What Happens When An Author Reads a Classic But Doesn’t Like It?

Confession time.

There’s an unwritten rule that says the literary world possesses certain books all authors must love and laud (even if secretly, they’ve never read them).

Just like a painter who doesn’t like Picasso or Monet, or a classical musician who doesn’t like Bach or Mozart, if an author doesn’t like a book that’s been deemed a classic, then he must be unrefined, or worse . . . uncivilized.

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In my case I’d been wanting to read a particular book for a few years, not just because it was a book that I was interested in, but also because I heard other readers rave about this literary work, and it was oftentimes referenced by other authors in their books, articles, and essays, especially as it related to the current times we live in.

So, a few years ago I finally purchased the book, moved it from my to-read list to my currently reading list, sat down in a comfy chair, and prepared to embark on the incredible journey this book was sure to take me on — an adventure that many had traversed before me.

But there was one problem.

As I began my journey with great hope and anticipation, I quickly discovered myself slugging through the slough of prose, disappointed not only in how the story was written, but in the story itself.

In spite of the unexpected let down, I persevered, drudging onward while inwardly expecting the story to get better, but it never did.

Similar to an uncooperative patient in the dental chair enduring a root canal, I found myself wanting the whole experience to be over as quickly as possible. But just like the old adage that a watched pot never boils, the ending of this book seemed to take an excruciatingly long time to arrive. And when it finally did, it failed to make up for the exhausting morass of everything preceding it.

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I genuinely expected to like this book, but it never resonated with me, it never moved me, and quite frankly, it failed to interest me at any point.

Where did it go wrong? Simply, in its delivery.

The book’s genre and message was of great interest to me, but the conduit by which that message traveled from sender to receiver was—in my opinion—a tragic failure.

So where did all this leave me? An unrefined—or uncivilized—author who dares to dislike a classic?

Was this a secret I’d have to take to my grave?

What did this make me? Was I now a literary black sheep?

Had I done the unthinkable? Perhaps I should be banished to an island void of all books for such an egregious transgression against the literary world.

Or a little less rash, maybe I’d be better off abandoning my love of writing, similar to the person who passes out at the sight of blood should not pursue a career in medicine, or the OCD germaphobe should not seek employment in the waste management field.

Eventually, in my state of despair I had a moment of clarity. I realized that what makes me different as a writer is what makes me unique as a writer. And aren’t some of the best authors also some of the most unique authors? Aren’t they the trendsetters who drive the market, not follow it?

If I dislike a book most others like, that’s simply a testament to the contrarian in me and I wear that as a badge of honor because, as anyone who knows me can attest, I rarely ever fit into a mold. I’ve been like that my entire life and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon.

In a field where so many authors follow whatever’s selling well at the moment, I strive to write what I have a passion for, whether it’s trending or not. And as someone who’s not only an author but also a reader, that’s refreshing.

So I will put this literary crime behind me and move forward, writing the stories that I want to read, and hopefully the stories you want to read, too.

Oh, and in case you were wondering what the classic book was that I disliked so much, it was Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.


J.L. Pattison is the author of The Island and Saving Kennedy. When not writing, he likes to read good books and avoid awful books so he’ll never have to write an article like this again.