I’ve read every one of Ayn Rand’s novels and most of her published non-fiction, and I have never recommended that anyone read Atlas Shrugged. Rand is a powerful polemicist but a mediocre novelist, and so I always suggest that, instead of wading through Rand’s embarrassing, 16-year-old-girl’s fantasy plot, people interested in Atlas Shrugged just read John Galt’s speech. It’s about 40 pages out of the 1,000 in my well-worn paperback. You’ll get all the ideas without any of the flat, bodice-ripping prose.
Another skippable classic is Voltaire’s Candide, which is also an argument turned into fiction. The argument is engaging, the fiction—not so much. Fortunately, Voltaire (unlike Rand) had the good grace to keep it short.