7 Beautiful Literary Passages From Books I Thought Were Otherwise "Meh"

We all have the books that we love, books we read and re-read until they come apart at the binding, books that make us who we are. And we all have books that we hate, books that we blog about and rant about and denounce aggressively to our friends who probably weren't going to read those books in the first place. But sometimes we come across books that are just kind of... meh. They're not good. They're not awful. They're just middle of the road. Still, you can find the occasional diamond in the rough: here are a few epic passages otherwise "meh" books, because even the most mediocre of reads can sometimes surprise you.

And look, I'm not here to judge anyone's reading habits. I loved Twilight back in the day, before I understood that stalking was not sexy. I adored The Phantom of the Opera and Eragon and any number of other books that I would now consider... meh. So if you love or hate one of these "meh" reads, feel free to continue doing so. Good books are subjective. But I think we can all agree that these are the stand out passages from their respective books, even if the books themselves are just kind of... fine:

'The Host' by Stephenie Meyer

The Host is more or less Twilight with aliens... but it still has the odd moment of cosmic beauty:

As I took another breath, I saw the three stars again. They were not calling to me; they were letting me go, leaving me to the black universe I had wandered for so many lifetimes. I drifted into the black, and it got brighter and brighter. It wasn't black at all—it was blue. Warm, vibrant, brilliant blue... I floated into it with no fear at all.

'Angels and Demons' by Dan Brown

Poor Dan Brown gets a lot of hate for his schlocky, vaguely religious thrillers, but he does hit on a good theological point every now and then:

Religion is like language or dress. We gravitate toward the practices with which we were raised. In the end, though, we are all proclaiming the same thing. That life has meaning. That we are grateful for the power that created us.

'Eragon' by Christopher Paolini

Eragon was written by a 15-year-old. It reads like it was written by a fifteen-year-old, in that the plot is a not-so-subtle mash up of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. But youthful Christopher Paolini still has a few words of wisdom for us all:

First, let no one rule your mind or body. Take special care that your thoughts remain unfettered... Give men your ear, but not your heart. Show respect for those in power, but don't follow them blindly. Judge with logic and reason, but comment not. Consider none your superior whatever their rank or station in life. Treat all fairly, or they will seek revenge. Be careful with your money. Hold fast to your beliefs and others will listen.

'Little Bee' by Chris Cleave

Little Bee has its heart in the right place... but at the end of the day, a white British man writing from the perspective of a young Nigerian girl is always going to feel a tad disingenuous:

On the girl's brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.

'The Scarlet Letter' by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Sorry to all high school English teachers everywhere, but The Scarlet Letter isn't exactly a page-turner. Hawthorne's turn of phrase is beautiful, don't get me wrong, but all the Puritans and lack of plot make this a classic snoozefest:

Love, whether newly born or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world.

'The Angel Experiment' by James Patterson

James Patterson churns out books that are certainly thrilling, but sometimes, he writes one that is not exactly... good. Still, he manages to stick a few zingers in even his clunkiest of novels:

The receptionist looked us over, then went back to typing something incredibly urgent—like her résumé for another job.

'Moby-Dick or, The Whale' by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick is a brilliant, beautiful novel, buried under several metric tons of literary dithering. It's not really Melville's fault that his masterpiece is almost unreadable for modern audiences. But next time, maybe go a little lighter on all the technical aspects of the whaling industry?

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”