The Books You Should But Just Couldn't...

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Jason

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As I have been plowing through so many audiobooks lately, I decided to give some a try that previously I just could not get into, thinking that the audio version might fare better. But, despite my best efforts, there are some books out there that, try though I might, just couldn't get into and therefore abandoned.

As I know I'm not reinventing any sort of wheel here, what are the titles you wished you'd finished, but just couldn't?

I'll start - Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (and Ethan Hawke was the narrator!)
 

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Moby Dick. I understand that it's a read for mature readers, and it's little wonder nobody in the college class that assigned it read it to the end. (Even if we'd loved it, that's a massive read to assign.)

I'm super-mature now and every time I start it, I'm asleep in a matter of minutes.

Maryn, who needs her rest
 

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The Mistborn series. I know it's critically acclaimed, I have friends who extol it's virtues, and I want to read it for the magic system if nothing else. Still, it's just rubs me the wrong way. I'm not far in, just a couple chapters into the first novel, but I had to return to re-re-reading the Dresden Files to cleanse my palette.

The book just sounds too... full of itself? I don't know, I think Fantasy just has a vibe I need to really get into before it's easily digestible -.-

Tulip Mama <3
 

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I have some serious misgivings about this thread.

Please remember to respect your fellow writers.

It's OK to not like a book, but make it about the book not the author. Please be mindful.
 
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lizmonster

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Do all the classics I had to read in college that I skimmed for quotes so I could hand in a paper count?

Although I still regret never finishing Middlemarch. Eliot could definitely do the soap opera thing.
 

Kat M

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I love certain books of Elizabeth Gaskell's—North and South, Wives and Daughters, Cranford.

I started one—Sylvia, I think—and couldn't finish it. It just didn't work for me the way the others did. Or perhaps I wasn't in the mood to put on my 19th Century goggles at the time.

Gaskell is seriously one of my favorite authors, though. I should probably try it again.
 

Jason

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I have some serious misgivings about this thread.

Please remember to respect your fellow writers.

It's OK to not like a book, but make it about the book not the author. Please be mindful.

Apologies if the thread implied a goal of author-bashing, not the intent. More just a place for sharing books that you wanted to like but couldn't for whatever reason. Like you say, ok to not like a book, but always show RFYFW...well said Lisa, and sorry if it implied anything less than appropriate from the get go. For what it's worth, there's other works from my own shared example (Kurt Vonnegut) that I absolutely loved.

Do all the classics I had to read in college that I skimmed for quotes so I could hand in a paper count?

Although I still regret never finishing Middlemarch. Eliot could definitely do the soap opera thing.

Yes! Being forced to read something makes it much less enjoyable even at the outset, so they're doomed to suffer from the sophomoric (regardless of what year you read them) perception of suckiness... :)

Hence why I am revisiting many of "the classics" as an adult, and if don't like them now, I just stop reading and it's ok because there's no paper to turn in.
 

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FWIW it's usually 'voice' that draws me into a story. I didn't realize this before I heard the idea of 'voice' a few years ago, but then as I tried to figure it out for myself, I realized 'voice' was one make-or-break detail for me, in the fiction I purchased.

Sometimes thinking about voice in singing helps me think about why I don't care for certain voice in fiction. EX: Amy Winehouse was great, a true artist, but I didn't particularly care for her voice. (I tried for over a year). Ella Fitzgerald also sang jazz--and I love her voice.

Having said that, there is a song or two of Ella's that I could do without, and a song or two of Amy's that I love to sing along to.

Most of the books I am 'supposed to like' but don't... have a voice I don't care for. Terse, often. (With the exception of Hemingway, who packs a punch with his brevity). Gratuitous, sometimes.
 
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Chase

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I don't know if signing up for post-grad and graduate lit courses constitutes "forced to read." I will admit reading some at first morning light beat falling asleep after supper. :greenie

The trick helped me delight in rather than disdain most of Moby Dick (including the preface), White Jacket, Typee, The Confidence Man, etc.
 

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There were some classics I loved. Samuel Richardson was a hoot. On the other hand, there are books like Gatsby which are very readable, but which I just never liked. Had it been longer I'd've DNF'd it, even though I was reading it for a class. Ditto Wuthering Heights, which is a beautifully-written book about a crop of awful people.

Jane Eyre, though. I can read that one over and over again (although I bloop over the bit with her boring cousin). It reads very modern in a lot of ways.
 

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The old audio version of Dune which sounded like it was done in the late 80's. Absolutely awful. I hear there's a "new" version available, from 2007, which is far better, but I've never gone back to it.
 

Gilroy Cullen

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Books I just couldn't... (Am I limited to just one?)

Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Babylon Babies by Maurice Dantec
Mythology 101 by Jody Lynn Nye
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Animal in You by Roy Feinson
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Bitterwood by James Maxey
Disorganized Mind by Nancy Ratey

All of these hold something within the text that I just couldn't get past a certain point in the book. Each was different reason. I've read other books by the same authors in the list and enjoyed them. Just not these books...
 

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Moby Dick. I understand that it's a read for mature readers, and it's little wonder nobody in the college class that assigned it read it to the end. (Even if we'd loved it, that's a massive read to assign.)

I'm super-mature now and every time I start it, I'm asleep in a matter of minutes.

I too have not yet managed to read much of Moby Dick despite multiple attempts. The greater shame is that my husband almost wrote his dissertation on the book. How horrifying would that have been?
 

Brightdreamer

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The unabridged Moby Dick remains my personal high bar of tedium. Even the unabridged Don Quixote, at over a thousand pages, didn't feel nearly as long. I pushed myself through - it helped a little that I'd read The Wreck of the Essex, the one written by a survivor of the real-life attack that inspired Moby Dick, and thus had a bit of an idea of the incident and general period whaling terminology - but... yeah. It was an "experimental" novel, if that helps at all.
 

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The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
Top of some lists for Hard SF, but I just couldn't get excited about it.
I did finish it, only because I hate to give up on a book and DNF, and it was an audiobook I listened to while I did some gardening.

Maybe it was the translation from Chinese or the narrator?
Had some really interesting ideas, a bit like Contact by Sagan (which I loved) in some ways.
And I learned a ton about the Cultural Revolution.
But just didn't grab me, and I thought a bit too depressing, too much of the time.
 

Gilroy Cullen

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The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
Top of some lists for Hard SF, but I just couldn't get excited about it.
I did finish it, only because I hate to give up on a book and DNF, and it was an audiobook I listened to while I did some gardening.

Maybe it was the translation from Chinese or the narrator?
Had some really interesting ideas, a bit like Contact by Sagan (which I loved) in some ways.
And I learned a ton about the Cultural Revolution.
But just didn't grab me, and I thought a bit too depressing, too much of the time.

I think I had significant issues with this book as well. Because I didn't mark it as a DNF, though, it didn't make my above list. :)
 

Earthling

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The Hobbit. I feel like I should love it, because I'm a nerd and I tend to love books published in that time period. But it just isn't for me.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

It took me three tries to get past the first chapter, because it's very strange and makes no sense until you've read the rest of the book. But I'm glad I pushed past it in the end!
 

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The Hobbit. I feel like I should love it, because I'm a nerd and I tend to love books published in that time period. But it just isn't for me.
No worries, your nerd cred is still intact. :)
We nerds don't all like the same things.
Differing opinions on D&D, SCA, LARP, gamers.
And there's always the Star Trek vs. Star Wars, with opinions on Rodenberry's & Lucas' genius or madness, depending.
Now if you had said LOTR, the gloves would be off, nerd fight on the ice against the boards...lol.

You might try The Hobbit on audiobook, it helps me push through and finish books I can't fully engage with.
 

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The unabridged Moby Dick remains my personal high bar of tedium. Even the unabridged Don Quixote, at over a thousand pages, didn't feel nearly as long. I pushed myself through - it helped a little that I'd read The Wreck of the Essex, the one written by a survivor of the real-life attack that inspired Moby Dick, and thus had a bit of an idea of the incident and general period whaling terminology - but... yeah. It was an "experimental" novel, if that helps at all.

The thing that made Moby Dick click for me and make the switch from tedium to actually interesting was when I realized my expectations were way off. Everyone knows the general premise via osmosis from pop culture: Guy is obsessed with killing a particular whale. What I expected going in was a narrative. Then it was like, "here's a chapter about soup, and here's a chapter about squishing your hands around in whale juice, oh... and here's one outlining all the kinds of "whales" known at the time, including dolphins," and I kept thinking "where is the story? When is it going to get back to the story?"

Finally I realized I needed to approach it like a documentary. Wanna learn interesting facts about whaling and whales, some of which are woefully out of date or inaccurate, but some of which are still relevant? This is the book for you. Want to be entertained by an obsessive hunt for ever-elusive prey? Watch roadrunner cartoons. (Seriously. Roadrunner cartoons are awesome).

Once I changed my expectations, I discovered I actually like Moby Dick after all.

.....

My challenge book is "A Confederacy of Dunces." I've read the doggone thing twice; so many people adore it that I thought perhaps I missed something the first time around. The second read was after I'd spent enough time in New Orleans to actually recognize the story's settings and references, which I thought might increase my enjoyment.

I really, really WANT to like it, but there's something about it that just doesn't resonate with me. It makes me a bit sad that I don't get the enjoyment from it that others do.
 
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lizmonster

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Now if you had said LOTR, the gloves would be off, nerd fight on the ice against the boards...lol.

Good thing I'm a pacifist. :D

I couldn't get through The Hobbit or LOTR. Tried as a kid and as an adult. I loved the LOTR films (not so much The Hobbit, which should've been one movie), but I just can't manage to enjoy reading Tolkein.
 

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In our book club years ago, where the titles were basically assigned so we finished them regardless, it was as often the case as not that many of us felt we couldn't get into the book until after the 50 page mark.

There's so much investment up front.

Other books start well and then fizzle.
 
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The unabridged Moby Dick remains my personal high bar of tedium. Even the unabridged Don Quixote, at over a thousand pages, didn't feel nearly as long. I pushed myself through - it helped a little that I'd read The Wreck of the Essex, the one written by a survivor of the real-life attack that inspired Moby Dick, and thus had a bit of an idea of the incident and general period whaling terminology - but... yeah. It was an "experimental" novel, if that helps at all.

Moby Dick is better heard than read for a lot of people. It's not something you read "for the story." It's a bit like an epic, which huge sections of tangential digression.
 

Roxxsmom

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Moby Dick is better heard than read for a lot of people. It's not something you read "for the story." It's a bit like an epic, which huge sections of tangential digression.

Oh God, I still remember that there was a whole long chapter on the whiteness of the whale.

Of course all that served a purpose, and it still ends up on lit class reading lists because (as I understand it, but I am certainly no lit professor) it exemplifies a naturalist narrative. It certainly illustrates to me that people read with different goals and expectations back then than most of us do now.

I can't say I "enjoyed" most of the books we had to read back in those classes, not the way I enjoy a novel I choose from one of my favorite genres. But I am still glad to have had the exposure to some of those classics. It's affected the way I think about stories and about writing, and even about people
 

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Oh God, I still remember that there was a whole long chapter on the whiteness of the whale.

In my young and tender years, I worked for a company that kinda invented ebooks.

We had booths at the really big trade shows, including the ALA and ABA/now Book Expo, and Leeds, and Frankfurt . . . After the books started doing quite well, we released a software toolkit for publishers to produce their own ebooks.

We had a tutorial derived from Moby Dick (public domain! long! many illustrations, etc.).

The chapter someone picked to use a demo was about the sperm oil, used for lamps etc.

It was called "Squeezing the sperm. "

I had to put up with So Much Crap from some of the men when I demoed making a book . . .
 
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Everything by Shakespeare. I've seen a few Shakespeare plays and I was even in the school production of A Midsummer Nights Dream (playing the guitar, not acting) but I really don't have any particular desire to read them. Even when I did GCSE English lit I didn't actually read the text*, I watched the play and chose questions that dealt with the plot or overall themes that didn't require detailed analysis of any section of the script. And as much as I'd happily watch a Shakespeare play, I still don't really want to read any. Or even any sonnets. My apologies to the Queen, Prime Minister and every other British person.

*it didn't help that when the teacher let the class vote between Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, I wanted to do Macbeth but the rest of the class voted for Romeo and Juliet.
 
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