The book you couldn’t–or wouldn’t–finish

Admit it. You have one. You must have one. A book that you just couldn’t finish.  A book that you just didn’t like. And you’re not going to apologize for it anymore.

Author Brendan Halpin couldn’t get through A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I could not, for the life of me, finish John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. (God, I hated the ALL CAPS DIALOGUE. IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE ALL CLEVER AND CHARACTER-DEVELOPMENTY BUT IT WAS JUST ANNOYING.) And I’m still bitter that my former book club insisted a few years ago that we read Augusten Burrough’s Running With Scissors and then Wicked by Gregory Maguire and that I wasted my money on both books, which I couldn’t even force myself to finish despite paying full price for both of them. Grrrr. (I may have to go read a good book right now to make myself feel better.)

Then there are the books that I’ve tried to finish but just…haven’t. Not yet, at any rate. I’m really going to read all of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov this year, I promise. This really is the year.

And of course, there are the books that everyone else loooooved but I just didn’t get or couldn’t get into or didn’t even want to try. I didn’t even pick up The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. My Ivy League-educated husband actually really liked it, which did make me reconsider briefly. But I still didn’t read it. I balked at reading Freakonomics, but ultimately gave in (and was glad I did, actually). And I know my dear friend Dave believes (and can persuasively argue) that Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is not only one of the greatest novels ever written but one of the funniest too. But I will have to take his word for it.

What’s yours?


About jenniferlarsonwrites

I'm a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee. I have a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a bachelor's degree in English from Rhodes College. I'm a born-and-bred Southerner who spent a few years in Southern California, a rabid baseball fan and a would-be grower of tomatoes. You can also visit me at LinkedIn or on Twitter at @JenniferLarson.
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6 Responses to The book you couldn’t–or wouldn’t–finish

  1. Natalie says:

    Proust, dammit. I made it through Swann’s Way, but it took me 3 years, and I’ve just put it aside. Dave’s picked it up and if he finishes before me, I’ll lose some of my dignity. Not that I have much left…

  2. I wish I could describe how vigorously I nodded my head when I read a John Barth essay in which he confesses that he believes it’s far better to have read five books (novels?) really well over a life than to have read a thousand without serious care. Am learning to embrace that idea.

    Larson, there’s this scene, early on, when Ishmael tells the half-owner of the Pequod that he wants to see the ocean. This is part of his appeal to be hired as a whaler. “OK,” says the owner, “follow me.” He leads grandiose Ishmael to the bow of the Pequod, which is tied up in harbor, and says, [paraphrasing, alas] “there you go.” Melville probably wouldn’t be hired to write for SNL, but, dude, that’s some good 1851 humor.

  3. Amy says:

    I thought I wanted to read “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” but have never gotten more than about 10 pages in. There’s some assorted book club books hanging around my house right now that I just could not force myself to finish. “Wicked” being one of them. But usually I finish a book if I start it, that’s part of the deal. I really liked “Owen Meany” but then again, I was reading it as part of my theology and lit class at seminary so everything we read was a little more interesting. I don’t yet know what my quest book for this year will be. Perhaps 2009 will finally be the year I read Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent”…who knows?

  4. Jen says:

    I have enjoyed most books once I gave them a chance. But one sticks out for me: Mission Child by Maureen McHugh. I struggled with it for three weeks, waiting for it to get better, waiting to care about any of the characters, waiting for it to be anything other than drudgery to read. I finally realized that when I begin to imagine the ways each of the characters could die painful deaths, it is time for me to move on to another book.

  5. Sonja says:

    I’m a huge fan of Tom Robbins’ books, especially Still Life With Woodpecker. I love his style of writing so much it makes me giddy. But I can’t read his book Skinny Legs and All. I think it’s because of the chicken van.

  6. jenniferlarsonwrites says:

    Ack, I hate it when I like all the other books by one author and then dislike one. But I guess it’s also reassuring to discover that even the great writers have had off days…

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