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Books: The good, the bad, and the so awful you can’t finish it

June 10, 2010

I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember. In fact, the first gift I ever remember getting was the number three in the Nancy Drew series. After that, I was hooked. On reading, on mysteries, on detectives (which would arise again in my infatuation with all things Law and Order, especially one Benjamin Bratt over whom I became hopelessly hooked but I digress), and on stories told well and beautifully.

I have always kept a list of favorite books, for they are the ones I generally keep and go back to read several times over. These are the ones that I will ultimately have on both my Kindle (oh, what a beautiful device) and in paper copy, to make the joy of reading them easy and instant. I have also started to keep a list of least favorite books. These are the ones that started out as just a mild case of avoiding, and then gradually evolved into “read at your own risk” warnings to friends. I avoided all things where death was a predominant theme, especially if an animal central to the story died. I always recall the Friends episode where Phoebe talks about the “happy endings” to all these tragic movies she saw as a child – Ole Yeller never died, etc. etc. This was true until the Harry Potter series and I still have not forgiven J. K. Rowling for sucking me in and then killing off Sirius. The series as a whole still makes my favorites list, but I always have a twinge of regret when I think about that one installment.

I have also always loved movies, and I found it amusing to compare the written story to the scripted one. It was always interesting to see what was removed or found unnecessary, as well as what was embellished or added. This reached a whole new level once I saw The Bridges of Madison County. What a beautiful love story, and it was one I resonated with at the time in a very deep and emotionally raw way. I could not wait to get my hands on the book, to see the whole story. The big red flag should have been the novel was the size of a short story. Short stories make fabulous full length movies with little change or editing – their length is ideal as witnessed by Stephen King’s “The Body” which became the movie Stand by Me (beyond description good).

So, let’s get back to Bridges. I ended up getting the book anyway, despite the fact that a quick peek at the first chapter didn’t start out at all like the movie (red flag again!). By the time I slogged through the entire book, I had a whole new respect for Clint Eastwood who had managed to turn this trash into one of the best movies I had seen in a long time. He pretty much re-wrote the whole book into something much better, and I had a new top entry into my least favorite books list. At that point, I had not started The English Patient which made me nod off into naptime every time I started the first chapter. I finally gave up and just watched the movie. It wasn’t the best (despite a gracious plenty of Colin Firth), but at least I stayed awake through it til the end.

So, here are my lists, good and bad, and including those that are so awful you just can’t finish it. I’ve included a couple of links to my favorite books that you might not recognize. Oh, and the lists are in no particular order except the way they popped into my head for one reason or another. And if you disagree? In the words of Rhett Butler, “My dear, I don’t give a damn.” (That is the quote from the book, not the movie, which added “Frankly” to the beginning of the sentence.)

Favorite Books:

  • Little Women
  • Anything and everything by Mark Twain, but especially The Prince and the Pauper
  • Gone With the Wind (read it as a child, and I have such fond memories surrounding the book itself)
  • The entire Harry Potter series
  • Stephen King’s book of novellas Different Seasons (if you’ve seen Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me, you’ll love this book)
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • The Shack (excellent telling of a new concept)
  • The Right Stuff (fantastic movie based on a spectacular book – it doesn’t get better)
  • Sister Carrie (by Theodore Dreiser in the 1800s. No, you probably have never heard of it.) Sister Carrie (Enriched Classics)
  • Twilight (yes, the inner 14 year old loved it)
  • The Outsiders (“Stay golden Pony-Boy.” Cry-ing)
  • The entire Little House on the Prairie series
  • The entire Nancy Drew series (I grew up on these at an early age. Number three in the series was the first gift I ever remember getting.)
  • The Little Prince (I love the original French version, since I like my own translation the best.)
  • Rebecca (the first real mystery I ever read)
  • Watership Down
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café (I love, love, love Fannie Flagg!)
  • The Princess Bride (as well as the movie, one of my all-time favorites)
  • Saints at the River (by Ron Rash, and if you haven’t read him yet, he’s awesome and you are totally missing out) Saints at the River: A Novel

Least Favorite Books:

  • Ole Yeller (the dog dies, the kid cries, it was horrible)
  • Where The Red Fern Grows (see Ole Yeller)
  • Marley and Me (the dog dies… but this is based on a true story so….)
  • The Bridges of Madison County (LOVED the movie – Eastwood did an awesome job)
  • The English Patient (I couldn’t even finish it – B.O.R.I.N.G.)
  • The Giving Tree (Hello – co-dependent nightmare anyone? Gives until it dies? No thank you.)
  • The Catcher in the Rye (I loathed this book – it makes my eye twitchy)
  • The DaVinci Code (I’ve actually read better versions on the same theme.)
  • Under the Tuscan Sun (actually a decent book, but another example of movie way better than book)
  • The Second Lives of Second Wives (not bad as a read, but terribly off the mark as far as “second wife life”)
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary (I discovered here that I don’t like the diary entry type of reading experience)
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