Have you ever been somewhere and everyone is discussing a classic book, raving about its brilliance and you’re there thinking to yourself, “Why am I the only person on the planet who couldn’t finish it?”
Everyone has a number of books they couldn’t finish despite others raving about them. You probably have a few titles on your shelves that you tried to read, you even feel you should read… but simply can’t. Generally, I don’t have a problem admitting defeat and deciding to leave a book unfinished. Life’s too short and there are too many wonderful books available to spend time on something I don’t enjoy. But there are a few titles, always classics, that I still plan to read, even though earlier experiences with them weren’t positive.
It’s confession time. Time to fess up, to claim those failures. There’s nothing wrong with someone who can’t read In Search of Lost Time. My experience with Proust’s masterpiece is that by reading it, that’s exactly what I’m doing. That’s time I’ll never get back. And I’m not alone. Swann’s Way (In Search of Lost Time, #1) sits in the top 100 Most Begun Read but Unfinished Books Ever Listopia on Goodreads, although well behind the top three, Catch-22, The Lord of the Rings (1-3) and Ulysses. All three of which I’ve read.
Apart from In Search of Lost Time, my major literary failure is a book that many others adored. I’m reluctant to admit this, because I know I’m at risk of losing my job (it’s one of Cheryl’s favourite books ever). Drumroll please… One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I tried. I tried three or four times. But only a few chapters in, I felt like I’d been in solitude for 100 years. Or more. In fact, another Gabriel García Márquez book, Love in the Time of Cholera made me wish I had cholera, just so I had a good excuse to stop reading it. I do struggle with this. Instead of simply accepting that these books aren’t for me, and handing my copies over to the local Vinnies, I keep them on my shelves, sure that one day, I’ll magically have not only enough time to read them, but the desire to do so.
What book are you a little embarrassed to admit you couldn’t finish? I asked around the office and it quickly became a therapy session for booklovers purging their embarrassment and guilt. Here are some of the Better Reading confessions.
Cheryl Akle, Director
“Bliss by Peter Carey. So many people I know loved this book, and generally I like to stick with a book to the end… but I simply couldn’t with this one. I walked out of the film as well. Just wasn’t for me.”
Melissa Wilson, Head of Marketing and Children’s Content
Years ago, I was really impressed when my husband read Ulysses, so I decided to read it too. I imagined us being able to have long, in-depth discussions about the book together… Unfortunately it was never to be. The first fifty pages was enough for me.”
Bec Howard, Marketing Coordinator
“Pride and Prejudice… I know, I know, I feel awful about this. I’ve loved every movie version of it. I should love the book… but a few chapters in and I’m done and don’t return.”
Meredith Drake, Big W’s Category Manager for books
“When I met my now husband, he was obsessed with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. So I tried to read it. I gave this book a really good shot. I tried to connect with these characters that I actually found appalling. I even did a pilgrimage to Kerouac’s Grave in Lowell, Massachusetts. All of it, even my feelings for my future husband couldn’t get me to the end of that book.”
Now it’s your turn. What book are you a little embarrassed to admit you couldn’t finish?