Books I Didn't Finish

I'm never quite sure what to do about the books I start but for one reason or another don't finish. I don't feel it's fair to say too much when I haven't read it all the way through, so I've decided to list them here with a sentence or two about why I wasn't motivated to keep reading to the end. Keep in mind these are just my opinions, other readers may think these books are wonderful.


The Lost Bookshop by Evie Woods
I liked this one well enough until a book threw itself off the shelf at someone's feet, and mysterious cracks appeared and grew on a bedroom wall. As with "The Ocean in Winter", I'm just not interested in ghostly stuff. 

All Our Yesterdays by Natalia Ginzburg
Another one that didn't hold my attention, and the writing seemed flat, maybe due to the translation from the original Italian. I feel bad about this one. She's considered a great author, and this novel has been reviewed as wonderful, warm, and generous of spirt. I feel I've failed it somehow. I'll try another of hers eventually.

The Bookwoman's Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson
This is the 6th one this year. I hope I'm becoming more discerning and not simply a lazy reader.
This one started out slow, got slower, then almost came to a standstill. When I read the descriptions of her making coffee, getting down the cups, pouring the coffee, setting the cups on the table, etc., I just couldn't take anymore. All the irrelevant details and dialogue only emphasized the fact that there was very little plot at all.     

Mozart - A Cultural Biography by Robert W. Gutman
I should have paid more attention to the subtitle. I wanted the story of Mozart's life, but this book seems to concern itself more with the society he lived in. Religious and political figures of the day and their maneuverings for power are discussed in great detail, which could be interesting but it's not what I was looking for. Mozart's life is in there, but I was at page 115 and still had read very little about him so I think I'll look for something else.

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
I'm slowly reading through the Pulizer Prize list and have found some excellent books, but this one simply didn't appeal to me. I'm no longer reading books I'm not enjoying.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Oh dear, another Pulitzer winner I'm not finishing. The first part was good, interesting characters and plot, but by page 300 (my book had 774 pages) I was bored with the continual drunkeness, drug-taking, and feckless behaviour of the two (at that point) main characters. I still had a long way to go, and though 300 pages is normally too much of an investment to walk away from, I simply didn't care anymore. 

The Ocean in Winter by Elizabeth de Veer
Interesting characters, good writing, intriguing was all going so well until the ghosts showed up. I don't do haunted. 

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
I read the first few pages wondering the whole time what he was talking about. I found it uninteresting. 

Christmas on Union Street by Kathleen Cranidge
The plot was setting up nicely for a cozy Christmas mystery but there began to be too much talk of crystals, fortune telling, ghosts and witches for me. Not my thing at all.

A Bright Moon for Fools by Jasper Gibson
Sometimes a book just doesn't suit the mood I'm in at the time, and the unlikeable main character in this one made me think it never would. Moving on.   

The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff
This sounded so charming in all the reviews, and it was recommended by Kazuo Ishiguro, an author I greatly admire. I expected, and wanted, to love it. I read to page 85 waiting for it to give me something, anything, to be interested in but it just didn't happen. What am I missing?  

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I simply didn't like it, not the characters, the plot, the language, none of it. It didn't hold my interest. I had just finished East of Eden which was a beautifully written, fascinating story full of relatable characters, so maybe I should have waited a while before starting this one...I don't know. But I do know I feel guilty about not liking a John Steinbeck novel. 

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I really tried to like this. It's been written up with every superlative there is and I've been meaning to read it for decades, so I was disappointed to find I didn't like it. I confess I haven't read a lot in the "magical realism" genre, but I don't think that's what made me lose interest. I did get a little tired of dead people coming back though. And it was an audio  book, so maybe it was partly the narrator; I don't know. All I know is I wasn't enjoying it, so I quit. 

Less by Andrew Sean Greer
This was an audio  book that I just couldn't get into. With audio I'm never sure if it's the story or the reader that I didn't like. Maybe both on this one. 


Does The Noise In My Head Bother You? by Steven Tyler
I'm disapointed I couldn't finish this one. He is such an interesting person, someone I looked forward to getting to know better, but I got a few chapters into it and though his story really is fascinating, and I think I'd like him if I met him, it's also full of reeeeally foul language and graphic images that I'd rather not get stuck in my head. And when I say "full of" I mean every page, nearly every paragraph. I got tired of it - it gets boring when the same words are used over and over and over again, cursing or not -  and reluctantly gave it up. I skipped through and read one more section that I wanted to know about, but that was it. For anyone who doesn't mind all that, it would be a lot of fun to read. 


The Height of Nonsense by Paul Clements
I should have liked this travelogue by a writer who visited every county in Ireland to climb its highest hill/mountain. I love travel books, and almost anything set in Ireland, but I couldn't get into it. I think it was all the mountain talk, their names and the reasons behind them, their heights and weather conditions, and the comparisons of this particular mountain with all the others in that county. Not finishing it is completely about my lack of interest in the topic and nothing to do with any flaw in the book.  


Remembrance of Things Past - Vol 1 Swann's Way - by Marcel Proust
You know, this seems like a book I'd like to have  read, maybe 30 years ago, but not anymore. One of my main purposes for reading now, other than I just can't help it, is distraction from physical discomfort. The details upon details about his thoughts on everything imaginable is just not doing it. I read about 10% of the first volume and cannot do any more. I wonder if an audio version might be better.

The Paper Garden - Mrs. Delaney Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock
I wanted to love this biography, but I didn't like the writing. The information about Mrs. Delaney and her work was interesting, but I found the way it was presented uninteresting, and strangely sexual. It's a beautiful book - glossy pages, wonderful illustrations and photographs, but that wasn't enough to keep me going. It's a weird one.

The Wine of Solitude by Irene Nemirovsky
I read only a few pages of this. It's narrated by a little girl who hates her mother. She has good reason to be angry - her mother is neglectful, mean, and, well.....crazy. This little girl may not have all her screws tightened either. She's cold and hateful at times, and that part comes through clearly. She's also lonely and afraid at times, but that part doesn't come through very well so all I could feel from her was the hard and rather menacing part. There was nothing appealing in the story or the characters to keep me reading.

Love, Let Me Not Hunger by Paul Gallico
I chose this simply because one of my favourite movies is based on a book by this author. I'd never read any of his work and was curious, so picked this up when I found it at a used book sale for $1.00.
I read the first 60 pages, but nothing up to that point had drawn me in or interested me enough to keep going. Didn't appeal to me.

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
At 50 pages in I didn't know if I liked it or not, at the 100th page  I was pretty sure I didn't, and at 135 I asked myself why I was still reading a book I wasn't enjoying. I had no good answer so I moved on. I don't seem to be having much luck with this author.


The Miniaturist
I must be having a bad reading year; this is my third dnf already and it's only March. I didn't like the characters, I didn't like the writing style, and I didn't like where at least one of the story lines was heading. I'm disappointed because I looked forward to this one for some time, based on that great cover, great reviews, and the intriguing concept, but for me it just didn't pan out.

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
I read close to half of it and at times I was almost interested. The rest of the time the long, tedious descriptions had me bored, confused or just annoyed that the author hadn't yet moved on to something else. Several times I wanted to quit, but bits of it were intriguing so I convinced myself to keep going. But today I read thirty pages and on every single one of them I wondered why I was still reading this when I so clearly just wanted to be done. So, I'm done.


Miscalculations by Elizabeth Mansfield
Predictable, contrived, poorly written. Yawn.

Barbra, The Way She Is by Christopher Andersen
Nobody can be as awful all the time as this author makes Barbra Streisand out to be. It's boring to read the stories of her alleged unmitigated self-centeredness over and over with no redeeming quality ever bringing relief to the picture he's drawing. She's human, therefore she must have both faults and virtues but the latter were missing, at least in the first hundred or so pages. It gives the impression that Anderson has a strong dislike for Streisand and is unable to take a balanced approach. I'll look for something more interesting.

The Rhythm of Memory
The writing felt stilted to me; the dialogue didn't feel natural. I got bored and started wondering why I was spending time on something I wasn't enjoying when I have so many other books to read and so few good years left to read them. I was three quarters of the way through the book but I just wasn't interested, so I stopped and moved on.


The Mill River Recluse
Such a good premise for a novel, but some writer somewhere once said "If it sounds like writing, take it out." and the editors of this book failed to follow that advice. Maybe if they'd taken out everything that sounded like writing there wouldn't have been anything left. I was over a hundred pages in and it still felt awkward. The story never got rolling and I never at any moment felt an ounce of anticipation for what might be coming. All potential, no soul.


Gifts From Eykis
Supposed to be sci-fi, but really it's the author's philosophy of how we create most of our own problems and how we could (should) improve. I found it dull and badly written and quit in the third chapter.


The Last Supper - A Summer in Italy by Rachel Cusk
I got about a quarter of the way through this one and decided this is the wrong time to read it. I love the genre and she's an excellent writer, but it's going to take more effort than I can give it right now. You know those times when there's almost more going on in your real life than you can handle so you need an easy read with a story that will take you away? That's where I am. I'm going to keep this book though because I suspect I would really enjoy it another time. Rachel Cusk writes intelligently and lyrically about a wonderful country; maybe at another time I'll be able to give it the attention it deserves. 

The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo
Great cover and title, and good reviews, but I was so bored I just couldn't keep going. I was hoping for a story about olive growing so I could learn something about it, but in this book the olive groves are only the wallpaper in front of which the story plays out. There was nothing in the writing that made me want to keep going, I never got interested in the characters and the story didn't seem to be going anywhere. And that was halfway through the book, so it was time to move on.

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquirel
I love the premise of a young girl growing up in Mexico and sharing the recipes of her family, and I love the whimsicality of a cake batter that won't thicken because the cook is crying so many tears into it, but the injustice done to this young girl is more than I can take. I just finished A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, which was so filled with injustice that it was nauseating and I find I can't take any more. The mother in Like Water For Chocolate makes me furious. She slaps her daughter's face, sending her reeling to the floor, for having feelings Mama doesn't want her to have, and when something goes wrong and there's no one else to blame she beats her daughter so badly it takes two weeks for the bruises to heal. I am so sick of injustice I can't even put it into words and I can't read anymore of this one right now. 

Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery
What a disappointment! After reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog and loving it I was looking forward to more great characters and meaning-of-life philosophizing, but no. I am one day going to learn not to judge a book by it's author. This one is about a dying chef, an arrogant jerk who is also a miserable husband and cold-hearted father, who is trying to remember the taste of something he enjoyed years ago. This awful man can talk about food with great emotion and yet says he never loved his children and if they hate him for it it's no concern of his. This book goes on endlessly about how exquisite it is to taste the best food and compares it to finding God. In one instance a chef is called Christ. It all seems overblown and a bit ridiculous to me. I like to cook and I like quality ingredients, but this book takes refinement of taste way beyond the limits of good sense. I've read 90 pages and am hating the experience so that's it for this one. 


A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Such a great title and such good reviews. I was hoping for something along the lines of Cold Comfort Farm. It was not to be. Right from the first I didn't like the main character, then I got to the masturbation scene. I stopped there and decided to drop it, but I talked myself into trying one more chapter. It didn't help. I wasn't enjoying it, I didn't like the characters, the language, the setting or the story line. 
2022 Update: I tried again this year and after 10 years nothing has changed. I can't stand this character. I know I'm supposed to find the book funny, but I don't see it. I give up.   

The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger
Too. Much. Swearing. It actually became boring.

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
I liked some of the characters but when I got to the third rather detailed sex scene I decided to skip this one. He's a good writer though, and I loved his earlier book "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time".


Watching The English by Kate Fox
I read reviews that said this was a funny look at the idiosyncrasies of "Britishness". I read maybe 30 pages and didn't find it funny at all. It is a very detailed look at what makes the British unique, written by a serious social anthropologist. Very detailed. The details have details. I was indifferent and decided to move on. It's very thorough and well written though if you want to give it a try. You might like it.

Ulysses by James Joyce
Well. I've wondered for a long time what all the fuss was about and now I know. And I am not nearly as impressed as all the scholars seem to think I should be. This is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read. I started out with an open mind ready for anything, but the sheer foolishness of it finally got to me. I read over half of it, and by that time I swear I could hear the author laughing at me. At that point I was still reading because I wanted to be able to say I finished it, but once I realized I just didn't care anymore, I quit. Here and there I found sections that showed what a truly great writer he is, but most of it is pretentious drivel. It's hailed as a literary masterpiece but you'll never convince me Joyce thought this book was art. Any enterprising individual can write gibberish, keep it obscure to befuddle the masses and round up a few "smart" people to call it art; the rest of us will accept their assessment and even believe them when they tell us we simply lack sufficient literary sophistication to appreciate it. It's mind-boggling conceit on their part and inexplicable submission on ours. I bet Joyce is still laughing.

The Push and The Pull by Darryl Whetter
I'm beginning to wonder if this page of unfinished books is such a good idea. I find I don't like admitting to giving up on a book. I know it's not a failure on my part as a reader; it's simply a matter of personal taste. We will never all be interested in all books. I'll keep telling myself that. I only got about 15 pages into this one before I realized I wasn't the slightest bit interested in the story, I didn't like the language (the writing/the swearing) and I wasn't responding to the characters. Even the setting, which alone has carried me through some books,  left me cold. Also, I am in a place where I want some simple good stories about simple good people. I've been reading a lot of angst in the past few months, war, hardship, tragedy, moral conundrums and death, and I need a break. I want a mental holiday and this book doesn't fit anywhere into that plan. So I'm off to look for a 'comfort' read.


In The Beauty Of The Lilies by John Updike
I found the book slow. It was my first experience with Updike, and I will try another eventually. There are a lot of good things written about his books so I'll try again to see if I can get out of them what others seem to.

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
I found this book to be very, very dark. It was a fascinating story but it delved into a level of darkness that I am not comfortable with so I decided not to finish it.

Shanghai by David Rotenberg
I read only a few pages of this thick paperback. I'm not sure why I didn't like it; I can only say that I think it's more of a man's book. What I read of the characters and setting didn't appeal to me but I think my father would have read it. He was an avid reader of mysteries and....well....books like Shanghai.

Island Walkers by John Bemrose
I am a lover of islands so any book with "Island" in the title tempts me and I seldom resist. Unfortunately it didn't deliver what I expected and I just couldn't get into it.