Tuesday Talks is a weekly meme for those who love to discuss all things bookish, with a new question each week to answer. This week’s question is: What is the most controversial opinion you have expressed about a book?
I’m not a very controversial person, but unpopular opinions are pretty popular with me. There are many, many well-loved books which I adore, but it’s often the ones which are the most drooled over and described as deeply moving which I tend to give one star. (Ladies, you can keep your John Green.)
I try not to be shy about speaking my mind, but there are some instances of my occasionally unpopular tastes which I do keep my mouth shut about most of the time. For instance, Herman Hesse’s classic biography of the Buddha, Siddhartha, was the first book I ever detested. Some might find that ironic, considering I was a Buddhist at the time that I read it. I found it to be an incredibly bland telling of what is actually an incredible story, and Hesse’s writing to be as dry and void of style as a middle-school essay. If you’re curious about Buddhism, I recommend that you read the Heart Sutra or any other actual Buddhist text (there are a million translations, but the point always gets across), or a book on the subject by a non-Westerner, such as Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki.
However, I think the most controversial opinion I have ever expressed was my strong dislike of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. When a college friend learned that I hadn’t read it, she was shocked and lent it to me immediately, swearing that I would love it and that it was absolutely imperative that a thoughtful person like myself read it. When I handed it back to her a few days later, the first thing she asked me was, “Didn’t you love it?”
I hemmed and hawed and made noncommittal little noises and squeaks and ultimately arrived at, “It was interesting,” which she happily accepted as an expression of adoration matching her own. She was so convinced that I would love it and I was so loathe to disappoint her that I waited another few days before giving anyone my honest opinion of it.
Despite how “powerful,” “potent,” “insightful,” and other groan-worthy adjectives The Alchemist is described to be, it is ultimately just another book claiming to have all the answers to life, the universe, and everything — which is silly, since we already know the answer: 42! The Alchemist‘s “powerful life lessons” (as Paulo Coelho calls them himself — I’m a little embarrassed for him) are so obvious that any non-vegetative human above the age of 12 has thought them before, so why do we need an entire book to express them as if they’re new and profound ideas? Maybe it’s designed for non-vegetative humans under the age of 12?
The most controversial opinion I have ever expressed about a book is that The Alchemist is my least favorite book that I have ever read.
There, I said it! What do you think? Should I be burned at the stake for my heretical ideas? If you loved The Alchemist, I would love to know why! Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, I’m very sincerely curious about your opinions!