Top Ten Tuesday: The Shelf of Shame

March 19, 2013 Classics, Historical Fiction, Top Ten Tuesday 295

Greetings, Bookworms!

You know when you’re in a bookstore, browsing, and you get sucked in by picking up a title in the bargain bin? How about when you have grand intentions of bettering yourself and pick up a pile o’ classics only to watch them collect dust on your shelves? We’ve all got the shelf of shame. And the ladies at the Broke and the Bookish? They want us to own up to it. Today’s Top Ten Tuesday: Stuff I Bought But Never Read.

toptentuesday1. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) I get self important and think that I will be able to appreciate even the most highbrow of classics. That’s when I buy things like Madame Bovary and then watch them moulder on my shelves for an eternity. I mean, I SHOULD like this. A doctor’s wife has adulterous affairs? I mean, hello Anna Karenina. How’s it going, Lady Chatterley? Why did I never get down with Madame Bovary? No idea.

2. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. This is always on smart people’s lists of favorite books. I’m highly susceptible to peer pressure whilst making decisions inside the Barnes and Noble… Amazon doesn’t judge me the way a hipster cashier would!

3. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. I bought this because Tess of the d’Urbervilles was so fantastic. However… The lack of female main character and/or the really unappealing portrait of what I assume to be the “mayor” on the cover has kept me from actually bending the spine of this one.

4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I really do want to read this… It’s just so THICK. I’m not easily intimidated by big books, but this sucker is the size of Les Miserables, but lacks a magnificent soundtrack to play in my head… And no Gavroche.


The Classics… Of Shame.

5. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig. It’s historical fiction with a pretty cover. I couldn’t be expected to resist the purchase, and yet… Still unread.

6. Shakespeare’s Wife by Germaine Greer. It’s historical fiction about, uh, Shakespeare’s wife. You know. Anne Hathaway. The one that didn’t win an Oscar. I found it in a bargain bin. I really loved the movie Shakespeare in Love, so perhaps I just don’t want to hear the sad tale of the wife who was left behind when the dashing Joseph Fiennes fell for a not-yet-openly-pretentious Gwyneth Paltrow. Siiigh.

7. The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox. I bought this because it’s historical fiction. I’ve been putting off reading it because it’s about a Victorian era murderer. I’m not big on crime novels, even historical ones. I frequently question my bargain bin judgement.

You can see the bargain stickers!

You can see the bargain stickers!

8. Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler. I bought this with Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant because I thought they sounded smart and fabulous. I read Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant and didn’t love it, so I didn’t bother with the other one on the shelf.

9. A Taxonomy of Barnacles by Galt Niederhoffer. Yeah. I bought this solely for the AWESOME title. I didn’t even read the abstract. Maybe I should. Maybe I will. Who knows?

10. House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III. There was an Oprah sticker, and I am not immune to the influence of The Oprah. I don’t know why I haven’t read it. STOP JUDGING ME, OPRAH!


Haven’t read these. Scandalous.

Alright, Bookworms. You know you’ve got some of these bad boys on your shelves. I want to hear about them so I don’t feel so alone. Spill it!

295 Responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: The Shelf of Shame”

  1. therelentlessreader

    The Shelf of Shame! Ack! We all have one of those don’t we? Thank goodness for The Classics Club..they are helping me to finally read some of those books that have been mocking me!

  2. Kelly

    Heart of Darkness = kind of sucktastic. I recently read/reviewed it and was not a fan, probably because I was constantly comparing it to Apocalypse Now.
    Count of Monte Cristo is one of my fave classics though…I totally vouch for that one! And House of Sand and Fog (movie is pretty good too).
    I have sooooooo many on my Shelf of Shame…Dracula, The Brothers Karamazov, The Last of the Mohicans, Vanity Fair, Candide…and Outlander. I KNOW!

    • Words for Worms

      I’ve read none of your classics, so no shame there. But 🙁 for Outlander. I’m glad to hear you vouch for a couple of my books, I’ll probably (maybe) get off my lazy bum and read them!

    • missedthetrain

      If you’re reading Heart of Darkness through the eyes of Apocalypse now, you’re probably missing the point. But, anyway, we all have the right to have an opinion and if one does not like a book, one should not be forced into reading it.
      As for the actual post here, loved it. I have gathered a Shelf of Shame both in paperbacks and ebooks. Somehow, I always end up reading something else than I planned.

  3. Cindy

    I second Kelly on Count of Monte Cristo – I really liked it.

    On my shelf – Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Dracula, and Like Water for Elephants are the only ones I can remember right now.

    • Words for Worms

      The Dragon Tattoo books were alright… A lot of insider knowledge about Swedish politics I didn’t find too exciting. They take a while to get into, but are decent for sure. I loved Water for Elephants, so I think that should migrate out of the shame shelf first :).

  4. Liesel Hill

    I LOVE Heart of Darkness! I read it at least once a year! I’ll admit it may be hard to wade through the first time you read it. I’ve read it so many times I hardly notice anymore. There are also a lot of philosophical aspects to it, but those are actually my favorite parts. Shakespeare’s wife looks interesting. I may have to check that one out! 😀 Great list!
    My TTT

    • Words for Worms

      Philosophical like yoga class philosophical, or philosophical like Plato philosophical? I don’t know why I’m even asking that, because I don’t really like either of them…

  5. Rory O'Connor

    The Shelf of Shame – love it. I’ve read a few of the titles and I liked The House of Sand and Fog (though as a rule won’t read Oprah books).

    I like you Heart of Darkness reasoning, I too am guilty of smart-people-book-buying guilt.

    • Words for Worms

      I don’t hate Oprah books- some of them are kind of duds, but I’ve read a lot of them and only wanted to punch a few. Smart-people-book-buying is a dangerous place. It’s like when I read A Confederacy of Dunces and concluded that everyone must have lied about liking it…

  6. Jayne

    Another vote for Count of Monte Cristo here! It’s fabulous, you absolutely have to read it. And for those that have Dracula, I loved that one too (my sister really liked it also and we usually pick different books, so you’re not getting just my opinion).

    Madame Bovary is on my shelf of shame as well.
    I have Hunger Games on there too – I know, I know, EVERYONE says it’s fantastic but I wasn’t interested at first then I got it because of all the peer pressure and just haven’t wanted to pick it up yet. It’s my goal to finally read it this year. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is also on my shelf… one of those I bought so I could be more enlightened, but just can’t manage to bring myself to start it.

  7. Megan M.

    I’ve got probably a hundred books on my Kindle that I don’t know if I’m ever going to read. I subscribe to one of those daily discounted ebooks things and so I’m always seeing things that sound interesting and have good reviews and are dirt cheap, so I buy them, but I don’t have time to read them all!

    Heart of Darkness – read it in AP English and don’t remember it at all except for one line. Meh. House of Sand and Fog – read the book AND saw the movie. Tragic story.

  8. Christi

    I’d like to add my vote to all the other commenters here who have loved The Count of Monte Cristo, with a side note — I (accidentally) read the abridged version. It was still 900-something pages. Oops. As for Heart of Darkness, I read that in AP English years ago, and the best thing about it was that it was relatively short.

    On my shelf, I still need to read Like Water for Elephants, 3 Cups of Tea, and The Diviners (I’m actually saving this one til the second book comes out so I can read them together). And I totally agree that certain cashiers can give you that judgemental look…

    • Words for Worms

      Water for Elephants is lovely. 3 Cups of Tea is eye-opening, but I saw some follow up articles where it sounded like the story wasn’t all it seemed, so I’m not sure how I feel about it now.

  9. Lyssapants

    Dude, so I’ve read something you haven’t?? I can die with a little pride.
    I bought the unabridged Les Mis and never read it. I also bought LOTR and only got through Fellowship.

  10. daddio

    Count of Monte Cristo = GREAT!
    Dracula = Great!
    LOTR = Very good but tedious
    Jane Eyre = on my shelf

    • Words for Worms

      Dad, I thought we’d moved past your hatred of Jane Eyre. You are still wrong, because it is wonderful. Also, your tastes are subject to scrutiny because… I said so. Hi! Turnabout is fair play, Old Man. (Sassing your Dad on your blog when you’re 30 = Priceless)

  11. Ashley F

    Count of Monte Cristo is fantastic. If you enjoyed Wuthering Heights you’ll like it. I can also vouch for House of Sand and Fog. Fantastic book and decent movie.

    My shelf of shame includes Love in the Time of Cholera, Lolita and Beloved. All famously popular books that have been gathering dust on my shelves for years.

  12. liese0409

    Oh my god, I have so many unread books at home. But I did not buy them ;). I just stole them from my grandpa`s old books or got them from somewhere else. So I think it is okay. I good the Joseph Conrad novel aswell, together with a couple of others. I was forced to read the Shadow Line at University, but I didn`t…
    But I have two books from Ken Follett on my shelf of shame and lots of other stuff I should read. Maybe i will…

  13. Lori

    If I were to be honest, I have a bookcase of shame. I have several Oprah books that I thought were “must reads” during the time when I wanted to be able to say I’d read all the Oprah books but I think I’ve gotten over it.

  14. Milo

    My wife and I did that on her Kindle…only, it was every smart persons book we could get for free. Everything from Robinson Crusoe to Don Quixote (although I did start Don Quixote). On my actual bookshelves I have a few, most notably the Silmarilion and an illustrated copy of Around the World in Eighty Days.

  15. Sarah Says Read

    House of Sand and Fog was MESSED UP. But it was also a good movie that (I think) stayed pretty close to the book… so you could do that.

    And TRUTH with The Count of Monte Cristo! I totally want to read it eventually, but that sucker is soooooo huge and giant and I’m stubborn and refuse to read any abridged version. I’m kind of hoping to stumble upon a readalong of it later this year to FORCE me to read it.

  16. Jenny

    Aw! Count of Monte Cristo is crazy awesome! It indeed does not have an awesome soundtrack to play in your head but it DOES have a lot of super crazy REVEEEEEEENGE. And, like, REVEEEEEEENGE. Is REVEEEEENGE.

  17. David Lindskoog

    Fascinating idea for a post! The only one on your list I’ve read is Heart of Darkness, and that was for a 2nd year English class. Don’t remember being too blown away, but that may have been due to being forced to examine the book through the lens of “post-colonialism.”

    My own list is probably topped off by Ulysses. I actually made it about a third of the way through, once.

    • Words for Worms

      Oh man, Joyce is INTENSE. I am nowhere near brave enough to tackle Ulysses. I think books often get kind of ruined by forced reading. Sometimes I wonder if I re-read Moby Dick, if I’d feel differently. Then my 16 year old self pops in and says “Um no. That book made you fall asleep all the time.”

      • David Lindskoog

        Yeah… I don’t know that I’ll ever finish it for that reason. I really enjoyed Joyce’s short stories, so I hoped I would be able to stick it out. Not so. I think what kept me going as long as I did was those “have to stop and think about how perfect that sentence was” moments that Joyce seems to be so good at.

  18. Generation Passport

    I love printed books. I’ve never got into the e-book readers and nooks. If I can’t smell the paper and ink, it isn’t a book to me. This is why I want to turn my blog into a book when I am done–a paper book.

    • Words for Worms

      See, I’m quite the opposite. I’ll take the content in any form, but I adore my kindle. It lets me have ALL THE BOOKS without sacrificing ALL THE STORAGE SPACE.

  19. kitresa

    I LOVE your Madam Bovary comment. I know how it feels to feel guilty for not liking/not wanting to read a classic.
    And Les Mis is daunting. It’s good but long. I can only handle a few pages at a time. I must read other books simultaneously.

  20. Lyssapants

    I had to comment again to officially say CONGRATS ON BEING FRESHLY PRESSED!!!!!
    I hope all the weird spammy comments are to a minimum.

  21. tua1992

    That list! Goodness, my shelf of shame does in fact have The Mayor of Casterbridge on it. And all those books make you so guilty at times. Awesome list. 🙂

  22. Alignment Alchemist

    Book buying is an addiction and a bottomless rabbit hole! I salivate in Half Price Books (store) like some ppl do for a shoe sale at Nordstrom’s. I think I should get a Kindle so I don’t clutter my home, but theres something so provocative about curling up with a good printed book…ahhh…

  23. Dounia

    Great…this post got me thinking about my shelves (yes, plural) of shame… The worst part about it all is that I’m sure I have more than enough time to read all those books, yet somehow I still don’t get around to it. But hopefully I shall prevail! 😉 Also, I would like to add myself to the several Monte Cristo fans – it’s a fantastic book! I didn’t even feel the length because I loved it from beginning to end.

    Great post, and congrats on being freshly pressed – I’ll make sure I stop by again! 🙂

  24. xdanigirl

    In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I bought it when I was like 13 because I heard AMAZING things about it from teachers. I’m now 20 and still haven’t got through the whole thing… I get about a quarter to half way through and I get confused and bored and give up…

    • Words for Worms

      I haven’t read that one either. I’ve heard mixed reviews, and murderers freak me out as a rule. I’m not big on books that will give me nightmares, unless they’re about zombies.

      • xdanigirl

        I love murder books!! That’s almost all I read. I especially want to read the one about the victorian murderer!! That one sounds good!

      • xdanigirl

        Ok! I will attempt it one more time! I think the problem was the first few times is one I was over seas and preoccupied with everything there, and two (the next few times I tried) I was around horses and it was during the summer and it was time to go swimming and be outside lol

    • Words for Worms

      I read those both in high school, and I actually enjoyed them. However, I think Catcher might be harder to read as an adult- it was good for my angsty head space at the time…

  25. The Sandwich Lady

    Great post. Loved Madame B and The Count of Monte Cristo but still struggling through Les Mis. My husband’s uncle bequeathed him all the classics, from Plutarch to O. Henry to Dickens, and most of them have gone untouched, mere book-case fillers to impress our friends with. No excuse! So ashamed.

    • Words for Worms

      There has never been an occasion where I thought to myself, “hmmm, I can’t wait to get home and snuggle up with my Plutarch.” I’ll totally forgive you if you don’t get around to that one!

  26. heidikmck

    this is eerily similar to mine, even House of Sand and Fog. Then again, my shelf of shame has well over thirty books on it, making it likely to have much in common with many shelves of said shame.

  27. juandiwa

    I’ll admit, the only thing I’ve read on this list was ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, and I haven’t even finished it. To get intimidated by its thickness is understandable (believe me, there are just some passages and chapters that are remarkably detailed and can just make you lose focus), but the adventure and character-building in this masterpiece is just undeniably excellent. So I suggest you start reading it!

  28. Angie Flanagan

    Don Quixote! Bought it with the best of intentions. Never read more than a page. Same for a Tale of Two Cities. Never made it past the worst of times…..

    • Words for Worms

      Did you get Don Quixote in English or Spanish? If you got it in English, you can claim it’s a bad translation. If you got it in Spanish, you can claim it’s too difficult to try and read a classic in your non native tongue. Win-win. Dream the Impossible Dream, my friend.

  29. kathy

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does this. I thought I had an illness — or just lazy, one of the two. Great post!

  30. justjase79

    I might be your worst case – I have over 700 books on my shelves, most of which I have not read (yet!). A whole room of my house is now a library. I’ve bought most of them in the last 7 years or so, taking advantage of great sales and the financial collapse of major chains.

    I do read a hack of a lot of books, just not as quickly as I buy more of them.

    I could not begin to construct a list like yours when there are probably over 400 unread books on my shelves.

    To be fair, I do seem to have a strong ability to push all the way through a book even though I’m not enjoying it. Don Quixote was a struggle – I have huge respect for it but it has a long hard slog. There are only three books I did not finish. The Arabian Nights I got half way through, went on holiday, never got back into it. Deception Point by Dan Brown was so bad, I may pick it up again so I can give it a bad review it on my blog. And Planet Simpson by Christ Turner was so brilliant it blew my mind and I had to put it down for a while and recover!

    From your list, I have read The Count of Monte Cristo and Madame Bovary (both only OK) while Heart of Darkness is the only other one from your list on my shelves.

    Great Post

  31. kirkykoo79

    Tried Madame B and gave up. Read Mayor of Casterbridge at school and it put me off Hardy for years, which was a pity as Tess and Jude are actually brilliant. I have whole authors of shame – somehow I’ve never read any Sebastian Faulks, Salman Rushdie or Margaret Atwood (other than The Handmaid’s Tale)…

  32. Victim of the Fury

    Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon: Have wanted to read it since a cool graduate school friend, whose coolness I wanted to emulate, told me it was his favorite book but that it was a hard read. I’ve started it 5-6 times over the last 20 years — and stared at it in shame on the shelf many more times than that — but never gotten beyond a few pages. I can’t claim it is too difficult a slog because I’ve never made it far enough in to be able to make that claim believably. I’m afraid that I’ve now made such a big deal out of my “need” to finally read it that I simply carry too much baggage into the effort and get immediately overwhelmed. I’ll definitely read it someday though. It has now become I book I have to “overcome.” Maybe I’ll read it next … Enjoyed your post.

  33. writergirl259

    Funny topic! good job! We all share the shame…those that say that don’t are lying.
    My biggest shame is On Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. I have started the damn book at least 45 times. I need to read it. Yes its a great work of literature. And i will, yell I will read it this summer! Another one…Middlemarch…by George Eliot. Not giving up 🙂
    thanks for a fun post!

  34. nicholeck

    I have a whole bookshelf of shame! My parents gave me about 50 books when I graduated (including a deliciously aged copy of Madame Bovary, which I haven’t read), and I think now I own more books that I haven’t read than book that I have. But now that I’ve graduated, I’m finally ready to start winnowing down the bookshelf of shame! The Count of Monte Cristo is also on that list, but mostly because I hated the ending of the movie, and someone told me the book is much better.

    • Words for Worms

      There is nothing I hate worse than Hollywood adaptations that muck up the endings of books. My Sister’s Keeper? They completely changed the ending! Or, the end of the Liam Niessen Les Miserables- they let Jean Valjean live. WTF?!

  35. nikajones225

    Thanks for the list! I’ve read a few of those books years ago but it’s nice to see some new titles I haven’t heard of before 🙂

    • Words for Worms

      Unfortunately, I can’t tell you if they’re any good or not, since I haven’t read them… But I’m always happy to introduce people to new books! 🙂

  36. paintlater

    Alright, I’m embarrassed but I confess it’s James Joyce Ulysses…I know,I know! I’m very sorry. I will one day I pinky promise. It would help if there were pictures. Cheers Sue

  37. Judy

    Wonderful post! I found myself chuckling while mentally reviewing my own “shelf of shame.” My “shelf” is largely virtual, a repository for all those books I feel I should read and appreciate to live up to some internal literary aspiration. Madame Bovary and Shakespeare classics occupy my mental shelf. On my physical shelf are the Lord of the Rings trilogy, just could not get into them even though my son has read them several times, several nondescript novels, and Middlemarch. Not sure why I went for that one. I must also highly recommend The Count of Monte Cristo. I loved it, although my sons coudn’t get into it (I see a pattern.) I think reading The House of Sand and Fog cured me of reading Oprah books. I found it dreadfully hopeless. Based on your readers’ comments, I feel the need to check out Heart of Darkness. Will it one day be on my shelf of shame?

  38. teamgloria

    you are terribly funny!

    coming back for more soon.

    we don’t have a shelf of shame because we used to have a problem with clutter (some smart person told us it was wasted energy or something that seared into our brain and so *sighs* we binge read and donate or mail to friends in a futile effort to keep that energy moving, baby).


    your blog rocks (as the young people say)

    we shall return!

    happy reading.


  39. bronsonfive

    Holy crap! My feeling exactly. Awesome post! There are a lot of “classics” that stand on my shelf that I couldn’t make it through.

  40. halfbakedlog

    Ulysses has been sitting on my shelf for nearly 20 years. I read about 200 pages but couldn’t finish it. Left it out on the patio one summer night, now it’s a bit warped from the nighttime moisture. I’ll try again since I find out I sometimes love a book on the second try.

    I have read: Madame Bovary – great; Heart of Darkness – depressing but very worthwhile; The Secret of the Pink Carnation – read the whole series, I like historical novels, some very sexy parts to it also.

  41. writercat81

    I absolutely loved Madame Bovary! But have yet to meet more than a few people who share the sentiment. On my shelf of shame? Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper”. Someone gave it to me but I just couldn’t get into it…

  42. derb523622013

    Hilarious thread! My kids got me a Kindle for Christmas although I swore I would never be swayed from paper books. I had a good laugh reading about all the freebie hoarders; I think I spent at least 48 hours during my first few days with the Kindle, downloading just about everything they have and then NEVER reading any of it. Thanks to all who responded to this post for making me feel better about myself!

  43. Daryl and Alana

    Great post… it reminds me that I actually own a Bookshelf of Shame. sigh. Great intentions, but who I’m with you, Heart of Darkness (which is on my shelf too!) just doesn’t call my name as loud as the Instyle magazine next to it. Every couple of weeks I seem to come home with a new book, but I just can’t read fast enough to get to them!

    House of Sand and Fog is actually very good though… =)

  44. shellakers

    HAHA! LOVED this!!!! I’m patting myself on the back because I finished Lady Chatterly’s Lover in January. I wanted to love it because I TOO, feel self important. I did NOT love it. I still can’t figure out what all the fuss is about. BUT The Count of Monte Cristo is on my list and the bigness scares the crap out of me. lol Oh and don’t get me started on how many Oprah approved books are on my shelves. I see the Oprah sticker and think I HAVE to have it. In fact I blame Oprah for getting my shelf of shame started in the first place! lol I’m going to be brave and admit something to the world. I’ve NOT liked more Oprah approved books than I’ve LIKED. True story.

    • Words for Worms

      I liked Lady Chatterley, but it seems so TAME next to some of the smut I read these days, you know? I read it and I was like… “Wait. That wasn’t dirty at all…” Lesson learned: old timey steamy is not the same as new timey steamy.

      • shellakers

        HAHA! Maybe that’s what it was. I expected so much more heat, based on what I’d heard. You’re right though… old timey steamy can’t compare to 50 shades. lmbo

      • Redterrain

        Oh, there’s a dirty part in there…he just hid it well! It’s the last time the two make love…read it again, there’s a hidden message (re: sodomy!). I was so surprised, he wrote it subtly.

  45. Another Clean Slate

    Congrats on being on Freshly Pressed! I share a Kindle account with some family and friends and I swear someone keeps “buying” free books that fall into this category. I can’t figure out why else they’d be in our library!

  46. Ashana M

    I didn’t know people who bought books and never read them existed. I sometimes borrow books from the library and don’t read them–you run out of time, or it was a gamble in the first place. But to spend good money on something…that’s different. I’m glad you alerted me to this aspect of humanity. I feel a bit more part of the human race now.

  47. Yuna

    So, i have so much line uo books on my ‘shelf of shame’ too. so that’s why i join one of reading challenge similar to this…
    Keep on decreasing your shelf of shame 🙂

  48. pezcita

    Being a lover of language who’s not an avid bookworm, I see “shelves of shame” every time I visit a library. Which is pretty often considering I work in a library. (Points for having the discipline not to read on the job?) Then there’s the little stack of books from the last 2 booksales I haven’t gotten through just yet. Hang in there Huck Finn!

  49. girlproducer

    Does it help that mine are from the Barnes and Noble Leather bound series and I bought them because they are pretty? Yeah I tried to read The Count Of Monte Cristo once…

  50. laurnicolehunt

    I read the Heart of Darkness in high school and it was one of the hardest for me to get through even though it’s relatively short. Most likely the people who call it a favorite are much smarter than I, but I was not a fan!

    The Count of Monte Cristo on the other hand is one of my all time favorites. I read it about 10 years ago and have been trying to find the time to read it again– if you’ve never seen the movie, watch it! It is a much briefer version of the book but may give you the motivation to pick it up 🙂

    Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Kite Runner are on the top of my still-to-read list!

  51. Allison

    I’ve only just recently started buying books for my future library, so I don’t have a shelf of shame yet… I can only wait in anticipation for the day I DO have one though! =)

    However, I did just buy Great Expectations… if I don’t finish it within the next week, it’s likely that it’ll be the first book on that “shelf”….

    • Words for Worms

      I read Great Expectations in high school. It wasn’t my favorite, but it’s hard for me to tell if that’s because I didn’t like it or because I was all 14 and mopey.

  52. sporadicblogger

    I have Don Quixote lying on my bookshelf, charging eternally at the windmills. Somehow I never get around to reading it.

  53. lillian888

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! My Shelf of Shame includes The Kreuzer Sonata by Tolstoy, Memoirs of a Geisha, and A Thousand Pieces of Gold.

    • Words for Worms

      Memoirs of Geisha is a great read, but I have a thing for prostitution fiction. That sounds weird, but it’s true. And Tolstoy? I really and truly love and appreciate Anna Karenina, but I think Tolstoy is the best all natural alternative to Ambien.

  54. janereads

    Congrats on being freshly pressed! I have quite a few books on my shelf that fit this category. I bought Game of Thrones with lofty intentions but never got past page 20 (love the TV series though). I can also add Wolf Hall and War and Peace to this list. These books fill me with such guilt every time I notice them. Worse are the new books I never read and end up giving to charity. Hopefully, they will go to a home where they are loved.

    • Words for Worms

      Game of Thrones was good, but a bit drawn out in places. It reads more like historical fiction to me than fantasy, so I enjoyed it. I’m not brave enough for War and Peace!

  55. Peter

    I’m not sure I dare comment — from the comments posted here one would think that only women read book. But I’ll dare venture where men seem afraid to go.

    Over the last 10 years I have had to trim my once-3000-volume library first down to about 500 books and then down to 20 — as we downsize to move full time into an RV. The 3000 volume version had a lot of research texts — and no one actually “reads” those — but I spent a lot of time between the covers not-reading them.

    This last downsizing was much harder and it too months because I kept finding books I hadn’t read, or hadn’t finished. So I would stop, sit on the floor with my back against a bookcase and try once more to get through it. I think I managed about 40 books that hadn’t had their covers cracked.

    Our new rule (applicable to both wife and I) is one in, one out. With everything. Books, underwear, spoons, pencils. I’m enjoying the challenge but I’ve had to give up bargain book tables in the same way an alcoholic avoids bars….

    A retired photographer looks at life

    Peter Pazucha dot Com

    Life Unscripted on WordPress

  56. Ayesha's Dublin

    Love it! My ‘Shelf of Shame’ has come with me on every home move about Dublin. I successfully gifted Naomi Klein’s ‘No Logo’ to a friend after only 6 or so years on the shelf 🙂

  57. Jadi Campbell

    The Russians (with the exception of Chekhov). They took up way too much shelf space for a couple decades before I admitted I’m never going to crack War & Peace or The Brothers K. I sent them on to better (smarter) homes and filled the shelf space with stuff I’ll read! —Jadi

  58. Sean Johnson

    Atlas Shrugged. When I bought it I hadn’t read any Rand; now I have, and I just can’t steel myself to go through that again.
    Lord Jim is probably better Conrad, but definitely finish Heart of Darkness, you won’t be disappointed!

  59. jeff japp

    Ha Ha! I also have “Count of Monte Cristo” on my shelf — unread. I won a copy but still have not cracked it, but I’m sure I will. Here’s a thought for you. I was in a used bookstore years ago and was debating about how large a stack of books I should get. The wise bookseller told me that I should get them all because then I would live longer. “Why?” I asked. “Because,” he said, “having unread books on your shelf means you have unfinished business in life and therefore you can’t die.” I bought the stack and hey, I’m still alive 😉 Cheers!

  60. Mad Queen Linda

    Where are the books that are snort-through-the-nose fun and funny? I own several of the books listed above, have read some of them, and now I have a fully stocked liquor cabinet to ease the pain. I’m currently enjoying a good roll in the cat poop Dresden Files and Harry Potter series. Congrats on Fresh Press, you’ve given me a smile this morning.

  61. jchurchi

    Nice list… Count of Monte Cristo .. while it looks long and intimidating, is actually a really easy book to read. Dumas moves the pace along pretty quickly and does not get bogged down in details. It is one of my favorite books to re-read.

    Tolkien is on my shelf unread for the exact opposite reason.

  62. shanesbookblog

    Hey I Love your Blog , and the content as well. I Love seeing other Book Bloggers with creative , informative , and well designed Blogs who clearly have so much passion for Blogging Book reviews Writing and other Topics. I Am a new Book Blogger and I am still getting used to everything and i am still learning but it has been a blast so far! Yesterday i bought the pro upgrade Bundle and a premium Theme so i guess today i will be tweaking stuff and changing things until i reach a point where I am comfortable with the design , for now anyways. I Subscribed and Liked your page because i certainly want updates on new content and i shall return later today and check out some more of your material! ~ Shane

  63. acturano

    Count of Monte Cristo, LOVED it! On my shelf of shame is Trinity by Leon Uris… and I am Irish but could not get into it and its huge! Glad to have found your blog through Freshly Pressed!

    • Words for Worms

      Oh what fun! In college I took an entire course on the Irish Short Story. I’ve certainly read novels by Irish authors, but the short prose is a fun little break in a world of chunkster novels.

  64. Redterrain

    Heart of Darkness is an excellent read if you can get past his heavy descriptions…There is one powerful section in the short story that still sticks with me and I ready it over 10 years ago. Watch Apocalypse Now for the “movie adaptation”. I’ve got Franz Kaftka on my shelf at the moment unread…why? It’s too dark and I’m pretty pleasant… Oh right War and Peace, taunts me. 🙂 Great post! Maybe these will be books that I’ll read when I’m older. Enjoy your ride on the freshly pressed train!

  65. legendsofyouth

    I feel like I have about two shelves of shame. I own some dumb books! Haha great post, thanks for sharing your shelf of shame 😉 Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  66. kldawson

    I too am a victim of bargain bin mania. And I too have way more unread books on my shelves than I should, but I’m guilty of another reader sin, the partially read book. I have books that are thirty years on my shelves but I’ve never read all the way through. I take a look, sample, put aside for later. I’m one of those who’s always reading two, three or more books at a time and it’s easy to get distracted. I leave partially read books around the house like fallen soldiers of scholarship. This quite irritates Fem Major (the wife), but I’ve never stopped it. To me a room without bookshelves is useless and a table is not complete without a pile of books atop it. I fear this is a terminal condition.

  67. Beachbums1

    A couple years ago my book club selected “Mischief of the Mistletoe” (Lauren Willig) and I ended up going back and reading her entire Pink Carnation series. It’s a fast read ~ give it a go!

  68. Sheila

    Heart of Darkness is also on my Shelf of Shame. Another one I keep thinking I might read someday is Les Miserables. But hey, at least I watched the movie. 🙂 And with titles like that, it’s a wonder anyone ever read them.

  69. karenspath

    Thought provoking…. my list is starts with War and Peace, The Caine Mutiny, Ben Hur, The Promise, and The Greater Journey. Maybe I’ll remember them next time I am dying to read something….

  70. Mikels Skele

    I have a Nook. There are books on there that haven’t even been written yet, I’m sure. It’s insidious. How can you resist a book you can buy for half price by just pressing a button? I’ve read maybe two.

  71. Ann Kilter

    For the last number of years, I start books, but can’t seem to finish them. That seemed to happen after I had children, and then later went back to work. However, I now have 57 books on my Kindle, and no one but you and some of your readers who have made it this far, will know the extent of my unfinished books. (They are much less aesthetically pleasing, as well).

    I read the Count of Monte Cristo when I was a teenager and I remember enjoying it – much better than the Three Musketeers. I have Moby Dick on the book shelf in the bedroom. I keep thinking about reading it, but I don’t get much further/farther than My name is Ishmael. 🙂

    • Words for Worms

      Ha! I read Moby Dick in high school and I am still irrationally hostile toward it. I will not judge you if you decide to use it as a doorstop or something LOL.

  72. Mrs H

    Oh my word- you MUST read #4 The Counte of Monte Cristo! You will forget all about how thick it is – absolutely mesmerizing!

    (They say The Man in the Iron Mask has a scarily similar plot.)

  73. Sarah at SeeEatRepeat

    I want to feel smart enough to read the Illiad and the Odyssey. But I just. can’t. do it. I also feel a serious obligation to read Les Mis in French, but I don’t have the motivation to dive in. Hugo is like Dickens to me–far too wordy. Don’t give up on The Count of Monte Cristo; that one needs to be rescued from the shelf fo’ sho’.

  74. deborahtd

    Oh man… House of Sand and Fog is genuinely one of the most riveting, devastatingly unstoppable books I have ever read. I have read and forgotten more fantastic books than I can tell you, but this one has stuck with me. Truly gripped me from beginning to end. Screw the rest, but read this one. It’s a gem… honestly!

  75. soad88

    the covers look so pretty on my kindle……your list is my list…..I’ll read them….I will I swear…

  76. pajarigirls

    Bahahaha! I’m ashamed to admit that Emerson and Hemingway are on my shelf of shame. I was given several of the Lauren Wilig series, and loved them, but I can’t remember why. 🙂

  77. kodonivan

    I loved both Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and Ladder of Years. Anne Tyler is an interesting writer. Sorry you didn’t like her stuff. Give Ladder of Years a chance, though. You might be surprised.
    As for the rest of the titles on the list, I haven’t read any of them. I don’t care for Shakespeare and those other old “classics” that college literature professors claim to be important.
    Great Post.

  78. ahill3

    Haha oh my goodness, I 100% feel your pain. This happens to me all the time! I just look at them from time to time thinking I should read them…but I just move onto another book. Biggest fail ever, haha, but I’m glad to know other people do this as well!

  79. emilytoulouse

    From someone who’s read Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, there is no comparing the two! I found Anna Karenina to be breathtaking, beautiful, and engrossing, while Madame Bovary trudged along (of course the life of Madame Bovary trudged along, so perhaps that was intentional), so I can’t blame you for not reading it. Honestly out of all the great classics it’s the one I would recommend the least. At least owning it makes it look like you’ve read it!

    • Words for Worms

      This makes me feel better! I enjoyed Anna and Lady Chatterley, so I feel like a loser for not having read the Bovary. Sounds like it might not be worth it though LOL.

  80. timbarjenbruch

    A comment at the end of all comments, but I’ll give my best:go with the Heart of Darkness. Trudge through it. It’s a little worth it. 😉

    That being said. If you can find “Postscript to Yesterday: American Life and Thought [from] 1896 to 1946” by Lloyd Morris, you’ll be amazed. It’s a social history, an intellectual history of that time, which is oddly beautiful, descriptive, and extremely thorough. You can probably find it if you look for it–probably online, as I’m sure the copyright is done-for (1946).

    But it is so very smart and oddly weird in the physical descriptions of the muckrakers (haha), but it is great. The theme of the book is profound, I think. Written in 1947, it actually still reaches into the future–very cool.

    You can google it and find an electonic copy, hopefully, otherwise I could help. If you want, that is: it’s brilliant, I’m talking this up like no other.

    Cheers, and good reading.

  81. creativelynamed

    Ah the shelf of shame! Mine is on the bottom shelf of my “library” and conveniently hidden by a chair! Sadly, titles include War and Peace, Dracula, and Mr. Monte Cristo himself. Based on some of these replies, however, i think that will be the next book i tackle! Thanks for the great post! Im now motivated to clear off my shelf of shame!

  82. Riley ST

    I enjoyed reading your post!Classics can be dull sometimes, have got this Jane Austen’s “Emma” in my bookshelf that I couldn’t get myself motivated enough to finish the book right after I googled it and read the ending. 🙂

  83. qqnqui

    The most shameful thing on my bookshelf has for years been “Lolita”. I finally read it a few weeks ago. It’s the oddest sensation, having all of the minute details of the story copy-pasted into the template I’d already created in my mind for it. I sort of felt like I was coming back to the novel after a long absence rather than picking it up for the first time.

  84. Experienced Tutors

    Stop what you’re doing – drop it! Turn off all forms of communication, make a coffee, snuggle down. Open `Madame Bovary` and prepare to be transported to another place in time.

    Ah ah! No arguments – just do it.

  85. The Artful Scribbler

    I’ve tried reading various classics, and I have to admit there are a few I found insufferably boring. Some I was forced to read, and some I picked up out of curiosity. However, I suggest you read Heart of Darkness and then watch Apocalypse Now. Darkness is a fascinating story that delves into our deepest evil tendencies, but also has a 19th century adventure story plot. But heck, if you want to read about the struggle of good verses evil, just read Stephen Kings Dark Tower series.

  86. roddymccorley

    My top 10 unread are as follows: Dr. Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark, Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez, March by Geraldine Brooks, The Pathfinder by James Finimore Cooper, Comeback by Dick Francis, Hanna’s Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson, Memiors of a Geisha by Arthur Goldern, Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart, The Known World by Adward P. Jones, and New York by Edward Rutherfurd.

  87. cherryjubilee1952

    I’ve read another book by Anne Tyler ( I think it was Noah’s Compass) which was wonderful and could be compared to the generativity versus stagnation and integrity versus despair stages in Erikson’s stage theory of cognitive development. I’m studying to be a teacher and we just learned about this in my Ed. Psych class.
    I have not read any of these novels but they all look so good!

  88. Christine

    The Hobbit. Well, that’s not entirely true. I started it and put it down at least three times. Last fall, I made myself sit down and focus on it, with the help of wine and pizza, and I HATED it. Not even envisioning Martin Freeman as Bilbo could save it for me. After about 50 pages, I gave up even trying to read the poetry and just skipped over it.

    Sorry. Rant over. Holy crap, I hated that book.

  89. Yamika

    ‘Shirley’ by Charlotte Brontë, I just can’t read it. It supposedly about a strong female lead who’s dad names Shirley because he wanted a boy. This book is basically why Shirley is considered to be a name for girls when it used to be a boy’s name. But I wouldn’t know anything about that because it’s on my shelf of shame.

    I was lucky when it came to ‘the count of monte cristo’, I was given a copy that had been torn in half (I thought it was just missing a few pages) Imagine my suprise when I had to hunt down the second half.

    • Words for Worms

      Oh, and I so loved Jane Eyre, it disappoints me to hear that one of her other novels doesn’t live up to the standard… Of course, how could it? Jane Eyre is a REALLY high standard!

  90. Maite

    Tender is the Night.. didn’t pass the first 3 pages! Heretic me! From your list M. Bovary is really worth it 🙂 Haven’t even opened The Voyage Out and a biogaphy of Queen Elisabeth! Enjoyed your post!

    • Words for Worms

      I prefer to read my Queen Elizabeth biographies in, uh, historical fiction form. Scandals with Robert Dudley are MUCH more entertaining when they’re fictionalized 🙂

      • Maite

        You know? After writing here, I decided to finally open The Voyage out, I’m loving it! I used to read a lot of fictionalized history some years ago, but then I’m left with the doubts as to how much is true or not.. 🙂 Worked on Britten’s Gloriana a fair bit, have the picture of them both clear 😉

  91. rory

    I don’t really have any books that I’ve bought but then never read. I read The Mayor of Casterbridge and absolutely loved it. I honestly couldn’t put it down. But then if I buy a book, I’ll always read it but taking a book out from the library is a whole other story. I once took out The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and I got through a hundred pages of it but I didn’t read it on a regular basis and would end up just leaving it for days. So, I had to renew it a lot and then I reached my renewal limit so had no choice but to return it. But one day, I will take it out and read it again. 🙂

  92. L. Palmer

    I have my own similar pile.
    For The Count of Monte Cristo, check out the soundtrack to Gankutsou, the Anime adaptation of the book. It’s got a mix of epic classical and remixed techno, and is very cool. It’s not a Broadway show, but it fits the book.

  93. soccerdawg

    Ack! I loved, loved, loved “House of Sand and Fog.” The movie was pretty good, but the book was just phenomenal!
    I also have tons of books I haven’t read. Including “The Road.” I finally gave up and donated it. It was soooooo boring!
    I also only got through the first 50 years of “100 Years of Solitude.” I got tired of always having to look at the family tree to figure out who was who. They all had the same names! Gaa!

    • Words for Worms

      I totally agree on 100 Years of Solitude- I finished it, but the names were NUTS. I also adored The Road, but in that bleak “I fear society’s demise” sort of way. I’ll have to read Sand and Fog. I will, really!

      • soccerdawg

        Maybe I should’ve given the Road more of a chance. But meh. Got too much other stuff to read. 🙂

  94. jennasalak

    I’ve been curious to read Madame Bovary, do you have a post about the book? I’d love to know whether you enjoyed reading it or not and why?

    • Words for Worms

      I have not. I have, however, posted about Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which is about another well-to-do woman who finds herself a tasty man snack outside the bounds of marriage, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

  95. jennpower

    War and Peace, I’ve tried to read it when I was in grade 10 four years ago. I gave up because it didn’t make sense. And David Copperfield. I had to read Heart of Darkness in grade 12, it was awful. It was one of those books where I was glad I read it because it was a “classic” but begged everyone “Please don’t make me read it again!” Also felt this way with Sense and Sensibility.

  96. BuddhistTraveler

    I have tried on multiple, multiple occasions to get through Wuthering Heights, and throughout the years, figuring maybe I’d dig it now that I’m older…..nope. Can’t make it through to the end, so I gave up.

  97. bhuwanchand

    I know what you feel about these books and have a similar list of books that I bought but never read. Too ashamed to list them all here, I have promised myself to read some of them this year, lets see how it goes. I will surely prepare a list of pending one’s by the end of the year.

  98. pjhap

    Get a Kindle! then you can artfully hide all the books you bought, because they sounded good/were a bargain – most of the classics are free (even better bargain). Concur with comment above: just read Madame Bovary and Heart of Darkness!! not sure about the others…..

    I tried Ulysees…..tried the audio book too….. but the BBC Radio 4 adaptation was good!

  99. sicklyjoye

    I’m with you on Heart of Darkness. I was forced to read it for uni last year, but previously, it had sat untouched for years.

  100. Serafina Bear

    1. Anna Karenina
    2. Lolita
    3. The Old Man and the Sea – though I’m getting comfortable with Hemingway’s style and working on it.

    • Words for Worms

      I’ve read them all, and have mixed feelings on every one. (I LIKE Anna Karenina, but I could seriously do without the diatribes on Russian politics…)

      • Serafina Bear

        Maybe that’s what phases me. I know it’s a good story with quality writing, but it’s so hard to commit to. And it’s a hell of a commitment. 🙂

  101. Norm DeGuerre

    Loved your post! I find that my Kindle helps with the shelf-shame. I only buy what I want to read when I want to read it. Maybe your shelf shows-off your impeccable taste in literature, and should be a source of pride?

  102. janna

    SO guilty… The demise of bookstores has been so sad for me but the silver lining is that I buy less books that sit on the shelf of shame. Great post.

  103. Aabhash

    Oh! The Shelf of shame. Mine includes, Robert Daley’s Prince of The City, Mein Kampf, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children, and other few not so classic titles. All of these constantly glare at me all the time, I can almost hear them saying “We were better off without you”!

  104. mrsalicia

    I bought Anna Karenina and got about 150 pages into it. To be fair, I bought it in a airport gift shop awaiting a connection on my honeymoon. I love it, but I can’t concentrate long enough to give it the attention it needs. I have also purchased several books of essays on Existentialism, Utopia by Thomas Moore, and The Prince by Machiavelli. None of which have been read. I got 30 pages into Utopia and dropped it forever. Never cracked The Prince or the essays on Existentialism.

  105. digordon

    Shelf? I have a cabinet, ok and a small trunk, AND a shelf.. All full of titles I thought for sure that I would read. At least when I buy books electronically it’s a smaller, digital, private shame that no one needs to dust! Lol

Talk to me, Bookworms!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.