Did you ever read a book so upsetting that you wish you hadn't read it at all?

I saw a thing on the news this morning about how some children might be terribly upset after reading the new Harry Potter. I thought back to some of the things I read at that age, and there were some things that frightened me, (Salem’s Lot and the Amityville Horror spring to mind), but obviously I read them anyway and was glad I did.

Later on, as an adult, I did read a disturbing piece of fiction and although I finished it, I’d be happier had I never encountered it at all. Other disturbing things I picked up to read (such as true crime stories) I had the good sense to put down.

So…did you ever read anything that upset you so much that you wish you hadn’t read it at all? And I don’t mean, “I was upset because the book sucked so much I wanted my two hours back!”

The White Hotel by D. M. Thomas ( I looked up the author’s name) bordered on being so upsetting that I wished I hadn’t read it but not really.

Context: Freshman year of college taking a course called “Literary Questions” the above mentioned book was one of the books assigned. There was some sexually explicit material that I found objectionable- particularily in a book assigned for a class* and later some violence that was really objectionable. (Part of the story is reminiscent of being loaded onto trains and sent to Nazi Concentration camps if I recall correctly).

But, even though I found the book objectionable, I didn’t stop reading it- because how can you discuss a book in class and learn from it if you stop reading the book? I did object on the class evaluations, but I never got the point of choosing not to read a book assigned in class.

Other than that- I don’t think of anything. I have been known to skip scenes or portions of scenes when reading books like those by J.D. Robb and I find descriptions of gore which I would be happier not reading- but I don’t think of anything that is just so upsetting that I would prefer to go back and not read it.

*I read romance novels- some of them explicit, I have some odd and capricious notions of what is objectionable and what is not which I am not going to try to explain. On the other hand, I’m significantly older than 19 at this point. I can pick for myself where my boundaries are, and I’m not sure I’d put them in the same place now as I did then.

Well, see, there’s this short story called “Guts” by Chuck Palahniuk…


I’m not going to describe it. It’s been more than a year, and my boyfriend (who doesn’t seem to be affected by these things so much) still mentions it every time he wants to freak me out.

You can google it; I’m pretty sure it’s around somewhere in full.

Mmmmm . . . that story makes me hungry. :eek:

There was the time that I was feeling a little depressed, so I picked up a copy of Cormack McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses.

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy.


BTW, the thing I wished I hadn’t read: The Screaming Laugh, by Cornell Woolrich.

I have a “thing” about tickling.

After I had finished Helter Skelter I kept a loaded pistol on the nightstand for weeks. That was the most unsettling piece of non-fiction I have read to date. I can’t really say I’m sorry I read the book, though. It was a brutal awakening to the reality of society in the late 60’s. Too much had been made of the “peace love non-violence” atmosphere of the era. The detailing of the horror and senselessness by the Manson family on Sharon Tate and her friends, as well as the LaBianca family, not to mention others in “the family,” was plenty evidence that things were not as serene as the news and media were making them out to be.

In Cold Blood had a similar effect but it wasn’t quite as “in your face” as HS.

Fiction, no matter how disgusting or horrible, doesn’t have the same effect on me, but real-life instances of sub-human behavior, especially on a grand scale (like Jonestown), bother me a great deal.

Still, I’d rather know about it than to be blissfully ignorant.

Ah yes cornflakes there are some disturbining images in there and especially this one (altho’ it may be in the sequel)

Theives cut the dog’s throat to avoid detection, it survives but can never bark again. There’s something about a silent dog which gives me the shivers.

There are a couple of passages in Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones” which are very difficult to read. I 've not even tried to read Lucky , even though it’s an autobiography I think I’d feel voyeuristic reading it.

The Giver, by Louis Lowry. Gave me the creeps, and I wish I’d never read it. I don’t know why it upset me so much, unless it was the fact that it was intended for children.

Normally I avoid books and movies about serial killers or child abusers (I’m also sorry I read Sybil). But strangely enough I love post-apocalyptic books.

Sure, so perhaps it is a good insight into human behavior, so what? I still wish I hadn’t read The Lottery by Shirley Jackson .

(Warning: Link doesn’t lead to *******. However, it does lead to the story I mentioned. Much worse.)

Lois Lowry. Kind of important as it changes the sex of the author when you get it right :).

I read Pahluniak’s Guts but it was just such an over the top attempt to shock that it didn’t affect me at all.

The bit at the end where he accidentally gets his sister pregnant tripped it from teetering into fully being the equivalent of a not too bright teenager’s attempt to shock his teacher with his English assignment.

But then again, I get that feeling from all of Chuck’s work so maybe it’s just me.

I read (and I hate to give it even this much airplay) a book a few years ago for a book discussion group that was, IMO, pure evil. Ironically, it was a fundamentalist “Christian” book about the end times. Not the Left Behind series, which are just poorly written and rather silly. I don’t remember the author’s name. It was an online book (not sure if that terminology is correct)–each copy is printed as the orders come in. We, as a book group, refused to buy 10 copies, so we passed one copy around.

I do not believe in burning books as a policy. I believe in freedom of speech.

If that book had been mine, I would have burned it straight away.

It was titled, “We All Fall Down”. (no, I am not giving it italics, like a real book-it does not deserve the respect that other books get). It was the most malicious, soul destroying book I have ever read. It disrespected Mankind, the Earth, all major religions, animals–all good on the Earth was smeared with foulness.

I was so upset about this man’s version of the apocalypse (which, BTW, I don’t even believe in) that I talked to my pastor about it. He said something that has stood me in good stead whenever the fundamentalists start their decreeing and decrying. He said, “If there is no redemption, if there is no growth, no mercy, no lightening of suffering, no matter how small or how harshly learned, then it is not a Christian book.”

To me, it exemplifies all that is wrong with fundamentalist religion. Forgive me if that seems rather generalized. I have not yet found it incorrect.

Not a book, but a short story… “The Library Policeman” in Stephen King’s Four Past Midnight.

Good one. I understand completely.

Two books that made my “disturbing” list have already been mentioned: Helter Skelter, because I found myself understanding how these girls got roped into following Manson and almost empathizing with them. I don’t wish I’d never read it at all though, so maybe this doesn’t count. In fact, it’s definitely on my top ten list of favorite books. What can I say? Sometimes I like disturbing.
And The Lovely Bones, which I had on audio tape. I couldn’t finish it, partly because it was disturbing and partly because the womans voice was really annoying me.

Another one: Stiff by Mary Roach. Yikes! One chapter (about what happens to a body after it dies) actually made me feel nauseous. But it was very interesting.
Also, The Hot Zone was very VERY disturbing. But again, I don’t wish I hadn’t read it.

After reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sometime in junior high school, I looked for more books by Roald Dahl. I found a collection of short stories that now after almost 40 years are remembered as being disturbing and distasteful. I have no interest in even attemptiing to re-read them at this point.

There are also a lot of books that I am sorry I wasted my time reading them, I can’t remember all of them but one of them was part of the Lemony Snicket Series of unofrtunate event books. It was a proof copy and I am hoping it never went further because it was just dumb.

I already read it, but I’m asking someone to get it for me for my birthday! :slight_smile:

Hoooo boy.

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. In short, it’s about a young man who commits a Columbine-style massacre, told from the perspective of his mother.

I can’t even look at the book anymore without shivering.

Sophie’s Choice shook me up pretty good (not the whole book just her gut-wrenching ‘choice’). I read the book and then was stupid enough to watch the movie, which had the same effect on me.