Scathing Book Reviews of The Odyssey, by Homer

The Odyssey was written by Homer. If you say that to anyone born after 1980, they’ll immediately imagine Homer Simpson in a Toga, or Ulysses fleeing from the Cyclops, tripping and saying “D’oh!”. Now before you dismay over the decline of Western Civilization, remember that from 1900 to 1988, when someone said “Homer”, the average person’s first thought was Baseball.

That said, have I ever actually read “The Odyssey”? Bits and pieces of it in other works, but never the whole thing all the way through, and I’ll wager that most people haven’t. Watching that Armand Assante Odyssey TV Miniseries doesn’t count, folks. These Scathing Book Reviews of The Odyssey try to persuade you that it’s not a trip worth taking:

This book sucks. I dont care if Homer was blind or not this book is like 900 pages too long. I could tell this story in about 10 pages. Homer taking all long to say stupid stuff. Teens if you are reading this all I have to say is CLIFF NOTES CLIFF NOTES you will pass the test, unless you are in AP classes. The teachers expect kids to read cliff notes trust me my moms a teacher. P.S this book SUCKS

…and:

Although it may seem intriguing, this book can drive one to the brink of insanity.

…and:

It was tedious, boring, and extremely conceited.

…and:

I couldn’t even get past the first ten pages with any comprehension of what this was about. I reread lines half a dozen times with no idea of what Fagles [the translator] was talking about. What the heck is “hearth smoke”? What person alive says “that nonsense coming past your teeth”?

…and:

The general plot is rather repetitive. Odysseus overcomes a challenge on an island, and while leaving via boat, a storm takes him to yet another island, where the process is repeated. This makes the story predictable and less interesting.

…and:

I pity all of those souls who have to endure reading this utter rubbish. Every time I attempt to read it, it puts my wee self to sleep. This book is so boring, and I can not fathom how people (even though if they are pretentious secondary school teachers or literature lecturers)can still find this enjoyable.

…and:

If you’re going to read either The Iliad or The Odyssey, and you’re not a 2700 year-old Greek or Trojan, buy a Cliff Notes to help fill you in.

…and this Book Review that faults Homer for a lack of originality:

I feel like I heard this story many times before. Not cutting edge. Lots of interesting characters though. Unreallistic platitudes as they relate to the human condition. Homer has a lot of growing up to do.

…and this great review by a Freshman in High School:

I thought this story was very gross. I mean come on. We are having to read this book in freshman English. Actually our teacher reads it to us, but it is still disgusting. We are also having to watch the movie of this, talk about gruesome. It’s like Scylla comes out of the water and chomps these people out of the ship and blood showers everywhere. I almost threw up every day when we watch this movie. We watch a little each day. I am over there about to puke up my toes and everybody else, all the boys anyway, are saying how cool it is. My boyfriend just laughs when I tell him I almost threw up in there, he is a freshman, so he has to watch it also. I’m sure he thinks it is awesome,but I don’t.

Scathing Book Reviews of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Julietby William Shakespeareis certainly a story you can’t avoid. They say the story of star-crossed lovers was old even when Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, but even if its true, its never been done so indelibly.

Take Romeo and Juliet away and you also lose West Side Storyand a good hunk of Shakespeare in Love. On the other hand, without the play there wouldn’t have been that insufferable Romeo + Juliet Moviewith Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, so maybe its a fair trade. Either way, these book reviews of Romeo and Juliet agree that “For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo”:

We liked the end when all the main characters died. It left me a great message.

…and:

Shakespeare’s book, Romeo and Juliet, is placed in the 18th century. A time in which women were not considered as thinking people or capable of having any feelings.

…and:

They arent star crossed! They are inane idiots too immersed in “love” to recognize the imprudence of their actions. Their deaths were not the least bit pitiful, but risible. Cognitive, yes. Irritating, yes. Interesting? No.

…and:

*R&J* is simply sensationalist trash. It contains a good portion of Shakespeares worst verse and insipid characterizations. It’s unchallenging, crude, and simply melodrama for the most part. It’s the Shakespearean equivalent of “Party of Five” and the Spice Girls.

…and:

As I didn’t liked the story at all I cant say lots of things about it but if I had to rewrite the book, I would do it in modern English. Old Englih is one of the reasons I didn’t liked the book. Another reason is that is a very predictable story and it has only 2 themes: Romeo and Juliet’s love and the war between their families.

…and:

For me Romeo is the worst character because he only thinks about Juliet and kissing her.

…and:

It was supposed to be tragic; I thought it was hilarious. First, everybody says that Romeo and Juliet were lovers torn apart by fate. Fate had nothing to do with it! They died through sheer stupidity and melodrama on their part.

…and:

Sometimes you wish someone would just say something straight out, instead of dressing it up with so many frills and flowers you don’t know what they’re trying to say. But I have nothing against Shakespearean English.

…and, most incredibly, the review below. I have no idea what the English teacher was thinking, but learning to read an Elizabethan play is NOT going to help you learn to speak modern English, methinks:

We are from Argentina and learning English. Our teacher recommended the book Romeo + Juliet, we thought this book was going to increase our vocabulary and help us understand better the English language, but it didn’t, instead it made it more difficult.

As Gilbert Gottfried would say, “WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED”…

Scathing Book Reviews of War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is probably the most famous book that the fewest have ever read. To rephrase, we’ve all heard of it. Most of us haven’t read it.

Why? Its reputation for complexity and for length (although it’s 2 places behind Atlas Shrugged in the list of longest novels.) I remember, of all things, a Get Smart gag in which an assassin tried to kill Max with a sword, only for Max to block it with a copy of War and Peace. Max’s line? “No one ever gets through War and Peace!” Well to me it was funny… For these reviewers, “War” never seemed to end:

Let me start by acknowledging that Leo Tolstoy is often regarded as one of the preeminent authors of all time. Let me follow that with the acknowledgement that many consider “War and Peace” to be the greatest triumph in human literature… Let me follow that by saying that I don’t get it.

…and:

If you don’t have time to read this book then read the cliff notes and skip to the last 80 pages of the book. They’re all that really matter.

…and:

I always look for myself in a book. As I read the endless but addictive pages of Tolstoy’s classic masterpiece, I found myriads and myriads of characters. I did not find one that was courageous, loving, bashful, angry, shy, ticklish, confused, clear-thinking, beautiful, handsome, tall, big-boned, wonderful, life-of-the-party, interesting, creative, and desirable. These are all qualities that I identify as my own.

…and:

This type of literature is not going to hold an audience anymore. So many people have the opportunity to live interesting lives nowadays why would they stop to read a novel of this length about a bunch of fictional charaters when they could be spending the time actually LIVING their own lives? It was a real drag.

…and:

Tolstoy was such self-important, disrespectful, intolerant, bum!

…and:

I have been struggling to get through it for 20 years (true story… I started reading this dreck in 1984) and I’m just now 1/2 way through. How this long-winded pointless book became known as one of the great novels is beyond me.

…and:

Im 11, thatas probably why i really dont like the book, but my point made is, my mom grounded me and made me read war and peace, and it was the worst punistment i have ever been through, i asked my family to read a page of it, and they all fell asleep, sorry to all the people that liked it

…and this review, in which Bret Easton Ellis is associated with Leo Tolstoy for perhaps the first and last time:

I am sure Bret Easton Ellis would have a field day with the social elite that inhabit War and Peace, for they are the most shallow, self-destructive people of that time… it all boils down to this: If you like watching people swoon over and fight one another while the more important issues , like defending one’s country, are placed as a backdrop for their pathetic lives, than this is the book for you.

Scathing Book Reviews of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is a book that in the 20th and 21st century is more “heard of” than read, or even seen onscreen in movie form. Practically every history of the Civil War makes reference to it, and every American history class includes it as a test question. Boiled down, it makes the argument that “slavery is bad”. Unfortunately, being on the right side of a moral argument doesn’t guarantee great writing:

…this book is so sugary it made my teeth itch. It should be read and reviled.

…and:

Slavery was ugly. We need to know that. But not the way Stowe writes, I felt like I couldn’t bear another page. Unbelievably flat characters in an unbelievably flat setting.

…and:

i know she was against slavery but her depiction of black people is simply unbearable. oh god

…and:

Well, reading it all in one weekend may not have been the brightest move of my life. Still, this book was a hideous experience. Once you get past the first hundred and fifty pages the plot picks up enough to give the sheer boredom a minor respite, but the characters are about as flat as anything imaginable. Little Eva in particular I was ready to strangle, with hair or without, by the time she up and died.

..and this review, which uses Dickens as a benchmark:

… the book has its ups and downs, but it is still not as bad as a Charles Dickens novel.

Scathing Book Reviews of Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson was the Pirate Story that dominated pop culture until the emergence of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series. Now, Jack Sparrow is the first name in pirates, while Long John Silver is now relegated to being known more for Deep Fried “Seafood” (defined loosely) rather than “Jim feller me lad” fame. While Treasure Island still makes me want to say “Aaarrrhhh”, these reviewers give it a big “Aaarrhn’t”:

How can this possibly be a classic? Most of the time I had no idea what on earth the characters were saying. It’s all in some kind of pirate-jive lingo.

…and:

The only one I liked was Captin Flint because I like birds but besides that I wouldn’t read it!

…and:

Gag me…this novel is the epitome of boredom. I’m not a huge fan of boredom.

…and:

It is totally on a reading level for way older people. Not 7th graders.

…and:

It is no surprise that “Treasure Island” was written by Stevenson just in a few days as its carelessness and pretty bad style attest.

…and this, from someone who apparently has a Pirate lingo of his own:

AGU! Man The book is Finally over with! That was torcher PLUS the movie was violent causing me to continue screaming and my classmates thinking I was insane! I gotta piece of advice, DONT BUY THE BOOK

ADDED BONUS: Remember that September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Here’s the Talk Like a Pirate translation of Amazon.com book summary:

Ahoy, climb aboard for the swashbucklin’ ad’enture o’ a lifetime. Treasure Island has enthralled (and caused slight seasickness) for decades. The names Long John Sil’er and Jim Hawkins be destined t’ remain pieces o’ folklore for as long as children want t’ read Robert Louis Ste’enson’s most famous scribblins. Shiver me timbers, with tis’ dastardly plot and motley crew o’ rogues and ‘illains, it seems unlikely that children will e’er say no t’ this timeless classic. –C’pn Naomi Gesin’er Aye.

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a book that I have yet to read, and I’ve been told that the Demi Moore movie version was not the most faithful screen translation – too many bathing scenes. Anyway, it’s certainly still read today, though it wouldn’t be if these reviewers had their way:

The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne holds little significance other than being a complete waste of time.

…and:

The author uses incredibly large words and you constantly have to use a dictionary or else you most likely won’t know hat you are reading.

…and:

This book is like a bad soap. No action. No drama. Very predictable. It is about a woman who cheated on her husband with another man. The baby dad is the preacher. Why the couple couldn’t have gotten a divorce is beyond me.

…and:

…reading through “dost thou” after “dost thou” isn’t any fun.

…and:

This work by Hawthorne, whose subject matter is always really boring anyway, is as dry and frigid as a desert.

…and, from this reviewer who apparently has never heard of Cliff Notes:

I read to pages of this novel and I had to stop!: I have yet to actually complete this novel. It is so dog-gone hard to understand. On top of this, I have an essay that is due: TOMORROW! Is there no relief?!

…and this comment, from a person that has CAREFULLY analyzed the book:

THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF WORDS PER SENTENCE IS 22.1! THAT IS IN THE 80TH PERCENTILE FOR RUN-ON SENTENCE STATISTICS!

Scathing Book Reviews of “Master and Commander”, Book 1 of the Aubrey/Maturin Series, by Patrick O’Brian

Patrick O’Brian‘s series of 20 completed books about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars has won wide renown, and for millions of readers, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are compelling characters. Despite Russell Crowe’s best efforts, the movie based on the series was quite good. But for these readers? They’re not quite so enthused. “Hoot Toot”, indeed: – these critical reviews of Patrick O’brian’s “Master and Commander” would like to sink the series:

Mr. O’Brian could have learned a thing or two from James Clavell.

and…

You know those books that you read thinking, “Okay, not really exciting, but it’s got some potential. Maybe the author will come around…” and then after a while you think, “Well, I’ve read most of it. I might as well finish it.”. And then you finally finish it and think, “Man, that book turned out okay after all.” This is not that Book.

and…

I got through about two chapters of this and threw it away. O’brian writes like an old woman. The story seems to be about tea parties and gossip, the time and setting seem incidental to the story.