Every year, we hear about the hugely depressing spectacle of books being challenged and removed from American libraries and schools because someone out there objects to their content (usually on the grounds of depictions of people enjoying themselves in bed.) This week it was hugely successful erotic novel 50 Shades of Grey, which has been removed from the shelves of libraries in parts of Florida for its depictions of, y’know, people having sex. Absurd as the whole situation is, it did get us thinking about some books that are far more deserving of being removed from library shelves than EL James’s sexual exploits. Obligatory disclaimer: we’re of course not in the market for banning any books, but we’d much prefer to find the kiddies reading 50 Shades of Grey than any of this lot.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The charges: tedium, long-windedness, philosophical unpleasantness
Save yourself 1,000 pages, kids: basically, it’s all the poor people’s fault! Life lessons learned right there!
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The charges: awful, awful prose
Actually, one good thing about calling The Da Vinci Code to mind is that doing so also calls to mind this fairly spectacular take-down of Dan Brown’s prose. We’re perfectly aware that Brown has spent the last decade laughing en route to and from the bank — that still doesn’t make The Da Vince Code any more worth reading.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The charges: self-indulgence, cloying sentimentality
Break-ups are horrible. There’s no two ways about it. Sadly, not all of us have benevolent publishers to send us off on a global jaunt to inflict our angst on the unfortunate residents of countries whose names happen to begin with “I.” (Although, judging by the appearance of “EAT PRAY LEAVE” signs in Bali of late, there are more Gilbert-esque types out there than we might like to imagine.)
State of Fear by Michael Crichton
The charges: tinfoil hattery, dubious science
As far as learning about the issues surrounding climate change goes, we suggest that a novel whose underlying premise can be summarized as “LA LA LA IGNORE IT AND IT’LL ALL GO AWAY” is perhaps not the best place to start.
Piers Anthony, generally
The charges: rampaging sexism, general creepiness
Flavorpill has a confession to make here: we were quite big fans of Piers Anthony’s fantasy production line in our early teens, but while he’s got a way with a narrative, he’s also got a way with spectacularly over sexism. Revisiting his work, it’s remarkable to see just how objectionable his depictions of women are (especially in the never-ending Xanth series) — they’re almost inevitably either ingenuous sex objects, or nasty deceptive tricksters who are ugly to boot. And then, of course, there’s his hugely creepy 1990 novel Firefly, where, amongst other things, a five-year-old girl gets it on with an adult man. Ewwww.
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
The charges: ghastly self-help simplicity
Want to know the secret? Lean close, now. We’ll whisper it quietly. You ready? You sure? “THERE IS NO FUCKING SECRET! LIFE IS DIFFICULT. SORRY.” There. Now, let’s never speak of this again.
Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
The charges: privileged Upper East Side ghastliness, being responsible for the TV series
Things we have never really understood about TV/film/literature/etc include: the appeal of depictions of the apparently oh-so-dramatic lives of self-absorbed, overprivileged and fundamentally tedious rich people. Sigh.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
The charges: ubiquity
Actually, in fairness, there’s nothing especially wrong with this. It’s just that if we see one more dishevelled businessman reading it avidly on the subway, his face lit with the glow of hope that maybe just a little Jobsian stardust might somehow sprinkle onto his next start-up idea, we’ll dissolve into a puddle of existential despair once and for all.
Dollhouse: A Novel by Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian
The charges: its authors
Have we read this? No. Come on, gentle reader — we can only put ourselves through so much on your behalf.
Mission Earth (Volumes 1 to 10) by L Ron Hubbard
The charges: general awfulness, Xenu, etc
And finally, where to begin with this? Wherever you stand on the “Is Scientology a religion or a dangerous cult?” debate, the fact is that while L Ron proved disconcertingly successful as a “religious” leader, he proved rather less so as a prose stylist and storyteller — unless 1.2 million words’ worth of garbled, homophobic rantings about an imagined dystopian future are your idea of a good time, in which case strap yourself to the e-meter and get reading.