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The 21 Most Overrated Books Ever (and 21 Books to Read Instead)

By GQ

GQ asked its favorite new authors to dunk on the classicsRead full story

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  • First - for every author who felt compelled to strike a classic based on sexism, or an outdated masculine world view, you wrote this for GQ. GQ. Gentlemen's Quarterly.

    Second - stop trying to erase racism from our past. Lets remember where we came from so we can jealously protect the progress we've made.

    Third - the writer who would replace the Bible with the Notebook has an immature point of view and should probably invest a little time in broadening his or her literary base.

    Finally, just

    First - for every author who felt compelled to strike a classic based on sexism, or an outdated masculine world view, you wrote this for GQ. GQ. Gentlemen's Quarterly.

    Second - stop trying to erase racism from our past. Lets remember where we came from so we can jealously protect the progress we've made.

    Third - the writer who would replace the Bible with the Notebook has an immature point of view and should probably invest a little time in broadening his or her literary base.

    Finally, just read. Read it all. Read it again. Read it out loud. Reading is FUNdamental!

  • Couldn’t disagree more with this list and its rationale for existence. Literature is as much an academic pursuit as history, biology, or physics. The point is not to be entertained, but to come to a deeper place of understanding.

    To argue that these great books shouldn’t be read because of outdated or politically incorrect expression, is to presume that our current society and our values therein exist in a void—that history is not continuous, but a series of separate bubbles. This is obviously

    Couldn’t disagree more with this list and its rationale for existence. Literature is as much an academic pursuit as history, biology, or physics. The point is not to be entertained, but to come to a deeper place of understanding.

    To argue that these great books shouldn’t be read because of outdated or politically incorrect expression, is to presume that our current society and our values therein exist in a void—that history is not continuous, but a series of separate bubbles. This is obviously not the case.

    The books on this list you are being told to ignore are must read because they manifest, for better or worse, important foundations of our cultural narrative.

    As a last point, many of these books have some of the most undeniably beautiful prose in existence and that in itself is a reason to read them.

  • what a letdown. the clickbait headline worked but this list was pretty far off. the reason these classics are considered classic isn’t because there aren’t better books, it’s because of what they meant and captured at the time they were written and the impact they had on other writers to follow. it’s the same as when people say the beatles are overrated.

  • Thank goodness we understand opinions are like arm pits. What a horrendous article. Years ago (and I still feel a bit foolish today) I spent $3000 dollars on the Great Books. Gilded in gold, the classic writings start with Homer and hit everyone whether I like them or not, whether I agree or not. Thomas Aquinas, Newton, everyone. There is science, literature, the whole bit. You know we go back to the classic books for a reason. They are the inspiration for the modern. These are men and women whose

    Thank goodness we understand opinions are like arm pits. What a horrendous article. Years ago (and I still feel a bit foolish today) I spent $3000 dollars on the Great Books. Gilded in gold, the classic writings start with Homer and hit everyone whether I like them or not, whether I agree or not. Thomas Aquinas, Newton, everyone. There is science, literature, the whole bit. You know we go back to the classic books for a reason. They are the inspiration for the modern. These are men and women whose life experience is truly amazing. How often can we say that today?

    Now yes there are amazing people, but in such a tech filled world, we often have someone else’s imagination crammed into ours. Lord of the Rings crosses off this list. Odd considering Tolkien created and wrote the histories of every culture, created every language, wrote folk lore and poetry pertaining to different branches of each type of people before he even hit the series the Lord of The Rings. The effort! Who does this any more?

    I agree with Ian. Literature isn’t about entertainment, it’s about capturing our mind and taking us beyond ourselves into a place where we think and create. It’s a place to use our senses and challenge ourselves. Good literature causes us to feel in all ways. Above all it cause us to put the book down and ponder.

  • I have very mixed feelings about this list. I am a fan of some of the “most overrated” books and some of the new selections. Of course I’d prefer to reading “The Notebook” to The Bible. I don’t agree how with how objectifying this list is to a very subjective topic. My suggestion: read each of the books and come to your own conclusion.

  • Wow. This article prescribes subjectively chosen reading as a method to combat other subjective reading prescriptions. How un-self aware do you get?

    Honestly all this article needs is a re-framing. “Here are modern books we recommend based on classics” would have been a legitimate approach. ...But I don’t expect GQ to think that hard.

  • As an English major, I find this article less of a literary critique of certain books and more of an inability to look past their own narcissism and illusions of grandeur. While some of the classics are ones I don’t care for, I still see the merit in reading them due to societal differences of the time. I think this would have done better as an: “If You Read This, Try This,” article. I’ll keep this article “picked” so I can read some of the suggestions, but all in all this left a bad taste in my mouth.

  • I agree with so much here, especially the reference to the fantastic world building skills of Ursula K. Le Guin. She was the first author who really engaged me with her development of planets and societies.

  • I figured Catcher in the Rye would make this list, but I'm still disappointed. That novel helped shape the attitudes of decades of teenagers (for better or worse). And certainly it has literary merit... just look at the carousel scene at the end with Phoebe. Beautiful scene.

  • I believe the appropriate subhead to this should be, “Made you look!” Also, where is The Godfather?

  • I thoroughly disagree with almost every instance on this list. You should also never not read anything because someone says so. That’s the reason you should read it. Decide for yourself. Don’t miss out on some excellent works because of this asinine article.

  • Mark Twain is still valid even though he was a product of his times. Huck Finn was growing up and learning that Jim was a human being when Tom Sawyer crashes back into his life and he’s immediately a child again, whose social standing was higher than that of a Black man in his society. My problem with Twain is not that he wrote honestly of his times and criticized them-my problem is that the Adventures of Huck Finn could have been a great Bildungsroman but it felt as if Twain gave up and trotted

    Mark Twain is still valid even though he was a product of his times. Huck Finn was growing up and learning that Jim was a human being when Tom Sawyer crashes back into his life and he’s immediately a child again, whose social standing was higher than that of a Black man in his society. My problem with Twain is not that he wrote honestly of his times and criticized them-my problem is that the Adventures of Huck Finn could have been a great Bildungsroman but it felt as if Twain gave up and trotted out Tom Sawyer to stop saying the hard stuff and be fun again.

  • For my first comment/post on NewsPicks I will give my opinion on this article. I disagree with replacing the vast majority of these classics. However 2 on the list I would either consider reading both or replacing one with the other. Case in point #9/10,Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain being replaced by Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Fredreick Douglass. Why not read both,if/when given the opportunity I would most likely read both. as far as #11 The Ambassadors

    For my first comment/post on NewsPicks I will give my opinion on this article. I disagree with replacing the vast majority of these classics. However 2 on the list I would either consider reading both or replacing one with the other. Case in point #9/10,Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain being replaced by Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Fredreick Douglass. Why not read both,if/when given the opportunity I would most likely read both. as far as #11 The Ambassadors by Henry James,being replaced by The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer,I would have to read both to consider replacing one with the other. Having said that I have never heard of The Ambassadors by Henry James,but have heard of the other I would consider adding both to my reading list before making a better determination.

    Now that is done with,

    replacing The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway with The Summer Book by Tove Jansson,are you serious one is a classic,the other I never heard of before this post and subsequent article.

    Replacing the Bible with almost any other book is one sacreligious,#2 actually was inspired by God and written down by his prophets and subsequently blaspehmous. This coming from somebody who goes to Church services twice a year max,although I do read the prophetic passages/books and learn with a YoutTube pastor from Indiana¨I will give the link if asked¨. I love to see how biblical prophecy ties into current events. Read the signs.

    First and foremost when it comes to David McCullough´s book John Adams I know there are a few historical innacuracies but I look past them as most are minor compared to the rest of John Adam´s life and story. Second,Drew Magary writes about 3 different books in his critique. Which is it he is writing about? As far as Alexander Graham Bell goes,he invented or used a primitive version of a Metal Detecting device. Also his doctor probed in different areas as opposed to where the device detected the bullets. Third building the Panama Canal cost actual lives and the early excavating team were afflicted by Yellow Fever as well as Malaraia in addition to some of the early teams going bankrupt. 5,600 workers died of disease and accidents during construction. Mr. Magary should go to the Canal zone and talk to the relatives and desendants of the locals before he critiques a modern marvel of Engineering and time saving. Does he know the old way to get from the Carribean/Atlantic to the Pacific,lileky not.

    I will comment on more of the so called replacements if I get a response to this critique.

  • I cringe at the idea of dumping the classics - as an historian I appreciate them FOR all their social flaws. (For the sake of history itself and the evidence older pieces leave us to work with.) Still, the alternatives the author suggests in this article might just lead you to a new literary treasure!! Enjoy.

  • The idiot who wrote this somehow equates reading with “eat this not that” dieting. In reality, literature is a glorious smorgasbord that builds strong bodies 12 ways. Eat up!

  • One thing to note - I am not well read.

    🤔

    I'm fine with that.

  • How sad must your life be to denigrate these classics? This article le was nothing but a primer on how yo study leftist, post modern philosophy.

    9k, great, let's recommend d some new books for people to read but slamming books like "The old man and the sea" is ludicrous at best.

    The Bible has been one of the most read books in the history of the planet with billions of people having their lives transformed because of it.

    In the future I hope GQ has the sense to find another person to review books.

  • I think it is important to remember that all books are products of their times and should be read as historical documents as much as for their literary value. Regardless of whether you agree or not, there is a great list of books here.

  • Waste of a headline

  • While I don't agree with most on this list (Catcher is a fav of mine that shaped the way i write today), I do think we should take a look at the Canon and what our children are reading in schools (Tess of the D'urbervilles I'm looking at you) and how it will shape future writers and thinkers of the future.

    And while the Bible swap is harsh for some and the choice a big ambiguous; what if we read something about self love and being present, something to embetter the self everyday rather than wait for an idol to save us?

  • Uh... sure. Why don’t we not read books because someone doesn’t like them. How ‘bout leave it up to people to determine for themselves. Dumb.

  • Thank you.

  • Saved

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