Confessions of Unfinished Books

As I wrote the ‘summing up’ post for the BookLion, I realized that I had neglected a whole category of my reading last year: unfinished books. As food bloggers sometimes make disastrous meals, book bloggers can just as easily botch picking out a book – and it is worthwhile for either of us to post on our failed attempts. Some devoted bookees think that leaving a book unfinished is admitting defeat, but it is entirely possible to pick up a book that quite simply isn’t right for you, or not right at that particular point in time. What is wrong with shelving the book for a while, until you ‘grow into it’ so to speak? In fact, only one of the following books do I not plan on trying on again over the course of my life because it alone was just too bad to finish.

Autobiography of Mark Twain

Although the idea of publishing a revolutionary biography 100 years after death struck a spark in my mind, I haven’t been able to get through it yet. Part of the problem is that Mark Twain writes about the death of his daughter in such a touching, sincere way that I almost can’t bear to look at the pages again. Yet, finishing the book is still one of my top reading priorities, so expect to see a post in the near future.

Darkmans by Nicola Barker

I got this recommendation from my book of obscure books, and was thoroughly enjoying it until Nicola Barker got around to writing some too-difficult tales of family dynamics. Apparently, I have a hard time reading about emotionally abusive relationships. Yet in spite of that, I often think of the book, especially of the vocabulary that Barker either invented or used to great effect; like the term ‘newbuild’ for shoddily constructed suburban houses.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweile by E. L. Konigsburg

This book suffered the sad fate of being read in the wrong place at the wrong time. I began it right before a significant crack down in reading at the children’s bookstore I worked at, and somehow haven’t remembered to pick it up from the library since.

Most issues of The Economist

I still stand by my decision to subscribe to The Economist, but the issues seem to come in a torrent that gives me no time to breathe.

Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff

Although excited about reading a book about King Arthur that Nancy Pearl (author of Book Lust) put on equal or greater footing as The Once and Future King, I ultimately gave into my prejudices about historical fiction and admitted that I wasn’t quite in the mood. Also, although I hate to admit it, the library book was just in terrible condition – I couldn’t imagine curling up on the couch with it.

The Tale of Gengi by Murisaki Shikibu

Another seemingly fantastic book that I just couldn’t force my way through this year. I have actually started this book twice in the past five years, and haven’t gotten more than 70 or so pages in either time. This book requires a diligent, set schedule and perhaps a list of the characters complete with nicknames, small biographies, family trees, and page numbers where first mentioned. If you thought the names in Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky were bad, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Widdershins by Charles De Lint

Fooled by the excellent name and beautiful cover, I picked this book out of my library without knowing anything about it. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Charles De Lint, I know he has a lot of fans, but his project here was set up to fail. He had written a book about these same characters at the start of his career and due to popular demand took them back up some 15 or so years later. Thus, in order to catch the reader up in case they missed the first installment last decade; the characters were left explaining their thoughts and actions in a completely unnatural way. There are just too many good books to read in life, and I didn’t feel like wasting another ounce of my reading time on this one.

If anyone else feels the need to confess their unfinished book crimes, a good place to start is in the comments section!


5 thoughts on “Confessions of Unfinished Books

  1. ah, if i were to tackle even near as many books as you, i’m sure i would leave many more unfinished! i find it hard to read more than book at a time, but i think an underlying factor is that i tend to always be working through at least one non-fiction book on spiritual growth (and/or creativity). and those types of books require so much concentration and discipline because you’re actually working through them, trying to apply them to your life, not just reading them. i remember the joy of reading fiction, and i have oft thought i should get back into it 😉

    • Well if you do decide to get back into fiction – I am definitely here to recommend you some! I might even be able to give you some more spiritual fiction using my special librarian powers if that’s what you’re looking for.

  2. Okay, I can do this.

    **takes deep breath**


    MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie!

    I know it’s supposed to be cultural and amazing and make all my dreams come true…but I just can’t get into it. Maybe this year I will try again.

    Whew! I feel so much better!

    • That was very brave of you!
      – If you do want to sample some Rushdie without the time commitment of “Midnight’s Children”, you could give his children’s/YA books a try – either “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” and “Luka and the Fire of Life”. That way, if anyone asks you at a cocktail party if you’ve read any Rushdie you can say ‘of course’, and nod knowingly to remarks concerning his style, etc.

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