All the Books I’ve Abandoned So Far This Year

Hard to believe, especially with the bizarre few months we’ve been having, but it’s mid-year review time already. I’ll do two more posts this month rounding up my reading from the first half of 2020: where my books came from, and the best releases so far. But first, let’s get this out of the way.

I encourage readers to give up on books they are not enjoying, at any time and for any reason (tone, voice, writing style, distressing subject matter, similarity to other things you’ve read, whatever). I’ve DNFed 27 books so far this year, equating to roughly 15% of what I started. That’s my usual average, so not a particular problem as far as I’m concerned.

To keep it short and sweet, especially as I have mentioned a number of these before, e.g. in a Library Checkout or Six Degrees post, I’m listing the pages or percentage read and dispatching each book with a two-word summary using the template “Too ______”. (I am aware of how reductive and unfair this is.) These are in rough chronological order of my attempted reading. Asterisks denote the books I intend to try again someday.

 

*The Street by Ann Petry: 32 pages. Too dated.

 

Short Short Stories by Dave Eggers: 22 pages. Too raunchy.

 

The Year without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd: 21 pages. Too dull.

 

When All Is Said by Anne Griffin: 60 pages. Too sentimental.

 

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney: 162 pages. Too plodding.

 

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron: 25 pages. Too self-aware.

 

The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer: 93 pages. Too obvious.

 

Journalism by Joe Sacco: 21 pages. Too gritty.

 

Run by Ann Patchett: 80 pages. Too contrived.

 

*Jazz by Toni Morrison: 100 pages. Too dense.

 

On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman: 30 pages. Too false.

 

Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan: 20-something pages. Too weird.

 

*Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami: 20 pages. Too normal.

 

*The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan: 20 pages. Too ponderous.

 

*Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: 15 pages. Too hip.

 

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara: 3 pages. Too precocious.

 

The Night Brother by Rosie Garland: 5 pages. Too unremarkable.

 

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: 4 pages. Too bland.

 

My Wild, Sleepless Nights: A Mother’s Story by Clover Stroud: 5 pages. Too (m)othering.

 

Godshot by Chelsea Bieker: 30%. Too Handmaid’s.

 

The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny: 34 pages. Too undistinguished.

 

On Beauty by Zadie Smith [an attempted reread]: 107 pages. Too stereotyping.

 

*Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer [an attempted reread]: 35 pages. Too quirky.

 

The Bumblebee Flies Anyway: A year of gardening and (wild)life by Kate Bradbury: 24 pages. Too middling.

 

The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey: 11%. Too familiar.

 

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles: 18 pages. Too twee.

 

Up with the Larks: Starting Again in Cornwall: My First Year as a Seaside Postie by Tessa Hainsworth: 80 pages. Too lite.

 


Any DNFs for you this year?

55 responses

  1. I find that I can get on a bit of a roll with DNFs. Glad to see that you think you’ll go back to The Street. I think it’s worth persevering with that one although not with the Safran Foer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I got hung up on the period dialogue / phrase constructions, but (especially as it’s one of very few books I own by Black authors) I will definitely give it another go.

      Alas that the Foer did not work on a reread, and his last two books were subpar, but I still read everything he publishes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Never thought I’d read too normal and Murakami in the same phrase! Yes, it’s much tamer than his later books. I see your patience seems to be getting shorter (fewer pages read).😂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I try again some day, I kind of need to pretend that I’m not reading Murakami!

      If I’m going to DNF, better to do so early on. I cringe to see that I wasted my time reading 100 or more pages in some of these.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve just read 256 pages of a (chunky) novel before finally deciding it was NOT sparking joy!

        Like

    2. Oh no! That’s too bad. That would have been the whole length of some novels!

      Like

  3. Love the way you sum them up in two words! I’ve not had a DNF this year but I have skimmed a few – I try to pick books I think I’ll love, and I usually do. Because life *is* too short to read what you aren’t enjoying!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well done! I wish I could eliminate DNFs. I do occasionally skim to the end of a less-than-fascinating book and mark it as skimmed. I think I am still too influenced by buzz.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Haha I love this format! I also DNF The Tenderness of Wolves and The Year Without Summer for the same reasons. While I found Such A Fun Age totally gripping, I agree that it is ‘too hip’ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m going to try again with that one (if my library ever reopens; argh!) as I think it’ll make a fun summer binge read if I can turn off my internal critic for a couple of days.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, there are issues with it and it gets quite simplistic near the end, but I think it could really work as a fun binge read.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Carolyn L. Anthony | Reply

    Love the variety of adjectives!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. At what point to do you DNF? That is, I see it varies, but it’s clear that sometimes you’re pretty persistent. I too am prepared to abandon, but just sometimes, when I persist, I am rewarded, which is what makes me a somewhat reluctant DNF-er. Nevertheless, I did abandon one of this season’s must-reads – Before the Coffee gets Cold. Too plodding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Annabel warned me off Before the Coffee gets Cold, luckily!

      It does totally depend. Sometimes I’m interested enough in the subject matter to ignore a rather dull writing style. Other times my patience is very thin. If a book is long (350+ pages), I think I’m more likely to give up because the weight of the pages to come feels overwhelming. Whereas a 200-page book I might just persist with, even if it ends up 2*.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good that I’m not the only one out of step re BtCgC. Yes, weight is a factor. What wimps, eh?

        Like

    2. Well, why commit to reading, say, 400 pages, when you aren’t engaging with the style?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It depends on why you’re not engaging. Yes, style is a bit of a deal-breaker I agree. But sometimes a slow-burn, or worse, something which seems to be going nowhere can suddenly surprise you and absorb you. Needless to say, I can’t call an example to mind!

        Like

  7. My feelings about The Paris Library precisely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to know you felt the same. It reminded me a lot of The Awakening of Miss Prim and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, both of which I found middling.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your way of describing each of these! Like Margaret, I’m still a reluctant DNF-er too. I have tried to read Norwegian Wood a couple of times, but failed to get into it, but I plodded through the whole of Stef Penney (enjoyed it at the time which was when it first came out). I have the Glasfurd on my shelves, and will definitely skim it, but was only really interested in the Mary Shelley bit. The rest appears too contrived to fit the title. We’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m really surprised the Penney got a Costa award as they usually choose snappier books.

      I was most interested in the Shelley strand of the Glasfurd, but having read some other books in which she is a character (most recently, Frankissstein), this didn’t add much.

      Like

  9. I haven’t had any DNFs but I think that’s because I usually weed them out as part of Sample Saturday (my strike rate there is approx 50% rejected).

    Of those that you’ve rejected, I’ve only read a handful, one of which is On Beauty – not sure how long ago it was written but yes, I can imagine it would date.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Prescreening: very wise! How much of a book is in the sample that you read?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Depends on the publisher but usually two chapters – enough to get a feel for the writing.

        Like

  10. I don’t think I’ve abandoned one yet this year but there was one that I considered abandoning and probably should have.

    I will usually try a different reading approach before really giving upn such as reading quicker or slower, read something alongside it, only read it when I’m really in the mood for it etc. I’m always concerned that the problem is with me. 🙂

    Like

    1. Still, it’s interesting seeing what you gave up and why.

      Like

    2. Yes, I’ve had occasions in recent years where a book that doesn’t interest me at all when I try the first pages grips me completely just a few weeks or months later. So it sometimes is a matter of the wrong timing. But there will also be reader/book mismatches that can’t be gotten over.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Reductive, sure, but I really like your two-word DNF summaries. We’ve discussed the hit or miss nature of Patchett–I too thought RUN was a big miss. “Too (m)othering”–haven’t read that, but well-put! As for the Petry, I haven’t read that one, but we did read her THE NARROWS in grad school, and I saved it–still in my shelves all these years later–so it must have been good. Likely dated, too, but maybe worth a shot? I should do a re-read. We’ll see. Time is too short for a meh book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks 🙂 I had fun with this one, though I know some will bristle at dismissing a writer’s hard work in two words. I never advertise these posts, or include tags/book cover illustrations, for that reason. It’s really just a record for myself of what didn’t work for me at a particular point and why.

      What I meant with “(m)othering” is that it’s about being a mother, but (unlike so many books I’ve read) felt so foreign that I couldn’t imagine myself into the experience. She’s a mother of five and the first few pages were about frustration at not having time to herself, which surely comes with the territory! Anyway, I’d DNFed her previous memoir, too; I should have known better that I don’t get on with her style.

      I had never heard of Ann Petry before this year. Virago rereleased The Street in the UK in January and I won a proof copy via their newsletter. I’ve kept hold of it and will try it again, if not later this year then next year.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve had The Street on my list for a while. Even borrowed it from the local library but returned it unread. Something in me said it might be too dated, so was glad to see your DNF comment here. One book I quit this year (by page 25 or so) was My Dark Vanessa. I don’t know if it’s published yet in the U.K. Thousands give it more than 4 points on Goodreads — it’s been a bestseller — but it felt “Lolita-lite” to me. It also could be I started it at the beginning of COVID lock-down and it wasn’t the right book for me. To that point, it took me three tries to read Jean Stafford’s The Mountain Lion — the first two times I wasn’t in the mood for lengthy descriptive prose. Third time, though, I loved it and count it as one of my all-time favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for visiting! I have heard so much buzz about My Dark Vanessa, but I’ve been wary about it (partially for that very reason — books can often be overhyped). Last year I tried reading Heat Wave by Penelope Lively in July and didn’t get anywhere, but tried again the following month and devoured it in a few days. I’m hoping I’ll have a similar thing happen when I try again with The Go-Between this summer.

      Like

  13. I have abandoned a lot of library books this year. Curious as to what you mean by saying Norwegian Wood is ‘too normal’?!

    Like

    1. Compared to the other books I’ve read by him, especially The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore, which are surreal/magic realist. Versus it’s set in the real world, featuring a couple on a university campus.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh right, I understand what you mean!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think this is a reason I would like Norwegian Wood! (Although, I haven’t read any of them, so I can’t really have an opinion…)

        Like

      3. If you think you wouldn’t like his magic realism (I wasn’t sure if I would, but I ended up falling in love with it), then you could definitely try this. From the bit I read, it was a pretty standard love story about a boy and a girl who meet at college.

        Like

  14. I am getting to the point where I feel a lot of books are ‘too hip’ for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! Me too, probably.

      Like

  15. I’m a cheerful DNF-er and have been for years. And I do like your 2-word tags. They get to the heart of the matter. I found them instructive.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. “The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer: 93 pages. Too obvious.” – I heartily agree. I can’t even remember if this was the one by him I read but arghhh.

    I am glad you are planning to revisit Such a Fun Age. I mean, I’m even more ancient and unhip than you and I really enjoyed it once I’d bedded into it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After Less and this DNF, I think I’m probably done with Greer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hm, I seemed to like this one (it WAS this one) at the time more than I do in memory. I might have been being nice because it was a review copy, though. https://librofulltime.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/andrew-sean-greer-the-story-of-a-marriage/

        Like

    2. There’s a revelation about one character’s race that is supposed to be a big surprise, but that I’d picked up on by page 9.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I love that each book has its own adjective – no two are alike!

    What do you mean by too self-aware? I think I just finished a book that fits this description, but I was having trouble putting my finger on it.

    Like

    1. buriedinprint | Reply

      I think I know the book you’re talking about. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. So, with Running the Rift, the British slang word “worthy” is really what I wanted to put, but it would be confusing for some readers. I meant a combination of earnest, message-driven and verging on the sentimental.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sounds about right!

        Liked by 2 people

  18. buriedinprint | Reply

    If you were thinking of doing this again, I’d love to see the bit you included in a comment above, about how it’s more about your experience of reading the book than about the book itself, just in case one of the writers does stumble upon these dismissals. I mean, writers should have thick skins, but that doesn’t mean that everyone does. 🙂

    Having said that, many of your responses made me smile. I especially think it’s funny that one of the books in which you read the most (comparatively speaking, I mean, in the context of this list), before DNFing at 93 pages of it, was ultimately dismissed as being “too obvious”. Not sure I’ve had a DNF book this year yet? Maybe that’s because of the protective measures for Covid-19 and the closures of the public libraries, the source of much of my literary sampling? But also I think starting is the harder part for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No DNFs is quite the achievement. You’ve always struck me as a dedicated and generous reader, finishing what you start and looking for the good in everything (and thus assuming that any failure is on the reader’s part rather than on the writer’s). And because you’re a writer yourself, it makes sense that you know all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the writing, so you want to give every book the benefit of the doubt. I’m a lot more impatient, I think.

      Like

      1. buriedinprint

        An essay that I read several years ago, in Jeanette Winterson’s Arts & Lies (I don’t recall which, in this moment), observed how quickly we, as readers, often move through texts and what we expect from them without giving over much ourselves, and that fundamentally changed my way of thinking about the reader/writer relationship. Have you read that one? I seem to remember your having read Oranges at least or her memoir? Maybe it was her memoir.

        I can see where I might seem to fall on the “failure of the reader” side of things but my intent is to approach it as a 50/50 deal. Like any other relationship, really. There’s always more than one side to consider. Maybe no DNFs is an achievement OOH, but OTOH I think I spend the same amount of energy that another reader spends in partial-reading in simple dithering (which sometimes leads to not-even-beginning).

        Like

    2. I can see that: a writer spends years of their life working on a book that a reader like me will devour (or ditch) in a matter of hours. But knowing that there are so many millions of books out there, including thousands I know I want to read, and more being published every day, makes me feel pretty ruthless about anything that doesn’t work for me for whatever reason. And if I’m meant to read something and it doesn’t work for me now, it’ll come back into my life some other time.

      (I’ve read 10 books by Winterson, but not that one — I didn’t even know she had an essay collection [it’s Art Objects; Art and Lies is a novel I once owned secondhand but resold without reading some time ago]! I find her eminently sensible and have enjoyed seeing her speak before, so I’m sure I would enjoy her in that format. I’ve always remembered her habit of reading one writer’s complete oeuvre, in chronological order, before moving on to another.)

      Like

  19. […] on from my late June list of DNFs, here are the rest of the books I abandoned this year (asterisks next to the ones I intend […]

    Like

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: