife in one sitting when I was 18. I loved it. I picked it up again when I was 20, and found that I didn't like it that much. Various messages in the book had begun to seem suspect to me -- the main female character spends her whole life waiting around for this dude; the man's relationship with her changes from a father-type figure to a lover; the girl spends years regretting a drunken one night stand she had when her sweetheart was, err, time traveling. Though I could well understand why a fantasy about two people being destined for one another had appealed to me, that same fantasy made the book seem stale upon the re-read.

Which is a shame, because the mood often hits me when I'd love to read a romance involving a time-traveling librarian going to Violent Femmes gigs.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 1:24 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Noam Chomsky's *Aspects of a Theory of Syntax.*
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:12 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Outsiders by SE Hinton. Read it until it fell apart as a 10 year old, tried to read it again as a 17 year old and I was terribly disappointed. I haven't picked it back up since, though.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:43 AM on July 20, 2010

I don't hate The Secret Garden, by a long shot... but as a kid I absolutely adored it, idolized Dickon, dreamed of visiting moors, longed to explore abandoned mansions, and so on. Then, I realized that the story is based on an incorrect and insulting belief of the period (displayed also in Heidi, which I was also fond of), namely that disabled people would turn out to be perfectly normal if only they'd just get some fresh air, good food, and old fashioned exercise. I still love those books, but when I read them I have to work fairly hard to focus only on the story (which, when self contained, if you believe all the internal explanations, make pretty good sense).

And, I'm another devoted fan of Ender's Game who struggles with Orson Scott Card's politics and general personality. I once went to a lecture he gave and came away more disillusioned than I can ever remember being. But, at that lecture, he said something I've never forgotten -- he was in a heated argument with another devoted fan at the lecture who was undoubtedly experiencing a similar sort of heartbreak, and as she began to cry with frustration, he stopped and said "You know, I don't understand you, and you don't understand me, but we both understand Ender Wiggin".

Generally though, I still have enormous respect for most of the books that really affected me as a child. Especially books like Bridge to Terebithia, The Giver and the Green Knowe series - spectacular, big-hearted books, and truly NOT just for children.
posted by Cygnet at 12:38 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also read some of Orson Scott Card's opinions in a New York Time's article. I don't think I will ever be able to touch his stuff again. I thought it was just me!
posted by xammerboy at 2:24 PM on July 20, 2010

When I was about 14, my very very favorite book, which I read over and over and over, was The Mists of Avalon. It dovetailed nicely with my burgeoning interest in feminism and my brief fling with neopagan spirituality (actually, if we want to talk about TRULY crap books I used to love, I would be remiss in not mentioning Starhawk's The Fifth Sacred Thing - so trashy but so mystical/lefty-feel-good/righteous!). Throughout years of re-readings it got to be a bit more a) ham-handed and b) magick-y than I could handle.

Side note to all the Narnia-haters: I highly, highly recommend Laura Miller's The Magician's Book - it really helped me walk the fine line of deploring Lewis's sexism, racism, etc. while simultaneously being able to appreciate the magic and wonder of Narnia that I remembered from my childhood.
posted by naoko at 9:55 PM on July 20, 2010

Definitely The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books. I read them in middle school and they were hilarious. When I tried to read them in college they had a trying-too-hard, cloyingly satirical feel to them.
posted by Nattie at 8:48 PM on July 21, 2010

Almost anything by Dickens. Plots are too contrived. Everything falls into place way too nicely and unbelievably.
posted by syzygy at 5:57 AM on July 26, 2010

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