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Staff Picks


Staff Anti-Picks 2024

What We're (not) Reading

For April Fool's, the Staff Picks team has solicited recommendations for "Anti Picks". This category may include books that they personally did not enjoy, or books that they did enjoy but would not necessarily recommend. Remember that we all have different tastes, so one person's anti pick may be another's favorite book.



David Copperfield

I've tried, honestly, but I could have picked any of Dicken's tedious paperweight tomes. A writer who takes five pages to describe living room drapes is not for me! The verdict is in... boring!


This book was boring, and did not resonate with me at all. I couldn't wrap my head around what was being written. Don't waste your time and just read "A Christmas Carol" instead!


The Bell Jar

While the importance of this book as a text that candidly discusses women's mental health can not be overlooked, I found The Bell Jar to be intensely mean-spirited and rife with racist remarks. Some have dismissed the book's dehumanizing language as a product of its time, but the fact that it was published well into the Civil Rights is hard to ignore.


Happy Place

I normally love Emily Henry's books, but this book just didn't work for me. This shouldn't have been a romance, it would've been a much stronger story if it had been about the main character moving past her breakup instead of trying to get back together with her ex. Sometimes people just grow apart and that's okay! The story arc in this book just frustrated me.


Pride and Prejudice

It's sharply written satire, which usually works for me. Trouble is, I don't want to spend any time in the world these characters inhabit. A couple of my favorite authors write about the same section of the British elite from a different angle. George Orwell (Burmese Days and Down and Out in Paris and London) and John Le Carré (basically everything he wrote, but try Smiley's People)



I read this book in high school for a class and I did not like it at all. Although hailed as a classic in Spanish literature. Although groundbreaking at the time and an important novel of the Spanish Realist movement of the XIX century, it moves slowly and the female characters are not well explored. Hated the ending!

Our Town

I usually read fiction as a way to imagine worlds other than the one I live in, so reading this play full of small-town New England drama didn't fit that bill. For comfier vignettes of New England life, I'd recommend "String too short to be saved" by Donald Hall.


Jane Eyre

I know so many people who love this book. I just can't get over how sad it is! And, how unhappy the "happy ending." Don't get me wrong, there are some gorgeous quotes and I would most definitely be friends with Jane Eyre in real life-- she is a survivor. BUT AT WHAT COST?! I infinitely prefer the more positive retellings, especially, "Jane Steele"
by Lyndsay Faye.


Legends of the Fall

Legends of the Fall is about a dysfunctional relationship between brothers who love the same woman. The favored son leaves which causes the father to be ridiculously critical of the son who stays and marries the woman. Although I love Jim Harrison's writing, I enjoyed Robert Louis Stevenson's archetypal treatment of the same plot even more in The Master of Ballantrae. Mary Lawson's treatment of the same plot in The Other Side of the Bridge is also much better than Legends of the Fall.


Infinite Jest

Like many people, I began and labored through a long chunk of Infinite Jest before dropping it. It's set in Allston / Brighton, which had drawn me to the book. But those local references felt like the occasional glimmers in a mostly frustrating and bewildering slog. Eventually I encountered someone's commenting on the book that they'd assumed all their challenging work of reading Infinite Jest would of course lead up to a rewarding payoff at the end, but that there was none. I stopped instantly.


War and Peace

I have tried, and then tried again, to read this book. I have had it recommended by many many friends. I have invested in multiple translations. And despite all of this, I cannot get past the first few chapters. So, I can't do it, but I've heard wonderful things about it, and maybe you'll love it!


Fight Club

April Fool's! I do not pick Fight Club. In my experience, violence is serious and suffering is not something to be desired. I would rather not read this work of fiction, which seems to glorify and make a spectacle of violence -- even if it means to be subversive. For a story about fighting which is not made up, that treats the subject much more seriously, I prefer Raging Bull, the memoir of middleweight boxing champ Jake LaMotta. The same is true of the two films!


Fahrenheit 451

A real quote from Ray Bradbury on Fahrenheit 451's relevance in 1994: "It works even better because we have political correctness now. Political correctness is the real enemy these days. The black groups want to control our thinking and you can't say certain things. The homosexual groups don't want you to criticize them. It's thought control and freedom of speech control." A putrid take on a rancid novel.


Atlas Shrugged

It seems Ayn Rand wanted write a manifesto and decided to stretch it into a way-too-long "novel" instead. The characters are flat, the plot is plodding, and the allegory is heavy-handed. As the lead character, Dagny Taggart does Rand's political philosophy of Objectivism no favors.


The Circle

In "The Circle," Dave Eggers bravely presents the audience with something we have never seen or read before from a male author: a stupid and shallow young female protagonist. Mae is painfully dull, pitifully unlikable, and not just because she doesn't make "good" choices, because even that would make her too layered, anti-heroic, and interesting! She is devoid of original thought, but luckily she has a series of men (mostly love interests) who plant ideas in her head to move the plot along. I cannot recommend this book LESS, and that goes double for its sequel which, shockingly, follows a naïve, fresh-out-of college woman working at a tech firm. For fans of big tech dystopia (minus the existential dread) from the perspective of female and queer writers, I recommend: "The Candy House" by Jennifer Egan, "Cult Classic" by Sloane Crosley, and "Several People Are Typing" by Calvin Kasulke.



It was REALLY slow and hard to get through. It also had a lot of uncomfortable scenes that just seem to be for shock rather than any real story reason. If you want to read something well-written and scary with a focus on character relationships/development read something by Grady Hendrix!

American Pastoral

A friend recommended me this book saying: "This is an ultimate American read. If you want to understand this country - read it!" I tried, really! I read more than a half of it and gave up. I found it boring ... I usually enjoy slow moving self-analysing narratives, but with this one something just didn't click. Should I give it another go? Am I missing out? Am I the problem and not the book?...


I know that thousands of people are devoted to this book; there are whole courses on it, celebrations, and more. I have started it about four times and every time I find it both distasteful and uninteresting-definitely not worth the amount of time I'd lose reading it.

The Glass Castle

I had to read The Glass Castle in school, which may have me a bit biased because I couldn't just stop reading when I didn't like it, but I didn't find it compelling. There are some books where you are not meant to like the characters, this being one of them, but you still want to know more about them. I can safely say that I didn't really want to know more about these characters. I actually wished that I knew less about her father, and that I hadn't had to spend so much time and effort on it. You can find far more compelling (in my opinion) "literature class syllabus" type books where the focus is on character dynamics, story construction, and a memoir voice.