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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Most Shameful Non-Reads

What are the most shameful gaps in your children’s literary knowledge?  I’m talking about the books that everyone has read except for you.  I feel like there should be a grading system for this kind of thing.  The more impossible it is to avoid the book, the higher the score.  Thinking along those lines I’d probably makes it something like:

Harry Potter: 10 points
Tuck Everlasting: 7 points
Bridge to Terabithia: 7 points
Anne of Green Gables 5 points
Holes: 5 points
Little Women: 3 points
The Story of Mankind: .5 points

Shoot.  That’s fun.  I may have to make a quiz out of this.  In any case my never reads include such big names as Sounder, Jacob Have I Loved, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and more.  What are your biggies?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Monica Edinger says:

    Betsy Tacy, I don’t think, anyway. (I read a lot as a kid, but don’t remember reading any of these.)

    Of Enid Blyton I’ve only read Noddy books (as my books came from England when we lived in Germany and I did love my Noddy). And whenever I consider reading one of the boarding school books I’m overwhelmed and can’t figure out which to try.


    I haven’t read Lassie Come Home, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, or The Wheel on the School. However, I guess the biggest one would be Watership Down (but I don’t know if that would be considered a children’s novel). I didn’t even study it in high school (when it seems like many teens do).

  3. It is also my secret shame that i have never read watership down– I have even lied about it in the past and claimed to, in order to avoid the “WHAT?!” reaction. I think that The Giver should also be on the scale at some point around 7 points

  4. Deirdre Mundy says:

    These are mostly YA, I think, but:

    The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton– I’ve tried, but I can never get into it.

    Chocolate War by Cormier

    A Seperate Peace

    On the kid front…

    Misty of Chincoteaque (I don’t get horse books)

    A large chunk of the older Newberry’s (But i LOVE Carry on Mr. Bowditch and Invincible Louisa!)

  5. Roger Sutton says:

    The only E.B. White I’ve ever read is Charlotte’s Web.

  6. The only E.B. White you need to read is Charlotte’s Web. Oh yeah! I said it! I read Watership Down after it appeared on LOST. I guess I should read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret for the same reason.

  7. Terry Doherty says:

    Wow! I would be up/down 60 points off the bat. Harry Potter would top the list of recent titles … not one letter of one book. The Velveteen Rabbit gets tossed in there, too. This could be a very interesting quiz.

  8. Roger Sutton says:

    Watership Down was the anti-Book Thief of the 70s–published as a children’s book in the U.K. and as an adult book here.

  9. Water Babies. And some of the nominally adult adventure books that kids in books read, like The Three Musketeers.

  10. My ignorance is so vast that there’s not any point in listing individual titles. I will, however, point out that this confessional ritual is already a game: in David Lodge’s novel CHANGING PLACES, college professors play a game called ‘Humiliation’ where you get points for every person in the game who’s read the books you haven’t. One participant gets hypercompetitive, claims not to have read HAMLET and is subsequently denied tenure. The novel is quite funny, and I think its sequel, SMALL WORLD (which parodically conflates Arthurian knights-errant with literary scholars attending international conferences and which has its climax at an MLA meeting in New York) is even better.

  11. Laurel Snyder says:

    I’ve never actually read Peter and Wendy.

    And in the YA department I haven’t read anything published since about 1987 I think. I need to catch up.

  12. :: Suzanne :: says:

    I am ashamed to admit they I have not read Anne of Green Gables nor Wind in the Willows.

  13. Jen Groff says:

    Kids always want me to have read Eragon, but — ehh.
    Crispin? Is it shameful to have never finished it?
    And Tolkien. Nods head. Recognizes names of characters. Doses off…….

  14. I’ve never read Anne of Green Gables either (although I did see the movie – don’t suppose that counts, eh?). Haven’t read Jacob Have I Loved, Tuck Everlasting or the Lord of the Rings trilogy (but read The Hobbit). I am a librarian, ahem. Shame on me.

  15. I haven’t read TWILIGHT. I took it out of the library, leafed through it, and just couldn’t do it.

    I never read the Anne of Green Gables books until I was in my thirties. I have no idea why. I must have thought they looked boring. I was SO WRONG!

  16. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret – I only just recently read this book (trying to catch up on missed classics) and I actually really enjoyed it – laughed a lot.

    I can say I’ve not read any of the Harry Potter books–yet…I do plan to get to them one day…

  17. Breeni Books says:

    I’m with tim b…there’s no point in listing the titles as there are so many! It’s amazing how many titles I missed out on that were assigned reading for everyone else.

    Of course, I’ve read Harry Potter, but that wasn’t a children’s book when I was a child, so I wouldn’t count it anyway!

  18. I’ve only read two Judy Blume books (Forever and Superfudge), and those were for assignments in Grad school. Never read Great Gilly Hopkins. I’m seriously lacking in most of the classics from England. Never read any of the dog books (Sounder, Old Yeller, Shiloh). For that matter, I’ve never read anything by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Wonder how that happened…?

  19. If nothing else, this also happens to be a very interesting look at what the general populace views as the children’s literary canon.

  20. Nathan Hale says:

    On a picture book level, I’ve never read The Polar Express. I own it, and I’ve “read” it aloud to children, my condensed version, “Look it’s Santa, and some wolves…and then he got a sleigh bell! The End.” But reading the whole thing, is it possible?

  21. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Believe it. [heading now to the library to grab a copy, cannot bear the shame]

  22. janeyolen says:

    Only read the first four HPs before I bailed.

    Never read any Kate deCamillo but Despereaux which I liked a lot.

    Started about three of Avi’s books but alas, lost interest.

    Read EREGON as a mss. because the fifteen-year-old author sent it to me. Never read the edited version or any of the sequels.

    And while I am a huge fan of the St Germaine vampire books, I would take a hatpin to my eyes before reading the Twilight books.

    Jane, who has lost a gazillion points by admitting all this, and possibly some friends as well

  23. Ellen Booraem says:

    No Eregon or successors, no Roll of Thunder, no Judy Blume, no Watership Down. I have, however, read the complete works of Herman Melville EXCEPT the famous one, the title of which I’m delighted to find your spam filter won’t let me type.

  24. I’m still figuring out why it’s a good idea to admit one’s ignorance of one’s chosen field.

  25. Because we are none of us so perfect as to assume that we have read everything. Every person has a gap. What the gap is may or may not say something about that person. That is where the interest lies. Now I’m off to throttle my spam filter for not allowing Moby Dick (apparently I can get around it).

  26. Betty Carter says:

    Heidi. Hated it as a child; almost finished it in grad school (sorry Dr. A.), and have never picked it up again.

  27. Marie Rutkoski says:

    I have never read Harriet the Spy, and am most abashed about it. When I was a kid, I relished in reading old-fashioned classics (like Daddy Long-Legs, which I loved because it was all letters, but now I think I’d find it totally creepy!), so I’ve actually read most of them, but could never finish The Swiss Family Robinson. But I think I should gain points for not reading it because, come on, do they have to tame a wild animal and pray in every freakin’ chapter?

  28. rockinlibrarian says:

    The only book that usually sticks out for me this way is Lord of the Flies, but that’s not really a kids’ book either, just something everyone else I’ve ever met read in school except for me. I know there’s more than a few Newberys I haven’t read, but I’ve read most of the truly FAMOUS ones, such that I can’t think of any particular titles I haven’t read. And I debated whether or not I should read Twilight just because everyone else was even though I’m not big on vampires, but finally decided it wasn’t worth taking up the time in my must-read pile… if that metaphor made any sense whatsoever.

  29. a teacher says:

    Harry Potter 10pts.
    Holes 7 pts.
    Maniac Magee 5 pts.

  30. No Anne of Green Gables (and no interest). I’ve never read a thing by Roald Dahl, but I saw both versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…

  31. I’d almost think about upping Maniac Magee to 6 points (see how nitpickey I can be?) if only in the state of New York. That pup gets on reading lists faster than most Newbery winners.

  32. Hitty, Her First Hundred Years
    Caddie Woodlawn
    A Gathering of Days….

    shame, shame.

  33. Scope Notes says:

    I interviewed for my current job the day after “Deathly Hallows” was released. I went to bed the night before, predicting they were going to ask if I read the series. They asked. Somehow I still got the job, so (thankfully) having a Harry Potter sized hole in my books-read list wasn’t a career-ender. Hope springs eternal that I’ll close that hole soon, however.

  34. Do you like Dickens? Great humor, unforgettable characters? Read Anne of Green Gables!

  35. Great question! I never read _The Wind in the Willows_ or _The Incredible Journey_. I always hated animal stories. I haven’t read _The Borrowers_, either. (And I read _Jacob Have I Loved_ as a young teen and didn’t like it much, but appreciated it much more as an adult.)

  36. julielarios says:

    Do you get 10 points for every time you’ve picked up Harry Potter and tried to read it but put it back down? In which case, forty points for that alone. Instead of upping it to 50, I read How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard.

  37. I’ve never read a Hardy Boys book, a Boxcar Children, an Edge Chronicle, or a Cam Jansen. I can’t get more than a chapter into The Penderwicks, and I’ve got zero desire to read Anne of Green Gables. The movie version of Watership Down traumatized me so much as a kindergartner (I thought it was about fluffy bunnies, then they all died!) that I never had the courage to actually read it.

  38. Lately, I feel such “peer pressure” (from other 30-something moms) to read those “Twilight” books. I have zero desire to jump on that bandwagon because of their immense popularity. Call me crazy! I also never finished Little Women nor Watership Down. I haven’t picked up Eragon. I never made it through any of the Series of Unfortunate Events.

  39. Hmmm I’ve tried Watership Down several times and never made it past chapter 4…and I never read any Nancy Drew. Or The Amber Spyglass. But you SHOULD read Jacob Have I Loved. Gets me every time.

  40. ruthexpress says:

    Life’s too short to read every single great classic. If they were picturebooks, I could do it. (Holes, Anne of Green Gables, 3 Muskateers: Do movies count?) ūüė°

  41. I’ve read every book ever written.

    Umm, there are a ton of books in the last 5 or so years that I want to read but haven’t, but in terms of the so-called classics, I’ve never read any of the books relating to Peter Pan, nor have I read Alice in Wonderland (or Through the Looking Glass?). And for some reason, THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS stands out to me as a hole in my reading repertoire. Oh, and I’ve never read any BETSY AND TACY books, either–until this past weekend, that is!

  42. The Watsons Go to Birmingham. I keep meaning to read it but just haven’t gotten around to it yet…

  43. Simply can not read The Hobbit, and have tried several times since I was ten. Also have tried several times with the The Water Babies, and failed.

  44. Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, Boxcar Children, Junie B. Jones, and Magic Treehouse books are all on my Have Not Read list. Basically, if it’s series that seems to have no end, I’ve not read it. I did sit down and read two Goosebumps books in 15 minutes, though, just so I had an idea of what was within the pages.

  45. I feel no shame in the fact that I’ve never read Harry Potter. No one needs me to recommend it to them. But I do feel guilty about neglecting The Giver.

  46. Brenda Bowen says:

    To my great shame: The Chocolate War, The Westing Game, The Indian in the Cupboard.

    I feel so unburdened!

  47. Would it count if you intentionally avoid them? I’m thinking about all those books I’ve avoided b/c I just don’t want to read something sad! (Yeah–unrealistic, I know.) I’m thinking, Where the Red Fern Grows, White Fang, Sounder, Old Yeller….