In honor of National Reading Month, I asked this question of East Lansing residents, including ELi reporters: Tell me three books you love, one you hate and what you’re reading right now. At the end of this article, I’ve provided a complete list of the books that are most-loved, most-hated, and currently in the hands of your friends and neighbors.
There were no limits on what type of book could be chosen, and I heard from readers who selected fiction, non-fiction, YA (young adult) and children’s fiction, short stories, poetry, and graphic novels. Although I’ve used the real names of our reporters, other East Lansing respondents appear under pseudonyms.
Within minutes of my query, there was conflict. Rachel, a seminary student, says she hates Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and loves Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi. Jane, a stay-at-home mom planning to start graduate school loves Jane Eyre and hates The Life of Pi. The Eyre Conflict was joined by retired teachers Lee and Susan and college junior SJ, all of whom chose Jane Eyre as among their favorites.
“Classic” status didn’t protect books from being shunned; those on the “most hated” list include J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Jay, who works in East Lansing, listed Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth as his literary nemesis, saying, “I have never struggled so hard to get through a book in all my life.”
Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 were all more popular with readers. Jane Austen seemed to do well, as did J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.
Among more recent books, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak were very popular with East Lansing readers. There was less love for Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night and Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, both of which were mentioned more than once as having been hated and/or abandoned before completion.
One respondent chose as his most hated book Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. “Good God, man,” he begs Rushdie, “if you are going to get killed over a book, make it an interesting one, at least?”
As a group, ELi reporters seem to read more non-fiction than others who responded, and agree that it is nearly impossible to pick only three “loves” from a competitive field.
Reporter Telaina Eriksen, who teaches writing at MSU, lists Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet, and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote as favorites. She hates Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho and is between reading American Desert by Percival Everett and Stephen King's The Drawing of the Three, the second in the Dark Tower series.
Danny Kaplowitz, ELi reporter and student at East Lansing High School also cites The Sparrow, along with One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon as his favorites He hates Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and is reading Power Systems by Noam Chomsky.
Reporter Julie Rojewski, who works in the MSU Graduate School, struggled to limit her choices to three “loves.” In the end, she settled on A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, and Mathilda by Roald Dahl. She chose James Joyce’s notoriously difficult Ulysses as the book she hates, and she’s now reading Mothers, Tell your Daughters, a collection of short stories by Michigan author Bonnie Jo Campbell.
Coleen Moyerbrailean, who reports on a variety of issues for ELi readers, loves Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, because her mother loved them and shared them with her. She also cites as favorites all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, but hates Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, which she finds “redundant and depressing.” At the moment she’s reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Yes Please by Amy Poehler.
ELi reporter Heather Paris agreed with Rojewski that choosing “three is really, really difficult.” Under gentle pressure, she chose 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver, and The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers as most-loved. She neither liked nor finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and is in various stages of reading Landline by Rainbow Rowell, Rising Strong by Brene Brown, Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica by T.J. Clark, and Life List by East Lansing author Lori Nelson Spielman.
It appears that our government reporters are the most likely to read non-fiction of anyone I interviewed. ELi’s Publisher and government reporter Alice Dreger loves All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books and Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl, a memoir scheduled for publication on April 5. She isn’t a fan of Chang and Eng by David Strauss, saying “I hate it when novelists take the lives of real people about whom we actually know a lot and push their own assumptions and fantasies onto those historical characters.”
These days (when she isn’t writing for ELi), Dreger is reading a manuscript of former student MK Czerwiec’s graphic novel Taking Turns, David Wootton’s The Invention of Science, and Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant that is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine, which was recommended to her by Nina Santucci of Alice’s favorite East Lansing restaurant, Red Haven.
Michael Teager, who also reports on government (and other things) for ELi, is a professional musician by night and a stay-at-home dad by day. He chose as favorites Stephen King’s The Stand and On Writing, Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe, and Songs Only You Know, a memoir by Michigan author Sean Hoen. Teager says he doesn’t have time to read books he hates, but that he was “underwhelmed” by Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. His current read is Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings.
The hardest thing about writing this article was trying not to jump on any of several very appealing bandwagons. I am very fond of Jane Eyre, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, The Sparrow, and the Harry Potter books, and very un-fond of Eat, Pray, Love. I managed to resist the temptation to change my choices based on what others said, and stuck with The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, all of the Inspector Gamache mysteries by Louise Penny, and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women as my named beloved books. I hate Melville’s Moby Dick more than words can say, and I’m currently reading The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.
What are you reading?
The Complete List
(Books chosen by more than one reader are followed by the number of votes)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (2)
Alice's Adventures Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2)
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese”
God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2)
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (4)
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (2)
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (2)
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
“Almost everything by Terry Pratchett”
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Color Purple by Alice Walker (2)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver” (4)
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz
All God's Children by Fox Butterworth
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
Dubliners by James Joyce
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott
Incantation by Alice Hoffman
The Greek Treasure by Irving Stone
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Midnight at the Well of Souls by Jack L. Chalker
Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind
Jam by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.J. Rowling
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.J. Rowling
The Sparrow by Mary Doria RussellThe Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
The Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brien
The Gabriel Allon Series by Daniel Silva
The Stand and On Writing by Stephen King
Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe —
Songs Only You Know by Sean Hoen
All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
The Winnie the Pooh books by A.A. Milne
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Mathilda by Roald Dahl
Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
100 Years of Solitude by Gabrial Garcia Marquez
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Marcovaldo, or The Seasons in the City by Italo Calvino
The Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers as most-loved.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Inspector Gamache mysteries by Louise Penny
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (2)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon (2)
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (2)
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Moby Dick by Herman Melville (2)
Poland by James Michener
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
“Any book by Mitch Alblom”
Johnny Got his Gun by Dalton Trumbo
Chang and Eng by David Strauss
Ulysses by James Joyce
American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
A Nation on Fire by Clay Risen
The Confessions of St. Augustine by Augustine of Hippo
Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
Falling Upward by Richard Rohr
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
“A Biography of Abigail Adams”
Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
I'm the Vampire, That's Why by Michele Bardsley
Dune by Frank Herbert
Boston Girl by Anita Diamante
American Family by Faith Baldwin
Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith
A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans
The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
11/22/63 by Stephen King
Warriors of the Storm by Bernard Cornwell
Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer
Taking Turns by MK Czerwiec
The Invention of Science by David Wootton
Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant that is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine by Tal Ronnen
Mothers Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell
American Desert by Percival Everett
The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Yes Please by Amy Poehler.
The Pope's Daughter: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia by Dario Fo
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica by T.J. Clark
Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman
The Paying Guest by Sarah Waters