Monday, July 21, 2008

'It's just not working out” - books that I haven’t finished

Tseen's comments raise tricky questions for all book lovers:
  • how long should you stay with a book before you throw in the towel?
  • are you obligated to stay to the end?
  • should you persevere and be rewarded?
Sometimes I feel guilty about not finishing a book. It's so Gen X, ‘instant gratification’ type of cultural attitude. But then, what the hell life is too short right?

Here’s my game plan:
  • if it doesn’t grab me within the first few chapters I’ll put it down
  • return to it in a couple of days
  • but if still a no go, then it is definitely a Stop, Do Not Pass Go moment.

Maybe it all about timing too? You want a page turner and instead you get a meandering character study. And sometimes a book is just not what you expected, despite the rave reviews and recommendations.

Other times something better comes along and gets your immediate attention.

Below are 2 books that just didn’t work out. To be fair there a few that I did return to, but still Do Not Pass Go moment.

Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - A Novel
Attempts: 2

A little too twee and clever for my liking, the whole footnote ploy really started to annoy me. I did get further on the second attempt, however still couldn’t get involved as the story was too slow. Way too many long winded descriptive paragraphs - when I was screaming on the inside "Show me the MAGIC!".

And oh yeah, totally put off by size - a freakin tomb. I really couldn’t invest that much time on something I was very so ambivalent about.

Maybe, I’ll just wait for the movie, when they condense the story down to the main bits and action. (Now, that is very Generation Y sorta attitude!)

Patrick Rothfuss The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day 1)
Attempts: 1
I was so looking forward to this, it got really good reviews too. I kept reading and reading, hoping it get better but in the end I was really quite bored. Powerful magician retells his life tale -sounds a bit familiar?

A little too derivative of Ursula K. Le Guin’s masterful Earthsea trilogy. I kept thinking this is a bit too shallow and wanted to see Ged/Sparrowhawk appear to give it some depth. You know you it's not going well when you wish for a character from another book to appear!

Other books I've left:
  • Michael Faber: The Crimson Petal and the White (2 attempts)
  • Matthew Pearl: The Poe Shadow (2 attempts)
  • Anne Tyler: Digging to America (3 attemps - I really tried)
  • Kathleen Tessaro: Elegance
  • Matt Rubinstein: A Little Rain on Thursday
  • Curtis Sittenfeld: Prep


tseen said...

I'm going to have to post my own list of books unfinished. The unfortunate thing is that many of them have fallen out of my head. There are the biggies, of course, that I've never managed to get past, say, page 5 (yes, I'm looking at you, Moby Dick).

Book Boy said...

that is why you need to keep a little black book - i put everything down in my book!

plus not being a geek, but TOTALLY AM ONE, my local library online catalogue keeps track of all my reading. how great is that??

so sad but i loooooove my local library sooooo much i'm thinking of becoming an 'official' friend;-)

tseen said...

so sad but i loooooove my local library sooooo much i'm thinking of becoming an 'official' friend;-)

And so you should! You need to give back to an institution that's obviously given you so much. It'll make you feel all virtuous, too, and that's always a good thing. ;)