The 3 most frustrating books of my college career (so far…)

Endless hours of studying the same chapters over and over; bleeding highlighters dry; hating your prof. for submitting you to such torment and agony; pounding your fist raw at 3am because you have no idea what on earth you’ve been staring at all night long; sound familiar? During our time at college we all encounter a few books that make us crawl into a cave and pray for death. These are mine:


Merchants of Culture

I was excited to read this one. The cover looks great and I really wanted to learn how the publishing industry works… but not that much. Whew! Thompson is going to school you something fierce on the history, the current state of, and the future of the publishing industry. I can’t call this a bad book, and it’s insanely thorough with the subject matter it handles, but 21 pages on the ‘virtues of being a small publishing house’, and I truly mean dense pages replete with graphs and abundant statistical analysis, is enough for any English major to grab his/her Hot Pockets and head to that nice little business school down the road.  Take this one on only if you are absolutely determined to know everything about the publishing biz. Have fun keeping your eyes open.



When some young theorist starts talking to me about philosophy, I start talking to them about literature:

Him -“I think Kant’s theory of the categorical imperative was deeply seeded and abetted by the Stoic view on mortality and ethics, though there is a tinge of the Peripatetic in there as well, at least that’s what I gather from reading Cicero.”

Me – “Interesting. I’ve always thought that Queequeg was more of a reflection on Melville’s yearning for a wild innocence in the new world, as opposed to the commonly held belief that he was written as a subversive comment on the evils of ‘The White Man’s Burden.’

What ensues is the greatest stare-down you will ever have. Try it.

Kidding aside, I do enjoy hefty doses of philosophy at times. But Aquinas was a gob-smack for me. The style of this particular book  was easy enough to understand. Basically, it’s formatted in the question-answer-objection-reply to that objection manner, but the content is rough going. No matter how many times I would work through a problem posed by Aquinas, I could never understand what his real answer was. Maybe I didn’t have the mental astuteness to gleam all the knowledge he was throwing down, or maybe I couldn’t follow the train of thought he led me on, but something made me throw this book out of my office window. Certainly the most frustrating book I’ve ever read. Probably, because I wanted to understand but just couldn’t. Like I said, frustrating.


The Art of Fiction

I’ll probably get some heat for this pick, but that’s fine with me. Man, I simply couldn’t stand this book. Gardner’s style of writing about writing is pompous, arrogant, and horribly glib. He comes off as a pinky-in-the-air intellectual that knows everything better than you do. Do you really want to sift through page after page of a know-it-all’s advice? I sure didn’t. In fact, I stopped reading half way through because I couldn’t take Gardner’s attitude any longer. Some writers I know swear by this book, and there is some good advice if you can slog past all the erudite belittling Gardner dishes out, but those little nuggets of wisdom pale in comparison to the totally miserable read that this book actually is. I simply don’t have time for that.

What do you think? I’d love to hear about the books that made you beat your brains out in the wee hours of the early morning. Hate my choices? Fire away!


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Writer, veteran, adult student, husband and father; life is busy! I love it though, and my hopes are to share with you my insights into these different roles, as well as to provide some experience-based tips on how to cope with the chaos they can bring. If even one of these different areas of life piques your interest then this might be the place for you. Welcome!

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