Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Worst Book

Spoiler: The only dragons are on the cover.

The very worst book that I was assigned to read in high school was The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. I can remember, reluctantly and with great terror, how my brief "I hate reading" phase began.

Let's remember together: I was a fresh-faced high school sophomore, newly transferred from my freshman year in Maryland's reputable Great Mills High School (affectionately known to those that attended those hallowed halls as "Ghetto Mills") to the relatively small an unknown establishment of Hawthorne High School, in the thriving rural village of Hawthorne, Florida.  Hawthorne has more letters in its name than most of its citizens had in their mental-arsenal.  When asked, "What do you like to read?" most people would probably stare at you blankly, slowly reaching for their rifles.

In my youth, I was not a very good student - but I DID like reading.  English was probably the only subject that I didn't absolutely drive my teachers insane in.  But excelling in reading in Hawthorne was like ... it was like performing magic tricks in front of cavemen (at first they are cautiously impressed, then fearful, and finally you are clubbed over the head and dragged off screaming) .  That's not to say there wasn't a core of nerds hidden away - there were, and we had great fun being smart and unpopular and unlaid.  But there was a certain oppressive air against those who relished in what was charmingly referred to as "Book Learnin'."

It was then, to my horror, that the teacher at the time decided that the best use of our class time was to read the book in class.  She knew that nobody would do the reading at home and anyway, it was an easy way to keep a bunch of rowdy kids quiet (or so she thought).  You've never seen a larger gathering of people that move their lips when they read.  So, I read.  The book wasn't very exciting to me - even though it was about Asian women, there wasn't a terrible amount of sex in the thing and no dragons (which was unforgivable, because anything related to China should have at least one dragon in it) - but I managed to finish the book within the week.

When I showed up to English class that following Monday, I was prepared to talk about the plot, the characters, and the absence of dragons with my peers.  I was excited to casually show off my understanding of themes and narrative devices and wax poetic about how a dragon could have really saved the thing from the slow parts in the fourth chapter.  Then the teacher announced that there was to be a quiz on the reading - Panic! Could I remember all of the salient points? Maybe I should have re-read ... - a quiz on chapter one.

What? One Chapter? In a week?  Was she out of her mind? Perhaps it was a mistake.  I politely raised my hand and corrected her - "You mean the first part? There are four parts to the book... do you mean the first one?" to which I realized, No.  No she was most definitely referring to the first chapter of the book.  My colleagues looked at me as if I had grown a Zaphodian second head - but gave me none of the respect that should have gone with the feat.

I coughed, sat down, and pretended it was a joke.  I had finished the book, but soon realized that the teacher didn't believe that I had - so I had to read it again.  And Again.  I must have read that damned thing five times in class, just so I wouldn't be yelled at for slacking off.  I had to read that book with its boring mothers and sexless daughters and non-existent dragons five whole times.  That was when I began hating to read. And that is why it has always stayed with me as the Worst Book.

I didn't even know you could play Mahjong outside of a computer.

Do you have a Worst Book? Leave a comment, share the pain.


  1. I went to Christian "school", so we only read one book: Revelations. I liked it because it had a Whore.

  2. Oh, I might have to write about the worst book within The Bible at some point. Revelations is pretty crazy, with all the violence and ending of the world. It's as big a budget horror-thriller as they could afford back in the day.