Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks! asked several authors, critics, and editors to confess their least favorite “must read” book . The selections aren’t all that surprising ( Ulysses and The Catcher in the Rye are named twice; Gravity’s Rainbow three times), but I appreciated this insight by novelist Elif Batuman :

Like many people, I enjoy learning which canonical books are unbeloved by which contemporary writers. However, I don’t think participants in such surveys ought to blame either themselves (“I’m so lazy/uneducated”) or the canonical books (” Ulysses is so overrated”). My view is that the right book has to reach you at the right time, and no person can be reached by every book. Literature is supposed to be beautiful and/or necessary—so if at a given time you don’t either enjoy or need a certain book, then you should read something else, and not feel guilty about it.

Canonical books I did not enjoy include The Iliad and The Sound and the Fury , and, although I did read Ulysses with some degree of technical interest, it wasn’t fun for me. I maintain that this doesn’t reflect badly on Homer, Faulkner, Joyce, or me.

Blaming neither yourselves or the canonical books, which “great books” would you put on your not-so-great list?

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