Books I Gave Up On

I gave up on Moby-Dick the first time – even after getting halfway!

Two weeks ago, I mentioned I was reading The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux.  Well…I’m still reading it, and I’m not even halfway.

For a story about a family moving to the jungle, this book is extremely slow.  I keep thinking “I’m finally getting into it!” only to get bogged down by endless descriptions of Allie’s (the dad) smart-aleck comments and ego bigger than the commune he’s founding.  So yeah, I’m thinking about calling it quits.

It irritates me to give up on a book…I’m a completist by nature.  Since 2012 (when I started keeping track), I’ve given up on 14 books, which spread out over 6 years is still more than I’d like.  On the other hand, there have been books I wish I’d given up on (Kafka’s The Castle) but for whatever reason just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

With that in mind, which are the 14 that made the unlucky cut?  In roughly reverse-chronological order:

    14. The Kill by Émile Zola – I talked about this a few months ago.  What started out as an interesting family drama turned into a squicky romance novel.  TMI for this reader.

      13. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald – This had some of the worst parts of The Great Gatsby (adulterous affairs) without any of the better parts (compelling backstory and interesting characters).  Couldn’t relate at all.

      12. Rhett & Link’s Book of Mythicality – This was a tough disappointment.  I shared some thoughts on Goodreads.

      11. The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway – The title story really pulled me with its misogynist protagonist.  /sarcasm

      10. The Buried Giant by Kazuo IshiguroI get really, really tired of Christians being the bad guys.

      9. Through a Green Lens: Fifty Years of Writing for Nature by Robert Michael Pyle – I was hoping for some interesting anecdotes, but most of the essays I read were more like lectures.  Might try it again in a decade or two, but not now.

      8. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu – Fantastic concept: Chinese history and steampunk!  Sadly, after 100 pages I did not care about any of the characters, though I tried very hard.  Needed better character building and less description.

      7. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – This dude is supposed to be under house arrest, but he has a more comfortable lifestyle than your average college student.  After he got a girlfriend (a pushy one at that), I gave up worrying about him.

      6. On Basilisk Station by David Weber – This is book 1 in a series which is supposed to be like Horatio Hornblower meets Star Trek with a female protagonist.  My expectations must have been too high – I couldn’t get past the first chapter; the characterization and settings didn’t ring true.

      5. The Republic by Plato – Will probably try again someday.

      4. Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power by Zbigniew Brzeziński – Boring start.  Didn’t get very far, but I’ve read another of his books so could sorta guess where it was going.

      3. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier – Another one that was hard to get into.  I meant to try it again when the movie came out; will eventually do so.

      2. The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark – The language/tone turned me off.  I might try it again someday.

      1. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – This also started out boring, but I plan to try it again.

      Judging by this list, it looks like “boring” used to be a big factor, which means I’ve either got better at giving books a chance, or managed to choose books that are bound to be interesting.  I guess that’s a good thing?

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        1. Brian Joseph Avatar
          Brian Joseph

          When I was younger I gave up on a lot of books. Boredom was a big reason for it. I have become more patient over the years. I am also very selective as to what books that I start. I never read The Mosquito Coast but I liked the movie.


        2. Mudpuddle Avatar

          i've read the Hemingway, the Clark, and the Plato… it's odd how the brain changes over time: i just read an article by a (so-called) expert on brain physiology that indicated that it keeps altering over time, up into the thirties… i can believe it, because, the books i like now are certainly not the kind i used to read… Like, i read Moby when in my teens and loved it; i started the first chapter again not long ago and although it was funny, it didn't capture me like i remember it doing… I read Gibbon's Decline and Fall when i was in high school and it permanently altered my understanding of lit and prose; now i couldn't read it to save my life… i wish i'd kept track of the ones i didn't finish, though: it would be a list about a hundred pages long… basically poor writing and logical inconsistency really turn me off nice subject, tx for the post…


        3. R. T. Davis Avatar
          R. T. Davis

          My list of surrenders is long … led by Middlemarchand everything by Jane Austen … hmmm..Best wishes from relocated R. T. @


        4. Marian H Avatar
          Marian H

          I do want to watch the movie…hm… maybe I shouldn't give up yet!


        5. Marian H Avatar
          Marian H

          That makes a lot of sense. There were books I disliked when I was younger (Anne of Green Gables) which I think I would appreciate now. Logical inconsistency is also a big turnoff for me!


        6. Marian H Avatar
          Marian H

          Yay, I'm not the only one who isn't an Austen fan! 🙂 Actually, I used to love the film adaptations, and I did enjoy reading Emma. But I do not share the universal love for P&P… Maybe someday. 🙂


        7. Sharon Wilfong Avatar
          Sharon Wilfong

          I started Moby Dick a loooong time ago and quit half way through, although I am determined to finish it because it bothers me that I never did.I also hated Tender is the Night. I liked Gatsby and really could not stand any of the characters of TITN. I read it's supposed to be his most mature work but I thought it was disjointed and the incest thing was a deal breaker.I haven't read Ishiguro and if he makes Christians out to be bad guys, I probably won't. I'm sick of that too. I don't know about the book, but the movie with Harrison Ford makes missionaries out to be bad guys as well.


        8. Marian H Avatar
          Marian H

          It's curious because in Ishiguro's older works I haven't seen that kind of perspective; in fact, in When We Were Orphans, the heroine is supposed to be a Christian. In any case, I still recommend his older books. The Buried Giant is just not that great (and others reviewers think so, too, for various reasons).


        9. cleopatra Avatar

          Well, you know I'm with you with regard to Tender is the Night. And I rarely never finish a book.I'm stalled on The Republic at the moment but only because life is not allowing the slow, measured pace that it deserves. I will finish it someday.And I enjoyed reading your list!


        10. Marian H Avatar
          Marian H

          Agreed, The Republic takes a little effort to read. I think at some point I'll be able to give it enough attention, too. 🙂


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