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.
Norwegian 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.
My 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.
Zoo 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.
I’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.
Valley 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.
Homegoing – 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.