We spend much of our time here at Goliath talking about the things we love, mostly because we like to think of ourselves as positive people. Whether it’s movies we love, novels we love, music we love or even people we love, we tend to spend a lot of time loving and not a whole lot of time…not loving, although for the next 10 slides that’s about to change, since we’re going to talk a little about some novels that we feel are pretty heavily overrated. Now, that’s not to say we hate these books, we just aren’t sure that they’ve earned the massive critical and commercial success that’s been bestowed upon them, or that perhaps they don’t represent the finest work from the author who produced them. Whatever the case, we feel like they’re overrated, and we want to hear whether you think they are too! Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think about these 10 overrated novels that get way too much love.
10. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
We didn’t do our readers a disservice by putting ridiculous novels like Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey on this list; we know they’re awful, the people who read them know deep down inside they’re awful, and in time history will know that they…are…awful. No, we’re reserving spots on this list for texts that are generally well-received in most every sense, not just in the “Oh look, we turned this into a tween money making extravaganza” sense. That’s why we’ve included J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic The Lord of the Rings on this list. Sorry folks, we side with brevity, and it’s why The Hobbit will forever remain the superior tale of adventure from the renowned fantasy author. The next time we want to read three pages about a bug on a leaf though, we’ll dust off our copy of LOTR and get to work.
9. Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel Garcia Marquez carries a lot of weight in the literary world; he’s the author of classics such as 100 Years of Solitude, widely regarded as one of the greatest novels ever written (it’s routinely ranked near the top of canonical lists). His second most famous work, Love in the Time of Cholera, is also routinely ranked quite highly as far as literary tomes are concerned, and we’re not quite able to figure out why. The story of a man who, over the course of half a century, attempts to profess his love for a woman whose father has forbid them from being together, Love in the Time of Cholera plays on well-traveled ground and attempts to mystify familiar trappings by dressing them up in Marquez’s signature magical realism. The fact of the matter, we’re not buying it. The book is oftentimes a bore, and the protagonist’s romantic acts tend to border on creepy or stalkerish. Not our cup of tea, folks.
8. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
Maybe it isn’t fair to hate on Robinson Crusoe, the incredibly important text which holds the distinction of being one of the earliest iterations of realistic fiction in the Western world. First published way back in 1719, Robinson Crusoe was originally billed as an autobiography, and the text’s alarming popularity had many believing the events of the text were fact-based rather than fiction. What can we say, people were gullible back then (kidding…people are still gullible, right James Frey?). Robinson Crusoe, which was published by author Daniel Defoe, is the story of a man who spends a great deal of time shipwrecked on an island, during which he divides his time equally by domesticating both animals and natives (Poor Friday), and lamenting his status as a castaway. While the importance of the text can’t be denied, we’re going to go ahead and place it on this list due to its heavily racist overtones and straight up boring arrangement.
7. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
We’ll probably catch some flak for this one as well (we’ve already resigned ourselves to catching flak for all of these selections), but we never really understood the hype surrounding Stieg Larrson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or its sequels, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and The Girl Who Played With Fire. The late Swedish author, who died before his books experienced the massive surge in popularity that led to multiple film adaptations (one starring James Bond!), never really impressed us with his prose or his stories; The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is practically sterile in its descriptions, never giving readers anything to really sink their teeth into as far as the language and writing are concerned. And while the novel represents a fairly standard whodunit with a familiar villain (NAZIS, PEOPLE!), we can’t help but feel like we’ve seen all this before, expressed in superior ways.
6. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Alright, this is another one that we feel a little guilty for putting on this list, but it had to be done. Moby Dick, one of the most iconic and recognizable tales in the Western canon, just isn’t that great a novel, despite the fact that the story has become so instantly and automatically recognizable. But wait! We can explain that. When we read Moby Dick, we see the makings of a great novel; there’s some scenes and chapters that are absolutely riveting, and the symbolism evident in the text is some of the best that you’ll ever come across in fiction. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these literary and stylistic techniques is occasionally lost on readers due to the sheer size and breadth of Moby Dick. Melville could do with less chapters ripe with descriptions of things such as whale carcasses, and more chapters discussing Captain Ahab’s slow descent into madness.
5. A Passage to India – E. M. Forster
We’ve no doubt there was a time when E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India was a revelation, with its progressive thoughts on race relations and its exploring of territories not previously fleshed out and given life. Unfortunately for the text, that time has long since passed, and the novel has been usurped by better, less exoticising texts which do a better job of exploring the Indian Independence Movement and the repercussions of British colonialism in the Indian region. A Passage to India, which is a downright boring novel that does little to dress up its dour story, is consistently cited as a classic, although attitudes towards the novel are changing now that its outdated inclinations are a poor representation of post-colonial thought and ideology. We’re giving it a big old pass as far as classics go, and you can do yourself a favor and read anything by Rushdie to get a better grasp of what really went on during this period of Indian Independence.
4. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
We’ve never rightly been able to explain the popularity surrounding Ayn Rand. We’ve never met anyone who is a fan of her work, nor have we ever found a copy of her novel Atlas Shrugged on anyone’s bookshelf. Who knows, maybe that’s because we here at Goliath don’t socialize with the type of folks who read Rand and her crackpot theory of objectivism. Whatever the case may be, we’re putting Atlas Shrugged high on our list of overrated novels, since we’ve never been able to wrap our heads around how something so god awful became (however briefly) popular. A titan amongst individuals who pride themselves on their ability to “succeed” in relation to what Rand’s texts deem important (self, ego, achievement, progress, etc.), Rand popularized these ideals in Atlas Shrugged, her most popular novel that details a dystopian future where businesses have failed due to the rise of…people. Tough sell, Rand. Tough sell.
3. Hard Times – Charles Dickens
Far be it from us to start talking trash about Charles Dickens; the man remains one of the greatest authors in the history of the English language, and he’s given the world more than one classic novel, including A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, among others. What we are here to argue is that Hard Times, Dickens’ tenth novel, is not one of those classics. Published in 1854, Hard Times is both preachy and didactic, yet it fails to fully realize the ideological ends that it’s trying so hard to push. A harsh appraisal of the English society in which Dickens lived, Hard Times reads as a poorly constructed socialist manifesto that never really owns up to what it is (and what it isn’t).
2. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
We’re not here to claim we’re experts in hating Jane Austen. No, there’s plenty of people far more advanced in that realm of study than we are, including noted author and renowned badass Mark Twain, who once claimed that “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig [Jane Austen] up and beat her over the head with her own shin bone.” Harsh, but not entirely unjustified. Pride and Prejudice, the go-to novel for anyone looking to explore the excruciatingly awful mating rituals of the Victorian upper class, was first published in 1813 and since that time has wormed its way into discussions of classic literature all over the world. For our money, there’s innumerable examples of better texts written about the Victorian era, better texts written by women, and better texts written in general. Is it the worst book you’ll ever read? Of course not. But it isn’t a classic, either.
1. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
As we mentioned earlier, garbage like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey were excluded from this list as a favor to our readers. Unfortunately for him, Dan Brown will not be getting that treatment, as we’re here to tell our readers that most everything the author has written is absolute drivel, including his bestseller and cultural phenomenon The Da Vinci Code. That’s right folks, it’s trash. Poorly researched, poorly written and extremely poorly edited (seriously…whoever edited this thing needs to take a long vacation and re-examine where they’re at in life), The Da Vinci Code represents most of what is wrong with contemporary literary culture. Rather than attempting to craft a smart, stylish thriller that traffics in characters and history, Brown plays around in the mud and tries to sell his audience on half-baked conspiracies, ridiculously awful dialogue and cliff hanger after cliff hanger. The worst part about it all? It worked. Friends don’t let friends read Dan Brown, people.