5 Acclaimed Authors No One Reads

by Katie Fetting-Schlerf on March 30, 2012

It’s easy to hate on Twilight and The Hunger Games, but there is something eminently readable about both.  Clear, simplistic language and heroic, one-dimensional characters cuddle a lazy reader, enticing attention typically reserved for soap operas and professional wrestling.

On the flip side, however, are the authors everyone feels they ought to like, but don’t.  Below are five of the most admired scribblers no one reads.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

House of Seven Gables

So The Scarlet Letter was pushed on us in high school, but if it weren’t for my fear of parental laceration, I would have preferred Goosebumps.  And The House of the Seven Gables?  That’s seven too many gables for this girl…

James Joyce


Modern Library ranked two of James Joyce’s novels in their top three of the 20th Century—but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man… and failed.  And Ulysses?  Waiting. For. The. Movie.  (It seems like stream of consciousness should be somewhat dependent on the reader remaining conscious…)

Herman Melville

Moby Dick

His most interesting book is about a whale.  That seems to sum it up.

Salman Rushdie

Satanic Verses

Many have referred to The Satanic Verses as the book everyone HAS, but no one has READ.  (Like Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time — Time just wasn’t brief enough!)  The most interesting thing about The Verses isn’t even in the book: FATWA!  But not even Ayatollah Khomeini’s homicidal green light on Rushdie can get me past page 1.

David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest

Tell me you’ve cracked that copy of Infinite Jest.  I haven’t.  My Written Word cohort Nick Bernard, however, probably has.  His particularly erudite review of The Pale King (posthumously published this year) almost made me want to read it.  Almost.

If you’ve read these people (and I’m just a Philistine), talk it up in the comments below!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen s March 30, 2012 at 10:38 am

You philistine you! It is possible to read some of these books . Listen to them in their book on tape format. So much less inertia to overcome; the pages turn themselves. Well, maybe not hawthorne’s pages. Try it, you might like it.

Laura Roberts April 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I’m surprised to see Nathaniel Hawthorne in there, I guess because I’ve never heard anyone try to impress me by name-dropping this particular author. Now, Faulkner, on the other hand… or that dadgum Walt Whitman character!

I will admit I cracked Moby Dick, racked up a $20 library fine, and never even finished it. So I’m with you on Melville.

Rushdie, I’ve enjoyed several of his other books, and I do own a copy of The Satanic Verses, but have yet to get around to this one.

I sense a common thread here, though: really big books are really intimidating!

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