What is the most offensive book you got through?

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What is the most offensive book you got through?

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Mar 30, 2008, 10:09 pm

I can't think of any book off the top of my head that made me shut it out of disgust. Boredom, yes. Disgust, no.

I tried reading the Turner Diaries back after the Oklahoma City event, but the book was so poorly written and amateurish that I just sort of lost interest.

There was one Martin Amis book -- The Information? Or was it a Will Self book? -- that had a very grim subplot about some child molesting brothers that made me ill and sad.

Mar 30, 2008, 11:27 pm

I remember a Tin Tin book I read once that had these African men being held prisoner in a ship (they were told the ship would take them to Mecca, but they were actually going to be traded as slaves) and the depictions of them as being so stupid and "thank ya massah" really made me squirm. I finished the book though, and it didn't stop me from reading the rest, but still. Damn.

(I also know that Herge was notorious for these kind of offensive mishaps.)

Mar 30, 2008, 11:50 pm

I've shut and abandoned a couple of (generally well-liked) fantasy books because there's way too much graphic rape, torture, and other disgusting stuff in them for me to have any interest in reading them. And people wonder why I generally read YA fantasy...

Back in college, I quit reading a book that was written from the perspective of an anorexic. It made me so upset that I couldn't even talk about it - I left the classroom in tears rather than participate in the discussion.

I was thoroughly disgusted by the only Nicholas Sparks novel I read, in large part because the writing was complete and utter shit. The only good thing I can say about it is that it was short.

Mar 31, 2008, 7:38 am

If I find a book hateful I generally stop reading immediately, or even more commonly I just avoid authors I know are likely to incite that kind of reaction in me (Houllebecq, etc.).

However, when I was in middle school I read a lot of books that were probably way out of my league in terms of appropriate subject matter. I remember there were some passages about manually masturbating a German Shepherd in The Happy Hooker that really freaked me out when I read them. I did end up finishing that book, though.

Mar 31, 2008, 8:58 am

I copyedited a horror novel that had similarly unpalatable scenes of violence to those that made bluesalamander put his/her book down. Unfortunately I was being paid to read the whole damn thing, so I had to soldier on. And this from someone who has a pretty strong stomach as well as an affinity for grim fiction (though I think most "horror" is crap).

Mar 31, 2008, 9:55 am

Bluesalamander pretty much pegged why I got turned off from the fantasy genre-it's been a while, but if I remember correctly, it was Pierce Anthony that did it for me. I should probably give some of the others another shot, but my TBR pile is already tall enough. That's also why I tend not to read horror novels.

As I've mentioned before, it was very hard for me to get through American Psycho because of the extreemly graphic violence against women, and I had to skip a couple of chapters. I've booktalked it to a couple of patrons, giving them a heads up, but I would never dream of steering people away from it (unless the movie was too graphic for them, in which case, they would HATE the book).

By and large, the most offensive book I've made it through was How to talk to a liberal-if you must. Next time I have to know her stuff, I'll just read the book review and fake it-or bang my head against the wall for an hour while watching Fox News.

Apr 14, 2008, 4:09 pm

Storm Front (for gender stereotyping)

Apr 14, 2008, 4:44 pm

Autobiography of Malcom X. As a feminist, his thoughts on women and the women's movement made my blood boil. Aside from that, still an interesting and worthwhile read.

Apr 15, 2008, 5:50 am

#7 - really?! Is it sterotyping when the character is doing it deliberately in a lightly bantering manner with another character. I assume you feel it's the Harry and Murphy bits that are bad?

Very nearly didn't finish Mind Kill not only disturbingly graphic it was also badly written.

Apr 15, 2008, 4:21 pm

#9 It isn't the "light bantering" that bugs me. It's the fact that all of Butcher's female characters can be classified as a) weeping damsels in distress, b) temptresses, c) mommy figures, or d) some combination of the above. (If you're interested, I wrote at length about this in my LT review.) I could deal much better with the sexist protagonist if the behaviors of the female characters didn't bear out his theories; for that, I lay the blame with the author.

Apr 15, 2008, 7:50 pm

The secret life of bees
too unrealistic. a great book for someone who is naive about the world.

Apr 15, 2008, 10:58 pm

Message 11-

I read the book and found it to be utterly stupid, but I don't remember it being offensive. Jog my memory? It's been a while since I've read it and it didn't leave much of an impression.

Apr 15, 2008, 11:13 pm

Now that I think of it, The Da Vinci Code was pretty offensive. The religion part didn't bother me, but all the historical inaccuracies did . . . and I'd be more likely to shrug them off if the book didn't open with the statement that "it's all TRUE!!"

Give. Me. A. Break. Oh, and bother to look a few things up before you write a TRUE book.

Apr 18, 2008, 2:40 pm

I too hated The Da Vinci Code for the same reasons as you, but ALSO because it was so clearly written to be turned into a movie! There was no respect for the written work - I only got through 3 chapters because each one ended with such a cacaphony of cliffhanger-ish crap that I couldn't stand it!

Apr 18, 2008, 11:29 pm

I would say A Confederacy of Dunces was the most offensive book I've read...but I couldn't make it past the first 50 pages, where the main character jerks off thinking about his dog. Even though it was for class, I just. Couldn't. Read it.

I've since been assured by my professor that you're SUPPOSED to hate the main character. Yeah. Okay. Lovely.

Apr 19, 2008, 2:32 am

I thought A Confederacy of Dunces was pretty funny, but I must say I mentally blocked that bit, because I don't recall it at all. Ignatius was repulsive beyond imagination, but I guess I've always had a sick sense of humour. I blame it on my brothers making me watch Monty Python when I was only seven.

I'm guessing you were supposed to read this for university? How does it work if you don't want to read something because it's offensive? Is the prof at all responsive or respectful of that, or does he/she say "course requirements, you're an adult now--deal with it!" ? (I have to admit, if I were a prof I'd lean toward the "suck it up" attitude.) I haven't run into anything I couldn't read for offensive reasons, but it could happen. Interesting dilemma. I guess for me it would depend on how it would affect my marks--sometimes you can get away with skipping a reading.

Edited: Apr 19, 2008, 2:48 am

The most offensive book I ever got through from cover to cover was called Perfecting Kate by Tamara Leigh. Perfecting Kate is a hyper-Christian chick lit/romance. The main character Kate is struggling with attempting to be a perfect Christian, finding a nice Christian man who accepts her the way she is, proselytizing her non-Christian/non-Practicing Christian friends and suitors, and sneaking Christian imagery into the art mural she is painting in the children's wing of a hospital. The story takes place in San Francisco, and interestingly enough, instead of having a gay best friend, this chick lit heroine has an EX-gay best friend who was "led back to the Lord" by the woman who studied the Bible with him and became his wife. Kate's condescending efforts to enforce Christianity upon everyone make it no suprise that she is still struggling in the dating scene. Toward the end, the man she falls in love with challenges her views by asking her why she feels like she always feels the need to prove that her religious views are "right" for herself and everyone. But there are still a lot of problematic portrayals and scenes that are never addressed. So that was the book that I consider off the top of my head to be the most offensive.

Apr 19, 2008, 5:59 am

#17 KEriJ82 - I have never heard of that book but I know from your description I would have a hard time finishing it. It sounds very patronising.

Apr 19, 2008, 8:23 am

#17. Yech. What an awful sounding book. I have a family member who is Christian and is convinced that gay people CHOOSE to be gay and can be "led back to the Lord". It's very unfortunate that her daughter is lesbian. It's a constant source of pain and upset in our family.

I can't imagine ever trying to read this book.

Apr 19, 2008, 2:13 pm

#15: You ARE supposed to find him repulsive, but a shocking number of people on the internet see him as some sort of antihero. It freaks me out a bit.

Apr 20, 2008, 10:38 pm

#15 -- I don't recall that part. Or anything offensive.

Walker Percy thought enough of that book to get it published. It's a good book.

Apr 20, 2008, 11:29 pm

I have to agree with the American Psycho post. It was an okay novel overall, but horribly violent, cruel and disgusting in parts. Quite possibly the most violent novel I have ever read.

-- M1001

Apr 22, 2008, 8:32 pm

Slaughterhouse-Five so far. It's nihilist & anti-Christian mantra was really disappointing. Vonnegut must not have read his Camus.

Apr 23, 2008, 8:30 am

#23: I confess I find the reference to Camus a bit confusing. Vonnegut did read Camus--he once called him his "favorite Nobel Prize winner." And many would argue that Camus was anti-Christian.

I wouldn't argue you out of your opinion on Vonnegut, of course, which you're completely entitled to. Just putting a finer point on the Camus bit.

Apr 23, 2008, 9:32 am

While Sherri S. Tepper is a fantastic writer when she's "on," when she gets vitriolic she's absolutely awful. I slogged through The Visitor, Beauty and Sideshow and I really shouldn't have; the gratuitous violence and hatred were simply revolting. I felt almost bound to read them because some of her works are among my favorites (Raising the Stones (though it's borderline with the violence and anti-mysogeny mysogeny), The Family Tree,Six Moon Dance, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, and recently The Margarets).

Apr 23, 2008, 12:31 pm

#22: Isn't it kind of missing the point to say a novel about a serial killer is violent, cruel and disgusting? Like saying Moby-Dick was okay except for the parts about the whale.

Apr 23, 2008, 12:33 pm

#23: Curious why you think S-5 is anti-Christian and nihilist. Vonnegut loved humanity, hated violence, bigotry, and stupidity, and despaired at the destruction of beauty.

Apr 23, 2008, 2:12 pm

#27, his disdain, and contempt for a divine, and redeeming reason of life is self-evident in several of his novels. He reasoned, like many do, that the galaxy was created by freak occurrence, or colossal mistake. I hold that nothing we see or touch are "mistakes", or are the offspring of unintended celestial bangs through space.

Apr 23, 2008, 10:27 pm

My personal nominee for most objectionable, offiensive, horrific read of a lifetime is Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence.

Paul Morel and his mommy shoulda just gone and got a room and got the filthy, horrifying deed done and over with. Perhaps the book's overtones of incestuous intimacy were too much for me because I was abused by my mother. In any case, whatever the reason, this book lives in my memory as the godawfullest thing I've ever been forced to read.

Apr 24, 2008, 11:59 am

I found Sabbath's Theatre by Philip Roth pretty hard going at times. There's a pretty much constant onslaught of sex and sexual fantasies. It wears you down after a while. Trainspotting was a bit much for my fourteen year old brain at the time as well.

Apr 25, 2008, 8:07 am

Speaking of childhood trauma, I was in my early teens when I read The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea by Yukio Mishima. I had no business reading it at that age since it contains graphic sex and very gory violence. It has a kitten-torturing scene that was very hard to get through.

May 7, 2008, 3:00 pm

A.M. Homes' The End of Alice was horrifyingly offensive, but it didn't stop me from reading it. I still think it is one of the best written books I have ever read. It was just disgusting (themes of pedophilia and incest). I agree with the posts about American Psycho, but in terms of violence and disgust it doesn't hold a candle to Poppy Z. Brite's book Exquisite Corpse. Again: offensive, gives me nightmares, but I loved reading it.

May 7, 2008, 5:46 pm

#26: Scratch, have you read American Psycho? If you have and you know of a more violent novel, I would like to know what it is.

I have read a number of books featuring serial killers: The Collector, The Killer Inside Me, Felicia's Journey and Silence of the Lambs to name a few. Comparatively speaking, American Psycho is much more gruesome and violent than all of these books.

-- M1001

May 15, 2008, 6:53 pm

Yeah, I read it. I wasn't arguing with your assessment of its level of violence, I was just saying it strikes me as odd to read a book about a psycho and then complain about the violence inherent in the story. I mean, after I read Watership Down I didn't go around saying how there were too many rabbits in it, and I'm no fan of rabbits, to be sure.

May 15, 2008, 7:39 pm

I also thought The End of Alice was disturbing, and just plain gross at times, but thought provoking. I think the most offensive book I've ever read was Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter. I knew going in it would be violent, but I didn't expect a book by a female author to be so misogynistic. It seemed to me that the author deliberately had one of the main female characters, a wonderfully mouthy, doesn't play well with others bad girl put in her place by the end by doing something stupid and being brutally raped and physically enjoying the experience. I also felt like the author was very formulatic with her writing, but heaped on extra gross violence to get more attention drawn to the book (which was what happened).

May 16, 2008, 1:46 pm

On American Psycho- I agree with Scratch that you obviously have to expect a fairly high level of violence going into a book about a crazy murderer. That said, I too was taken aback by the explicitness of some of the scenes. I read this while living in New York, and it got so bad that I didn't like to read it on the train. Inevitably, someone would read a line over my shoulder, and, inevitably, look at me like I was a complete sicko for reading such a book.

I'm not complaining, per se, but I did find it highly offensive at times. On a related side note, I saw the movie first and expected the book to be similar. Foolish, I know. But the movie was so funny! I somehow thought the book would be too. Oops.

I'm sure I've read more offensive books, but the one coming to mind right now is She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. I don't generally read that type of books but one of my friends foisted it on me. What I found so offensive is that I found myself feeling compelled to keep reading while all the while my inner voice was yelling how wrong the book was. Ladies, I don't know about you, but I've managed to pack on some extra pounds over the years and obese to the level of people staring at you on the street is not 200 pounds. That's only one of the more egregiously false aspects of the book, but hopefully you get the idea. When I was done, I felt like I needed to, first, shower, then second, vindicate plump/curvy womankind.

And then there ais Dan Brown, aka the antichrist, and his "books." But if I start down that little primrose path, I might be able to get off.

Oh, and M 30: Trainspotting at 14, eh? I found that pretty disturbing at 25. Good- I really like Irvine Welsh and have read a number of his books- but really disturbing, so I can only imagine.

May 16, 2008, 2:00 pm

#36 I'm sure I've read more offensive books, but the one coming to mind right now is She's Come Undone ... obese to the level of people staring at you on the street is not 200 pounds. That's only one of the more egregiously false aspects of the book

I don't remember being offended by the weight issues in this book; I was more disturbed by the heroine stalking her roommate's ex, actually....

Re: the 200 lb. thing, though, similar things in other books -- and, more often, movies* -- have really irked me. I think it comes down to people's Hollywood-body delusions.

*The only one that comes immediately to mind is Batman, in which Kim Basinger's Vicki Vale chafes when the caped crusader chides her about claiming to weigh 108 pounds. (Basinger is 5' 7 1/2"!)

May 16, 2008, 2:08 pm

Oh, I completely agree that this is a common problem. I had forgotten that scene in Batman until you mentioned it but yeah. Ridiculous.

Yes, the stalking of the ex was indeed creepy and disturbing. The weight thing just got to me because he went on and on and on about how gigantic the heroine was, but then when he actually gave numbers, they were for a fairly heavy but not shocking gigantic woman. It was such a central theme to the book that it just irked me that he obviously hadn't actually checked into how much a morbidly obese (ie by the people stare definition, as opposed to the BMI) woman would weigh.

May 16, 2008, 2:22 pm

A worse example is Abby Frucht's Life Before Death, in which the protagonist's curvaceous friend is described as being sort of maternally, earth-goddess plump and then gaining wait to become lumpy-frumpy-doughy. (I don't know exactly how Frucht words it, but this is the general idea.) What got me was the fact that, at her heaviest, this character was only about 160 pounds! I think this bugs me more because the author is female and really ought to know better.

May 16, 2008, 6:14 pm

I really disliked A Confederacy of Dunces and don't care whether you are supposed to like the main character or not. The whole purpose of the book seems to me to be to make fun of a person who is retarded, poor, and with limited resources.

The other really offensive book was something that I think was self-published. I suspected that when I ordered it, but it was a vampire book so I wanted to check it out. It is The Guardian by Beecher Smith. It wasn't all the bad until the end.

They discover there is a vampire menacing Atlanta, (southern city ?). One of the police characters tells the higher ups, and they accept the information, and ask how to protect themselves. The informing character say, oh you just need to carry a crucifix and you will be safe. The higher up then asks about the Jewish officers, and the informer says, oh thats OK they can carry them too, they won't mind. Now I am not Jewish or even religious but I thought that was just appalling.

May 18, 2008, 5:27 pm

#36 I'm sure I've read more offensive books, but the one coming to mind right now is She's Come Undone ... obese to the level of people staring at you on the street is not 200 pounds. That's only one of the more egregiously false aspects of the book

The one that always gets me is Silence of the Lambs-saying that a size 14 woman is "roomy" and that she's actually big enough to fit the frame of Buffalo Bill. Not even close!

May 21, 2008, 7:46 pm

I agree with everyone who has mentioned American Psycho in this thread, although I am planning on trying to read it again, now that I can better appreciate and understand the satire in the movie. But I remember being so horrified by the violence and graphic pornographic sex that I had to return it to the library with 100 pages left to read.

On a similar note, I remember being absolutely horrified by Psycho by Robert Bloch when I was about 12 or so. I finished the book, and it is now one of my all time favorites, but I remember staying awake until midnight because I had been so terrified. My mom was NOT happy!

May 22, 2008, 9:35 am

#41: Surprised me that so many people found offensive the depiction of the protag's weight issues. I thought that on the whole, the male author's portrait of a troubled girl/woman was remarkably empathetic. "Egregiously false" was never a phrase I would have picked for it - I guess I felt it was more surprisingly accurate. And I have a really low tolerance for bad male attempts to write about women! (For instance, I dismiss Virgin Suicides b/c I just can't stomach men writing about women who kill themselves.)

May 23, 2008, 4:23 am

#43 Scratch - I hated Virgin Suicides and am sorry I read it. I guess it qualifies as offensive. The only reason I actually finished it was because I had it in the 888 challenge and have promised myself to finish everything I start this year.

Jul 2, 2008, 6:35 pm

Just wanted to tell everyone that I've really enjoyed reading this thread. I think I've learned more about people's tastes from this thread than any of the others -- maybe b/c you've all been so articulate in describing the details about why you disliked a particular book. It's given me some great ideas to use in my classroom when I try to teach my kids how to do book reports!

I generally close a book for good when I find the writing is so poor that I am doing constant rewrites in my head. That eliminates a lot of fiction, particularly popular fiction, for me. Or when the book is full of historical inaccuracies (I would have to say The DaVinci Code qualifies in that category) or anachronisms. The other thing I find unreadable is metaphors or similes that are so tortured that figuring them out involves both a dictionary and a road map -- I can forgive five or six of these, but when every other line is overloaded with ridiculously inapt and inept figurative language I usually give up.

GRAPHIC IMAGE ALERT: don't read on if you have a weak stomach!

And finally, if a book is written in such a way that I am totally unable to identify with anything or anyone in it, I give up. I remember abandoning The Witches of Eastwick when I read a line about one of the main characters stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce and thinking how like her menstrual blood it was. That pretty much did it for me. I am a woman, and I cook my own spaghetti sauce from scratch, but I have never, ever, ever looked into a pot of whatever I was cooking and thought about how much it reminded me of my bodily secretions. I may have missed a good book by closing that one, but I just couldn't get past that sentence. Any woman or character who thought that about spaghetti sauce was not one I wanted to know more about.

I hope I didn't offend anyone with that image. I still find it pretty sickening!

Jul 2, 2008, 7:43 pm

Rachel, you didn't miss much. At 15, I decided it was probably crap. I've read quite a bit more since then, and now I know it's crap. I haven't picked up any Updike since then either.

Jul 2, 2008, 8:04 pm

You know, I don't think I've met a person who has liked The Witches of Eastwick.

Jul 2, 2008, 8:22 pm

OH YUCK! Why does this not surprise me that it was written by a man? Women just don't think like that (at least none of the thousands of women I've talked with!). Thanks for the warning, I'll definitely avoid that book!

Edited: Jul 2, 2008, 8:37 pm

Rachel, I don't remember that specific line from Witches of Eastwick, so maybe I had put the book down before I got that far. Didn't like the movie, either.

I read a book once upon a time that was so poorly written, filled with such unlikable characters, and was so very sacreligious and bordering on blasphemous, that when I finished the book, I burned it. And I really hate to tell you all what book it is, because I hate to think that any of you would soil your minds by reading it ... or worse, put money in the author's pocket and encourage him to do it again. But here goes: God's Other Son: The Life and Times of the Rev. Billy Sol Hargus by Don Imus

Let me say - yes, I was raised in church. I understand why some people think that the Harry Potter books are evil (and I disagree with them). I understand why people find Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" to be blasphemous (I thought they were edging that way but hadn't gotten there; mostly the books were just uninteresting). I understand why some people are discombobulated by Neil Gaiman's "Good Omens" (which I thought was pretty funny, and definitely more funny than offensive). I say this to let y'all know, I try to read a book for itself. I don't have to agree with an author; the author just has to give me a compelling reason to accept what his characters believe. Well ... Don Imus's book wasn't funny. It was vulgar, it was sacreligious, it was blasphemous, it was offensive. It always felt like it was Don Imus who was pushing his personal beliefs, and not his characters being who they were.

So anyway, I read the book. Hated it. Put it up for a couple of years. Read it again. Hated it just the same. Burned it.

Jul 2, 2008, 11:56 pm

Don Imus is one of the top 20 most offensive people on the air today. I listened to one or two of his broadcasts, for about 4 minutes each, and then changed the dial. I didn't know he was literate enough to write a book, but I'll definitely avoid it.

I have to say I loved Good Omens, and I also love the Harry Potter series. Not being a Christian (or much of a Jew, either, for that matter) I really didn't understand on a gut level all the fuss about the books. Fiction is fiction -- meaning not true. Of course, I haven't read the mythical Protocols of the Elders of Zion which accuses Jews of drinking the blood of Christian babies, so I don't know how I'd react if that became a best seller. However, I did force myself, one year, to read Mein Kampf -- which was a scary exercise in circular reasoning.

I read the Pullman books about 7 years ago, and enjoyed the first one and was bored to tears with all the others. Just didn't think he was a very engaging author.

I'm interested, though we should probably start another thread about this. . .what do the faithful believe about so-called sacrilegious books? Not just the Christian faithful, but good Muslims? We all know that fatwas have been issued against certain Muslim authors, and if you go back to medieval days, and the early 17th century, both Jews and Christians excommunicated authors whose works contradicted sacred beliefs.

But what I'm interested in is what ordinary people do when they come across a book, like the Harry Potter books, that are immensely popular and culturally influential, but contradict their basic religious tenets. Do you let your kids read it, and then talk about what elements there are in it that you believe are really wrong? Or do you forbid them to read it?

As a teacher I encounter this dilemma frequently. What I have personally found is that once kids get to a fairly rational age (8th through 12 grades), discussing what parents find upsetting about the books works better than prohibiting them. The forbidden is always enticing.

My kids loved C. S. Lewis's Narnia books. Those are dripping with Christian symbolism. My daughter has done a lot of reading in the folk/fairy tale area -- and she often points out to me how grounded those are in Christian symbols. But we always talked about this stuff.

I know that I talked about EVERYTHING with my own three children. There were plenty of times that they were assigned texts I found disturbing, but I forced myself to read the books and then sat down with my kids and talked about why certain books upset me.

Of course, I'm an atheist, or a secular humanist, if you prefer, so I don't have many beliefs that I hold sacred. Most of the books my kids read that disturbed us were young adult books that showed evil people always triumphing, and ordinary people being helpless in the face of corruption. This idea is so antithetical to my own world view that I've spent a good part of my life combating it, both in my classroom and with my own children.

Every year I have at least one student who challenges me by asking if he/she can read Mein Kampf for a book report. They always expect me to recoil in horror, and prohibit the book. But instead, I encourage them to read it as an exercise in critical analysis, and then be prepared to discuss it, in depth with me. So far, in the past ten years, no one's taken me up on the challenge.

Anyway, I'd be interested in people's thoughts on this.

Edited: Jul 6, 2008, 8:12 am

Hm, I'd have to say for me it is Like Being Killed by Ellen Miller. I'm not really one for confrontational, in your face literature. (For that reason I would never choose to read American Psycho). I love books that explore sorrow, and human suffering, and human addiction very much, but I'm not so fond of graphic descriptions of sexual crime and violence. Yes, yes, it's all very powerful and stuff, but, eh, I could've lived without it I think. SPOILER Alert - I have no need to read about a woman forced to be sodomised with a gun, and then put it in her mouth, consequently contracting Hepatitis.

I read another book recently - fantasy - the first in a five book series. It was The Harlequin's Dance. I started to read book 2 and gave up at around 60 pages, after I realised, more and more, how much the damn books offended me.

In the first one there's a horrible incidence of cruelty to a cat. Really graphic, and terrible. That alone nearly stopped me. I rationalised it: 'it's just showing the nastiness of this particular character.' Then there was the 'fat woman': the large, naive, fervent lady who believed she was beautiful, and was shown to stuff her face and drop food down her front in nearly every scene she was in. I just got tired of the author's patent mockery by the end. And then there was the flower-petal scene. Main character (teenage boy) starts romping around in the woods with a nubile wild girl. Now that's all fine and good. But, truly, Mr Arden, I don't really wish to know how - in graphic detail - wild girl sticks flower petals onto her own, and her beloved's, face by rubbing each petal in mingled bodily fluids.

Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww....seriously. Ew.

So, all five books are going into the To-Sell box.

Rachel - when I was 13 we had to do a book review on a biography. I chose Is That It? by Bob Geldof. Most other kids did theirs on Roald Dahl's biography. What an eye-opener that was! I remember I got my grade and an 'interesting choice' comment. I didn't realise at the time how blessed I was to have an English teacher who would allow a 13 year to review a very adult book.

eta - oh just a few little things

Jul 10, 2008, 12:08 pm

#51-Severn, omg! I read Like Being Killed also and I had the same thought about, um, the cucumber scene. "Nothing too humiliating for this character to enjoy," I remarked to myself. I did, however, find it a rather powerful book. I guess the point was that the main character was a really f**ked up woman. Really, really f'd up. OK fine. Let's all move on now. :-)

Jul 10, 2008, 12:15 pm

#45-Rachel, your second paragraph is all about the editing!! Interesting from this editor's p.o.v. I think a lot of the disappointments you describe could be avoided if publishers would edit and copyedit in a more rigorous manner. The lack truly produces some books that are offensive strictly on editorial grounds. (See, for instance, my curt review of Martha Grimes's Dakota.)

Jul 10, 2008, 12:24 pm

If I'm to be honest, if I don't like a book, I don't bother finishing it. Recently I have stopped reading The Jane Austen Book Club and Two Caravans because I found both dull. My philosophy is, life is too short to continue with dull books!

Jul 10, 2008, 2:07 pm

Scratch, #53, was absolutely right in pointing out that my real problem with certain authors may be the poor editorial help they've gotten. I just struggled through two books by an LT author, TK Kenyon, and I barely got through them. Someone who is fluent in English should have taken the original manuscripts and gone through them with the proverbial red pen! And someone in authority should have taken the dear lady aside and asked what it was, exactly, she wanted to write about. Both books are such a mish-mash of strained and intrusive metaphors, poor writing in general, and the most hackneyed and awkward characterizations that I had difficulty in even discerning the plot of each book. I attended a wonderful seminar given by an award winning YA author who actually drew a plot arc on the whiteboard for her audience, and explained that she was of the "old school" who felt a story should have a beginning, a middle, a climax, and some sort of resolution. I can only hope that her audience of would-be authors listened!

Jul 10, 2008, 9:33 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Sep 26, 2008, 4:57 pm

#30 --

I totally agree with you -- Sabbath's Theatre was incredibly difficult to get through. I read it for a literature class I was taking on the work of Philip Roth -- and loved so many of his other books, especially American Pastoral -- but had a rough time getting some of the crude, horrifically graphic sex scenes out of my head. Several of the scenes come to mind now, years later! And definitely not in a pleasant way!

Edited: Sep 26, 2008, 6:35 pm

I read Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom as a preteen and somehow, despite sadism being a very minor part of my sexuality (if any), it got all mixed up with the onset of pubescence, because I ended up having sexually tinted nightmares for literally MONTHS. It was terrifying. I had a hard time getting through the book as I was reading it too (I tend to vividly imagine everything), but for some reason I decided I HAD to finish it no matter what, as a test of my mettle. Well, I did finish it.

I don't actually find the book that offensive as a work of literature though, although obviously it's a little disgusting, though not that graphic; I find it very fascinating, an interesting work of imagination, a curious anthropological artifact, philosophical exercise, etc etc etc. But so far, no other book has evoked such a strong visceral reaction of horror and shock in me.

edit: I suppose this doesn't really answer the question posed (I mean, it's obviously not AWFUL LITERATURE to me), but it's the closest thing I could think of.

Sep 26, 2008, 9:18 pm

amaranthic, I think your story tops mine. When I was twelve, I read Deep Throat, the autobiography (I think) of Linda Lovelace. While not as graphic as the book you read, it definitely has left mental images with me many years later. I still have flashbacks of a sort whenever I eat red hot candies. I think the most bizarre part of the whole thing is that my mother never told me not to read it.

Sep 26, 2008, 11:48 pm

I haven't yet read Obama Nation: leftist politics and the cult of personality yet, but I'm sure it will make this list.

The most offensive book I have read has to be: City of the Red Night by William S. Burroughs. Not only was it all a pretty bad, trippy, time traveling dream sequence, but it was filled with unnecessary male rape, right, left, and center.

I understand using sex to further a plot, I just don't want to read non consensual sex instead of a plot.

Sep 27, 2008, 11:00 pm

Well I haven't finished it yet but I'd have to say Frankenstien. It's such a short book and its just so boring to read. I've finished about 6 books since I started it. I read classics and I was excited about this one but its a real bore.

Sep 28, 2008, 9:25 am

I found your e-mail particularly interesting. My high school education included reading books that were directed against my religion. My teachers were concerned that we know why the authors were writing what they wrote and to understand that usually they weren't wrong about everything. We spent a lot of time with Camus. We understood that he wasn't pro-religion but he wasn't represented as antithecal to religion and in his way spiritual.

I have read the Harry Potter books and enjoyed them. Their vision of reality is limited as most people in the world practice religion and it crosses their world; the fat friar ghost for example. But ultimately it's a children's book and fantasy at that. I don't remember too many (if any) religious references in Grimm's fairy tales. Actually, I have always thought that Lewis's Tales of Narnia a bit too religious; it slows down the action, but kids love them anyway.

I don't agree with religion and science masquerading as something else. Creationism is a complete waste of time and dangerous to actual science. The misguided philosophy of Jonathan Dworkin that masquerades as science is just as wrong and wrong-headed. But in no case should we try to limit the respective proponents from airing their arguments. The public (ala John Adams) needs to be educated and then make their own decisions.

I'm not sure any book should be banned although I sometimes think that they need to come with warning labels. Anyone who recommends the bible for light reading needs to read Mark Twain's essay. The section on Lot and his daughters; needs explaining at the very least.

The Marquis de Sade is a terrible circular writer; so is Adolph Hitler. Maybe it goes with the territory. Read if you want or have ability to turn off the boredom circuits.

Thanks for your e-mail.

Sep 28, 2008, 3:55 pm

I'll have to add The Picture of Dorian Gray to my list of repulsion.

Oct 12, 2008, 7:59 pm

I would have to say the most offensive book I've read and finished was The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler.

I had to read this for school and I found it to be a very misguided attempt at feminism. Also, some of the "facts" that are presented in the book are laughable. Also the author, as well as the person who wrote the introduction, try to lead you to conclusions without any shred of evidence. The way in which things are worded are intended to leave you with one idea but if you actually THOUGHT about what you had just read it's evident how ridiculous that conclusion was. Also, the total lack of substantiating evidence in general drove me crazy. She also makes blanket statements and doesn't back them up...I believe one was that all homeless women have been sexually abused....I highly doubt that ALL of them had this happen to them. ugh. I'm now ranting.

okay, I'm done. I just really disliked this book. :)

Dec 19, 2008, 10:29 pm

By definition, anything worthy of being called 'Literature' cannot be called awful. The title of this thread should be 'Awful Writing' and the best description would be 'Rubbish in Print'. A great deal of the anguish may be related to the education and temperament of the reader. For instance, one reader called The Age of Jackson, a work about President Andrew Jackson, the 'worst rubbish I ever tried to read', even though it is frequently listed as one of the best works of history to be published in the Twentieth Century. Obviously it was not to the taste or inclinations of this reader, but his review is so far from the opinions of those experts in the field that it is also obvious that he was not ready for such a work. Try getting a ten year old child to appreciate Shakespeare and one can see that he simply is not ready for such advanced writing. Let's keep this all in perspective.

Dec 19, 2008, 10:45 pm

Dear FicusFan,
Just so you know, A Confederacy of Dunces is recommended by Hallie Ephron Ph.D. in her new work 1001 Books for Every Mood. Perhaps you were not in the mood for this kind of writing. Perhaps many others would actually enjoy it, when they're in the mood. What mood were you in? Moods color everything, and can often conceal excellence from the mind. When you were in that mood, what written works appealed to you? This brings up the question as to whether 'Awful Lit.' means poorly written or simply not simpatico with a our moods, personality or worldview. I would prefer to hear from those who can steer me away from 'Poorly Written' writings. Does a work have to be Offensive or simply poorly done to be 'Awful'?

Edited: Dec 19, 2008, 10:47 pm

Kplatypus, I couldn't agree more. I didn't mind the book overall, although I would have liked to have slapped the girl in it, can't remember her name, Deloris or something like that. I am over 200lbs and I am fairly sure that people don't stare at me in the streets because of my weight. I can buy clothes off the rack so I can't be that much bigger than a lot of other women. I do remember feeling the same way as you when I read that. I don't think Wally Lamb really knows what 200lb people look like.

Dec 19, 2008, 11:09 pm

The Lovely Bones. Still makes me angry.

Dec 19, 2008, 11:21 pm

Hi ellevee

Do you mind if I ask why it makes you angry?

Dec 20, 2008, 10:09 am

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. I still can't believe I read that book!

Dec 20, 2008, 10:56 am

It's badly written, and schmaltzy, and one scene in particular made me throw the book down and scream, "Oh Come ON!". And I just got sick of everyone telling me how great it was, and how I just didn't "get" it. I got it. I just didn't LIKE it.

Dec 21, 2008, 11:13 pm

My friend suggested Venti Jesus Please to me last year. I find it very offensive because it made me feel Christians have no respect for other religions. Although, it did get me to a great website that has proven otherwise.

I don't like to read books that offend (or over exagerate the good) any kind of religion. Other than that, I'm not so easily offended by much.

Dec 22, 2008, 1:24 am

What some people find offensive is amazing to me sometimes.

For instance, I remember reading Piers Anthony's short story collection Anthonology no later than middle school and possibly more like late elementary school. And I was reading specifically for the four "dirty" stories in it.

I like at least a little violence in my fiction. Ditto for sex, even weird sex. It rarely bother me over much if the descriptions are graphic and detailed. In some instances I'd be disappointed if they weren't.

I'm curious about the alleged historical inaccuracies of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. It was more or less the essential ideas of Holy Blood, Holy Grail incorporated as plot elements of a mystery novel. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the historical speculations of Holy Blood, Holy Grail have not been established as true beyond a reasonable doubt, but neither has the established history that the wilder speculations contradict. Such is the nature of history.

Dec 29, 2008, 6:55 am

I have to agree with all who disliked American Psycho though not necessarily for the same reasons. I read alot of mysteries and thrillers with their share of violence. My main thought was that the author needs years of therapy if he was able to imagine the horrific things done to some of the women in that book. Why is he not in a rubber room?

Dec 29, 2008, 7:16 am

Maybe I sound old fashioned, but I hated Fanny Hill. I don't mind graphic sex at all, but this was all about a male fantasy of violent penetration that splits women in half almost. All about large cocks and tight vaginas.

Dec 29, 2008, 11:00 am

I don't understand all the hating on The Da Vinci Code. It's a work of fiction, and as far as I can tell, doesn't pretend to be anything else. The opening of "everything I'm about to tell you is true" is a pretty standard one for novels, especially gothic fiction. I thought it was a fun lightweight read -- nothing impressive, but it kept me turning the pages. While I read it, I also kept my computer handy to look up photographs of all the monuments, paintings, and churches referenced in it, which added to the enjoyment.

What I was surprised by, however, was the extreme reaction to the book. A lot of people seem to want the story to be true, and a lot of other people are threatened by that idea. I have no dog in the fight, so to me it's all just entertainment.

Jan 3, 2009, 12:15 am

OK, this book made me so angry I could not finish it, and I read everything (including all 3 Dan Brown works in spite of the fact that he is an absolutely horrible writer) - State of Fear by Michael Crichton. I can read well-written novels that have a point of view that is not mine - and I have before. I have even read other books by him that I liked. But this one, which is trying to prove that global warming is fake, it was just so heavy handed about it and the footnotes and graphs were like a huge big example for the next edition of "How to Lie with Statistics." I really had to stop in the middle.

Edited: Jan 3, 2009, 11:51 am

I didn't exactly get through it, but I skipped through to get the gist of it and managed the movie - American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis. I tried so hard, but it just kept making me feel sick. Heads in microwaves and weird necrophiliac rites, eeeeeurgh. The certificate-18 movie was a doddle to get through compared to the book!

Oh - and the Dorian Gray 'update' by Will Self - none of the sparkle of Wilde and lots and lots of crudeness. I'll stick with the original.

Jan 3, 2009, 11:50 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jan 3, 2009, 3:37 pm

I took a class entilted "Literary Minimalism" several years ago, taught by one of those awful professors who equated being Cool with being Shocking. I'm not easily repelled (American Psycho is fine satire, as far as I'm concerned,) but I can think of four works we read for the class that were seriously squirm-inducing: Blood and Guts in High School, which traded heavily in teenage daddy-love, A Crack-Up at the Race Riots, which included list after list of badly written awfulness (suicide notes, racist statements, etc.,) My Loose Thread, which, again, featured lots of graphic teenage sex and violence, and Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist, which was a graphic novel chock full of chopped off penises dripping goo. I got through them all, but not happily.

Jan 3, 2009, 7:59 pm

I was offended by the simpering lightweight airhead portrayal of Guinevere in the book of the same name by Sharan Newman. If it had been written with the intent of making her the bad guy (as in ...was it the Bernard Cornwell series?) that would have worked, but for such a stupid girl to be cast as sympathetic heroine really burned me for some reason.

Snow Crash contains a scene wherein an adult has sex with a 16 year old and it is treated as though this is okay. That offends me.

American Psycho did not offend me. It contains graphic sex and violence, but that's kind of the point. I knew what I was getting into when I mooched it.

I must say I have enjoyed reading this thread as well. Thank you everyone for your well-thought out contributions.

Edited: Jan 4, 2009, 11:19 am

Don't get me wrong - I knew American Psycho would be graphic and I did really want to get through it. I wouldn't say it offended me exactly, I'm not usually that bothered by violence in context, it just made me want to vomit! It might have been the point, but it wasn't exactly conducive to finishing the book... :-)

Jan 4, 2009, 11:26 am

I like American Psycho, although the scene with the rat still gives me nightmares, but it's also one of the rare cases where the movie is better than the book. I also think it's pretty funny that women wrote and directed the adaptation.

Edited: Jan 6, 2009, 2:12 am

Snow Crash contains a scene wherein an adult has sex with a 16 year old and it is treated as though this is okay. That offends me.

Interesting. In certain places it would be quite acceptable, such as the state of Michigan or the U.K.

Jan 6, 2009, 6:05 am

>84 khyron1144:: khyron1144: And in many other places too, I'm sure. But I had a 16 year old daughter when I read it.

Jan 9, 2009, 8:59 am

I don't think I've ever read anything really graphic as it doesn't really appeal, but I remember abandoning the Robin Hobb fantasy series because there was so much sexual violence from these invaders and it was being used as a form of conquer.

Some novels justify the violence if it teaches us something about humanity, like Mister Pip for example, but there is a limit to how many books like that I can read.

I agree with comments about the C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia novels, there will always be a part of me from childhood who loves them, but re-reading them as an adult and seeing all the blatant Christian imagery did leave quite a sour taste. A lion sacrificing himself so that the innocent child could live etc. etc. ugh. Esp. as the child reader probably would not realise what this imagery meant, it may be the perfect means of indoctrination. I think, if your children do read them, get them to talk about them etc.!

Jan 9, 2009, 10:17 am

NO:10 extrajoker-I think we may have read a different version of this book..??(Stormfront)
I don't remember any prominate stereotyped characters-I felt many of the female character to be fairly strong and independent-and harry was a bit of a "damsel in distress" at times himself...bit then its a long time since I read that book and perhaps the characters have develped over the series(i've read them all). Ive certainly read worse books for gender stereotyping..although I can't think of one of hand.

Jan 11, 2009, 10:19 pm

I read one book that repulsed me to the extent that I burned it. That is an extreme reaction for me as I hate destroying any book. Usually I sell them or donate them, but I just *could not* send this book back out into the world where someone impressionable might read it.
The reason was that the book included more than a few extremely graphic and detailed animal tortures and mutilations. It also took the point of view that such acts were the justifiable result of disliking one's parents. In my opinion, there is nothing that should permit such horrific acts toward a living creature.

Jan 11, 2009, 10:29 pm

I have to agree with many of the above discussions...American Psycho was total dreck, I did not get that far into it. The Vagina Monologues is total crap too.

Then there are a couple of books I tried to read in High School It by Stephen King and Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. Both of those books totally creeped me out and I put them in the trash without finishing either of them.

Jan 12, 2009, 9:44 am

>#88: Taleri, what was the book?

Jan 12, 2009, 10:50 am

#90 I don't remember! I never thought I would have a reason to remember the title, and I actively tried to forget the rest.

Jan 12, 2009, 10:59 am

I never read American Psycho but I thought his other book Glamorama was quite possibly the worst book I have ever read, but finished. I won't go anywhere near this author ever again. He's terrible and the inane/pointless violence are well, I agree with the "rubber room" comment. Maybe it's satire and I just don't get it.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn still rates pretty high on the intensely disturbing scale and I read it over a decade ago. It is about a cult that supports voluntary amputation. I finished it, but it's one of those things I wish I never read.

Jan 12, 2009, 12:50 pm

I had to read Anthem by Ayn Rand in high school. I rolled my eyes so much, especially at the ending, that I almost had to have them surgically reoriented.

Jan 13, 2009, 8:05 am

#89 The vagina monologues is one of my favourite pieces and I think denouncing it as crap does rather conform to the stereotype of deonoucing anything ultimitely feminine if it mentions parts of ourselves. However, maybe I'm being a bit of a feminist stereotype myself. I just do find it very interesting - harrowing at times yes, but still these things have to be raised and said publicly.

Jan 14, 2009, 6:23 am

The one book that sticks out for me recently has to be: Twisted Head by Carl Capotorto.

This book was supposed to be funny, but there were some places in the book I did not find entertaining at all, and in fact I found them kind of hurtful and insulting. For example, towards the beginning of the book Mr. Capotoro was talking about growing up Catholic and going to catechism classes, as well as serving as an alter boy. First he starts off by saying that the transubstantiation that occurs during the Mass is "magic" and constitutes as cannibalism (He also mentions snacking on the communion wafers with the alter boys while drinking the communion wine in the sacristy). Ok, fine, I can deal with someones differing point of religious view from mine. But then he says: "There ought to be a support group for former alter boys who, like me, were not subjected to sexual advances. What did the others have that we lacked?" (pg. 79 in the proof) it's one thing to make jokes about a religion (especially if you were once part of it) but it's another to poke fun/make jokes using sexual abuse victims.

Edited: Jan 14, 2009, 9:06 pm

With a doubt, Twilight. It boggles my mind not that people like it as escapist fluff, but that there are people who think it's actually a good, well-written book.

Jan 15, 2009, 1:12 pm

Oh, I forgot about Dan Burns. Angels and Devils is way up there. I am Muslim and it was really awfully offensive. I don't mind Muslim bad guys (hey, it's unrealistic not to expect ANY) but boy, that was really annoying. Not to mention his writing style which makes me want to scream.

Jan 15, 2009, 1:16 pm

I also despise Interview With The Vampire. I can't finish it. I just CAN'T.

Jan 15, 2009, 4:34 pm

Have to agree on Michael Crichton's State of Fear. I am not a climatologist, but I have been learning (and studying) about that stuff ever since I did a paper in grade 12 on the Mauna Loa CO2 measurements way back in 1985, and what they would indicate for the future. So I can pretty quick see whether something's sound or not. I did finish that one, but tried to forget it as soon as possible.

The other one that *really*, REALLY made me angry, was Nevil Shutes On the Beach. The portrayal of the women was so straight 1950s (or even earlier), that it made it very hard for me to sympathise at all. Same with some of the male characters, they never came to life for me. At the end, if I hadn't been on a high speed train where the windows cannot be opened, I would have hurled the thing out the window! *argh!* People have tried to convince me that it is a classic, but one thing of classics is that they are timeless. This most definitely isn't. Made me wish they had dropped a few bombs on Australia, too (sorry, mates!).

Jan 16, 2009, 5:07 am

#98: I have tried several times to read Interview With the Vampire as well, and have failed each time. It's just not very interesting, especially compared to the next three books in the series (all of which I loved). I think you could probably chalk this up to the fact that Interview was Rice's first novel and there was a gap of several years before The Vampire Lestat was released, during which time the author must have been working on improving her style. Either that or she switched editors, who knows.

I have the first volume of The Vampire Chronicles, which contains Interview and Lestat along with The Queen of the Damned and Tales of the Body Theif and one of my goals this year is to read the entire thing through without stopping to read any other novels. Hopefully I'll be able to plow through Interview to get to the goodies behind it.

Apr 6, 2009, 9:44 am

For me anything related to animal cruelty immediately disturbs me. Far more than humans, though not sure why. Especially cats. I remember a sentence in Oryx and Crake to do with nastiness to cats and have never forgotten it. And I know there are others.

May 14, 2009, 7:07 pm

I haven't thought of that book in years. I had to read it in high school in the early 70's. I can vaguely remember thinking that Mrs. Moral was a bitch to her husband who wasn't good enough for her. but Lawerance had the English class system of the time down pat.

May 14, 2009, 7:24 pm

On the Beach was probably the worst of Shute's books, best known because of the movie.

does it make a differance in awfulness rating that it was written in the 50's, he was writng about the world as he knew it.

May 14, 2009, 10:11 pm

Here on Earth was so repulsively misogynistic that I felt awful through the entire thing. Hoffman mirrored Wuthering Heights for her novel, but failed to put anything original to the story beyond demeaning sex and physical abuse. It's as if she said, "You know what would improve Bronte's tale? If Heathcliff turned Catherine into his sex slave." Ugh.

May 14, 2009, 11:49 pm

Well this is just the COOLEST thread!

I liked A Confederacy of Dunces but I understand why others may not have enjoyed it. Ignatius's absurdities just tickled me to death, particularly the whole thing with the hot dog cart.

I've not read many of the books listed because I'm not a big fiction reader BUT:

Geek Love. Took me months to get THAT one out of my head. The whole amputation thing was just squig-worthy.

Twilight Someday someone will HAVE to explain to me how it is that book ever got published let alone became popular. I simply despair for today's youth.

I didn't read American Psycho but I did read succumb to the hype and read Hannibal when that came out and if there is a book more deserving of being toasted on a stick I'm hard-pressed to imagine it. The graphic violence, terror and the way the author completely raped the characters was... well, I don't even have words. If I ever run into Thomas Harris I would be tempted to grab him by the ear and ask him just exactly he thought he was doing. Then I'd give a wedgie the likes of which even his descendants would feel.

There, I feel much better now!

May 15, 2009, 11:02 am

>Then I'd give a wedgie

Now that's just offensive. Consider yourself flagged.


May 15, 2009, 11:04 am

Oh now, don't make me call a wedgie fight!

May 15, 2009, 11:07 am

Nyah nyah. You have to have pants on to get a wedgie!

Er, did I just say that?

May 15, 2009, 11:31 am

New topic:

Morph's not wearing PANTS! Morph's not wearing PANTS!

May 15, 2009, 11:39 am

You two! Now just stop this brangling, or I'll have to tell the Hall Monitor!

I swanEE, these days....

May 16, 2009, 4:49 pm

#24: This might sound odd, but I'm usually not put off by an author's take on his or her subject. Either I like how the author pulls it off or hate it when the author doesn't. Vonnegut is one of those that does a good job. I'm not sure I think "Camus" when I think "Vonnegut" in any case. Equally I can't see many arguing that Camus was anti-Christan. He seemed to be more of a pantheist, but I don't recall any meaningful putdowns of any religion.

May 16, 2009, 4:56 pm

I read The Red Dragon a long time ago. I believe I liked it. As I remember the main character was a professor teaching a class on Blake. The back and forth on the dragon image was pretty neat (neat... I'm so very old).

May 16, 2009, 5:06 pm

The most offensive book I ever got through was the Qur'an. I recommend it though because of its very offensiveness. We need to know just what is in it.

May 20, 2009, 2:54 pm

re: 113

Likewise the Bible has lots of disturbing things in it, like offering up your daughters to a mob bent on raping guests, then the murder of a concubine, genocide, ethnic cleansing, etc.

We need to know what's in it.

May 20, 2009, 7:04 pm

113, 114: The problem with both those books is there is so they are occluded by so much cultural accretion that its difficult to sit down and read the words on the page and simply consider their meaning. They both very strange books with moments of min blowing insanity.

Imagine being an alien and reading either of these volumes of Grand Guignol, without the cultural filters. Oof.

May 21, 2009, 11:55 am

The first time I read the Bible as opposed to the selected bits mentioned in Sunday School, I kept stopping and staring at the page and going, "They're doing WHAT? That can't be right." I have to admit, though, the stories of the kings and judges of Israel are pageturners.

May 22, 2009, 8:16 am

Oh, there are some awful, naughty sections of the Bible. Try wearing some of these T-shirts:


Jun 1, 2009, 3:33 pm

Does it count that I thought my intelligence was being insulted when I read Watchmen? I rather enjoyed some other works by Alan Moore, such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but Watchmen was just agonizing and painful for some reason. I couldn't even bring myself to finish it (though I heard the ending involves a giant alien squid? No, that's not completely outrageous and nonsensical at all). It's hailed as "one of the greatest graphic novels of all time," but the majority of the fanbase seems to worship the most repulsively narrow-minded character. Also, sexism seems to be abounding in it. Though no one seems to notice?

(Also, Wicked. Was Maguire trying to write a fantasy story, or really political porn? Because I felt terribly dirty while reading it. )

Jun 2, 2009, 4:49 am

Well, the giant alien squid in Watchmen did make sense. It sounds very crazy, but it did make sense. At least to me. And I liked the comic, but it was a heavy read at times, unlike most other comic books, and the characters really aren't supposed to be role models of any sort. But fandom has this way of warping characters until they're unrecognisable.

Edited: Jun 11, 2009, 3:20 pm

Hogg, by Samuel Delany. It took me five tries to get through it (although I got about 60% of the way through on the first try). It's really... something else...

A lot of the books mentioned above aren't offensive at all - some are dumb or badly written, sure, but not offensive. Even American Psycho is not that offensive compared to the above. My head hurts just remembering.

Aug 9, 2009, 3:51 am

I was offended by The Celestine Prophesy not because of content, but because it was so badly written.

I was offended by Coetzee's Disgrace. First to forgive or accept rape as some kind of political atonement for the sins of others is ridiculous. Also I believe that if the rapist and the victim had been of the same race, it would have been considered in an altogether different light. I really hated that book.

Aug 9, 2009, 5:32 am

For most offensive because of content, it's a toss-up between Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, and Holy Blood, Holy Grail by that unholy trinity of utter cow dung for brains, Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln.

Mein Kampf is both horrible in writing and idea content, but also terribly intriguing and fascinating. You find yourself reading sound ideas on social policy - like schools should not only educate children intellectually, but also encourage developing healthy bodies ... and then the very next sentence will slide into this vile diatribe against the Jews despoiling the purity of German blood, or some such nonsense. It's hard to read for many reasons, but if you want to understand how societies go collectively mad, this is the ultimate guidebook.

Holy Blood, Holy Grail is just layers of scam and stupidity piled on, *and* it's not even well-written. The authors had prior knowledge that the man from whom they took their "earthshattering" story was a complete, known, well-documented con artist, and still they abetted his self-aggrandizing scheme. There aren't even any really creative 'revelations' hiding in the book, because frankly, everything they posit had been done to death before. A modicum of research, such as was done for the Salon expose, would have prevented this travesty from being published as "nonfiction."

Lastly, for the worst editing job ever to make it to print, the more recent edition of The Lost Prince by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. The typos, the major errors, make the book nigh unreadable. Not to mention this is one of her older works being republished as "new" with a new title and cover. I felt cheated for having paid for it -wanted a return or exchange.

Aug 15, 2009, 1:11 am

Maybe it's just me, but reading Bastard Out of Carolina made me want to go out and do harm to some ass.... out there.

Aug 15, 2009, 12:59 pm

>123 JimThomson:

Nah, Bastard Out of Carolina was pretty messed up. I had to read it for an English Lit course and went into it with interest, but came out pretty traumatized - though I thought that was just my weird reaction to intense scenes of drug/alcohol use or abuse in novels.

Aug 16, 2009, 12:02 am

Let's see: "Because they hate," by Bridget Gabriel -- (can we stir up the massses with a bit of fear and dribble and make you money at the same time?) I detested Saramago's "Blindness," for its unbelieveable plot, boring narrative and scenes of violence and sex did not add to any part of the novel accept to perpetuate stereotypes. When there is reason for sex and violence: when they add to the plot and maybe cause a climax, I understand them. But, Saramago manipulates the book and characters until they are utterly unbelievable. Although many -- most will disagree with me, I have to put "lolita," on that list. I am sure that the best authors can wax eloquently on the pile of dog crap that I have on my lawn and if they do it well enough, might be able to be a renound writer. But, in the end, it is just a pile of dog crap and there is no real value in the story. Just my humble and mostlikely exclusive opinion.

Aug 18, 2009, 2:26 pm

riani1, #116: "I have to admit, though, the stories of the kings and judges of Israel are pageturners."

And the book of Leviticus put me to sleep (but I had been warned, heheh. I think only law students will get a kick out of that book!)

Aug 19, 2009, 9:58 pm

Well, I certainly agree with most of you. The trouble I have is with certain authors who mix blood,violence AND sex. Just to name a few, I had to quit reading Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. It just started getting weird. I tried Charlaine Harris, made it through True Blood, but just barely got through Living Dead in Dallas. I did pretty well with Anne Rice and the Vampire Chronicles, but had to bail after reading Memnoch the Devil--and I'd rather not go into why on that one, either. As you can see, I'm a glutton for punishment--I hate leaving a book I started unfinished regardless of how much it offends me.

Sep 12, 2009, 5:28 am

I realise that most critics and most readers will disagree with me but I found Perfume made me want to throw up. I finished it but found it disgusting and that the anti-hero was rewarded for what he did just made it worse.

Sep 19, 2009, 3:50 am

The Vampire Lestat

I had to stop reading out of embarrassment because it was so badly written.

I enjoyed Interview with the Vampire and I am currently re-reading it.

Sep 21, 2009, 4:14 am

I detest Rice's Beauty trilogy. I hate anything that intimates that people who are raped receive sexual gratification.

Sep 21, 2009, 7:59 am

#128 pinkozcat - I read Perfume with a sick sort of fascination. Fortunately most of the details have become hazy.

Sep 22, 2009, 7:52 am

Wow. I've been a bit surprised by some of the titles listed here. I actually like some of the ones that others find offensive... I read Hart's Hope by Orson Scott Card recently, and that is pretty offensive, I think. I liked it, though. My dad said he tried to read it a few years back, got halfway through it, and threw it in the trash. He doesn't do that with books, ever. Just that one.

Oct 12, 2009, 4:51 am

118> of Watchmen, the alien squid in the end indeed makes sense, when you get there.
And I believe use of sexism was intentional and commenting on sexism of superhero comics in general: the first Silk Spectre used it, the second had to deal with it.
And if some people idolize Rorschach, that tells more about people than the book.

Generally speaking...there are books which offend me in a good way. Bible has plenty of "I'm sorry, WHAT is happening?" moments in it and I was also fond of the heavy allegory of Narnia. And several Flannery O'Connor stories...
Same goes for sex'n'violence; I loved Titus Andronicus and prologue to 120 days of Sodom (haven't read the rest of the book). Likes of Yukio Mishima and Shohei Ooka can also do delightfully nasty books...

Being poorly written is however a crime and lots of rubbish has been done by rehashing an old plot and adding some sex and violence to it to make it more "interesting", "adult" or "contemporary".
And I have a sort of interest/hate relationship to Dan Brown books, I am itching to start writing editing comments in the marginals...

Dec 18, 2009, 11:23 pm

The War Against the Chtorr series by David Gerrold has too many scenes of senseless violence and abuse. There's one scene where apuppy is tortured by the alien critter in captivity. I ripped the book in 2 and threw it in the trash. I never do that. I don't eben like to crack the spines on paperbacks.

Dec 19, 2009, 3:33 am

i can never handle a book that has animal cruelty in it. I will read through a book but once something like that come up I am done. I wont even keep the book. I would have done the same
I started a book not to long ago that was a customer of mine suggested. It was a vampire book so I thought, I will give it a try, I like dark stuff. NO WAY! I could not get past the 3rd chapter. There was so much street slang, I felt like I was reading something a high school student wrote. I just cold not get into it.

Dec 19, 2009, 11:32 pm

I'm so happy to see people post comments on this thread about books that are really popular. I got a few chuckles because I had some of the same reactions to books that others here had. So I hope I can dare say that, although it's not the most offensive book I've ever read, it was the worst I read this year, and everyone seems to love it - The Time Traveler's Wife. Ugh, on so many levels....

Dec 29, 2009, 5:03 pm

My mother loaned me White Oleanders. I shoulda known it'd suck from the bit O on the front. When has Oprah ever gotten it right?


So was She's Come Undone. Hated it.

Feb 28, 2010, 12:19 pm

15, 16, 20, 40,

Ignacious P. Reilly is an antihero. Yes he is mentally ill and barely functioning, and yes he accidentally destroys people he comes in contact with, and yes he has no money and an alcoholic enabling mother and yes we do laugh at him, not with him.

But we laugh at all the hilarious characters in A Confederacy of Dunces. I think, along with that Communist satire and fantasy-filled Master and Margarita, Toole's only book is one of the funniest books I have ever read.

I didn't find him endearing, but I didn't find him disturbing.

I know most of these arguments are about writing about or presumably making fun of, the mentally ill. But we don't have to dislike all distubing and/or mentally-deranged characters. I'd hate to have to just chuck my copies of Gilgamesh. The Oresteia, Metamorphoses, The Canterbury Tales, Lolita, Burmese Days, Ulysses, The Sound and the Fury, and many others.

As for offensive, a "non-fiction" title comes to mind. The Secret is some kind of metaphysics-meets-electromagnetic radiation garbage written by some ditsy Sheila who doesn't know a thing about either. I don't mean to sound sexist. I think I'm just really jealous of all the money Ms. Byrne made on that crap, a few years back.

Sep 5, 2010, 11:53 am

One of my teachers in university was the type mentioned before: one who thinks being ''shocking'' means ''being cool". He was so desperate to make us like him (it was his first year at teaching) that he wouldn't even teach, he'd just chit chat about some authors, his life, or try to explain why THE SIMPSONS was a delight to his intellect because it featured quotations or parodies from more obscure works.

Anyway, his list of books to read was awful and filled with the worse antisocial/cynical books about sex...

We had to read George Bataille's pornographic Histoire de l'Oeil and it made me sick. I had no idea what was so philosophical about children peeing and shitting on each other while group masturbating. Still waiting for someone to explain, since the only comment the teacher gave about this book on the day we had to finish reading it was: ''It's pretty gross, eh? Haha, yeah, interesting book'' and he changed the subject.

We also had to read Les lois de l'hospitalité by Pierre Klossowski. I made a big effort to read the first 100 pages, but when I understood the whole book was going to be about a woman getting raped and kinda liking it, I put it away and started actively hating my teacher and being a bitch in his classes.

Dec 4, 2010, 5:45 pm

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Ugh!!!

Edited: Dec 4, 2010, 11:15 pm

Perfume by Patrick Suskind sickened me. I really don't know why I finished it.

Dec 6, 2010, 5:49 pm

Ploughed through most of "Last Exit to Brooklyn" by Selby. One particular chapter is just horrible. Along those same lines The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kozinski..... Both rival American Psycho in terms of pointless brutality.

Dec 9, 2010, 3:31 pm

Anna Maria Falamagetti Presents The Cat Lover's Cookbook made me puke. Recipes using cat meat.

Edited: Jul 28, 2011, 10:53 am

The Story of O, by Pauline Reage. I read it when I was 13. Yes, there is such a thing as reading a book too young!

Jul 28, 2011, 6:46 pm

>128 pinkozcat:, 141: Das Parfüm was also one of the very few unpleasant and offensive books I've read in recent years. I think its unredeemed nastiness struck me most because it was in a style and genre that I normally enjoy very much, and with a period and setting that should have appealed to me. I'm pretty sure that The kindly ones is going be much worse, once I screw up the courage to take it off the shelf...

Jul 31, 2011, 7:20 pm

thorold: why read "The kindly ones" if you already feel it's going to be torture?
So many books, so little time. Why should we force ourselves to read something that doesn't appeal to us?

Aug 1, 2011, 7:33 am

I usually finish what I start, so I have read in full lots of books I disliked intensely. One that has not been mentioned in this thread but which I recall as repuslive is: Vernon God Little, by D B C Pierre (read 8 Nov 2003) (Booker prize in 2003)

I would never have read it except I try to read all the Booker winners...

Aug 2, 2011, 6:54 am

>146 roulette.russe:
Good question: I suppose the best answer is "I've been wrong before".
Sometimes the "difficult" books and the ones with unappealing subject-matter turn out to be the most worth reading. Littell's book comes recommended by people whose judgement I trust, but I've also heard very negative things about it: there's only one way to find out who's right.

Aug 2, 2011, 7:27 am

#114 etc Definitely The Bible for me. I can take almost anything when it's just meant to be a story but to put this horror forward as a way we should live makes it far and away the most offensive book I've ever read. Closely followed by The Shack - firstly because it encourages belief in the same nonsense as the above but also because it adds nauseating sentimentality to the mix. (Slopes off to wash mouth out with soap and water . . . )

#148 I couldn't get beyond the first 50 pages of The Kindly Ones but I do see why others are impressed by it. There was something there telling me it is probably a very good book, just not one that I can stomach.

Nov 9, 2011, 10:08 pm

I read Watchmen back when it came out, in monthly comic installments, and loved it. It's definitely better that way.

Mine was A People's History of the United States. Not for political reasons though. It's a horrible history book. He makes so many unfounded statements that I just want to throw it against the wall. If it was renamed: "Howard Zinn's Disapproving Opinion of United States History" I'd have an easier time of it.

Jan 5, 2012, 11:22 am

My personal favorite is "A many splendoured Thing" by Han Suyin: not as much because of the alternative writingstyle but more because it, even though being a first-person narration of the story of a "Eurasian" moving in (racist) "White" circles, makes skidmarks on the ceiling in terms of characterportrayal.

If the mention of African Americans had occured sometime before the last 10 pages of the book, I might have never known about the author.
Not that I regret it really, it was an interesting experience.

Jan 5, 2012, 4:41 pm

Well, even bad books can teach us something, I guess.
By examining why the book offends us, we can learn a little more about ourselves.
If nothing else, they can set an example of what not to do.

Jan 8, 2012, 9:18 am

In additon to what I mentioned in #147, here are other books I recall as repulsive:

3121. The Ginger Man the complete and unexpurgated edition, by J. P. Donleavy (read 19 Oct 1998)
I read it because it was on the Modern Library panel's list ot the 100 best novels of the 20th century, and I read all of those 100 (except Finnegan's Wake). That project also led me to read
3131. Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth (read 21 Nov 1998)
also a repulsive and detested book.

Edited: Apr 1, 2012, 9:04 pm

I can't say I've read many "offensive" books, but the first thing that popped into my head when I saw this thread was My Mother's Daughter by Doris Orgel. It's the complete opposite of male chauvinism; it's extreme feminism in it's worst form and gives normal women a bad name and makes feminists come off looking like nutjobs. And the worst part is, it's a kid's book! She's training girls to hate men and regard everything they do as evil and wrong where she should be teaching young girls to assert themselves and work cooperatively with men.

edit: Oh yes, I just remembered The Mating. It was a "romance" and the sex scene began as full-on rape, but "it's ok" because they were "meant to be together" and she was "ok" with it in the end. I'm sorry, but if someone if crying and screaming "please stop" for a page and a half, that is NOT romantic and NOT forgivable (especially since they were werewolves and unable to form romantic/emotional attachments with anyone other than their first).

Jul 11, 2012, 6:41 pm

I can't remember whether I found it offensive as such, but I recall John Fowles' The Magus as roughly 600 pages inside the head of someone I thought was a first class jerk. For the life of me I can't recall why I bothered finishing it.

I am not easily offended. Things done badly offend me, I guess, although if the thing in question is unbelievably ambitious and therefore fails, I feel as though I have to respect the attempt even if misguided. Most bestseller crap I have assayed has offended me -- more specifically, my intelligence. But I don't tend to finish those books.

Jul 11, 2012, 7:48 pm

I loved The Magus the first few times I read it (back in my 20's), but when I went back I had the same reaction. John Fowles seems to have such a loathing for the character, that it's really a slog to get through. Which is a pity, because the writing is so darn good.

Jul 14, 2012, 7:06 am

I really disliked the 50 Shades of Grey - read 3 chapters and took it back to the library. Juvenile dialogue - I thot if she says "holy crap" one more time - and she did - so I was done. Yet - at work - all 20-40 female age range are reading the trilogy. It's basically a re-do of The Story of O - and one of those is enough already.

Jul 14, 2012, 8:42 am

@157 - I haven't read it, but my friends like posting quotes and excerpts from it on Facebook to laugh about it. I think the deal breaker for me (as if I had originally had any inclination of reading it, LOL!) was her repeated references to herself as a goddess. I'm sorry, can we master the art of being HUMAN first, before we promote ourselves to gods and goddesses? The continued overuse of words like this is making many words in the English language truly meaningless. Stop diluting the language!!!

Jul 14, 2012, 11:43 am

From what I understand the "inner goddess" thing she's referring to isn't really calling herself a goddess, but it's a reference/callback to...I'm not sure how to explain it. You know those self-help books for women about sex? and basically whenever I read excerpts of the book in different reviews/commentaries, and I see "my inner goddess blah blah" all I can think is that her vagina is talking to her. I wish I could explain it better, but it's something I see all the time as a euphemism for sex drive and feeling sexy and lady-parts (another euphemism!)

Edited: Jul 15, 2012, 6:20 am

There are a couple of books, one for men and one for women, which compare psychological profiles with the Greek and/or Roman gods and goddesses. I am a Hera and my father was a Hephaestus ( husband of Aphrodite).

I suspect that is what was referred to in relation to the 'inner goddess'.

Edited to add the blurb from Amazon:

A classic work of female psychology that uses seven archetypcal goddesses as a way of describing behavior patterns and personality traits is being introduced to the next generation of readers with a new introduction by the author.

Psychoanalyst Jean Bolen's career soared in the early 1980s when Goddesses in Everywoman was published. Thousands of women readers became fascinated with identifying their own inner goddesses and using these archetypes to guide themselves to greater self–esteem, creativity, and happiness.

Bolen's radical idea was that just as women used to be unconscious of the powerful effects that cultural stereotypes had on them, they were also unconscious of powerful archetypal forces within them that influence what they do and how they feel, and which account for major differences among them. Bolen believes that an understanding of these inner patterns and their interrelationships offers reassuring, true–to–life alternatives that take women far beyond such restrictive dichotomies as masculine/feminine, mother/lover, careerist/housewife. And she demonstrates in this book how understanding them can provide the key to self–knowledge and wholeness.

Dr. Bolen introduced these patterns in the guise of seven archetypal goddesses, or personality types, with whom all women could identify, from the autonomous Artemis and the cool Athena to the nurturing Demeter and the creative Aphrodite, and explains how to decide which to cultivate and which to overcome, and how to tap the power of these enduring archetypes to become a better "heroine" in one's own life story.

Jul 15, 2012, 10:28 am

Oh, thanks! I think that's definitely the source of the Inner Goddess thing, though the character in the novel definitely isn't think of any specific goddess. I guess after 20-30 years, it would get obscured like that...

Edited: Jul 15, 2012, 2:06 pm

I really doubt the author of 50 Shades of Grey put that much thought into it or based that part of the story off of anyone's actual learning and was rather just parroting back what she heard feminists say because it sounded "empowering".

Either way, it made me want to punch her in the throat.

Jul 15, 2012, 4:30 pm

Oh now, she's just a not-very-good author who wrote three not-very-good books that caught the public's fancy.
It's happened before. I'm looking at you, Ayn Rand, Stephenie Meyer, Dave Pelzer. and Robert M. Pirsig.
As H.L. Mencken wrote: "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
In this case, the worldwide reading public.

Jul 16, 2012, 3:32 pm

I counted 20 x "rolled my eyes...' and then stopped as I was getting too irritated. The writer is a dunce. A very rich dunce.

Aug 20, 2012, 4:47 pm

Dance with Snakes by Horacio Castellanos Moya. Definitely. All violence and sex without much plot.

Jan 13, 2013, 2:57 am

Just finished Wetlands by Charlotte Roche. Nasty, gross, sick stuff. I'm shocked at the number of 5 stars it receives. Even the people who love it say it's gross. Go figure.

Jan 13, 2013, 7:08 am

#166 Hmmm. you got me intrigued enough to go to Amazon and read the first page. I certainly couldn't read that one in conjunction with eating or drinking - do the people who love it just starve themselves until it's over, I wonder?

Jan 13, 2013, 12:31 pm

166 - The five-star reviews I read seemed to be roughly equivalent to the mentality of the guys on jackass. It's nothing about the worthwhile experience they got out of it, or further insight into humanity, it's all "Herp-derp! Look what I was able to suffer through! I'm da man, I'm da man!"

Jan 14, 2013, 12:03 am

167 & 168: Well, it seems the author is a huge TV personality in Germany for a show similar to MTV. Maybe that would explain fans of the book--perhaps they are all young?? I really couldn't see any lessons or redemptive value in the story itself. I think it would take a psychoanalyst to do that! It definitely affects the appetite. This is the first time I've felt a true physical (nauseous) reaction to a book. I also thought, "This can't be good for females of the world. All those attracted to females are now going to be way too disgusted by us."

Mar 22, 2013, 1:01 pm

Some of my favorite dark novels are "A Clockwork Orange" and "Geek Love". They are somewhat offensive.

But those are nothing compared to "evi1 - a novel about you" (spelled with a number 1).

It's a very offensive novel. It's out of print, but can be downloaded free.


It's about a perverted psychopath that essentially has his mind put into a machine that takes over the universe and becomes God. Yes, that's God with a capital G. Not "a god", but God.

It's humorous, but only if you have a sense of humor like South Park or worse.

Think "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" spliced with "A Clockwork Orange" on acid, mixed with the worst poetry and toilet humor... so awful in it's dark view point that a hardened violent criminal think it's creepy.

It's a difficult and very long read, no doubt -- not for the weak-minded.

Nov 20, 2016, 12:02 pm

"Stupid White Men." I can't imagine the book "Stupid Black Men" would not be considered offensive too.

Mar 18, 2017, 4:02 pm

Definitely 'Psychopath!' by Morton Bain. I almost threw up on several occasions.

Oct 29, 2017, 8:55 pm

I've never read it, but why hasn't anyone opined about Atlas Shrugged?