Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where book lovers post their top ten books for various themes that are given.
May 6: Ten Books I Almost Put Down but Didn’t
Like Caleb, I hardly ever will put down a book. Probably because I’m slightly OCD in that regard because I figure, hey, if I have the book, and I already spent X amount of time reading it, why waste that? (plus, who knows, I suppose the novel always could turn around) But there are definitely times when I either wanted to or considered putting a novel down:
- Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. This book was just really depressing. And not in the good way, if that makes sense. The Fault in Our Stars is probably the most famous example I can think of of a good depressing book. Because it doesn’t make you feel depressed really, it just tugs at your heartstrings and makes you interested in/feel for the characters. Not so with Sharp Objects—it was just depressing.
- The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling. See above, basically. Although this I wanted to put down less, because I love Rowling and her writing style. Not to mention she’s utterly fantastic with making round, in-depth characters. I did enjoy reading this, even if overall I didn’t really like it.
- A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. Nothing in this novel interested me, really. Plot, characters, writing style . . . I will say that it gets point for setting, because that actually was interesting, but by no means enough of a saving grace. To be honest, I’m really not sure I would have actually finished this, if not for the fact that I had to read it for school. Just not my kind of novel.
- Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk. I’m reading this now, actually. But if not for what I said at the beginning (i.e. I don’t like not finishing books), I’d probably just set it down (though it is a really quick read, and that helps me stick with it). I thought his Survivor was interesting. Not my favorite novel, but it was worth the read. I can’t really say the same here. I suppose I should have listened to the first few sentences of the book: “If you’re going to read this, don’t bother. After a couple pages, you won’t want to be here. So forget it. Go away. Get out while you’re still in one piece. Save yourself. […] What happens here is first going to piss you off. After that it just gets worse and worse.” Well, he did warn me. Still, I’ll be reading more Palahniuk in the future. His writing style(s) interests me (one of the things I particularly liked about Survivor), and I at the very least really need/want to read Fight Club.
- I, Alex Cross, by James Patterson. Maybe it’s because this was the first Alex Cross novel I read (and it’s like…15th in the series or something), who knows, but I just really never got into it. To be honest, having the incredibly short chapters was one of the things that kept me reading, as otherwise I may not have wanted to keep putting in the effort. I’m going back and reading his earlier Cross novels, and they’re kinda the same thing. He does have some interesting ideas at least, though, but I can’t say I”m a fan.
- Bonus: A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin. Technically I did put this down for about 4-5 months before finally picking it up again. Simply because it was taking too long to read and it was hard for me to focus on it, so I wanted to wait until winter break. This has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the work, or my liking of the work, as I think Martin (and his writing) is fantastic. Rather, it was simply the density and not feeling like reading something like that at the time. It’s an amazing novel.
I rarely put a book down – I don’t like to start something without finishing it, least of all a book. On that incredibly rare occasion I do put a book aside, it’s usually for a very good reason; and when I come close to putting a book down but don’t, I typically find that I was justified in seeing it through.
- Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Journey to the Center of the Earth bored me to death like few books I’ve ever read. I was very timid approaching Verne again, and even after I did finally pick up Eighty Days I wasn’t immediately won, but soon enough I’d forgiven Verne.
- The Quest by Pio Baroja. Baroja’s work can be hard to get through. It’s slow, very very slow, and also very bleak and depressing. But it really is worth reading through, and though I have not yet and am in no hurry to read the rest of the trilogy, I know I will, because Baroja deserves it. His stories may not have been engaging or entertaining – but they’re meaningful.
- The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers. Sayers certainly didn’t grab her readers; if anything, she dragged them along. At best, she ambled with them. For example, when she collaborated with her fellow members of The Detection Club to write The Floating Admiral, her chapter was some forty or fifty pages out of a 300 page book (and bear in mind, there were thirteen other chapters written by as many authors). Still, she was a brilliant, ingenious writer with very intricate, innovative mysteries.
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Okay, technically I did put it down. I had just read Chronicles of Narnia and been just a little bit bored by Lewis’s style (much as I loved his stories), and at first The Hobbit didn’t appear any more promising. In addition to that, I had several other books I was particularly interested in reading and a story I was keen on writing, and Hobbit just didn’t end up fitting. But
- Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s actually the same story here. I put it down years ago when I was too young to appreciate us. Alas! children had much more refined tastes in Tolkien’s day. I only finally picked it up again this year, and as with Hobbit I enjoyed every word of Tolkien’s genius.
And as a bonus, here are five books I almost put down but didn’t and wish I had:
- The Black Tower and A Taste for Death by P.D. James. I purchased six or seven James novels from a used bookstore and, a rare thing for me, returned them all, after reading just two. I could hardly stand Black Tower for a number of reasons, but I gave A Taste for Death a chance anyway because I’m like that, which turned out to be an even bigger waste of my time. I ended up skimming and even skipping irrelevant chapters (which James was very fond of writing in). I respect James as a mystery scholar, but as a novelist not so much. Her stories lack imagination or cleverness, the mysteries are bland and unexciting, her characters are exaggerated and dislikable, and like Sayers her style is long and rambling. Unfortunately, James did not possess Sayers’s saving grace, the ability to make you care enough to finish the story.
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Dull, murky, depressing, and prolix. Thankfully, it was short.
- Dangerous Days by Mary Roberts Rinehart. It depicted high society life in America during the Great War, and ended in Paris on Armistice Day, which made for interesting research to someone interested in the time period, like myself; the characters, however, were difficult to stand, in the same sort of way you’ll recognize in most works of the time, such as The Great Gatsby. Many writers, including Rinehart, had the uncanny ability to make you care anyway and enjoy the story, but this one didn’t do it for me.
- The Secret Places of the Heart by H.G. Wells. Another work from the same period starring unbearable characters in an uninteresting situation.
- 100% – The Story of a Patriot by Upton Sinclair. See above. The redeeming grace was that the protagonist in this story, a hateful imbecile, was at least so outrageously idiotic that he was amusing, and at least his situation was interesting. Still, I haven’t been in any hurry to try any of his other work, such as The Jungle, though I’ll have to give Sinclair a second chance eventually, because I’m like that.