Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Most Begun "Read but Unfinished" book ever (and Me)

This list from Goodreads about the most abandoned books ever [LINK HERE] has been making the rounds on the Internet lately.  (I imagine you've probably seen it already).  But just for fun I thought I'd compare it with my own reading experience.
The original list has 100 books in it, but I'm only commenting on books here that I have had experience reading.  All the other books I've left of the list.

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller [My Review Here]
On the whole I found this a very enjoyable book to read, and am slightly surprised to see it top the list of most abandoned books.  However, as I wrote in my review: There was usually something funny on each page, but because of the books fractured nature I found it hard to absorb myself for long periods, and initially had to read this book in small doses.

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Oh, I can totally identify with this one.  For my experience trying, but failing, to read Tolkien see here.

4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
I picked this book up when I was about 12, and tried to read it, got a few chapters in, and then abandoned it.  But I don't know if that counts because I tried this book before I was probably developmentally ready for it.  I'll have to give it another try someday.

5. Holy Bible: King James Version
I actually did read the whole Bible cover to cover over a 3 and a half year period from 7th grade to 10th grade.  I was on a reading devotional plan of one chapter a day.  But this was the NIV version, not the King James Version, so I guess that doesn't count.
I find the historical/mythological sections of the Bible fascinating. I've always been interested in history and mythology, and one of the reasons I continue to find the Bible fascinating even though I'm now no longer a believer.  But once you get outside of the historical narratives, the more poetical stuff like the book of Psalms and Lamentations though--Wow were those hard for me to work through.  Because I was doing this as devotional reading, I felt it was my spiritual duty to push on through everything, but I don't know if I could muster the self-discipline to do it now.  Let alone struggle through the archaic language of the King James Version.  Attempting to read the KJV is just setting yourself up for frustration.  Why would anyone do that?
(Especially since we know that the KJV is actually less accurate than more modern translations of the Bible.)

7.War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy [My Review Here]
I actually really enjoyed this book, but you've got to get into the right mindset first.  Just let yourself get absorbed by all the characters and their world, and resign yourself to the fact that it's going to be a long slow read, and just be patient and enjoy being absorbed in everything.
Yes, it is a long book, but you know that already going into it.

9. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy [My Review Here]
Another book I finished, but this one I did as an audio book, which some people might say is cheating.  And granted it's much easier to listen to a book than have to read it yourself.  (Not sure why that is...for some reason reading seems to be harder on my attention span than listening.  Plus you can listen to a book while walking or cleaning or driving, so it takes up less time.)
Actually a number of the books on this list I did as audio books.  I'll note those along the way, and if you want to say this counts as cheating, fair enough.  Probably a lot of the books I did on audio I would never have had the patience to read through.
On the other hand, even audio books can't get me through everything.  I tried to get through Lord of the Rings on Audio Book, and still couldn't do it.

13. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Attempted to do this one as an audio book, but even as an audio book it was really really boring.
I was still trying to slog through it though, until my stupid ipod erased all my audio books.  Since I didn't have a back-up copy, this book counts as abandoned.  Can't say I plan to go back to it anytime soon.

14. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky [My Review Here]
I did this as an audio book.  Would probably not have had the patience to read it for real.

17. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
I read this book and for the most part enjoyed it, although Victor Hugo does go off on these long tangents that have nothing to do with the plot, and I just skimmed over those for the most part.  

18. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Read this when I was 19.  Enjoyed it.  But it's probably the kind of book you have to read before you're 25, or there's no point really.

19. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke [My Review Here]
I actually did make it all the way to the end of this book, but as you can see in my review, I totally sympathize with people who don't have the patience for it.

20. Dracula by Bram Stoker
Did this as an audio book back in college.  Although the Dracula mythos has definitely captured the public imagination, the actually book is a bit dry and slow moving and boring.  Probably wouldn't have stuck with it if it wasn't an audio book.

25. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
One of my most favorite books ever, but at the same time I can sympathize with people who can't finish it.   There is some pointless filler mixed in with the story here.

28. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Finished it in the end, but see the above Tolkien link for my struggles with this book.

32. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Finished this because it was assigned reading for one of my college history classes, so there was some level of external motivation going on here.  I may not have finished it if left just to myself.  I was really interested in the themes and ideas of this book, but I found Conrad's prose just really hard to get through.

33.  The Iliad by Homer
One of my favorite books of all time, but I cheated a little by reading a prose translation that read more like a novel than the original poetry.

35.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Again, a school assignment (high school) so external motivation a factor, but on the whole I really enjoyed Steinbeck and found him highly readable.  A bit surprised to see this book here.

38.  The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
In my youth I was given as a gift a bound copy of all of Hitchhiker books.  I never made it all the way through (I'm going to have to go back one day and finish it).  The first book was delightful, but as with a lot of humor writers it's probably best in small doses.  Otherwise once you get used to Douglas Adams' humor style it has diminishing returns with each joke.
So that's why I never made it through the whole series.  I don't understand why some people can't even get past the first book though.  That's easy.

40.  The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
Again, I'm surprised to see this book on here.  It's short enough and very readable.

41. A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.
Again, school assignment (college literature class), external motivation a factor.  Probably wouldn't have finished it on my own, and yet for all the book's faults it is very short, so it should be possible to just tough it out.

43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand [My Review Here]
Did this as an audio book.  I can totally sympathize with people who can't get through this book.

44.  The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner [My Review Here]
As I wrote in my review, this is a very tough read.  It does seem to be doing everything it can to push you away.   On the plus side, it's short, so it is possible to just tough this one out.

46. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I loved this book.  Surprised to see it on this list.

47. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Attempted this book several times, never got past the first 100 pages.

58.  1984 by George Orwell
One of my favorite book of all time.  And I generally think Orwell has very readable prose, this book being no exception, so I'm surprised to see it on this list.

66. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
Not a great book when judged from a literary point of view, but for a quick fun trashy read it's great.  I don't understand why anyone couldn't finish this book.

67. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Boy, Tolkien is getting hit on this list a lot.
I never made it through the whole Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but I did at least get through this book.  It was the second book where I finally lost my patience.

76. The Odyssey by Homer
Read it and enjoyed it.

77. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
This one on the list I can identify with.  I really enjoyed The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but for whatever reason could never really seem to get into the companion book Huckleberry Finn (even though all the literary critics say this book is far superior).  Picked it up a couple times, never finished it.

82. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Assigned reading for college literature class, some external motivation.  But still enjoyed this book on the whole.  Although it does definitely have sections that lag.

88.  For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway [My review here]
Admittedly I did this as an audio book, but I really loved this book.  Although I'm certainly guilty of abandoning a lot of other Hemingway books.

90. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Of all the books on the list, this one surprises me the most.  Not only is it really interesting, highly readable, but it's so short.  How could you not finish this book?
I first read it in elementary school (around 4th grade I think).  I had no idea it was supposed to be an allegory of the Soviet Union at the time, but just enjoyed the story.

94. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
It took me a few years before I finally got around to reading this book in my mid-20s, but once I picked it up I enjoyed it well enough.

96. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Again, external motivation was a factor on this one, it was for a college English course.  But I really enjoyed it nonetheless.  Very readable, and also very short.

(Admittedly this list is not a scientific survey, so I probably shouldn't waste too much time puzzling over it.
And it looks like it's still evolving as it's being voted on, so in a couple weeks it might be completely different anyway.  The list goes on into the 100s and 200s, etcetera, but I'll stop here.)

Link of the Day
Rare Speech of Noam Chomsky at a draft resistance meeting (against the Vietnam War) in NY, 1968.
and from
FBI admits to using drones over U.S. soil


Dean said...

I would've thought Robinson Crusoe should've been on this list, but I'm biased cuz I've never finished it. I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings, reading through the trilogy at least three times, plus the Hobbit at least three times. I've finished A Tale of Two Cities twice, but it's a tough one to stay focused on.

Dean said...

I've also enjoyed others on this list: The Holy Bible (NIV version like yourself), Lord of the Flies, Huckleberry FINN, the Divinci COde. I think some of these were easier to read than others.

Joel said...

Ah yes, Robinson Crusoe.
I had a comic book version of that as a kid which I really loved.
I had to read the real book for a Calvin literature class, and absolutely hated it.
It's funny, because if you strip away all the boring lists and everything that he does, the core story is actually pretty exciting (which is why I loved the comic book version, which stripped away everything but the story elements.) But if you read the original book, that is torture. If it hadn't have been assigned reading for a class, I don't think I would have stuck with it either.