The DNFs – Thoughts on the books I’ve abandoned this year

Like all bookworms, I imagine, I love writing and talking about the books I’ve adored much more so than the ones I dislike, but I recently came across this nifty little infographic over at Creator & Curator on why readers have chosen to quit a certain book, and it got me thinking about the books I’ve abandoned, myself, this past year. When I started this blog, it was with the intention for it to serve as a kick under my bookish tush to actually crack open the novels I’ve been piling up for (sometimes) years, and try to break that very addictive habit of attempting to clear out every bookshop I visit. I’ve been good, more or less, and I’ve read plenty of excellent titles this past year – all from my own dusty shelves, with the exception of one or two ever-too-tempting proof copies that came across my desk now and again. But there were also a few books I simply could not get through, and did not finish. This post is all about the DNFs.

9781922070425Norwegian by Night – Derek B. Miller
I am so disappointed in myself for not enjoying what I did read of this book. I was hoping for a chilling Scandi edge and I loved the idea behind it: the 82-year-old Sheldon Horowitz, a character of the 100-Year-Old-Man variety (a book I adored, by the way), witnesses a murder in his apartment building, rescues the victim’s little boy and makes a run for it. I very much wanted to like this book, but after a few chapters I just grew bored. I’m keeping it around, though, I might well be in the mood to give it another go later on.

718a1616e938cb8003a6a5353ca174bfMy Favourite Manson Girl – Alison Umminger
I thought I would enjoy this because I loved Emma Cline’s The Girls, I really wanted to try out a new YA novel and for a while there I was a very morbid sucker for all things Manson related – I allow my mind its dark indulgences, perhaps a bit too often. So, the story of a snarky 15-year-old who runs away from home to join her not-nearly-famous-but-trying sister in sinful LA, only to find herself roped into a rather morose Manson Family research project, sounded like a perfect match. Only it wasn’t… And while I revelled in the acid-tongued narrative during the first few chapters, it became more whiny than sharp quite quickly and I didn’t quite care to find out how it ends.

51ll9y69sulZoo Time – Howard Jacobson
I honestly think this book was just much too literary for my tastes and I fully intend that as an odd sort of compliment. As I have been working in the book industry for a few years now, I thought I could relate to a novel that’s largely about attempts at publishing, a failing novelist’s writerly struggles, and the near constant reminder that reading may well be dead. And I really rather liked the acerbic and often rude narrator, author Guy Ableman. But, like the fictional readers of his fictional books, I sadly couldn’t really get into Guy’s narrative on lust and writing. I think its intention was just way over my head and I know I’m most likely missing out on a little nugget of bookish wit by DNF-ing this.

niccoloammaniti-imnotscared5I’m Not Scared – Niccolò Ammaniti
I bought this book ages ago on a vacation in sunny Cape Town and when I finally did read it, I was not scared at all. During an Italian heat wave, 9-year-old Michele discovers something frightening in an abandoned farmhouse. It is a secret thing, one he doesn’t dare talk about and he soon realizes that what he found hits closer to home than he could ever have imagined. I think the combination of anticipating reading this book and genuine curiosity to know more as the story unfolded kept me hooked initially, but midway through, the story seemed to be heading in the general direction of Nowhere. I lost all interest, and flipped to the final pages just to satisfy that gnawing need to know. Really not as interesting a read as I thought it would be.

18900315Valley of Amazement – Amy Tan
At the time I very much wanted to read Memoirs of a Geisha, but sadly couldn’t find a copy, so I bought this instead. The premise seems intriguing – it follows the life and loves of Violet, daughter to a Shanghai madam and later a celebrated courtesan herself – and it’s a tragic tale. I just found it a bit too repetitive and it quickly became too sentimental for my tastes, I was constantly wondering when this poor girl will ever find a bit of happiness (and that’s coming from a reader who appreciates doom and gloom when it’s done well) and I sympathetically continued reading this way past the point at which I initially wanted to abandon it.

coverHomegoing – Yaa Gyasi
Now this book I looked forward to for months before its release, and I was ecstatic when a copy finally made its way onto my desk. I’ve read plenty of wonderful reviews on it and I dove into the first chapter without hesitation. And it started off brilliantly, but then lost my interest… The book reminded me of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie in its style – each chapter is dedicated to a specific character and a small part of their life and it spans generations. But I felt as if what was told read like a preface to something bigger, more interesting. I didn’t feel drawn in by the writing and after a few chapters I no longer felt compelled to continue the story. That being said, I might just give this another try in the future, as I do feel like the odd one out for not liking it.

 

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15 thoughts on “The DNFs – Thoughts on the books I’ve abandoned this year

  1. Great post! I have also been pondering about the DNF topic for a while. I love that infographic you linked into the post. Very interesting.
    I had to giggle at the Top 5 DNF classics where Catch 22 is Nr 1. I actually enjoyed the book… as for the others.. I’m not planning to even have a go at Moby Dick whereas I’d love to read Ulysses!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading! 🙂
      I have a copy of Catch 22 sitting on my TBR shelf, just waiting for me to get to, and I have been reluctant because it does show up on DNF lists quite frequently. But, I will most definitely give it a go!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. agree with Liz. I loved Catch 22. Sorry you didn’t like HOmegoing. I did like it very much. Maybe you’ll like it more in the future if you pick it up again

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  2. Like the infographic – thanks for sharing that. I used to be one of the 38% that said they always got to the bitter end, but no more. there are far too many good books around to waste time on poor ones.

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    1. “Life is too short to read bad books”, can’t remember who said it, but I think it rings true for all bookworms. 🙂
      Thanks so much for reading!

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  3. I used to be an ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ reader, but I’ve learnt to DNF. I tend to plough on for somewhere between 30 pages and 30%, but if it hasn’t got me by then I’m much better at putting it down.

    That said, it’s always interesting to compare with others – I quite enjoyed I’m Not Scared, but it’s definitely not got a huge amount going on (and I didn’t like the ending).

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    1. I usually do about 30 or so pages before quitting, as well. But sometimes , like with I’m Not Scared, I’m so curious I struggle on for much longer. I skipped to it and obviously don’t know too much about what went on before it, but considering the point where I gave up and what happened at the end, I’m also not a fan of that ending.
      Thanks for reading! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting post and I’ve never thought of a DNF post but might well try it. I can see why you expected so much from these books – sadly they didn’t deliver. I used to try and slog my way through any book I started but realised life is just too short. Lately there have been quite a few DNFs books I really couldn’t finish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed! When I think of all the books I still want to read in this lifetime, it’s just not worth struggling through the less than great ones.
      Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Late to the party, but I also DNF’d homegoing and felt like a weirdo. But there was just nothing that remarkable about it, to me. First two chapters were great and I might have kept reading, if they continued. I quit about 4 or 5 chapters.

    Liked by 1 person

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