Books I never seem to be able to finish…

As an avid reader, I am also a fairly avid did-not-finisher (I know, not a real word but it’s the best I could come up with).  It’s one of the reasons I love the library – the lack of guilt if I start a book then don’t finish it because it’s not for me.  Occasionally though I do feel guilt.  There are books I want to read.  I just can’t, for whatever reason.

Doing a bit of a tidy up of my TBR recently, I pondered on some of these and if they should still be on there or if I should just give up the ghost.  Five in particular stood out as having been started, stopped, started and stopped more times that I can count.  In no particular order they are…

clicking on the cover will take you to a good reads synopsis

12360601Possession by A. S. Byatt

I feel I should read it because everyone who reads it says it’s brilliant, including my boss who has read it I don’t know how many times (a lot!) and raves about it constantly, saying she discovered something new every time.

I end up putting it down because I can’t get past the first few chapters.  There is a story within a story that confuses me and poetry I find myself skipping through.   I don’t like the characters and can’t get away with the language which I find way too flowery and fancy.  Plus it’s a love story, which I don’t normally read.

437135Bleak House by Charles Dickens

I feel I should read it because I have never read any Dickens (bar a Christmas Carol) and this is supposed to be one of the best.  Plus I remember watching it on TV and enjoying it.  I know it’s a great, complex, plot and also darkly funny so it should be a hit for me.

I end up putting it down because it seems to be taking so long to read.  The language takes time to understand and absorb and whilst in other classics this isn’t a problem with Dickens I find I end up losing interest.  I put it down only to have forgotten enough of the plot by the next time I pick it up to find I’m starting it again.  And so the cycle continues.

imageThe Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

I feel I should read it because from the bit I have read (actually more than a bit, I made it through 2/3rds this last time) I know it is beautifully written and it’s a story that fascinates me.  The early chapters draw me in straight away and convince me this is a book I will love.  Then something goes wrong.

I end up putting it down because there are times when it just drags.  The beautifully written paragraphs go on a long time and if I don’t have that same amount of time to dedicate to them I put it down for another day.  Do I get bored?  Possibly, a little.

18343181The Death of a President by William Manchester

I feel I should read this because, to the best of my knowledge, it was the first book written about the Kennedy assassination and Manchester was given access to all the key figures involved in a way that hasn’t happened since.

I end up putting it down because it’s incredibly detailed and they are details I can’t keep in my head (too many code names, locations, historical facts).  Of all the books I’ve tried to read and retried to read, this has been on the list the longest.  I have an original addition – “stolen” from an uncle when I was 13 and it’s been on my bookshelf ever since.

12703 Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I feel I should read this because I’m convinced I’m the only person on the planet who hasn’t – especially when I see the shock on people’s faces when I tell them – and because I want to “get it” when people talk about Heathcliff.

I end up putting it down because I just don’t get it.  I find it hard to stay interested even beyond the first chapter and just don’t see what the fuss is about.  I have been told it’s because I didn’t read it as an impressionable teen and that I just have to keep at it.  I wonder, though, if any book you have to keep at is worth reading?

And I suppose that’s the question with all of these – should I still be bothering?  Is there really a need to read any book just because you think you should or someone else tells you you should?  Should I just say no more to picking them up and spend my time on something more productive instead (heck, filing my nails would be more productive with these books at times)?  What do you think?  Do I give them another go?

Emma

 

49 comments
  1. This was a great post. I have had the same difficulty with Possession. Happy Reading!

    1. Thank you. I can’t wait to tell my boss that I’m not the only one who didn’t get it.

  2. Great idea for a post, by the way! I rarely give up on books, but I, too, feel guilty at the pile I’ve abandoned. In fact, I laughed when I saw #1 on your list. Have tried with ‘Possession’, too, and just can’t slog it out even if so many people have told me how brilliant it is. But I do love ‘Wuthering Heights’! Still, I do think this is the whole point of reading, especially once you’re beyond the school reading lists, when, as I often point out to my kids, you have no choice. : )

    1. Thank you 😄 I feel like I am discovering a secret society that don’t think possession is brilliant and so I am no longer alone. I can’t say I won’t try again but there is a good chance I have chased the guilt away today!

      1. BTW, Emma. Forgot to mention there is a brilliant multi-episode BBC series on ‘Bleak House’. If you haven’t seen it yet, it may get you to want to take another stab at the book.

        1. Thanks I will check it out. You never know!

  3. I’ve tried to read Possession too and just couldn’t make a go of it. I even tried the movie and it was awful and incomprehensible. I love the basic sound of the plot but I think the author veers off into to much other stuff. Wuthering Heights is another tough one. I’ve been told to make a character chart while I read and that will make it easier to keep going so I’m going to try that on my next attempt!

    1. I didn’t know there was a movie. I will probably skip it too. As for a character chart…wow, a lot of work – though I have just started a bullet journal so maybe….

  4. Sometimes I find it hard to decide why I can’t finish certain books, especially when others have loved them. But I like your list, and while I haven’t even started any of them, I can see that I would probably not like them, either. Thanks!

    1. IT is strange isn’t it. And I always feel a little guilty. No more though. I have exercised my non-finishing demons!

  5. I’ve tried several times with Possession and it’s still sitting unfinished on my shelf. The other book that springs to mind as having been started several times to no avail is NW by Sadie Smith. Now I’m less rigid, too many books, too little time.

    1. It does at least have a nice cover. I haven’t tried NW and doubt I will!

  6. I haven’t tried Possession but I thought Byatt’s The Children’s Book was mind-numbingly tedious. In general, I think life’s too short for books we’re not enjoying., so I’d say abandon them. Except for Bleak House, which is the greatest book in the world, so you should definitely read it… 😉

    1. I wonder why tedious authors get such kudos. I will try Bleak House again but possibly over a break where I can just focus.

      1. The answer is simple. Books written in different eras usually met the standards of the time. Readers judged a book both by the story and how long it took to read it–the longer, the better. What seems tedious to you, was thought great writing in Dickens’s time. I suspect readers of that era had larger vocabularies than most people today. If you read enough of the right kinds of books, you will too!

  7. I’ve never been able to get through Possession either, but that didn’t stop me from purchasing a copy of The Children’s Book. I haven’t even tried to read that one yet!

    1. Glad it’s not just me. I haven’t bought any others…I am too afraid!

  8. I have heard also so much about Possession, abut I have yet to try it. Now even more intriguing!

    1. If you do and enjoy it let me know. Maybe there is a trick to reading it.

  9. Ugh, Wuthering Heights!!! I don’t get it, with that one. I kept at it, and it never did set. 🙂

    1. Glad it’s not just me. Maybe I’m not romantically inclined enough.

      1. I think the problem is it is touted as a love story, when in fact Heathcliff is a psychopath, and so is Catherine. It’s a weird, creepy, spooky tragedy, told through frames so you don’t actually get a close-up look at anything, so you watch them feel many feelings, but you are so distant it barely effects you. It should be advertised as that, not a love story. It’s not a love story — it’s a story of human passion, and not the good kind. It’s like a happy love story, only the total opposite. The ugliest, most selfish parts of humanity. Abuse, rage. Bleh! Not pleasant reading. Wuthering crazy! I’ll probably reread it at some point. I quite disliked it, but maybe it’s better on a reread. 🙂

        1. None of this I knew. It might change how I read it. Thank you!

  10. Loving this post – I couldn’t bring myself to start the AS Byatt but I did enjoy Bleak House and Wuthering Heights is one of my longstanding favourite reads of all time.

    1. Thanks – I’m starting to think that not as many people in the larger world have read and enjoyed possession as in my closer world. I will keep trying with Bleak House but I may have to leave Wuthering Heights behind.

  11. Hoo-boy. Because these books are so diverse, one comment won’t cover them all, except that when I turned 70, I gave myself permission to drop any book I don’t warm up to. You aren’t seventy, and maybe you should still be broadening your literature horizons, painful though it may be. That said:
    (1) Possession: Bad books do get published. This could be one, based on the consensus, here. I’ll give you a pass on this one. Skip it.
    (2) Bleak House: Vocabulary problem? No pass. Read it with a dictionary open. Words, even rare ones, should not limit your reading forever. Use this book to stretch yourself.
    (3) Museum of Extraordinary Things: Sounds a little too verbose. Not your fault if it is. Put it away for another time.
    (4) Death of a President: You know, history may just not be your “thang,” and that’s okay. Pass on this one and all its genre. (BTW, the term is “first edition,” not “original addition.” Original addition is what gets CPAs sent to gaol.)
    (5) Wuthering Heights: How does one wuther? Does one wuther a height? Or is it the heights that are caught in the act of wuthering? I have no clue, so you’re on your own, here. I think Bleak House is enough to focus on. Pass.
    Fascinating post, obviously. Well done!

    1. Thanks for the comments. I’m not 70 but I am getting to a stage where I have too many books I want to read and time seems against me. I think I will carry on with Dickens because I can’t be English and not have read one of his books but others I may pass on. Life is too short 😄

      1. You should read A Christmas Carol or David Copperfield! Both quite readable. 🙂

        1. A Christmas Carol I have managed to read. I don’t know if it counts as classic Dickens though? I haven’t tried David Copperfield. I will give it a go. Thanks.

          1. It’s the one time in history he was economical with his words!! Ha ha. Just kidding. 😉 David Copperfield is of the same quality. Very enjoyable.

  12. I love that about the library too. I like knowing I can pick it up again (even though mostly I never do!) but had the possibility of reading it without wasting money. The only one I’ve read is Wuthering Heights and I struggled with it too at the beginnin. The more you get into it though, the more passionate and desperate it all is. And I ended up loving it.

    1. Libraries are the best thing ever for me. I am a fickle reader. I think it’s the struggling at the beginning. I’m not very good at making it through a difficult beginning. Too hard!

  13. […] Source: Books I never seem to be able to finish… […]

  14. I haven’t read any of those to help you with your decision. I definitely believe in abandoning a book if it is not working though. Sounds like you give it more chances then I do. I can think of 2 books I really tried and finally gave up on. The Time Travelers Wife and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I watched both movies and enjoyed them but tried for months with both.

    At least your library love helps with your budget 🙂

    1. Your two books are both ones I loved BUT I know a lot of people who couldn’t get away with either. One because it was too violent, the other because it actually doesn’t make much sense if you start thinking about it. I haven’t seen the movies for either but probably should!

  15. I have books like this too, ones I just can’t ever seem to finish. Treasure Island is like that- in spite of wanting to read it I always seem to get bogged down or sidetracked. there’s a few others too… what can you do? 🙂

    The Museum of Extraordinary Things looks interesting but I don’t know much about it. That cover has me curious…

    1. I read Treasure Island a few years ago. It’s a good read, but nothing like the Disney version. Long John Silver is an absolute rotter. I must admit, I liked Disney’s LJS better, a more nuanced villain in the modern style.

    2. I haven’t read Treasure Island either, though I did try. Not finishing it hasn’t haunted me though. Not sure why this one I could let go?

  16. I’m wondering what everyone thinks about Catcher in the Rye.

    1. Now that I did manage to finish, though I think it was at college so no choice. I don’t have many memories of it but none are bad. Is it one you have struggled with?

      1. I never read “Catcher” in school, I believe it was banned, then. I read my son’s copy when he read it in high school. It’s a fine work, but largely misinterpreted. Early literary reviewers/commenters read their own “stuff” into it, said it was about youthful rebellion, the dishonesty of the adult world. Of course, that’s all nonsense. I later picked it up to read a few pages, and found I was at page 50 before I realized it was time for me to leave for work. It’s largely autobiographical. I could tell that whoever wrote it had experienced the emotions expressed in “Catcher,” either first-hand or close up. And their suppression. The key word that is Catcher’s theme doesn’t even appear in Cliff’s Notes.

  17. You are not alone in Wuthering Heights… I spoke about this on my blog recently. I’ve owned the title for a good number of years now but have yet to get much further than the first page… But yet I can’t part with it. Interesting to read why you haven’t finished some of these titles.

    1. I keep buying it then giving it to charity then feeling I should read it and buying it again – someone once told me not to try to read an ebook version and so I have that in my head, though it would be cheaper to just get the one copy and be done with it!

  18. […] I thought with a central character I didn’t know if I liked or not. In between I wrote about Books I never seem to be able to finish and five in particular that I never seem able to make it through but felt I should. One especially […]

  19. Great post. Wuthering Heights is one of my all time favourite books. I adore a dark gothic novel and it ticks all the boxes. I have tried a few times with Possession but never managed it so gave up on it completely.

    1. I wish I could get away with Wuthering Heights but comments on this post are making me think I should keep trying.

  20. I think the best thing is to let them be for some time, even years if it must be, and give them a try when you feel like you’re ready. If that time never comes, that’s okay too.
    I have one book I could mention, I said I’ll read it once in my lifetime, tried 3 times, failed all three times. I realized that even if I never read it, the world will still keep turning and it’s not of that big of a matter. The book I’m talking about is Idiot by Dostojevski.

    1. You are right. The world does keep turning. I don’t know why I feel so strongly I have to red these. Maybe when I’m retired and I have time to devote to them!

  21. […] to read them before.  The biggest of those is Possession (I wrote about my inability to finish it here).  So wish me luck and keep your fingers grossed it’s not number […]

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