Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Books I couldn't finish

Yesterday I confessed to putting aside a book I started but couldn't finish. As recent as two years ago, that would have been unusual for me; I used to finish every book, even one that I was tempted to throw at the wall multiple times. But giving up half way has become a more common occurrence these days. I don't know if it's a trend for me or if I'm becoming intolerant and critical in my old age.

Here are some reasons for the few books I put down midway recently:

Book 1
Gorgeous, lyrical writing that leaves me contented just to bask in the language. The story unfolds slowly, breaking my heart bit by bit. I couldn't finish because some of the descriptions come too close to home, not necessarily in the actual events but in the characters' emotions. Will pick it up again when I'm feeling more robust.

Book 2
International bestseller. Cool protagonist. Supposedly an intricate mystery but my mind wandered repeatedly.

Book 3
Also internationally well-received. Narrator has a way of describing his setting and social situations in a way I can relate to even though the actual cultural setting is foreign to me. But as I read, I discovered that I liked the narrator less and less. It's not that I don't like flawed characters; I love 'em because they're real. But for me to go along for the ride, I need to find at least some little bit of the character that I, if not like, then at least understand or can somehow relate to. Maybe if I can get over that particular prejudice I have against the narrator, I may read it again because I do like the writing and am intrigued so far by his view of the social/human condition.

Your turn.


Corey Schwartz said...

Okay, a hugely successful book made into a movie. I did ultimately finish it, but until about page 400, the MC had NOTHING at stake. It was so hard to keep reading... she didn't really care about anything, so why should I care? Once she did have something at stake, the last hundred pages flew!

Solvang Sherrie said...

I started reading one that supposedly had all the right elements, and it had been signed by an agent I thought I wanted. But the book just didn't click for me. Made me realize that agent probably wasn't right for me either.

Davin Malasarn said...

Yat-Yee, this is an interesting topic. I hope you go back to that book #1. For me, that's one of the most important reasons to read.

I also put books down more often now. Reading a critical assay a few years ago, I realized that there are far too many books that I want to read. I probably won't get to them all, even if I live to be a hundred. Because of that, I try not to waste my time on books that I don't gain anything from, whether that's insight into human nature or something more technical like how to create nice similes.

beth said...

I am so quick to put down a book these days. If I start to figure out things before the main character, or if I just don't care...that's the death knell.

Annie Louden said...

I wish I knew what books you were reading. I think it's okay to say if you like a book or not. It doesn't mean you're badmouthing it.

I usually read straight through, even if I'm not loving a book. Last night I finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower which I liked until about the last 8 pages, and then I felt cheated. The reason the character was the way he was didn't ring true for me. But, my friend who read it loved it.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I'm made myself read a book recently that is hot right now but not from my perspective. Is it possible tastes vary that greatly or are some people not discerning? Anyway, in the interest of precious time, I may never force myself again. And I don't name books because I'm not a critic, I'm a writer and may be working with an agent/editor/writer in the future who had something to do with a book I dissed. Wouldn't want that.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Wicked. Only made it half way through. I dont even know why or what it is about it that doesnt make me pick it up again, but there it sits. Unfinished. And I'm okay with that. Maybe some day I will finish it.

MG Higgins said...

Got about 20 pages into a book I'd really been looking forward to reading and disliked the main character so much I couldn't continue. I may give it another try, but when there are so many other books on my TBR pile....

Yat-Yee said...

Thanks for chiming in. Good to know I'm in good company. I am going to have to write a new post from the thoughts your comments have stirred up in me.

Davin: I will pick Book 1 up again when I don't feel so easily lured into deep despair.

Annie: I think about this all the time, but authors need a lot more encouragement that they do criticism, and I'm pretty sure they get plenty of that already, from their own inner critics, agents, editors, writing buddies. Plus since I didn't even finish these books, I don't think it's fair for me to be too negative.

Maybe if you and I were having coffee, I'd be more open to telling which books I'd avoid. :)

Annie Louden said...

I agree authors need a lot of encouragement, especially as they're working on a book, but I think it's okay to critique a published book that has been through the crit partners and agents and editors. My review of a book is just my opinion. I'm a writer who should be able to form an opinion based on my years of reading and writing. A bad review isn't dissing a book--it's just me saying I didn't like it.

But, I think you have a good point, Yat-Yee, that if you didn't finish the book, that's another thing.

I just don't think writers should be afraid to express their opinions about books because an agent might google us someday. We're writers, we love to read--can't we have a discussion about books?

Also, I'd love to have coffee with you one day. Too bad I'm probably miles away.

Yat-Yee said...

Annie: I agree, I shouldn't be afraid to express my opinions about a book, and reviews are meaningful if they contain both positives and negatives. I have written a few reviews in which I expressed disappointment or questions about the books. But I do want to be as fair as I can be, within the confines of something as subjective as books, and I just didn't feel I had to time to do these books justice.

If you have time and wouldn't mind reading some of my reviews, maybe you can tell me if those seem more all rounded to you.

Annie Louden said...

Well, that's fair. And like you said, you didn't even finish these books. I don't NEED to know. I am just curious.

I skimmed through your blog and liked your reviews. And, I really like your blog! Too bad I didn't find it earlier.

Yat-Yee said...

Thanks, Annie! Hope we can have more exchanges in the future!