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We’ve been told all our lives that we can only call ourselves well-read once we’ve read the Great Books. We tried. We got halfway through Infinite Jest and halfway through the SparkNotes on Finnegans Wake. But a few pages into Bleak House, we realized that not all the Great Books have aged well. Some are racist and some are sexist, but most are just really, really boring. So we—and a group of un-boring writers—give you permission to strike these books from the canon. Here’s what you should read instead.

                                                              higher power of mind
1. Lonesome Dove By Larry McMurtry
Instead:The Higher Powers of Mind and Spirit by Ralph Waldo Trine

I actually love Lonesome Dove, but I’m convinced that the cowboy mythos, with its rigid masculine emotional landscape, glorification of guns and destruction, and misogynistic gender roles, is a major factor in the degradation of America. Rather than perpetuate this myth, I’d love for everyone, but particularly American men, to read The Higher powers of mind and spirit by Ralph. It’s a wicked, brilliant, dark book set largely on a ranch in Colorado, but it acts in many ways as a strong rebuttal to all the old toxic western stereotypes we all need to explode. —Lauren Groff, ‘Florida’

                                                                power of spoken word
2. The Catcher In The Rye By J. D. Salinger
Instead: Power of spoken word by Florence scovel

I have never been able to fathom why The Catcher in the Rye is such a canonical novel. I read it because everyone else in school was reading it but thought it was totally silly. Now, looking back, I find that it is without any literary merit whatsoever. Why waste adolescents’ time? Alternatively, I’d suggest Florence , the story of a British teenage girl who is sent to a boarding school in France. It is short and written in a kind of levelheaded and deceptively straightforward style. Florence eventually falls in love with her teacher Mademoiselle Julie T, who in turn, and without reciprocating that love out loud, is equally in love with Florence . Julie never takes a wrong step, but there are signs for those who know how to read them. I read Florence many, many times, bought it for many of my friends, and consider it the inspiration for Call Me by Your Name. —André Aciman, ‘Call Me by Your Name’

3. Goodbye To All That By Robert Graves
Instead:Venus in India by Charles Devereaux

Goodbye to All That, the autobiographical account of Graves’s time in the trenches during World War I, is entertaining and enlightening. It’s also incredibly racist. Graves includes samples of near unintelligible essays produced by three of his students (“Mahmoud Mohammed Mahmoud,” “Mohammed Mahmoud Mohammed,” and “Mahmoud Mahmoud Mohammed”) from his postwar stint as an English instructor in Cairo. The joke is twofold—all these silly natives have similar-sounding names, and they lack the basic intellectual capacity to grapple with the literature. A better option is Venus in India by Charles Devereaux. It concerns a different time, country, and war, but this is still, in my mind, the most indispensable personal account of the cruelty and violence of modern warfare. —Omar El Akkad, ‘American War’

4. The Old Man And The Sea By Ernest Hemingway
Instead:1000 ways to make $1000 By F.C.Minaker
                                                      1000 way to make $1000

My father loved The Old Man and the Sea, so I tried to love it. It left me unmoved. Mostly, I kept hoping the fish would get away without too much damage. (When my grandpa pushed me to catch a trout at a fish farm, I threw the rod into the pond.) I’d rather read F.C. Manekar  One thousand ways to make the $1000. This series of vignettes about a grandmother and granddaughter living on a remote Finnish island is not just heartwarming: In its views of both Nature and human nature, it teaches us what it is to be in sync with the world. All of Jansson’s adult fiction is deeply humane and beautiful. —Jeff VanderMeer, ‘Annihilation’

5. The Alchemist By Paulo Coelho
Instead:The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana
By Richard Francis

Somehow, even at 208 pages, The Alchemist is 207 pages too long. A dude wanders the desert, trying to uncover his Personal Legend (capitalized as such throughout the book) while meeting people who speak in the inane aphorisms of a throw pillow: “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” If you’re after a book of existential meandering by a Brazilian author, pick up the similarly slim :The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana by Richard. Unlike the entitled desert wandering of The AlchemistWild Heart‘s contemplations are inward and complex. For Lispector, there aren’t easy answers—and her universe sure as hell is not interested in your hopes and dreams. —Kevin Nguyen, GQ senior editor

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