1. haribol
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    haribol Member

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    Is reading serious books a waste of time and energy?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by haribol, Dec 21, 2012.

    I have of late spent a huge amount of time trying to read a bulky and tiresome book,i.e. Ulysses. I have started this book out of sheer curiosity since this book has so many recommendations, appraisals from so many critics, writers and the like. But I could not get hooked in even if I have completed a few chapters. Now i am thinking about quitting it. All i found was the writer,s egocentricity.
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just because a book is a classic does not mean it will interest everyone. Regardless of how well written a book is, if you're not at all interested in the subject matter, it will probably be a bore. I do recommend trying to read as many of the classics as possible - sometimes you just know you won't like something, but discover the writer will draw you in anyway.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It depends who you are and what you like to read. It also depends on what you consider a "serious" book. Ulysses isn't the best place to start. I suggest you start with Joyce's Dubliners (a collection of short stories). They're much easier to read than his novels.

    Actually, Joyce may not be the place to start at all. If you could list a couple of books you like, maybe we could give you some recommendations on what classics to start with.
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Reading 'serious' literature and starting with Joyce's novels is almost like trying to preform life-threatening surgery on your first day as an undergraduate. Especially The Wake.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Don't assume that Ulysses, or any book of Joyce's, is typical of "serious books." Of course you should read serious books. But, as others have said, Joyce is not the place to start. Joyce is wonderful, but you have to meet him on his terms, and that isn't easy. Joyce has the reputation of being just about the most difficult writer in the English language, so don't start there!
     
  6. thedarkknight
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    thedarkknight Member

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    If you're frustrated with Ulysses and getting no enjoyment out of it, I'd say set it aside. It is a waste of time and energy for you. (FYI - I've never read that book so I don't know what it's like)

    But you asked about "serious" books. So this includes a bigger group of books, some which may be a joy to read for you.

    I wonder how many kids get turned off from a life of reading enjoyment when they get "serious" books to read in school for their Lit classes. Kids at my school hated reading. I loved to read, just not the books we got in Literature class. I spent many years avoiding books like Lord of the Flies, The Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22, and Fahrenheit 451 because I thought they were forced on kids because they were "serious" books. They are. But they were very enjoyable to read when I finally read them, many years after school.

    Would someone classify Charlotte's Web as a "serious" book? Or Salem's Lot? Or Tom Sawyer? Or Shane? Can a book be serious and fun at the same time? I think so.

    Some "serious" books I'll never, ever read. Like Pride and Prejudice. Might be a great book; a serious book, but it's not what I like. For me it's a serious waste of time and energy to read 200 pages of "does he like me, do I like him, does he like me, do I like him". My apologies, but that's my impression from having endured a couple of movie adaptations mandated by wife and daughter. Next time I'll just option out and stick needles in my eyes.

    Read what you enjoy. Don't let others expectations dictate what you "should" read. On the other hand, many of the Great Novels have a reason why they're Great. You may find many gems in them. Also, your tastes may change over the years. So keep an open mind.
     
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  7. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Pride and Prejudice is neither great nor serious in my opinion.
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ulysses is probably not a good example. I have never read it and don't have any particular interest in doing so. I have come across many people who despise Ulysses, even those who love many other classics. It always seems to show up when the question "Name a classic book that you could never get into" comes up.

    If you're not enjoying it, set it aside. Life's too short. Also, when I'm reading a book I don't like, it bogs down all my reading, since I don't like starting a new book until I've finished my previous book.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's only a waste of time and energy if you get nothing out of it. And that depends largely on what you put into it.
     
  10. Knarfia
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    Knarfia Member

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    I recently went to a bookstore where the owner was very enthusiastic about reading. "Feel free to ask questions about any of these books," she said. "I've read most of them and am happy to force my opinion on you. Life's too short to read a bad book." We talked a bit, then the conversation turned to movies. "No matter how bad a movie is," she said, "I have to finish it once I've started it." Couldn't help but find irony in that. Anyways, I tend to agree- life's too short to read a bad book. But you might just find a little nugget of wisdom in there if you do read it, and you'll probably feel good about yourself for having finished it. There are certainly worse ways you could spend your time.
     
  11. johann77
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    johann77 Member

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    Shakespeare, Balzac, Dickens, Hawthorn, Homer, Maciavellie, Stoker, Stevenson, George Orwell, Lord Macaulay, Trollope, Siman Shama, de Laclos, william Congreve,Daniel Defoe, Horace Warpole

    Along with others.
     
  12. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    I like some classics. I slogged through Moby Dick simply because it was, well, Moby Dick, and then I decided I wasn't going to do that again -- slog through a book. I haven't read Ulysses because I didn't care for Joyce's short stories in my Lit classes.

    I've got Catch-22 on deck for a read. I tried reading it once before, and wasn't sucked in ... but I believe in giving everything a second chance.

    There's no law that forbids you picking it up another time, when perhaps your mindset will make you more receptive to the author's point.
     
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  13. Soodanim
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    Soodanim Member

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    I think it depends on whether or not you want to be serious about your writing.
     
  14. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    It may not be a classic in the 'classics' sense, but Frank Herbert's 'Dune' is considered a sci-fi classic. It's also a book that friends of mine, and many others I believe, have had trouble getting into. I persevered with it and when I got to the end found that I'd thoroughly enjoyed it, so sometimes a book may not be easily accessible for whatever reason but by the end you may find you feel that the experience was worth it, and even treasure it.

    However, I've never read 'Ulysses' so can't comment on it from the same perspective.
     
  15. philaz
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    philaz Member

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    Perseverance can often bring forth the unexpected.
     
  16. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love Dickens' characters, but I find his novels difficult to read - long sentences; I find that I have to keep referring back over what I have just read in order to keep track of the story (hard work). I prefer the lazy option - watch the film or TV adoptions.



    I await the back-lash! :eek:
     
  17. NoDanico
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    NoDanico New Member

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    Kafka’s Metamorphosis is my example of this. I read the book when I was in middle school because it was a ‘classic’ and hated it.
    High school Lit, Ms. Moore's class. She announces in her peppy fashion what we’ll be reading this week. And lo, she writes bug-man on the board. I groan, she asks why. ‘I read it back in sixth grade and it sucked.’
    Moore proved me wrong. After we read the book, she began teaching us about that madman Kafka. The book became awesome! Just reading the book wasn’t enough, for the ‘classics’ you have to understand the times and the author who lived in them. The book took on a new meaning.
    For books like that you have to put it into perspective. Ever read Frankenstein? Yeah, that was a horror novel back then. Doesn’t quite come off as one, does it? That’s because the primitive screw heads at the time didn’t have movies, videogames, or Christopher Walken to desensitize them to scary/creepy things.
    When you read a book like that, dig up a little info about the author. I’m not saying it’ll make it interesting, but it could make it suck less.
    All of that being said, I like Kafka, Shelly, and Walken.
     
  18. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I find it strange that 'Kafkaesque' means the exact opposite of what it should mean. No one who has seriously read Kafka and properly understood him can tell me he isn't, at least in places, very weirdly funny; and, dare I say it, even lighthearted. I found myself really laughing out loud at the almost Swiftian parody of government in The Trial.
     
  19. Daniel Cassidy
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    Daniel Cassidy Member

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    As mentioned, it depends on what you enjoy reading.

    After I graduated high school, I thought all books were basically "Old Man and the Sea" (which I found dull), so I never bothered reading.

    It wasn't until my first deployment to the Persian Gulf that I found myself sitting around with nothing better to do than pick up a book. Thankfully I stumbled into some fantasy titles and haven't looked back since.
     
  20. thedarkknight
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    thedarkknight Member

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    This made me laugh. I love Christopher Walken too.

    I had a similar experience in high school. Most of my teachers would just cram books at us and if we didn't like them, well tough. But I had one teacher who respected our objections and took the time to explain why a book was considered great and got us to see things from a different perspective. He was one of my all time favorite teachers.
     
  21. Caramello Koala
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    Caramello Koala Member

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    Sure, but it depends on not only the book but the context and the motive. A lot of 'serious' books such as Ulysses are best digested in a school like environment, where you can share your thoughts about it with others, and have a teacher explain and its contents and help you probe around yourself. If you want to read a serious book for the sake of reading a serious book then it is up to you how much you get out of it, none of us can tell you. So the answer to your thread title's question is it depends on you.
     

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