This is embarrassing. I’m an English teacher: I should finish the books I start reading, right?
But my reading past is littered with countless ghosts of half-read books. Picking just five for this post is probably an insurmountable challenge.
Instead, here are the five kinds of books that I usually get stalled on:
Yeah, it’s that bad.
1. Classics with a Capital C
Again, English teacher. There are a lot of books I’ve thought I should read….and like a good little book nerd, I’ve tried to read a lot of them. Some authors are just not my favorite and never will be: James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Mark Twain.
There are some authors that I used to loathe, but I started to appreciate later. The president of that club is James Joyce. In college, in my Woolf and Joyce seminar, I came to loathe Joyce with the fire of a thousand suns. Years later, I love Dubliners, like Portrait of the Artist… but I have to say I still don’t get what’s up with Finnegan’s Wake. I’ve tried. But I mean, really? What the hell is a tumptytumtoes?
The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerr
onntuonthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur — nuk!)
of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life
down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the off wall
entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man,
that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one
well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes…..
I have a Nook. Occasionally books on bn.com are free.
Sometimes they are Not Good.
3. In medias res—second books in a trilogy
When a book is not actually free I have certain expectations of that book. One of these crazy ideas of mine is that I sort of expect a book I paid $9.99 for to have an ending. Several series I have read recently have let me down in this regard. I read all the way to the end of book one, and then I feel hollow because it ends not with a bang but a whimper (just a little poetry humor there). Some of these include The Lying Game, Matched, and Wither. I gave each of the second-acts in these series a try, but I was sort of afraid that they were heading toward another non-end, saving it all for book three. Kind of a fool-me-twice situation …
4. Ruined by movies.
Every single friend I have has read the entire Stephanie Plum series, and loved it. When everyone gets together they laugh and joke about donuts, Ranger, and a grandmother shooting a turkey. I just sit there.
I tried to read the first book, but I was on about page 43 when I accidentally went to see the movie version with Katherine Heigl. It wasn’t horrible, but it was kind of mehh. So I never went back to the book.
I also have a long list of books I’m seriously glad I read BEFORE the movie came out and ruined them. At the top is Isabel Allende’s remarkable The House of the Spirits. Don’t EVER see the movie with Winona Ryder. Just. Don’t.
5. One-Hit Wonders
Some writers are famous for one or two great books. Sometimes there’s a reason for this. In this category is Mary Shelley’s The Last Man. Dear God, that was a terrible book. At least the first few chapters…that’s as far as I got.
What kinds of books have you left unfinished?