10 Books Not To Read Before You Die
The producer of at least three television shows that you may quite like shares with us his definitive list of books that just aren't worth the bother
Recommended lists of ‘essential’ reading are the most pernicious ‘to do’ lists of all. Lists of physical achievements or magical holiday destinations or wonderful restaurants or fabulous hotels make you feel like your life has been wasted; a list of great books you should have read makes you feel like your brain has been wasted.
Most people embarking on a journey into a new book will feel they have to hack through a hundred pages of dense undergrowth before their conscience will allow them to give it up as a lost cause. But how many people feel secure enough in their own judgment even to do that? How many times have we all ploughed on to the end to find there’s actually no treasure after all? A book, even a useless one, can take several days out of your life so it’s a big investment.
The best way to fight the massed ranks of recommended books is with an offensively glib and, if possible, ill-informed reason for not bothering with them.
10: Ulysses – James Joyce
There’s a brilliant scene in the much-underrated sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum, when Sergeant Major Williams (Windsor Davies) snatches a book from Mr La-di-dah Gunner Graham and says:
‘What’s this you’re reading? Useless?’
‘Ulysses, Sergeant Major.’
At school I remember my English teacher saying that he knew no one who had managed to get to the end of it. It does sound rubbish, doesn’t it? I’d have thought it was the duty of a great book to drag you along to the last page. But in a way, that’s good to know: if it’s famously hard going you have the perfect excuse not to bother with it.
9: Lord of the Rings – J R R Tolkien
The best I can say about this book is that it was a very useful tool at school for helping to choose your friends. Carrying a copy of Tolkien’s monstrous tome was the equivalent of a leper’s bell: ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ I knew I would have nothing in common with anyone who had read it. Their taste in music, clothes, television, everything was predetermined by their devotion to Gandalf. Without a shadow of a doubt, in a few years, these people would be going to Peter Gabriel gigs and reading Dune.