Following 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 to try again someday):
Summer before the Dark: Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, Ostend 1936 by Volker Weidermann – Too niche.
The Motion of the Body through Space by Lionel Shriver – Too non-PC.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors – Too been-there.
*The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes – Too much economics.
Birdsong on Mars by Jon Glover & Two Tongues by Claudine Toutoungi – Carcanet poetry releases. Style/reader mismatch issue for both.
That Reminds Me by Derek Owusu – Too dull.
3 Summers by Lisa Robertson (poetry) – Too weird.
Apeirogon by Colum McCann – Too long.
*We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates – Too much of quirky folks.
Persuasion by Jane Austen – Too much telling.
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin – Too brutal.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – Too much Greek myth.
*Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart – Too misery-memoir.
Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates – Maddening punctuation.
The Corset by Laura Purcell – Too lifeless.
True Story by Kate Reed Petty – Too consciously relevant.
As You Were by Elaine Feeney – Too much of mental hospitals.
*House of Glass by Hadley Freeman – Too detailed.
Rootbound: Rewilding a Life by Alice Vincent – Too much snowflake woe.
Le Bal by Irène Némirovsky – Too gloomy.
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks – Too disturbing.
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré – Too precocious.
Restless by William Boyd – Too ordinary.
No getting around it: I have lots of DNFs. I’ve not done a great job recording them this year, but I think it was 46, which works out to about 12% of the books I’ve started. Most years it’s around 15%, so for me that’s not too bad, but I know some of you never have DNFs, or could count them on one hand. How do you do it? Do you sample books beforehand? Do you make yourself finish everything you start even if you’re not enjoying it? Or are you just that good at picking what will suit your tastes? Sometimes I overestimate my interest in a subject or my tolerance for subpar writing. In recent years my patience for mediocre books has waned, and I’m allergic to some writers’ style for reasons that are often difficult to pinpoint.
In early July, I highlighted the 15 releases from the second half of the year that I was most looking forward to reading. Here’s how I did:
Read: 10 [Slight disappointments (i.e., rated 3 stars): 4]
Languishing on my Kindle, but I still intend to read: 2
Haven’t managed to find yet: 3
Getting to two-thirds of my most anticipated books is really good for me!
The additional 2020 releases I most wished I’d found time for before the end of this year (from my late November list of year-end reading plans) include Marram by Leonie Charlton, D by Michel Faber, and Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19. This last one was offered to me by the editor on Goodreads and I feel bad for not following through with a review, but somehow the subject feels too close to the bone. Maybe next year?
I’ll be back to start the countdown of my favorite books of the year on the 26th, starting with fiction and poetry. On the 27th it’s all about nonfiction. A break for Library Checkout on the 28th, followed by 2020 runners-up on the 29th, best backlist reads on the 30th, and some superlatives and statistics on the 31st.