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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Chapter Seventy-Four, in which Your Bibliothecary gives up reading

Your Bibliothecary reads as much as possible. Of late, we have had a difficult time finding books that are truly readworthy. Though we grew up on fiction, we have been regularly disappointed by almost everything new, and we continue to wait eagerly for the next novel by Thomas Hardy. Our tastes have shifted mildly toward non-fiction, and it is there we have found some good reading in the last year. Unfortunately, it seems as if the bad books have outpaced the good books in 2005.

One can tell something about a reader by the list of books they have read and enjoyed. One can also tell something about a reader by the list of books they tried to read but gave up on. Though we always believed it was important to read a book complete to the end, hoping the author would pull off a miracle on the last page, we now have discovered so many more books that are appealing, that call to us like the Sirens, demanding we leave behind those boring books and pick them up instead. So, inspired by Semicolon, we offer the titles that come to mind (because we didn't maintain a list, and perhaps we ought to) that we did not finish reading.

An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. Somehow we had the idea it would be in the vein of Umberto Eco, and we were deceived.

Science: The Glorious Entertainment by Jacques Barzun. We so thoroughly enjoyed From Dawn to Decadence and a collection of his essays, but, alas, his science was dry.

A Fool and His Money by Ann Wroe. A story set in a medieval city that we hoped would provide great flavor, and now have all but given up on.

A Lover's Almanac by Maureen Howard. Just not engaging.

The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett. This one I really wanted to read, and I may have to give it another chance sometime in the future.

The Floating Book by Michelle Lovric. She put together such a great book on love letters. Apparently the quality of writing she found in those letters did not fully rub off on her.

No doubt there were other books consigned to the forget-it pile. What makes you give up on a book? How long do you continue before ejecting from the doomed flight of literary trash? What, I wonder, was the most gived-up-on book of 2005?


  1. Good question! I wonder what it is myself. Me, I don't like to give up on books. Some sort of internal tenacity that is hard to describe. Never mind that even if the book is horrid, I'm still damned curious as to how this crap will end (The novel 'Bel Canto' comes to mind. Ugh). Also, I feel as if I have failed the author and the book in a way, by giving up, even if it is the author who has failed me.

    I'm sorry you didn't like The Floating Book; I thought it was delicious good fun. Ah well. One man's punch and all that...

    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and I wish you a Happy New Year full of great reads for 2006!
    (ps. send me an email, and I'll draw whatever you would like, gratis! Think of it as a belated Christmas present).

  2. If I feel bored or am not finding a book interesting I will give up on it after 50-75 pages. It has taken me years to be able to do this. I don't keep track of the books I give up on but I know I quit at least two this year.

  3. I am ashamed to admit I've never been able to understand "A Confederacy of Dunces". I get to about page thirty or so before getting confused and bored, and giving up on the story. I do not know why. I bet I have part of my sense of humor missing.

  4. My hesitation to give up may also stem from the fact that the first once or even twice that I read Wuthering Heights I didn't like it, I didn't understand it. I think the box-in-a-box-in-a-box story form through me off. Once I understood the form, and then read the book again, I loved it. Now I think it is one of the greatest books, and Heathcliff a most amazing character.

  5. I've never been able to finish Little Dorrit or The Magic Mountain, though I've tried at least twice for each. But you never know. It took me three tries before I finished my first Patrick O'Brian.

    I usually give up pretty quickly. I figure life is too short, and there are too many good books out there to waste my time reading something that doesn't do it for me.

  6. I gave up on two books that I remember 'The Sea' and 'Lines of Beauty' .. what does it says about me !

  7. This year, I had a pretty good year, and didn't give up on any books, but I so agree with Ella. I slogged through Confederacy of Dunces a few years back and still to this day do not understand why people think it is so funny. I didn't like it even a little bit.