I was sixteen years old when I tried to read Atlas Shrugged. At the insistence of a friend, I borrowed the book and took it on a vacation to Hawai’i.
The first time I cracked it open—on a gorgeous beach in Maui—I made it about thirty pages in, and I immediately hated reading the phrase, “Who is John Galt?”
As I made my way through chapter after chapter, watching Dagny Taggart’s story grow to include Hank Rearden, Francisco D’Anconia, and many more insufferable characters, my heart began to hurt. I desperately wanted the book to be good, and the story to be interesting. But the characters were such a bunch of self-obsessed assholes that it was hard to relate to them; they seemed to show no elements of humanity beyond needing to screw each other.
Why would a writer punish readers like this? She opens up forty plot lines, peppering the dialogue with a mysterious phrase like, “Who is John Galt?” constantly, and she has the gall to let it stretch for over 1,000 pages. And even worse, you don’t even learn who the fuck John Galt is until over halfway through the book!
I forced my way through about 60% of that book on willpower alone. But I lost God-knows how many hours on the beach in Hawai’i because of that book.
I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t like the underlying tone it was feeding me, and I hated the characters. They were all so cold and calculating, that they felt more like shells of humans—empty of any empathy or humanity. Moreover, reading the book felt like a bad job. I seriously feel for Paul Ryan’s staffers—in more ways than one.
As a writer, a lover of books, and (I like to think) a pretty open-minded person, I can say with certainty that you should not waste your time reading Ayn Rand.
There are so many good books out there. Many of these were written by authors with positive, humanitarian messages. Go read Kurt Vonnegut, for example. I wonder what Paul Ryan’s staff would be like if they all read Slaughterhouse Five instead.
You should never feel like you are being held hostage by the books you are reading. If a book sucks, stop reading it! It is perfectly okay to stop after 100 pages, or 40 pages. Or—in the case of this book—867 pages (but who’s counting?). There is so much to read, that you owe it to yourself to read what you like.
If that happens to be Atlas Shrugged, then….you’re probably lying to yourself. Rand really shouldn’t need 1200 pages to deliver the message “be a selfish prick” in writing.
Don’t just take my word for it! Listen to Officer Barbrady.
If I still haven’t convinced you not to read Ayn Rand, then let me end this on a personal note. If you absolutely must read Rand, save her books for a long plane ride when you’re trying to sleep, or for when you’re pissed off while waiting at the Dentist’s office.
Please, for the love of God, don’t read Atlas Shrugged at the beach. If God exists, he wants you to go play in the ocean instead of reading that bullshit.