Jun 2 2009 11:41am

What books haven’t you read?

First thing’s first: I love books and I love reading. If there’s anything I wish I had more time to do, reading would tie for the number one spot (along with “learning languages”). But as Jason Henninger so delightfully pointed out last week (“How to Lie About Books”), there are just too many books. There’s no way one could possibly read every work of science fiction and fantasy, let alone every book ever written! And let’s face it, not every book is for you: you might think Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece of English literature, but your friend may find it utterly impenetrable.

Since there’s not enough time in life for all the books out there, there’s certainly not enough time to be ashamed of not reading them all. So here’s my question:

What books haven’t you read? What “classic” could you just not get into? What was it that made it unreadable? Will you ever try to finish it?

Ground rules:

1.Don’t list more than three—pick the big ones.
2.You have to explain why, even if your only explanation is “I just couldn’t get into it.”
3.Only books (no TV or movies), and only books you never finished. Don’t just list books you hate.
4.No shame! Any comments to the effect of “But how could you have never read X?” or “But Lord of the Rings is a brilliant work of staggering genius and you just don’t appreciate it, you buffoon!” will be replaced with cat macros.

Be nice. Remember that everyone has blind spots, and of course, there’s just no accounting for taste. :)

I’ll go first.

Dune, Frank Herbert. I’ve tried to read it three times, and I just cannot penetrate it. I always stop about 100 pages in, having utterly forgotten why I was ever interested in picking it up in the first place. The prose is too dense and too dull for me. One day, when I’m really really ill, I may pick it up again.

Neuromancer, William Gibson. I’ve only tried to read it once a long time ago, and it’s possible that I was simply not in the mood for that kind of book, but I don’t believe I got past the first chapter. I would consider giving it another chance next flu season.

Edited to add: Just to be clear, do not list books you haven’t gotten around to/aren’t interested in. These should be books that you at least attempted, presumably because you wanted or expected to like them.

Eugene Myers
1. ecmyers
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin. The world building was just way too dense for me and I was completely disoriented at the beginning. But like you, I bounced off Dune at my first attempt, but later tried it and loved it. I also avoided The Hobbit at first because it seemed too silly, but a year later I loved it. Ditto with The Silmarillion. I think sometimes you just aren't ready for certain books. So I plan to give this one another try.

Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake. I read Titus Alone and found it difficult but rewarding, but I ran out of steam in the sequel. I definitely want to finish reading the series, though. Maybe not soon.

Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke. I don't know, this one I think I just couldn't get into--but I didn't try all that hard, either. It's on my list of books to try again.
Kate Nepveu
2. katenepveu
Also _Dune_ for basically the same reasons, and no, I won't go back, life is too short.

Are we limited only to things that we've tried and put down? If not:

_Stranger in a Strange Land_ or indeed anything Heinlein. Never got around to it and suspect now it has too much associated baggage to enjoy.

The Foundation Trilogy. What I know of it suggests that I might've found it cool when I was 12 but wouldn't be very impressed with the ideas now.
3. WordTipping
1: "A Song of Fire and Ice" by G.R.R. Martin.
2: The Elric sequence by Michael Moorcock.
3: Foundation Trilogy by Ayn Rand.
Megan Messinger
4. thumbelinablues
For me, and probably for a lot of people, there are "books I haven't gotten around to" and "books I bear some grudge against." I once had a copy of DUNE, but I just never reached for it when I finished something else. So, DUNE is one...

The biggest one is probably PRIDE & PREJUDICE. I came to Austen late - well, late for my crowd of friends - and while I loved PERSUASION and lasted through NORTHANGER ABBEY, I always had this vague animosity towards spunky Lizzy Bennet, the one everybody wanted to be, and broody Mr. Darcy, the one everybody wanted to marry. I'm still not over it, if you couldn't tell, so I still haven't read the book!

One more. Up until last year I could have said THE LORD OF THE RINGS, but an amazing professor coaxed me through it and I eventually forgave it for not being THE HOBBIT. I can't think of any other books I've been actively avoiding, so the third one is probably some amazing science fiction classic that I can't even bring to mind!
Leigh Butler
5. leighdb
I'm actually right there with you on Neuromancer. I picked it up right after reading and loving Snow Crash, because it was one of Stephenson's major influences, right? Birth of cyberpunk, right? Must be awesome, right?

...yeah. Got maybe 20 pages in, and was like, "not so much". I don't remember a word of what I read, either.

My other two picks:

2) A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller. I picked it up at the bookstore because someone online had been talking about how it was one of the best unsung sf novels in the history of ever, like omg, and I decided to try embiggening my horizons.

Well. Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind (or maybe I have a ceiling on my horizon expansion portfolio), but I bounced right the hell off it. I think I only read two chapters. I remember there was a guy, and a desert.

This one I might give another chance someday, though. Apocalyptic sf is something you have to be in the right mood for.

3) The Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny.

Don't hurt me! I tried, I swear I did! I got the big huge fat book with all ten of them out of the library, and actually racked up a huge overdue fee on it because I kept trying to convince myself that no, I really *am* going to pick it up again. Really. In a minute.

Sigh. I got as far as Corwin going through the maze, and something else happened, and then I was like "I either have to return this now, or move to another city so I can use the library again."
Kate Nepveu
6. katenepveu
WordTipping, I have _stopped_ reading Song of Fire and Ice, if that counts . . .

But The Foundation Trilogy is by Asimov; do you mean _The Fountainhead_?
JS Bangs
7. jaspax
1. "Childhood's End" by Arthur C. Clarke. Based on the other things by Clarke that I've read, and based on what I've heard about the book, I think I'd hate it.

2. "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. Same as above.

3. The Wheel of Time books 5 thru ???. I got through four. That was plenty.

If we're counting non-genre works, I'll throw in a special mention for anything by James Joyce.
Torie Atkinson
8. Torie
@ 1

I had exactly the same experience with The Hobbit. I'm glad I went back.

@ 2 @ 4

Limited to only those you tried and couldn't get through at all. If we were to list books we were never planning to read it'd get much too long...

@ 3

You have to give a reason! See the rules.
Blake Engholm
9. UncrownedKing
The Once and Future King
Haven't had time or always find something else that catches my eye. I have always wanted to read this series but have yet to purchase it...sigh

The Odyssey
Read and loved the Illiad. I love mythology, gobble it up. But I as of right now have not picked it up, for reasons like for my first book up there.

Harry Potter Series
I attempted to read this when I was in fourth grade. I had just finished reading The Eye of The World, yeah my father hooked me on that early (originally read it allowed to me a year earlier....so good), and picked up this book everyone was talking about......I got to page 100 and threw it across the room. Couldn't get passed how juvinile it was written (this reaction coming from a 9 or 10 year old). I guess the fact that the first fantasy I read was WOT, hurt my chances of reading about Harry and Co. Love the movies though.....yeah I know thats terrible but its the truth.
Eugene Myers
10. ecmyers
@ 5
Funny, I read Neuromancer first, then didn't care for Snow Crash (though I did finish it). I think it had been hyped up too much as "the best book evar!"
Kate Nepveu
11. katenepveu
It's very rare for me to put down books once I've picked them up, but two do come to mind:

Brust's _To Reign In Hell_, which I got out of the library, read 15 pages of, put down, and never picked up again. Unfortunately I don't remember why, but I've read literally every other novel of Brust's.

The Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series, because it triggered the Eight Deadly Words ("I don't care what happens to these people").
Torie Atkinson
12. Torie
Remind me to do a sequel to this on the Mark Twain problem with classics: books we want to have read, but don't want to read. :)
Megan Messinger
13. thumbelinablues
Torie @ 8, that list is practically non-existent! Like Kate, I'm a compulsive book-finisher, which can really suck when it's a slog to get through something.
John Rodenbiker
14. jrodenbiker
Every genre has its Ur-pieces: those seminal works from which the genre was born. Occasionally milestone works are created that change the genre and achieve the status or Ur-piece as well.

Several years ago I realized I would never be able read, see, or hear everything I want before I die. So I created several lists of Ur-works that I thought I **must** experience.

They are subjective. I'm sure they are missing other peoples' favorites, critical and popular successes, etc. They are also _extremely_ America-centric (something I hope to correct at a later date, but also reflective of America's cultural dominance during the 20th Century—rightly or wrongly).

I'm also sure they are reasonable and, most importantly, have enabled me effectively manage my time and budget while mostly avoiding crap.

I have almost read through the Fantasy and Science Fiction lists. I took a short break from the genres after I completed Leiber's _Lahnkmar_ series.

The only items left are Moorcock's Eternal Warrior/Elric of Melnibone stories, Le Guin's Earth Sea series, and Adam's Hitchhiker's novels.

I've read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and couldn't stand it, but there are so many cultural references to the pieces I want to wade through them all.

If I could suggest three books every here should read but probably haven't:
1. Dante's Divine Comedy (Mandelbaum's translation is fantastic with lots of end notes: http://tinyurl.com/lupfd4)

2. Ovid's Metamorphoses (While I prefer Mandelbaum's translation, it doesn't have end notes which is why I recommend Martin's: http://tinyurl.com/kogafn)

3. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey (Fagle's translation is the only way to go here: http://tinyurl.com/n4nrp6)

None of the freely available copies of these (such as those found on Project Gutenberg, the Kindle store, or iPhone Apps) are as readable or usable as these physical copies. That is mostly due to the physical copies' extensive and helpful end notes.
Jordan Hamessley
15. Jordache
@13 I am also a compulsive book-finisher, but I could not get through Asimov's Foundation. Read nearly half and was easily distracted by... something. I'll return to it someday.

Dune is another book that I haven't read. I have read the first page about three times.

I am most ashamed about not having read Lord of the Rings. I respect it. I know the gist of it and one day I'll get to reading it.
John Klima
16. john_klima
I almost never put down a book that I've started, but here are some big ones that I tried and eventually did put down, oh how I tried:

1. Dhalgren I just couldn't get into it. I think there was something happening in a time and place that I was not a part of and therefore the novel just sort of passed me by.

2. Gormenghast just moved too slowly for me. I kept finding myself looking at the walls and other stuff around rather than the book in my lap.
17. biff3000
1) Delany's Dhalgren. I was making steady progress, I had a big life change, and I never went back. That was 10 years ago, but someday, someday....

2) Anything by Pratchett. I've tried several books, several times, I have never been tempted to start reading them again once I put them down. Sorry, I know, everybody loves them (but me).
Bret Scott
18. BlacksmithButNotEmo
I thankfully read seriously fast; if not, there was no getting through all of the Amber series. Got through "Atlas Shrugged", but it hurt.

Just emerged from 4000 pages of Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn series. Excellent to start, but brutal to finish. The books look like programming references in size.

Like others above, Dune required multiple attempts.

Could not make it through Updike's "Rabbit, Run". I'm coming to terms with not finishing the "classics"; I'd have punted Hemingway's "Islands in the Stream" if it wasn't for a class.

Peake's Titus stuff...no chance. Didn't even make it through the first one.
Dayle McClintock
19. trinityvixen
Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
I'm constantly almost through it, then I put it down and forget enough that I have to start from the beginning and I never finish it. It's so dry and colorless. I don't understand how people find it so magnetic.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
See this vampire novel is supposed to be dry and colorless, it's about academics literally scouring ancient library collections and the due process associated therewith. But as a travelogue, it was good. The saddest thing is that the vampire pursuit story is the most boring part. I'm 400 pages in (of 600+), and I'd rather read about the father discovering a new flaky piece of manuscript than wonder who the mysterious saboteur/possible vampire is who is tracking him. At least when it comes to discussing research, the author seems to have some familiarity. This was touted as amazing debut novel. Debut novels should not be 700 pages.

Trickster Makes This World by Lewis Hyde
This is nonfiction, but since it's about the trickster legends and myths told throughout different cultures I thought it was fair to include it. I was all excited to read it because a compendium of those tales followed by some analysis of what similarities exist between them (and what that says about the universal human condition) would have been fabulous. Instead, it was like a poorly written high school student thesis--overemphasis on abstract details from the trickster myths (ones not yet known because the author wouldn't stop talking long enough to actually relate any), constant repetition of themes instead of proof of them, and insistence that all that he wrote (as opposed to the myths) was profound. He made legends about cunning gods and spirits boring. That ought to be a crime.
20. ctopherrun
Most HP Lovecraft. I love writers like China Mieville and Jeff Vandermeer, and my wife loves Lovecraft, but I could just never get into it. Is it because all the horror is indescribable, so I have no idea what is scary about it?

Liberation by Brian Slattery. This book reminded me a a bit of 'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test' by Tom Wolfe, which I loved, but the beat-hippy stream of consciousness style didn't work for me here. I'd lose track of what was going on, then there would be a flashback to the main characters past, which I would also lose track of; by the time we returned to the present, I was completely lost. Got maybe 150 pages in.

Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton. My friend told me it's fantastic after the first 150 pages, but I wasn't in the mood.
Sam Brady
21. lewaah
I can only think of two books that I've started and bailed on without finishing. A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. I'm sure there are more but I can't think of them right now.

I actually gave up on the Eco twice. I could never figure out if the beginning was a flashback or not and by the time I got 50 or 60 pages in I was completely lost. I tried it again just last year and it was just too much work. I avoided ever having to start it again by donating my copy to the local library so others would get the chance to start it and put it aside like I did.

I was supposed to read the Dickens for English class my senior year but it was just too long and too...Dickensian for me. Does that make sense? I've read some of his shorter books, but this one was longer and turned out to be too much for me to handle. I don't know whether it was too dense or just boring or what, but I couldn't slog my way through it any more and started relying on notes taken during class instead.
John Rodenbiker
22. jrodenbiker
I read about five pages of one of Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" novels a friend loaned me after saying it was one of the best series he ever read. Wow. That's all I'll say about that.

I've also stopped reading the Song of Ice and Fire novels for the same reason I stopped watching Lost: I can tell when I'm being pulled along like a sucker and the author has started making it up as he goes along. I don't like that.

And I've basically given up on all new series since they inevitably either go for the Wheel of Time/Song of Ice and Fire model of trying to suck as much money out of me as possible or they don't do anything new or interesting (or both, in the worst case).
Kate Nepveu
23. katenepveu
trinityvixen @ #19: Debut novels should not be 700 pages.

Unless you are Susanna Clarke. =>

(This would be the cue for someone to say that they couldn't finish _Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell_ . . . )
Michelle Turner
24. viridian
I have the same problem with Dune. I keep meaning to try again when I have absolutely nothing else to do but read that precise book, but eh.

Like many of the above I stopped reading both Song of Ice and Fire and Wheel of Time because I honestly started forgetting what had happened in the previous books and there was NO WAY I was going to go back and reread.

I also confess to having skimmed more than read the entire LoTR trilogy. I like the movies, but the books just failed to hold my attention at all.
25. cmpalmer
It took me about three or four starts to get into Dune. I don't care much for the sequels, but I've read Dune at least four times since them.

Here's my three "Couldn't Finish" books:

1) The Silmarillion - I've read LOTR and The Hobbit multiple times, but nothing about this one grabs me. I've started it, re-started it, even skipped around in it. No go.

2) The Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson - I've read (and pretty much loved) all of his other books (including Cryptonomicon and Anathem), but I can't get more than 1/2 way through Quicksilver. Tried skipping it and going the second one. No go.

3) Pretty much anything by Delaney - I read "Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand" and some of his earlier short stories. Everything else I've started leaves me cold. It's not that it's impenetrable, just that it seems pointless.
Jason Ramboz
26. jramboz
There's quite a few I could mention, but here are my three:

1) Titus Alone, by Mervyn Peake. I really, really wanted to like this novel. I'd heard wonders about the series, and was looking forward to getting acquainted with it. But the book was just, well, dull. Not only does very little actually happen, but I found that fact that everyone repeats everything they say at least three times to be infuriating. Who knows, maybe I'll get back to it one day.

2) I'm going to bend the rules here a bit and say (nearly) everything I've read by M. John Harrison. I picked up Light on a whim, based on the intriguing jacket summary and the amazing praise from other authors. I actually got within about 10 pages of the end, put it down and... just never felt motivated to pick it back up. The closer I got to the end, the more I realized that it wasn't so much a novel as three seemingly (but not really) connected novelettes. It kept hinting that all three were going to connect at some point, but the closer I got to the end, the more I realized not only that they weren't, but that the three plots weren't even going to resolve, and the jacket summary had very little to do with the actual novel. So I just stopped.

Fast forward a bit, and I picked up Jeff VanderMeer's anthology The New Weird, which included Harrison's short story "The Luck in the Head," one of his Viriconium stories. I loved it! So I rushed out and bought the Viriconium compilation, and started through. It was... dull. I got through the first of the short novels, thought it was okay, not great. "A Storm of Wings" was terrible, but I forced myself to slog through to the end. I started the third short novel, got bored, and finally gave up. Again, maybe I'll come back to it some day, but really I just don't see what's so great about this guy that everyone loves so much. What am I missing? Or am I missing anything?

3) Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara. I got a few chapters in and realized I was re-reading The Lord of the Rings, only with less believable characters and not as well written.

As a near-miss, I'd count Iain M. Banks' Consider Phlebas. I did eventually manage to force my way through to the end, but only just. More thoughts on that one are on my blog.

I guess this post hits close to home for me, as I've just recently been coming to the realization that (and this may shock some people) it's okay not to finish a book you're not enjoying. There, I said it, and the Literature Gestapo haven't come to drag me away yet. I used to feel like I had an obligation to finish a book once I started it, and would feel terribly guilty if I didn't. But as I get less and less reading time, I'm realizing that I don't actually owe the author anything, and why should I waste my valuable time on something I'm not enjoying (or that's otherwise enriching my life)?

So yeah, don't finish a book if it's not for you. Come back to it later if you want, though, and maybe you'll get something new out of it. But don't force yourself to finish something that just isn't for you.
Gary Gibson
27. garygibson
Actually, *I* couldn't finish Jonathan Strange. But to be fair it's not the kind of thing I would normally read. It was given me by someone who'd bought it for a book group they never went to and who couldn't get into it either. I gave it a shot, but wasn't surprised when I couldn't get any further than the first fifty pages.

Delany's Dhalgren is one I had to give up on when I first tried to read it umpteen years ago. But I was a lot younger then, and I'd quite like to try it again now.

The biggie I think is Zelazny's Lord of Light. I heard so much about it, and hated it when I started it a couple of years back. It just seemed to devolve into a series of barely disguised Indian folk tales that, I'm afraid, left me dementedly bored. I gave up in less than a hundred pages, somewhat disappointed since the essential description of what the book was sounded tremendous (yes, I know it's based around classical Indian literature). But its' back on my 'try again' pile. You never know.
28. DG Lewis
I am another compulsive book finisher, and literally can not think of more than two books I've abandoned in the middle. One was Forest Mage, the second book in Robin Hobb's Soldier Son trilogy. By about a quarter of the way through, I was finding the protagonist totally unlikeable and unsympathetic. The other was Cherryh's Fortress in the Eye of Time, which I just couldn't get into -- while I adore Cherryh's SF with an undying passion, I don't seem to have the same response to her fantasy works.
Torie Atkinson
29. Torie

I like the Sil, but I've never been able to sit down and read it. If you ever decide to go back, I suggest reading each story independently, spread out between other books. As individual stories many of them are quite striking (and much easier to read).

Trying to read it cover to cover is essentially trying to read the Bible that way. Doesn't work for most people.

@ 26

I guess this post hits close to home for me, as I've just recently been coming to the realization that (and this may shock some people) it's okay not to finish a book you're not enjoying. There, I said it, and the Literature Gestapo haven't come to drag me away yet. I used to feel like I had an obligation to finish a book once I started it, and would feel terribly guilty if I didn't. But as I get less and less reading time, I'm realizing that I don't actually owe the author anything, and why should I waste my valuable time on something I'm not enjoying (or that's otherwise enriching my life)?

Exactly my point. No shame in it! I personally don't have enough reading time to waste it on books I'm not enjoying.
30. cmpalmer
Remember that for most every book you don't like, someone else may rightly love it.

Reading these comments reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Jorge Luis Borges:

"The idea of compulsory reading is absurd if a story doesn't make you want to know what happened next, then the author has not written for you. Put it aside. Literature is rich enough to offer you some other author worthy of your attention - or one today unworthy or your attention whom you will read tomorrow."
Jo Walton
31. bluejo
I've only read the first three Harry Potter books. I thought they were OK, but only OK, and when the fourth one was so fat I couldn't face picking it up, and then a dog ate it, so I'll probably never finish them.

I've read the second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant trilogy, but only the first book and the first couple of chapters of the first trilogy. In the second chronicles I got a break from Covenant's constant in-POV whining now and then. I remember looking at the unread acres of The Illearth War and thinking "This is supposed to be fun, and I'm not having any fun."

But the main author I haven't read, or rather have read a scant half dozen books of and disliked all of them and given up in is Philip Dick. I haven't read for instance The Man in the High Castle.
Kate Nepveu
32. katenepveu
I rarely put down books before I'm finished because I'm a terrible sucker for finding out What Happens Next, not out of any feeling of guilt or obligation.
33. cmpalmer
I think we need another thread of "books that you tried several times but couldn't finish then came back and tried one more time and it became one of your favorite books" :-)

I saw that because of my experience with Dune, but also I saw someone mention Lord of Light. Started it multiple times, but eventually "got it" and it's one of my favorites now.
34. DG Lewis
Of course, having posted that, I remembered one other: Pynchon's Mason & Dixon. Oddly enough, it was his use of Archaic Rules of typography in Which random words Seemed to have capital Letters for no Apparent Reason that I Simply found Too jarring to get Through.
Jason Ramboz
35. jramboz
@23 katenepveu

I fully expected not to finish Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, since Victorian (or in this case, quasi-Victorian) literature is not something I generally enjoy. But I was amazed at how fast a read it was! I actually found myself at the end wishing it were longer.

Also, I begin to suspect I may be the only person here who actually read and enjoyed Dune the first time through...
Sam Brady
36. lewaah
I thought of another one too, but it's weird: I read Dune a couple of times and love it, but have never been able to get more than two or three chapters into it again since. I think I'm one of those weirdos who likes the prequels and sequels more than the iconic original itself.
Jason Ramboz
37. jramboz
@34 DG Lewis

Dan Simmons did the same thing with typography in The Terror. What's really funny is that I once saw a video of him doing a reading from it where he himself kept getting tripped up by the random capitalization! Really, y'know, that should probably have told him something.
Lannis .
38. Lannis
I once had an English Professor who said that the pleasure in reading is the reading--so if you're not enjoying something, by all means put it down!

Thank gawd he said that--he assigned Anna Karenina by Tolstoy and I could not have trudged through that if someone had paid me. Years later, I tried again, because a friend plugged it and all the "amazing detail and the depth of tragedy." Yeah--no dice.

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. So much infodump and scenebuilding in the first two chapters, I was lost.

And I've tried a few by Philip K. Dick--and it all fizzles and dies every time... I felt like I needed to have A.D.D. to follow it.
39. RobMRobM
1. Gravity's Rainbow by Pynchon. It is my Moby Dick - three attempts so far, never getting beyond half way. Brilliant, bizarre but just too far out there for me to enjoy. I have read other Pynchon, so it is not him.

2. Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Chabon. Loved Mysteries of Pittsburg and Wonder Boys, and just read (and loved) Yiddish Policemen's Union, but haven't made it through the Pulitzer Prize winner on two attempts.

3. Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets - Read book one, thought it was ok, got half way through book two before I thought it was too juvenile and gave up. Then....I picked them back up a few years later and learned that starting at book three the books get more and more sophisticated, darker, more clever and more powerful, to the point where I was sitting in the bookstore waiting for Book 7 to come out. So, keep at them and they pay off.

4. I'm with the ones who couldn't read Delaney. Never liked them.

Re other comments:
- Please take another shot at Dune. (Yes, this means you, Kate, among others.) The story builds and pulls together really well as you get deeper into it. Still my favorite SciFi book.
- The first five Amber books are a great guilty pleasure read for me -- all kinds of awesome. The second five books are ok but disorienting and at least someone disappointing. Don't worry about finishing the whole "big book" - take em one at a time and feel free to stop at five.
- Foundation is fun and is a quick read. Just read the first three and see how they go. I re-read them last year and they help up pretty well.

Torie - good topic, thanks. Rob
Guy Wade
40. gtwade
It seems that when I was reading fantasy years ago that there were books I COULD put down:

The Sword of Shannara: For some reason, it felt very fake to me. I couldn't get into the main character; he seemed very forgettable, and the world too.

The Wheel of Time Series: Sorry, fans, but the whole thing was contrived and padded for me.

I don't read fantasy any more, but I know I was spoiled by Tolkien. His was the best, all others were wannabes.
Leigh Butler
41. leighdb
jramboz @ 35:

No, I zoomed through Dune the first time through, loved it loved it, and moved on to the sequels eagerly. And got through each one slower... and slower... and then I got to God Emperor of Dune and was like "bugger this for a game of soldiers".

I've never read any of them again, not even the first one.

Oh, and Kate, I have to confess I didn't finish Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I've been told, though (possibly by you!), that I have to at least get to the part where Strange actually shows up before I can in conscience abandon it, so someday I'll try it again.

cmpalmer @ 33:

I think we need another thread of "books that you tried several times but couldn't finish then came back and tried one more time and it became one of your favorite books"

Anne of Green Gables was mine. I tried to read it at around age nine, and put it down all "BOOOORING!" after ten pages or so. Then my mother bribed me to try at least 50 pages, and I could quit after that if I wanted.

I ended up devouring the entire series in a matter of two weeks. I must have reread them about a gazillion times as a teenager too. Some of my favorite books of my childhood.
42. aleistra
It's non-genre, but thumbelinablues mentioned it, so I'll fess up to also having twice been unable to finish Pride & Prejudice. The first time I was so irritated by Mrs. Bennett that I stopped about ten pages in; the second time I made it maybe a third of the way in before I realized I was just slogging through trying to get to the end, not enjoying it at all, and that I did not care what happened to the characters, so I quit a second time.

I also quit the Amber series after one book, but I don't know if that qualifies.
Blake Engholm
43. UncrownedKing
Loved Dune the first time through and have read it 3 or so more times since. Its up there with Ender's Game as my favorite Sci-Fi of all time.
44. John Dyer
1. Dune - I've bought it multiple times but everytime I start reading it, it seems like another book comes out that I'd rather read more.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. - I've read all of them except the last one haha. I bought it the day it came out and just never read it.

3. Lord of the rings - I've read the Hobbit and Fellowship of the ring, but for some reason just haven't continued on that path.
45. Dr Fidelius
I'm not counting series, so:

The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
I ought to love Ballard but there's something about his writing style that sends me to sleep. I've enjoyed his short stories but, brief as it is, I couldn't get more than two chapters into this. You know how you catch yourself reaching the end of a page without absorbing anything you've just read? Tried listening to a radio version: no difference.

Beauty by Sherri S. Tepper.
Maybe I was just aggrieved because it wasn't the book I was expecting, but I actually got angry at this book. I didn't like the heroine at all. The plot seemed like a dream, in the worst sense of the word: there was no logical connection between one episode and the next. I do have a sneaking suspicion that I didn't 'get' Beauty - maybe I'll try it again in a few years.

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
I don't mind reading a lot of dialogue but it has to read better than this. I like the idea here but the execution put me off completely.

There are more books that have beaten me even though I still passed my eyes over their pages. I know I'll enjoy Little, Big one day but I guess I'm not ready for it yet.
Richard Fife
46. R.Fife
1) Game of Thrones. I got about 2/3 through and I just could not relate to any of the characters, even Ned.

2) The Malazan Books. Prose was way too thick and purple. Something about a simple soldier thinking about the sussetations of the breeze that turned me off.

3) Wayfarer Redemption. I gave it about 30 pages before I dropped it. The dialogue felt rather forced at trying to be scary and momentus and kinda fell flat for me.
Jason Ramboz
47. jramboz
@45 Dr Fidelius

I bought Babel-17 in a double edition with Empire Star. I bought it for the former, without really caring about the latter. I ended up not liking Babel-17 much in the end, but thought Empire Star was amazing. Funny how that worked out.
Jason Henninger
48. jasonhenninger
Thanks for providing the opportunity for honesty. Excellent counterpoint to my post!


Perdido Street Station. It sure sounds like the sort of book I'd love, but I never felt that slip into the narrative, where the reading experience becomes organic. It felt more like translating. I got exhausted and stopped pretty early on.

Dune, for the various reasons others have mentioned.

The Last Man. I love, love, love Frankenstein. I was intrigued to read what the pre-industrial revolution view of apocalyptic scifi might be, but I simply never felt any connection to the characters and gave up in chapter two or so.
Dan Sparks
49. RedHanded
1. Couldn't make it through The Two Towers. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it's good but I get so bogged down by the names of places and people and have to keep looking at the map, it pisses me off. Too much detail to people traveling.

2. Dune - just haven't gotten around to it, I bought it and plan on finishing it after I finish the Vorkosigan series by Bujold.

3. Prince Caspian and on - C.S. Lewis. I actually liked the Magicians Wardrobe the best, maybe because it appeals to my love of other dimensions/space-time, or what have you. I could not get through the later books, I always here that they are good books and I always start reading from the beginning of the series and then make it to Prince Caspian and stop about 10 pages in. I don't know if it's the way the dialogue happens or just how stupid of conversations they have or what but I can't get through it and as my friends say...I will read ANYTHING. (Manuals to microwaves for example)
Luke M
50. lmelior
@kate #23

Ahh, you caught me. I've now tried three times to read (#1) Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. And I actually got to meet Jonathan Strange on the third try! It was getting interesting at that point too, but it was finally my turn to check out Mistborn at the library so it got put off again.

My other two:

I started (#2) The Tale of Genji, got a few dozen pages in, and completely stopped caring. I was in the middle of a Japanese history class where the professor spent quite a bit of time talking it up, I had just finished (and thoroughly enjoyed) Shogun by James Clavell and the glowing reviews of Royall Tyler's translation for Penguin Classics (who also published the indescribably awesome unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo) were enough to lure me to buy. Not enough to keep me interested, unfortunately.

I own one of the compendium versions of (#3) Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the first of which being one of the few books that actually made me laugh so hard it made me cry. I got a few pages into Restaurant at the End of the Universe and never picked it up again. Not sure why, but I still haven't felt the urge to continue. Maybe I'll re-read the first and charge through the rest later on.

Those are actually the only three I can think of that fit the bill, though there are a number that I have yet to pick up. Getting some more great recommendations for my reading list here.
Wanda Wolfe
51. wolfewr
A friend recommended the vampire trilogy by Meyer. So I bought all three books for my Kindle, and started in on the first one. By the time I was a quarter of the way through the first one, I was soooo sorry that I'd bought all three. I gave up in disgust shortly after the halfway mark. Never again will I buy an entire trilogy without buying the first and seeing if I like it, no matter who recommends it to me. 'Twilight' is one of the worst books I've ever read. I still shudder thinking of some of the descriptions she used. Yes, I know it's YA, but I've read other YA books which were extremely well written and quite worthy of adult interest. Diana Wynne Jones, for example, excels at those. 'Howl's Moving Castle' is delightful, and 'Dark Lord of Derkholm' is laugh-out-loud wonderful.

I LOVE Bujold's books, both the Vorkosigan books and the Sharing Knife books. So I expected to feel the same way about the Chalion series. 'Curse of Chalion' was... okay. Never will be a favored reread like the other Bujolds, but okay. 'Paladin of Souls' was... hmm, well, all right, I guess. 'The Hallowed Hunt' was just not my cup of tea. I read the first chapter, and keep intending to go read the rest, but there's always something more interesting available. Sa la vie.

Jean Auel is another who lost me. 'Clan of the Cave Bear' was pretty good, but the rest of the series??? I slogged through the second one, but quit halfway through the third and never went back.

Zelazny's first Amber books were terrific, but I couldn't get into the books once the son became the lead character. He just couldn't hold my interest like his dad did. As for 'Lord of Light', I started it three times and then gave the book away. Just didn't resonate with my spirit, I guess.
Kurt Lorey
52. Shimrod
Well, while I own a copy of Silmarillion I could never get past halfway.

Never read Pratchett.

Never read Hitchiker's Guide.

I'll stop there(per instructions).

Ack, R.Fife. I have been acquiring the Malazan books hoping for the series to end. "Sussetations"? Hmmm.
53. RobMRobM
Leigh - Anne of Green Gables is my wife's favorite book. I've read them, listened on audio and seen the excellent movie made in late 80s/early 90s with Megan Fallows (?). I agree - MOA. Note that my nine year old daughter is fighting getting into it so it might be bribery time....

RFife - not goood that you are bogging down in book one (Game of Thrones) - I liked that one and the second one, and while I liked three and four I didn't like them as much. Keep in mind that HBO is filming Game as a mini-series so you may want to give it a try as the movie approaches (due sometime in the second half of 2010).

To all who are having trouble with Pride and Prejudice -- this is tough for me, as it is one of my top ten books ever and, to me, it flows like butter. Must not criticize, must not critize....

54. Dr Fidelius
@ 50

A lot of my favourite gags are in Life, the Universe and Everything. I don't think you'd lose too much by skipping a book, although I'd love to see your face when you catch up with the characters.
"They're where? How did that happen? But why-"

@ 52

High five, just for the handle.

Out of curiosity, has anyone else struggled with E.R. Eddison? I got through all two-and-a-half Zimiamvia books but at great cost to my brain cells.
Kate Nepveu
55. katenepveu
lmelior, I am a dozen chapters from the end of _Genji_ and have been for almost two years. The problem now is I've forgotten who everyone _is_ . . .

But yes, I probably wouldn't have gotten as far as I did if I hadn't been reading along with a bunch of other people. The collective experience of marveling at it got me through the initial chapters, and then I was stuck, I wanted to find out what happened.

As for _JS&NM_, I can't say now how far into the book one can get the fullest sense of what it's like, but maybe I'll re-read it. After I finish all four volumes of _Journey to the West_, my current project, that is.

Oh, and I haven't dared re-read the Anne of Green Gables books, because though I loved them passionately as a child and teenager, I worry that they won't hold up well now.

(I can still make myself cry by just _thinking_ about _Rilla of Ingleside_, though.)
Torie Atkinson
56. Torie
@ 52

Nah, go on. I should delete that rule. I just didn't want one person to list 20 books. How about, "Limit yourself to a reasonable number"?

@ 53

It's hard for me, too. P&P is one of my favorite books of all time, but again, it's not for everybody. Then again I also love Wuthering Heights...

Another I just remembered: Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. Everyone talked it up to me as this masterpiece, and I couldn't stand it. It wasn't just the dialect, it was everything. I found it stiflingly pretentious, and normally I like that sort of thing!
Richard Fife
57. R.Fife
Shimrod, sorry, I don't use that purple word very often, I think it was "Suscitation" he used to describe a rising wind in the first 30 pages.

And I demand Cat Macros Rob! You made me feel guilty.
Bill Siegel
58. ubxs113
Only 3!

1. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
I got this book from my mother years ago because she loved it and after the 5th try it's still sitting next to my bed. I just can't seem to get past the strange grammar and slow pace. The furthest I've managed is about 70 pages. Mom is heartbroken.

2. Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre
I love philosophy and I love existentialism but after three tries this book has just been to dense and impenetrable for me. Maybe I'll give it another try in couple years.

3. Anything by J.G. Ballard
It may be classic sci-fi but after trying three different titles and never getting more than 15 pages I am done!

This is an awesome post to read through, thanks Torie.
59. WinespringBrother
Great topic!

1. Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson - I loved the first book, Gardens of the Moons, but after 100 pages of inaction, I gave up on the 2nd.

2. A Clash of Kings by GRRM - after I lost track of who lived or died about 100 pages in, I lost interest.

3. The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson - I thought it was an interesting concept but I couldn't get into the writing style.
Kate Nepveu
60. katenepveu
R.Fife, I agree, RobMRobM needs to atone via cat macros . . .

If they are funny enough I might, *might* consider trying _Dune_ again.

Jason Ramboz
61. jramboz
@54 Dr Fidelius

I started (and got a few chapters into) The Worm Ouroboros. I was actually enjoying it, but it was very mentally taxing to read. I'm not sure if it was the pacing, the writing style, or what, but it took some effort to get through. Still, it's one I do plan on finishing.
Richard Fife
62. R.Fife
Dunno about Rob's atonement, but this is just for you kate:

James Jones
63. jamesedjones
I'm really not sure if I should be posting. Because, when I pick up a book, I finish it. But, as a fan of epic fantasy, there are a lot of stories that I've never finished.

First and foremost would have to be the "Winter's Coming" series by Martin. After reading the first, I thought it sounded familiar. While the name Stark sounded pretty unique, the name Lannister left no doubt that it was supposed to be Lancaster. This left the Starks as the Yorks. I was never a fan of the War of the Roses, and thought that this was where a revolution of the common people should be deemed appropriate. The realization left me with no desire to read the rest of the series. Ah, well.

The second would be another that I dropped when I finished the first book. Steven Erikson just lost me with the whole mishmash of magic in the Malazan series. He never seemed to settle on what was possible and what wasn't. I don't care if you have to surprise everyone with unheard of levels of power, or unexpected uses for the power, but don't throw a whole new set of powers at me several times in the first book. It concerns me that Sanderson has already said that there will be multiple forms of magic in his next series. Ah, well.

Last, but definitely not least, would have to be the Old Testament. I've finished the New Testament, but never the Old. When folks asked me a few years back if I had seen "The Passion of the Christ", I'd always reply, "Nah, I read the book." You would not believe how many wide eyed folks would respond, "There's a book?!" The Old Testament always loses me around Job, Psalms, and Proverbs. I've also read portions of a few of the later books, but never the whole thing. Ah, well.

Not saying it's fantasy, just saying it's epic.
64. tariqata
@DrFidelius (#45): Heh. I loved Beauty and I'm generally a fan of Tepper, but I could not get into Sideshow. I'm generally in the compulsive book-finisher category, but I gave up after about fifty pages.

I'm not sure if this counts as a classic, but Charles Stross' Halting State sounded like a fascinating book, but it was such a slog to read a story written in second person that I never got past the second chapter.

Can't think of too many other books I've given up on, but I also have never made it past the second page of Sword of Shannara, which I used to periodically take out of my elementary school library, which had a real shortage of fantasy and sci-fi selections to choose from. I have no words for how dull those first couple of pages were.
Garett Harnish
65. garett
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. I bought it when it first came out and made it about halfway through before I was somehow distracted and never got around to finishing it. After 16 years, I might have to admit I'm probably not going to finish it.
James Jones
66. jamesedjones
7 jaspax

No worries. If you made it through 4 and didn't like them, then you can confidently say that is not something you enjoy.
67. DrXray
Only 3 books I've started but couldn't finish:

Children of Midnight by Salman Rushdie

Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

and most recently,

The Stranger by Max Frei.

I don't understand all the hype over the Max Frei Novel and it's sequels. The jacket coover bills it as the runaway international best seller but I found it repetative and amateurish.
Dayle McClintock
68. trinityvixen
@31: It's funny because I'm terribly poorly read in sci-fi but The Man in the High Castle is like the only Philip K Dick I've read. Weird.

No, I zoomed through Dune the first time through, loved it loved it, and moved on to the sequels eagerly. And got through each one slower... and slower... and then I got to God Emperor of Dune and was like "bugger this for a game of soldiers".

Man, do I wish I'd stopped there. The last two books devolved into porn, the likes of which make me sympathize with the Anita Blake fans. Not nearly so prevalent as her escapades, but no less ridiculous. Five words: competing bands of space whores. And that's before Kevin J Anderson got his hands on the prequels.
james loyd
69. gaijin
1. Moby Dick. I've read many long passages and been thoroughly impressed, but I just can't read it all the way through.

2. Dracula. My undergrad thesis was about how vampire literature from Stoker to Rice demonstrated a gradual internalization of the Other. I probably read 98% of Dracula out of order for that paper, but the format (a series of letters) distances the reader and formalizes the style to make a very interesting story, well, less interesting.

3. The Confusion. I LOVE Neal Stephenson's work and have read everything I can find by him (including articles, essays, and the Stephen Bury books) through Quicksilver. However, I work in a library and have two small children so I can't justify paying the cover price of a book that weighs more than my three year-old (and that's the paperback). I read in every spare minute, but Quicksilver took three months because, as previously mentioned, I have children and therefore little free time.

Another reason is that while nobody can make finance as interesting and comprehensible as Stephenson, it can still be tedious. Not coincidentally, so can Eliza. Learning that much about how money works also serves to remind me how little I make as a librarian.

I WILL finish the Baroque Cycle some day.
70. pussreboots
1. Jane Austen's novels: I've tried them all and haven't made it past about page 20 on any of them. To me, she's long winded and boring.

2. Neuromancer: He may have invented the genre but he can't write.

3. Harry Potter books 5-7. Oh my goodness she needs an editor with the cajones to actually edit her books. She rambles!
Bill Siegel
71. ubxs113
@68 trinityvixen

I couldn't agree more. Dune is a masterpiece but everything else is just terrible.
72. RobMRobM
rfife @60 (and kate n too). I am so sorry for my earlier posts. Please forgive me - no more cat macros (even though a Pride and Prejudice one would be very funny....). Rob
René Walling
73. cybernetic_nomad
I grew up in a school system that forced you to read some of the most boring stuff ever, but that's another rant. Suffice to say that once you've been through that, a book has to be seriously bad for you to stop, and the thickness of a book won't intimidate you at all.

All this to say I almost never stop reading a book.

Two exceptions come to mind:

The first Thomas the Covenant book -- too whiny and getting nowhere

Titus Alone. It's Titus Alone need more be said?

On the other hand, there's tons of stuff I can't even bring myself to start: Harry Potter, Song of Fire and Ice, Wheel of Time, anything by Ann Rice, Tad Williams, Stephen King, there's way more so I'll stop now.
Kathy Keith
74. Babokathy
Agree w/cmpalmer @30
If I can't stand it after 100 pages, I put it down and never look back. Life's too short.

My worst:
1) C S Lewis' "Space Trilogy"--I loved Narnia, but these other works of his are soooooo not the same! This is Lewis' "alter-ego"! The plot starts out great, then he drops a grenade on you 3/4 way through with his thick religious philosophy. Never got to 2 or 3. Out they went! It was like finding out that Seuss lost his sense of humor!

2) Michener's "Alaska"--It was super great with the historical geography/mammoths/anthropology-thing going on. Then around page 250 he hits you with the genocide of the native Alaskans.

3) Bernard Cornwell's "Stonehenge"--I like Great Britain history, they had bloody wars, you can get by that mostly, but he lost me toward the 3/4 mark with an unsatisfactory pre-ending.

For "Books I tried and hated, but went back to and loved":

1) Gabaldon's "Outlander" book 1. I had a really hard time getting past the torture, the blood, guts, gore, rape, worse, disturbing images, in the first half. Put it down a few months. Went back, finally FOUND the plotline making progress and the characterizations swimming to the surface. Now I'm hooked, like with Jordan, waiting impatiently for the final book 7. :)

Redhanded @49--how do you manage through "Jordan's 10,000 characters and so many lands they aren't even on the map" ? if you had trouble with Tolkien?

R.Fife @ 62, Love the Dunecat!

Jamesedjones @63 You mention the Starks & Lannisters as correlating with Yorks & Lancasters in War of Roses. I find that interesting, and just that idea might make getting through the rest of Martin's Ice & Fire series worth trudging through, if Book 5 ever comes out.
Michael Catapano
75. hoping
I'm with most people here who have trouble stopping a book once started.

The Dark Tower by Stephen King
I was halfway thru the first one and realized I didn't care what happened, so I put it down and never went back.

The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse
It's sort of scifi since it takes place in the future. When I started it I was in my mid teens and I just couldn't understand it. Maybe I'll get back to it someday. Anyone read it? Should I try again?
Tomasz Galazka
76. tetrix
Seconded on "Gravity's Rainbow" - three failed attempts, including one on a trans-Atlantic flight. Too much to handle, I guess. And I do love me some Pynchon, dammit.

Tim Powers' "The Stress of Her Regard" - again, three attempts, but then all I have is a weakish translation. I've read almost all his other novels in English, and was bowled over each and every time.

And Iain Banks' "Algebraist". Once more, one of my favorite authors, and I can't get past 20 pages or so before moving on to something else from my "to read" bookshelves...
77. Rachael2z
I'm another who abandoned Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I was 80 pages in when I gave up without a care for how the story would turn out. My only lingering thought was to wonder what the page count would've been without the footnotes.

The Road by Cormac Mccarthy - I seem to only like his books as movies. I'd try reading it again, but refuse to buy books with movie covers (pisses me off for some reason).

The Snow Queen by Joan Vinge was also abandoned. I can only vaguely remember that I disliked every character. I tried to read it a couple of times because I had friends raving about it, but never could.

Also I've never been able to make it though a Tim Powers book...ever. I have them stacked up above my washing machine, and should just give up on them.

My enduring love of Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Stars my Destination, The Forever War and other classic scifi is tied up with my memories of "borrowing" the books from my Dad's bookshelf when he thought I was too young to read them. Books were an illicit thrill for most of my childhood. Rereading them and discovering a deeper story than blue-eyed desert drug dealers and religious orgies was also a treat.
Richard Fife
78. R.Fife
Oh, Dark Tower... I left that off to try and belittle it ;) I loved the first 4, then the 5th one made me blink and ask "huh"? and the 6th one got about 10 pages before I threw it. A perfect example of when an author is trying to "crank" the books out instead of actually wanting to write them, I think.
Luke M
79. lmelior
@gaijin #69
I can proudly say that I've read Moby Dick, but only because I took a class on it. Yes, an entire quarter of Moby Dick. I fought my way through it bit by bit, never reading ahead (never wanting to), and ever consulting the annotations and occasionally online notes. As soon as it was over, I wanted to read it again.

The version you're reading makes a huge difference. My wife (who took the class with me) bought the cheap-o Bantam Classics version or the like, while I managed to find a nice, well-worn copy of the 1964 Feidelson-annotated edition, which is widely considered the best version. Of course it is out of print, but you can find used copies. I actually can't find an image online of the version I have or else I'd link to it (it's not the red cover in the customer image on Amazon's page). The annotations are a must!

@ hoping #75
I ended up finishing the first Dark Tower book, but not caring at all to continue the series. I had read Black House by King and Peter Straub years before on a whim, and I thought it was incredibly interesting when I found out how it tied in to the Dark Tower series. I think I'd have to read more of his other tie-in novels before I'd be able to keep that interest though.
80. hapax
I love this topic. I still remember the first book I allowed myself to NOT FINISH. It was mumble-mumble decades ago, and I still have the book sitting on my bookshelf, with a bookmark where I stopped, just to remind me that it is okay to quit when you're not having fun.

The book in question was Dorothy Dunnett's DISORDERLY KNIGHTS, btw. Everyone I know loves the Lymond books. By every right and reason *I* should love the Lymond books. But I was about halfway through the books when I realized I hated the main character with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, and the only reward that I could imagine making it worthwhile to slog through two and a half more fat volumes would be to see him die horribly while maggots feasted on his writhing entrails, and I suspected I wasn't going to get that.

(If anybody's finished them, and they *do* have such a delightful conclusion, please let me know. It might be worth it to pick the darn thing up again.)
Michael Catapano
81. hoping

I feel similarly about the Sword of Truth series but for different reasons. The first two were good but then it descended into religiosity after that. Can't stand being preached to.

So that's my third book/series
Bill Siegel
82. ubxs113
@ 74. Babokathy

great idea!

For "Books I tried and hated, but went back to and loved":

1. The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
2. The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
3. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
Ben R
83. sphericaltime
Another Dune fail for me. I just couldn't get all the way through.

Also, I haven't finished "Mists of Avalon" by Bradley.

Lastly, I'm having trouble getting into Dhalgren. Yarg. I still have hope though.
Jason Ramboz
84. jramboz
@83 sphericaltime

The Mists of Avalon was one of those that I forced myself to finish out of a sense of duty years ago. Kind of wish now I'd spent that time on something more enjoyable.
Dru O'Higgins
85. bellman
Everything by Ursula Le Guin. I keep picking up her books but absolutely cannot force myself to read them. I can't honestly say I've even given her a fair chance. It's like some weird mental block.

George R.R. Martin's big fat fantasies, whatever they are called. Pushed through the first, gave up in the second. Damn they're boring.

Rocheworld by Robert L. Forward. A girlfriend raved about them and showed up one day having bought me the whole series. Terrible writing, but it was the multiple exclamation marks that made my head explode. The only book I've ever damaged. Ripped into tiny pieces, did a little dance, not the least bit sorry.
Kathy Keith
86. Babokathy
@83 I read the Mists of Avalon, and tried to read a sequel, and just couldn't. It started to read rather sappy and hoaky. Bradley tries to hard to inject historical accuracy.

Philippa Gregory "Wideacre Trilogy"--rather similar to Brontë style, time frame, but I rather had to insert my gag to finish the 3rd installment because of the hard-to-believe sensuality content.

Guess I won't be reading any of those books by her about the Boleyn Sisters series.

Someone mentioned about certain authors who seem to be just writing books in enormous quantities because they make so much money if they stretch the story out like, forever: does Brian Jacques fall into this category with his Redwall series? I liked the first one.

I'd rather get engrossed in Erin Hunter's Warrier Cats!
Sam Mickel
87. Samadai
I also usually finish what I start to read, but I bought GRRMs' first book of Fire and Ice and was only able to make it about five pages in.

I read the first Sword of Truth novel and have been meaning to start the second one for oh about 10 years now.

And I am sorry but have read all the "classics" and only got through them because it was a requirement for the various classes I have taken. Classic in no way means interesting
Deborah Jones
88. NanaD
I started The Sword Of Truth series. Read maybe 5 books, looked online for the next and discovered there were still many more left so I never bought them.

Also a series of books about dragons that could transform into people and things. I can't even remember the name or the author.
89. legionseagle
hoping@75: I started to read The Glass Bead Game because I was 17 and I really wanted to impress the girl who recommended it to me. I finished it on its own merits, though, and the number of internet rows I've got into since by either explicitly or implicitly muttering "feuilletonism" at the other participants is legion. I'm not sure that is a recommendation.

As far as books I never read (or, specifically, gave up on in mid read - and I'm one of the compulsive finishing types normally):

1. Mistress of Mistresses by Edison. I managed The Worm Ouroboros but this was a chalcedony-encrusted edifice too far. God, was that ever an indigestible style to begin with and it just got worse - and worse - and worse-
2. The History of Middle-Earth. I cannot remember why or how I became - at the age of 20 or so - convinced that Christopher Tolkien needed to get a proper job rather than spending his life endlessly recycling "Witterings from the WPB of My Father the Venerated Professor" but it was about the middle of the volume which had been sold to me on the premise that it was "The One In Which Galadriel Sleeps About A Lot" (Lays of Beleriand?). She didn't, but I doubt it would have been any less dreary, anal and inconclusive if she had.
3. The Satanic Verses. I got a page and a half in, went "ugh" and tossed it aside. Four months later all hell broke loose. Unfortunately, this meant it was a bit difficult to fall in behind the Party line of "How dare these quasi-mediaeval theocratic thugs try to suppress a great literary work such as this?" since my actual opinion was "Right, well, it's deliberately offensive turgid crap - but the right to produce deliberately offensive turgid crap needs to be fought for even harder than the right to produce great, misunderstood, sensitive works of literature."
Liza .
90. aedifica
I'm enjoying reading the responses! I've read and enjoyed many of the books mentioned above, and I'm sure others have read and enjoyed the ones I couldn't finish:

1. Some large book by George R. R. Martin - just didn't pull me in at all.

2. The Silmarillion - I think I'd enjoy it, so I'll try it again someday.

3. Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth - Portnoy is such a whiner!

4. The Worm Ourobouros, by E.R. Eddison - far more war-focused than I could stand at the time I was trying to read it.

I have to admit that the first time I read Dhalgren, I probably wouldn't have finished it if it hadn't been recommended by my at-the-time new boyfriend (now fairly amicable ex-husband). But I did enjoy it and I've since re-read it fully of my own volition.

R.Fife @ 46: If you ever feel like giving the Wayfarer books another try, the person who lent them to me did so with the warning "the first book is dreadfully dull for the first 30 pages, after that it picks up." And for me that was true.

jamesdjones @ 63: I'd disagree that the Old Testament is a book, it's a collection of books. (I think it's well-known, but maybe I just know because I'm a language geek, that the word "Bible" is a transliteration of the Greek ?? ?????? meaning "books," plural.)

(Edited to fix typo in one of the titles.)
91. Cathal
what is it with Dune, yo? I was reading it and enjoying it, but somewhere between pages 308 and 309 i just ran out of steam. Good plotting, but i think the prose is kind of leaden or something.

And i read the hobbit a couple of times and loved it, and decided to take a run at LOTR... jaysus, that big thirty page sequence in fellowship when they're just walking through the forest put years on me, haven't looked at it since.

And i tried 'portrait of the artist as a young man' once for my sins. I ploughed through almost to the end (including through a forty page description of the Catholic conception of purgatory) and quit with about twenty pages to go, thereby saving myself from the torments of ulysees.
James Jones
92. jamesedjones
90. aedifica

I know. I put in the little caveat at the beginning. I will always finish the book I'm currently reading. It's the Big A** epics that kill me if any of the books just feel like they are starting to drag.
Dan Sparks
93. RedHanded
@74 BaboKathy

The only reason I can think of as to why I actually like WoT and not LotR is because I could at least somewhat pronounce the towns/people's names etc. I was never down for trying to figure out a fictional language. Either that or I just don't like Hobbits. :) It's all a matter of opinion here for sure.
Liza .
94. aedifica
jamesedjones @ 92: Ah, I missed that your opening caveat applied to that part. :-)
Helen Peters
95. Helen
Algebraist, Iain Banks. Got halfway through and couldn't get into it properly, it was so memorable I couldn't tell you what happened. It went back to the library.

A book by Anne Rice, again so memorable that I cannot remember what it was called, some old girl sitting on the porch and the house looking delapidated or new. Again it went back to the library half read (if that much)

The man who would be Thursday. Cannot remember author, though that one is sitting next to my bed, still open at the page I got up to, I intend to go back and read it but other, more interesting books keep calling me.
Zachary Ricks
96. madpoet
You know, I actually did finish the first Thomas Covenant book, but I hated myself for it. Utterly unsympathetic hero. Bleah.

But as for books I couldn't finish, I've got three.

#1 Cryptonomicon. It just seemed to slow down... and slow down... and finally ground to a halt for me. Loved the bit about the perfect way to eat Captain Crunch, though.

#2 Foundation and Empire. I love most Asimov, really enjoyed Foundation, but the Mule threw me. Could not deal with the Mule.

#3. The Silmarillion. Way too esoteric. I just couldn't get into it. I think I might have gotten through the first chapter.

Whoops, and I forgot - Wizard and Glass. I didn't want to see what happened back in the past, I wanted to move forward with the story. And I've never picked up a Stephen King novel since.
97. cmpalmer
How much do you think your reading speed affects what you read (or finish)? I can rip through a medium sized mainstream novel in a couple of hours, so I don't really care if they are great books - if the story grabs me quick, it isn't wasting too much of my time.

Antiquated prose or "lit-fic" ("look at me - I write *literature*") styles slow me down enough that I really have to enjoy the book. That said, I loved Moby Dick and I've read two or three Jane Austin books.

GRRM is getting a lot of hate here. I've read the Song of Ice and Fire books a few times now. Never had the slightest problem getting into the first one and I love all of the characters (not that I would *like* any of the characters if I knew them in real life, but since when is that a requirement for liking a story?).

Anyway, I'll add "Ulysses" (the word play is fun, but the book? meh.), "Gravity's Rainbow" (ditto), and Cormac McCarthy (I finished "The Road" but thought it was crap. Tried a couple of others, but didn't feel it was worth the effort.)
Chuk Goodin
98. Chuk
I read pretty fast and rarely don't finish things. It did take me a few tries to get through Dune, then momentum got me through the next book and a half before I remembered I didn't like them and stopped for good. So whatever the third Dune book is is #1 (Dune Messiah?) Like some previous posters I almost didn't finish Eco's Foucault's Pendulum either but eventually made it through.

Ulysses by Joyce although that might not count as SF. I didn't mind The Dubliners but U was just a little too weird.

I also just couldn't get into Gormenghast.
99. sunjah
boy, GRRM is not getting much love. I think I'll pick on somebody else--I'll go for some more classics. I liked Dune, but...

1)Jonathan Carroll's The Land of Laughs.
It came highly recommended; but somehow after the big reveal 2/3 of the way through I was too creeped out and simultaneously couldn't find the plot anymore. I don't much go for horror although I will tolerate it sometimes for a cause.

2)Heinlein; The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Well, I didn't like the World as Myth thing. I didn't like the tie-everything-youve-ever-written-together-retroactively thing when Asimov did it either. Oh, and boring sex.

3)Cherryh; Cyteen. Maybe I was too young when I read it--I was reading a lot of Cherryh then but just couldn't digest it. Her traditional tight 3rdperson-ignorant POV was rough to follow at that much length, and I had trouble getting invested in the characters.

I might try Cyteen again, sometime.
David Miller
100. Dimitrii
I have two often repeated ones and a new one.

I loved Dune and like the next few OK then I made the mistake of getting *several* more at once when I was moving to a town where I expected to have a lot of free time. I can't remember which one it was but I was better than three quarters through, dreading it more and more when I had the epiphany that I didn't have to finish it. It was such a relief.

I read the Hobbit fairly young and moved into the Lord of the Rings a bit after and loved them. I them found The Silmarillion. Tried it straight through: got busy, tried again: not happening, told to skip around: found one reasonably entertaining bit, got excited and then rapidly disappointed. Done.

The last I picked up off of the shelf of a corporate apartment. A classic; and I had plenty of free time. But I could make no headway into The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I got plenty of the way through the book but never into the story.
Andrew Mason
101. AnotherAndrew
In company with a number of others, Eddison, The Worm Ourobouros. I know it is an immensely important work, one of the foundational works of heroic fantasy, the only thing comparable with Tolkien, etc. but I just couldn't read it. I think the problem is how conscious it is. Tolkien's characters act heroically (some of the time) because the fate of the world is at stake. Eddison's characters act heroically because they are terribly heroic, and are anxious to show how heroic they are.

V. Seth, A Suitable Boy. My experience with this is the same as Kate's with Genji: I mean to finish it, but if I try to resume at the point where I left off, I can't remember who everyone is.
Stephen W
102. Xelgaex
Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge. It's a Hugo winner and for that reason I'll probably go back and finish it sometime but, I just couldn't get into it. It wasn't so much that Robert is a jerk that bothered me, I can get past an unsympathetic main character. It was the totally unbelievable motivation for his jerkiness.

Apparently he's mean to others because it makes him feel good. Perhaps not so strange when put like that, it is how many people explain bully's actions. But for Robert the explanation that would normally be made by others is the one that he himself gives. Most people will have at least a superficial reason that they use to justify their actions, but not him (or at least the author doesn't gives one). I got as far as a scene (about 80 pages in) in which he snaps at his granddaughter who has been trying to help him the whole time, not because he thinks she's being annoying or something at least understandable like that, but just to feel the rush of being nasty to someone. The way it's described makes it clear that he's making a calculated decision to do it, too.

I came away thinking that either Robert is a freakishly self-aware amoral bully or Vinge just didn't do a very good job with thinking through the character's motivations (probably the latter). From then on I couldn't regain my suspension of disbelief, Robert was just so obviously fictional and unconvincing.

I was intrigued by the world he was building and skipped ahead a little bit here and there, but I could never pick up where I left off again. But I'll probably try again sometime.
Claire Edwards
103. ClaireBelle
I'm more a person who has a massive list of books they want to read, mostly because I'm 23 and think I'll definitely get the time to read them all, someday...

However, like many people it seems I've really struggled with Dune - I've tried to read it about a dozen times but i've never made it to the end. Currently about 100 pages in and the book is on the floor of my car! It's a good story but for some reason it really doesn't hold my imagination unlike Tolkein or Jordan.

I've also never finished Emma by Jane Austen - I adore everything else she's ever written but can't empathise with Emma herself at all.

But to those people who struggle with the Silmarillion it is worth persisting.I finally got through it last year and all sorts of things about Tolkein's universe just clicked into place, he was such an epic worldbuilder.
104. trekkiechick
Hmm. My 3 books would have to be more series, I guess. I read the first Sword of Truth book twice, but each time I couldn't get into the second. I've also tried Anne McCaffrey's Pern books I don't know how many times, because my husband keeps telling me how wonderful they are, but I can't get through more than two before I just don't care anymore. And, I don't know if this counts, but a book that I would have liked to stop reading but wasn't allowed to (due to it being a school assignment) was The Hobbit. Bored me to death.
Wen Wen Yang
105. muteddragon
_The Once and Future King_ : Little action, and if there was action, it was disorienting and dull. I love Arthurian books, well, ones that focus on Morgan Le Fay. So instead of reading the rest of this, I read the sparknotes. So glad I did that instead and saved myself the grief.
_American Gods_: It felt so aimless. I love Gaiman otherwise, but here it felt like he was shouting 'look at me messing with convention! look, there are short stories in a novel!' I stopped reading after the chess game.
_Death Note_: it's a manga so I don't know if this counts. I didn't like any of the characters, not a single one, so I didn't care what happened to them, I couldn't root for any of them to win. I stopped in the middle when he sends that demon thing away.
As a suggestion for books you can't read, try audiobooks. I have a hard time getting through Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell but once I got the audiobook I was much more interested. It's a much more passive experience.
106. Chernabog
Wow, I don't think I've even heard of at least half of the books being listed here.

I usually finish a book once I've started it, and generally only buy or pick up ones I know I'll like (except WoT, I caved and picked up half the series in one shot before having finished the first)

My list would be

1. Silmarillion
2. Narnia, Voyage of the Dawn Treader onwards.
3. Lord of the Rings

I found Silmarillion to be a bit hard to get into and ended up skipping it in favor of a WoT re-read instead. For Narnia I started them but put them down and just forgot to come back to them. Lord of the Rings.....I don't think I've ever been able to make it past the birthday party. Like Silmarillion I just couldn't get into it.
Amy Duncan
107. shatteredlight
My list of unreadable books is rather long, but not to repeat Fire and Ice or WoT (which I will finish when the series are complete.)

Kate Elliot's Crown of Stars

It took me 10 years to move from book 2 to book 3, and now I think it's gonna take another decade to finish the series.

Anything by Moorcock, I try, I try and have yet to succeed.

Never Anita Blake, never again. I like smut, but when I get creeped out with the weird animal thingies and the uber-pretty long-haired vampire harem, enough is enough.

Any Discworld book that doesn't involve Ankh-Morpork (except the wizard books, can't stand those)

Dark Tower after book 3

Storm Constantine's Mandagravidas(?) series, I fell asleep. I love the Wraethu books, but cannot get this piece of junk.
Amy Duncan
108. shatteredlight
I also forgot the Bitterbynde books by Cecelia Dart-Thornton. I liked the first one up until the last three pages. I dug the idea of a scarred, crippled heroine, but when I saw the reviews for the second and third books, my ugly heroine becomes the most beautiful woman in the world and a fairy princess to boot. Feel me go "ewww".
Kimberly Woods
109. Calli
There's a common thread to most books I won't finish: they provoke the Eight Deadly Words. I'm especially finicky about first person narrators. However, since I'm limited to three, better go after the big ones:

Dune. All right, I know it's been mentioned umpteen times already, but I made it a third of the way in before I went "Classic or not, why am I supposed to care about what happens to these people?" To its credit, I didn't hate them, either, I just didn't care. Nothing fills me with disgust more quickly than an utterly unsympathetic protagonist I'm expected to share headspace with for the course of the novel. (I'd name names, but there's that three-book maximum, and the book isn't prominent enough to give up a slot for it.)

Anathem. I know it's up for the Hugo this year. That doesn't change the fact that I got about twenty-five pages in before I went "This narrator is duller than dirt." The three side characters introduced were far more interesting -- but we aren't getting the story through their eyes.

Furthermore, I wasn't thrilled about being told the meanings of words that I've known since grade school with no appreciable changes in meaning (such as buttress and screen), and the mutated words struck me as a gimmick. I'm probably going to be ostracized for this, but I'm not picking it back up.

And then there's Wizard's First Rule. It provoked the Words, but I plodded on anyway because my husband likes it and I was trying to see why. An uphill battle all the way, in no small part because some of the content was pretty vile, but I tried.

And then I got to the extended Mord-Sith torture and rape of Richard. The only reason the book did not meet the wall was because it was not my copy to throw. It's been three years since I quit reading that book, and I'm still sickened that I wasted my time on it.
110. Matt from the North Country
Wow, lots of responses.

1. Dune - tried it 3 times, lasted maybe 30 pages each time. Just too bleak, dismal and dense.

2. Terry Pratchett - tried several books and found the humor to be not at all to my liking.

3. Dan Simmons - can't stand his writing style. It feels so stilted and clunky, I just can't read it. Lasted about 40 pages of Hyperion as a teenager and 3 pages of Olympus today.
111. Freelancer
As with several others, I am compulsive about finishing a book once I begin one. I'm afraid that my list must be of those I wish I hadn't bothered with.

Dune - After the third book, the series to me degrades into something I couldn't care less about, most disappointing given the quality of the first two volumes.

Stranger in a Strange Land - As with Herbert, but far more blatant, the first half of this novel is wonderful, after that perverse doesn't begin to describe it.

Faerie Fire - Actually, I didn't finish this one. I love Feist's work, but once again, I don't read fantasy for porn, and this modern-age magic story has too much "skin", not enough story.
112. Krenshar
1. Hamlet. I tried reading it long ago, and, to be honest, I got completely lost in the Shakespearean English. I've read and enjoyed a couple of his other works since, though, and I hope to read Hamlet soon -- I love everything I've heard about the story.

2. The Silmarillion. Tried reading it once. Got completely lost in its structure (or lack thereof). I loved The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and I want to read it. I'll probably try again someday soon.

3. There is no three. Honestly, I'm one of those people that enjoys a wide variety of stuff, and even that stuff I don't thoroughly enjoy I can usually slug through to the end of. Even the aforementioned I hope to return to.
Kristina Rice
113. kbellwether
I'm a reformed compulsive finisher. Mostly because life's too short. Since I'm usually reading about 3-6 books over the same period of time, it's inevitable that I'll lose track a few when one book will take over until I finish it & then I forget where I am, so I won't count those, since I'll likely get back to some of them.

Like many others I've never gotten thru Dune, Wheel of Time, or Dhalgren (and only 1/2 way thru the Amber books). Dahlgren's the only one I think I might try again, I suspect I was too young to really get it 15 years ago. Couldn't make it thru Strange/Norrell until I got the audiobook from the library. Apparently it only worked for me in 15 minutes sections in the car. :)

So here are some relatively recent ones:

1. The Princess of Roumania by Paul Park. It was suggested at a con & I liked the way it started out, and thought the concept was interesting, and characters interesting, I got within 80 pages of the end & realized how little of the plot he got thru in so many pages. Just not enough payoff for the effort, so I quit.

2. The Wreck of the River of Stars (I think that's the title) by Michael Flynn. Loved Eifelheim, so starting searching the library for his others, but got more than halfway through this and couldn't pretend that we were ever going to get the real story, which I realized was at least part of the point, but I just couldn't sustain my interest after that. It's rather a shame. Maybe I'll go back to this someday.

3. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Got up to the point where the main character was bragging about his amazingly out of control power as a boy & realized I was actively hating this guy and didn't want to know anything more about him.

Sorry I've got to add a fourth that no one else has mentioned.

4. Ink by Hal Duncan. Barely got through Vellum, and just couldn't sustain the whole fractured multiverse non-narrative structure. Damned shame, because I think there's something lurking there that I just wasn't grasping, and I really wanted to know "what happened".
Adam Callaway
114. Weirdside
Stranger in a Strange Land. It was straight up boring to me. I just wanted something to happen, but it was very dull through the first hundred pages.
115. Beardmonger
1. Rafael Sabatini - Scaramouche

He's one of my favorite authors, but Scaramouche seemed to wander all over the place without going anywhere.

2. GRRM - A Song of Ice and Fire

I didn't really have anything for or against his prose, but I found the characters uninteresting and the story rather soap opera-ish. (Especially the "The things I do for love" bit)

I forced myself to read the first book and part of the second before giving up. I mean, it's so highly praised, I just had to be missing something. Whatever it is people see in it, I just don't understand.

3. Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

I thought it had interesting bits, but I found it an absolute chore to read.
Ed Rafferty
116. BigBoy57
1. The Ghormenghast Trilogy

I,ve tried 3 times now but can't get past about 50 or 60 pages.

2. The Sword of Shannara etc

Same again - just can't get going.

3. Jonathan Strange etc

Also too dense and goes nowhere - only thirty pages this time.

How about a list of three you can't stop reading?
I have books in my shelves that are falling apart from being read and re-read and others that look brand new but are replacement copies of old faves - the first being Dune - sorry about that.

My Jack Vance collection is also in poor condition from over-reading - I love to dip in to them to cheer myself up from time to time.The planet Tschai is like a second home.

Third - Fred Pohl's Gateway + sequels - all read to bits.
Ian Sales
117. iansales
Delany's Dhalgren is one of my favourite novels, and I've read it 3 or 4 times. But I've tried twice to read his Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand and failed around the 100 page mark both times.
118. McArcher
I'm an avid but picky reader so most of the times I pick up a book I won't put it away. There's just Two things I can't get around

1 Cormenghast, I started book one, forced myself through the fisrt 100 pages or so and then I just couldn't care for the book anymore.

2 The shanara cycle, I started to read one book and it gave me the image of the writer hovering over the shoulder of Tolkien, copying the main story arc of LOTR, changing names and plot devices and then cramping it all in one book. I never touched anything "Shanara" since
Karen Lofstrom
119. DPZora
I've been reading for 55 years and there are SO MANY books I haven't finished. Lately, I've been reading lots of older books as free ebooks; it's easy to bail on those. After a while, when I haven't made any progress, I delete them from my PDA. Frex, Thuvia, Maid of Mars (E.R. Burroughs) will probably go soon. I made it through the first three in the John Carter of Mars series. Stories rattle along nicely, and it's the first GOOD worldbuilding in SF, I think.

Dune? Lots of people didn't like Dune. I read it in one sitting. Started it late at night and finished close to dawn. Wouldn't touch the rest of the books in the series with a stick.

Books that one would think I would like, but don't:

GRRM's latest series, whatsit, Fire and Ice: everyone's nasty, it's all sad, and I don't care.

Gene Wolfe: brilliant but heartless. I don't care.

Jonathan Norrell and Mr. Strange: it's beautiful. Wonderful prose, fantastic world. But I don't care what happens next.

Stephenson's Baroque Cycle: I love everything else of his, but I keep bouncing off this one. Perhaps because I know a fair bit about the period and the infodumps irritate the heck out of me. "I know that, you idiot, stop boring me!"
120. gt0163c
I've started The Count of Monte Cristo at least three times and have never made it past about page 150. The first time I read the first 50 pages in one night so that I could get the general understanding of the movie we were watching in French class (in French with no subtitles). School was busy and I never got back to the rest of the bok. The second time I was determined to get farther. I got about 75 pages in, he'd escaped from prison, the book slowed down and things got busy again. Third time, I wanted to finally finish the book. I got to about page 150. I just couldn't care about the characters and their lives after the prison break. I still have the book on my shelf. Maybe one day I'll try again. The first 50 pages are probably one of my favorite stories of all time, but I just can't get into the book once he escapes.
SP Kelly
121. SPKelly
I have read DUNE and am now listening to it in audiobook format. The audio version is exceptionally well-done and is keeping me from reading other books at the moment. I highly recommend it.

As to books I just couldn't finish:

Norman Mailer's THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG. I made it about half way through and just couldn't finish. It's still on my shelf with the bookmark in place.

I have many unread science fiction books on my shelf, but the only one that I can recall giving up on is Orson Scott Card's CHILDREN OF THE MIND. I stopped caring about the characters mid-book and just returned it to the library. Thankfully I didn't buy it.

And how could I leave out ULYSSES by Joyce. I've tried the book and the audio and can't get past the first few pages.
Blake Engholm
122. UncrownedKing

I am currently in book 2 of the Dune series (Dune Messiah) and I have reached a point where I....Just....Don't....Care..anymore...argh

What should I do?
1)give up and read one of the latest RA Salvatore Drizzit adventures?
2)push through
Patrick DeLise
123. sunsteel
1. Dune Messiah--I think that tone of this book was completely different than the first one. I lost my interest quickly.

2. Stranger in a Strange Land--I don't grok it. I found it dated and dull.

3. The Silmarillion--I've tried reading this too many times over the years. It was cobbled together after Tolkien's death and it reads like it.
James Jones
124. jamesedjones
122 UncrownedKing

The bonfire will be much more fun if you finish and then burn.
Blake Engholm
125. UncrownedKing
@124 James
Fine. I'll finish it
126. Jon Meltzer
Three I haven't finished, but probably should:

- Cryptonomicon. Slow, slow, slow. It wasn't until about page 400 when I finally realized what the MacGuffin was. Then the book hit me with a thirty-page letter from a character I don't care about. Stopped right there.

- The Book of the New Sun. I've tried to read this several times but always get bogged down after Severian is exiled from the Torturer's Guild. Is this a common "sticking point" where people give up, like the Bombadil chapters in LOTR?

- Martian Time-Slip. Can't get past the first chapter, even though I have no problems with other Dick books such as Androids, Ubik, or High Castle.
Jason Ramboz
127. jramboz
@113 kbellwether

I got maybe halfway through Vellum before I finally gave up in disgust. It's bad enough that the writing style was incomprehensible Joyce-imitation (and, in my opinion, Joyce was only a semi-talented lazy hack to begin with). But when I realized that I was halfway through the novel and still didn't really know who the main characters were, and then there was a complete change of universe to top it off, it was time to quit.

Seriously, it's not "literary." It's just bad writing.
128. JohnnyPyro
1) Ender's Game...I just don't dig it. Apparently there is a Marvel comic series about this now, maybe that will do it for me.

2) Snow Crash...I have read everything William Gibson has ever published, and he IS cyberpunk to me. SC didn't cut it.

3) Lord of the Flies...it seems to have evolved more in poplar culture and outgrown the actual pages.

4) The Shannara Series...the Sword is such a blatant rip off of LoTR that I just can't do the rest of them. Although, I just recently realized that there are, like, 20 books in the series now...maybe I'll give it another go.
129. Matt in GA
Hi, my name is Matt and I too am a compulsive book finisher.

(Crowd: "Hi Matt")

However there are several books that I have NOT been able to finish.

(Crowd: "Blasphemer!!")

1. The Soldier Son books by Robin Hobb. God, I hated that character sooooo much. Frankly, I just don't "get" Robin Hobb as to me her stories are incredibly boring.

2. The Wreck of the River of Stars by Michael Flynn. Again, characters that you just hate or don't care about

3. Drood by Dan Simmons. I have really liked most of his writing (Hyperion, Illium, etc), but this is one that just did not catch my interest.
130. cdalek
Shardik by Richard Addams. Got about 1/3 of the way through and completely lost interest. I'd enjoyed Watership Down and liked The Plague Dogs (although the complete personality transplant the reporter had to get in order for the more or less happy ending to be achieved was somewhat annoying), but Shardik did absolutely nothing for me. No idea why. I was 12 at the time and finished every book I started just on principle, but that one I couldn't get through. If I recall correctly, my mother read it after I put it down and said not to bother.
Dave Ciskowski
131. dcisko
1) Last of the Mohicans. Loved the movie and decided I should read the original, but had a hard time fighting through the dense prose. It was a feature peculiar to the early novels of North America, that the toils and dangers of the prose were to be encountered before the plot could be met.

2) The Sharing Knife, Lois McMaster Bujold. I read the first book, but despite interesting characters and great worldbuilding, it felt like a romance novel, with a few too many "I wuv you... no I wuv YOU!" moments. I own the second book but can't forsee picking it up.

Matt@129: I haven't read the third Soldier Son book yet. I will, but Forest Mage was pretty damn brutal in both its treatment of Nevarre and in his own actions. At least Thomas Covenant started out unlikeable; Nevarre worked very hard to become that way. He's kind of a wanker in the first book too, but the second book is when he really burnt my toast. For me, I'm intrigued enough by the risks that Hobb is taking that I'd like to see where it goes. I'm not confident that it will work, but it will at worst be an interesting failure.
Memory Arnould
132. xicanti
I can only recall two big ones:

1. The Mists of Avalon. I abandoned it so long ago that I can't remember exactly why, but I think I was just plain bored. I'll probably try again someday, but it's a pretty low priority.

2. Perdido Street Station. I loved Mieville's style, but I hated all the characters. I gave it a solid 250 pages before I bailed, but bail I did. I do intend to revisit it someday, though, as I've since read and loved several of his short stories.
133. OtterB
I'll join the ones who never finished Silmarillion and am pretty sure I never will at this point, although I think it's still on the shelf somewhere at home.

Also, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I've tried twice. Will probably try again. I wanted to like it. I didn't actively dislike it. I just couldn't stay engaged.

The one nobody else has mentioned: The Lies of Locke Lamora. I wanted to like it, too. I did like at least the first 30 or 40 pages; I remember reading tidbits aloud to my husband. But it lost me, for reasons I no longer remember, and I could never get back into it. It might have dropped me at a change in POV.

I disengage more easily than I used to. Sometimes I'll skip ahead to the end and see if I want to find out how they got to that point, then skip back and pick up again. Other times I just quit.
Maggie M
134. Eswana
Helen @ 95
The Man Who Was Thursday is by GK Chesterton, one of my favorite authors of all time.

Hmm, let's see:
Proust, Swann's Way. I felt obligated to read it, in the interest of checking it off the "books I should read to be well-read" list, but couldn't swing it. Eh.

Burgess, A Clockwork Orange. Everyone said I would get used to the dialect and be able to read through it easily. They were wrong. I gave up.

John Paull II, Love and Responsibility. I love the theology behind this book, and I'm a huge fan of JPII, but it's a heavy work of philosophy and theology. I consider myself intelligent, but wow, this was a toughie. I ended up settling for the "Cliff's Notes" version, by Dr. Edward Sri, called Man, Woman, and the Mystery of Love
Richard Fife
135. R.Fife
To all the Silmarillion non-finishers. I urge that you at least try and skip all the way ahead to the last 30ish pages that are the Second Age (Rise and Fall of Numeror, the War of the Rings of Power). That was slightly less, um, biblical in its verbage as, for the most part, it concerns a single cast of characters and not generations of families.

And, as this is probably a bit of a guilt post:
136. Freelancer

Don't bother, your current impression will remain, or increase. Better to read about Drizzt. There's a character a reader can care about. Probably because he has an innate morality that drove him from the pseudo-anarchy of his native culture.

::hopes he had a long enough fuse on that one to get clear before it go...::
137. toryx
Fun discussion. I'm surprised at how many people can't get through A Song of Ice and Fire novels or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, both of which I loved. On the other hand, I totally agree about The Simillarion.

Three I can't complete to my utter disappointment:

1. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson. I've tried these several times and the most I've been able to accomplish is 3/4s of the way through the first book .

2. Quicksilver, the first book of the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. I know I should love it but I can't stop putting it down.

3. Anything by Jane Austen. I've tried and tried but man, they put me to sleep every time.
Andrew Foss
138. alfoss1540
Dune Messiah - and the rest after that - became predictable -- For all you Dune stutterstarters - after doing the same 3-4 times, I finally pushed past the threshhold (about 120 pages into it) - and couldn't put it down. Since then, I have read it easily 7 times. It gets better with each subsequent read. It is Brilliant.

Tales of a Body Theif (Ann Rice Vampire series book 4 after Queeen of the Damned) - became predictable and painful

Edgar Rice Burroughs - Mars, Venus, Tarzan -Dense and unreadable

Conan the Barbarian - always wanted to
Travis Splawn
139. MoreBooksForMe
Only have not finished one book I have started.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I know it is a classic but I never found myself enjoying the story or wanting to keep reading. It was like a chore. I probably got 3/4 of the way through and I had to force myself to keep reading that far.

On a side note, I'm one of the many who has owned Dune for a while but has never cracked it.
140. FluffyPanda
Rendezvous With Rama was an amazing book but I think that Gentry Lee's influence on Rama II just dragged the pace down too much for me. Didn't get much more than 100 pages into that before drifting off into something else.

I really can't think of any more started but unfinished books, but there are a few series that I have given up on.

Like everyone else the Dune series lost me, though I seem to have made it further than most.

I couldn't get enough of Dune once I started reading it, I consider it a real masterpiece. The sequels were dreadful though. I picked up Dune Messiah straight after finishing Dune and it just screamed "publisher wanted a sequel yesterday". I did try to stick with it, but Children of Dune was the last straw. I like to think that the author at least knows what is going on in his world, but the Dune sequels seemed to expect you to just accept that you're not going to understand the motives because you aren't a God.


When you read 400 pages of a character following some metaphorical "golden path" that even he can't describe, the payoff had better not be randomly slapping some fish on your face and turning into superman in the last chapter.

Jackie Nelson
141. Abydonian
I find the problem for me comes when I couldn't care what happens to the protagonist or (which is worse) hope something awful happens to them to liven things up. Which it never does, alas.

My science fiction/fantasy experiences of this include the following, all of which have the honour to also be me never getting to finish a series, not just a single book:

1. Wicked by Gregory Maguire

2. A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park

3. Keeping It Real by Justina Robson
142. Burning eyes
Survivor by chuck palahniuk

I was listening to this at work, and then i heard about one of my co-workers daughters dying. I have tried to pick it up again several times but it just leave a bad taste in my mouth. Somewhere between eating live lobster, talk so cold an unemotional and hanging out at mausoleums listening for trapped living people it became apparent i just can't finish this book.
143. Gary 47
Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"
I couldn't figure what was going on.

Alfred Bester's "The Demolished Man"
I thought the protagonist was a real jerk.

Arthur Conan Doyle; The Complete Novels and Stories of Sherlock Holmes
After reading a few of the stories, it became quite clear that Sherlock is a real jerk.
144. Gary 47
I have to add:

Rama II.
Holy moly did that book drag. I was stuck on a bus with nothing to do but read this.

Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars"
Endless boring exposition.

William Gibson's "Neuromancer"
It turns out that I don't care for cyberpunk.
Paul Eisenberg
145. HelmHammerhand
On a whim, I picked up a "thriller" by Matthew Reilly called "Seven Ancient Wonders" and it was terrible. Terrible, terrible, terrible. Every sentence ended in an exclamation point, and that wasn't even considering the dialog. I try to finish everything, but this book was really, really bad. Awful. I can't say enough how awful. I didn't finish it.
146. nukeu666
Stranger in a strange land - Heinlein
Read upto page 50 and had to quit. Just too heavy a book for my current mood.

Song of fire&ice - GRRM
Finished the 1st book and was too depressed to continue furthur

Emma - Jane austin
Workings of a female mind...bleh
I rather read WoT
Sherwood Smith
147. Sherwood
Ghormenghast--beautifully written, with sly humor, but for some reason I can't get past the first 100 pages, and I've tried once a decade since I was a teen. Since I'm pushing sixty, I dunno if this one will ever be a go.

Song of Fire & Ice .. . . again, excellent writing, but it was so miserable and ugly and cruel, so diminishing to the spirit, I may as well watch the news.

Wheel of Time . . . I see the posts on that in this com, and I'm so glad there is a readership that loves those books, but wow, I could not get into the first one--kept predicting what was going to happen and being right, and it was not exciting to be right. Maybe I would have been hooked by this one had it come out when I was a younger reader.
148. truth is life
I'm another one of those compulsive finishers. For me, it's just that I read very fast, so I've finish a book before I can decide whether I like the characters or not, whether I care about what's going on, or not, etc. In fact, thinking about it, I'm not sure whether I actually have enjoyed _any_ of the books I've read, since I've spent so little time on any of them.

With that said, there is one book that I've had this reaction towards: "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. Read the first page, and I just _did not care_. The worst part of it was that it was required for school--thank goodness for Sparknotes!

There are also a few other books that I can't believe I did read. Anything from Poul Anderson (but especially "The Stars Are Also Fire"), in particular.
Liza .
149. aedifica
I read Dune about seventeen years ago and remember enjoying it but haven't re-read it. Seeing all the comments referencing it here prompted me to start it again last night. I'm curious to see whether I'll enjoy it as before, or run into problems as so many commenters here did.
Samantha Brandt
150. Talia
Haha, its incredibly difficult to NOT some sort of "but, but!" rejoinder as I see many of my favorite series listed here. If I love it dearly, I guess I feel rather protective.. heh. Although I marvel at some of what seems to be the "I wont read anything written by XXXX because I hate them on principle" type responses. Your loss..

#128's list pretty much totally echoes my own. I thought I would be the first to mention Ender's Game. Just lost interest and never finished it. Meh.

Snow Crash I couldnt get more than a few pages into. The style of writing turned me off. (of course this was at least a decade ago, more I think, when I made the effort).

Also, 'House of Leaves.' The format rendered it too difficult to read, for me. Although I might try again.

#107: if it helps, the most recent Anita Blake novel, 'Skin Trade,' doesn't turn into erotica until 3/4ths of the way through the book. It was mostly badassery before that. I was amazed, it showed quite a bit of restraint on Hamilton's part :p

In the "hated then liked" category, sort of:

First time I read 'Wizard's First Rule' i abandoned it in disgust. Years later, I gave it another shot, loved it and plowed through the next few, before eventually getting bored again. So mixed feelings on this one.

Likewise with WoT. I probably will finish WoT eventually though. When I finally force myself to get into a book I generally end up liking it.. eventually.
David Lev
151. davidlev
Let me just say that I find it amusing how many people are unable to give the correct name for the GRRM series, which happens to be one of my favorites. It's A Song of Ice and Fire, people.

As for myself, again a compulsive book finisher, so I'm going to have to go with series. The big one is Wheel of Time: read the first book, thought "trollocs" is a stupid name for a species, and hated all of the misandrist female characters. Hated that book so much. I finished it, but I never read any of the others

I actually really liked Raymond E. Feist's Midkemia books. Magician is one of my favorite books, and though I struggled through either Silverthorn or A Darkness at Sethanon, I got through them and liked them both. I also liked A Prince of the Blood, but after that I moved on to other things and I never went back. I keep meaning to, but I have so many other books to read.

Reading Love in the Time of Cholera killed Gabriel Garcia Marquez for me. I hated that book so much. Again, I finished it, but really didn't like it. I'm beginning to reconsider and try out 100 years of Solitude though.
Torie Atkinson
152. Torie
@ 151

One Hundred Years of Solitude is possibly my favorite book of all time. I've read it several times now. Love in the Time of Cholera I've started and put down at least twice. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you had an easier time with the former--I suggest giving it a shot (and reporting back if you can't finish it!).
153. RobMRobM
@148 - I loved The Awakening - favorite book in that era of literature, even though I'm a guy and the book can be characterized as falling loosely in the category of "chick lit." I had empathy for the main character, a woman who had what was considered in her time the perfect life (nice husband, beautiful kids, comfortable life) but wanted more, got more and had to face the consequences of her decision. Beautifully written. Not saying that you should take another shot at it (need to avoid another RFife cat poster) but an interesting book nonetheless.

@147. Re WoT, consider getting through the third book before assessing whether to continue. Book one does a lot of laying of groundwork, two has its moments but is quirky in some respects but three (and four) are where things kick into a higher gear and tend to get people hooked in for good.

@137. I read all of the Covenant books but I can fully understand why someone might choose to give up mid-read. Things take a looong time to develop and have to wade through lots of incredibly depressing events to get there.

P.s. I'm really enjoying this thread, if any of you couldn't tell.

154. bockonbroadway
As others have mentioned:
Gravity's Rainbow loved the hard candy sequence but finally had to give up.

Atlas Shrugged: Couldn't quite take it.

Ulysses. I apparently have boulders in my stream of consciousness.
155. Quercus
The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe. I tried, honestly: I got most of the way through Shadow and I think into Claw, because I have the Fantasy Masterworks edition with the 4 books in 2 volumes. Yes, I know, elliptical, allusive, etc. I ground to a halt somewhere and felt no need to restart.

The Iron Council, China Mieville. I enjoyed Perdido Street Station, had great hopes for this one, failed miserably. The Eight Deadly Words (great phrase) applied here.

Non-genre: War and Peace. I bought this for a holiday involving transatlantic flights and three days on a train. I got through 600 pages of the Penguin edition plus another 200 when I got home, then realised I was well short of finishing, not counting the 200 page coda, and hated all of the characters. The Silver & Blue ticket stub is still in the book somewhere, a literary high tide mark.

I envy my teenage self, who clearly had reading time and powers of concentration I now lack: I read - with actual pleasure - the whole of the Gormenghast trilogy, then re-read Titus Groan and Gormenghast. I still have the books: I just haven't opened them in 20 years or so.
Bob Blough
156. Bob
I have to agree with those who couldn't get through "The Baroque Cycle" by Stephenson. Boring and ...well just plain boring. I also hated "Cryptonomicon" and "Anathem" but I did finish them. He is really not a novel writer he is an info-dump writer.

Late Heinlein - "The Cat Who Walked Into Walls" and others. I'd start 'em and stop 'em not too far into the book. Terrible, awful characterization of females and all the males are variations of the author.

"The Atrocity Archive" by Ballard. I don't like him very much (except for some of his early novels - "The Drought", "The Crystal World" etc.) but this one is written in an experimental style. The experiment failed as far as I was concerned.
157. filkferengi
It's not length that bothers me--I once spent two weeks reading the unabridged _Count Of Monte Cristo_ in French and find LOTR lots of fun . But the Silmarillion just never got moving; the inertia was so hard to push against, Sisyphus & Atlas both would've given up in disgust.

It's particularly frustrating when something that should push all your buttons--just doesn't. I love time-travel, I love meta, & _Jane Eyre_ is a perennial favorite. Yet Jasper Fforde's _Eyre Affair_ never got interesting. I gave it over 80 pages, but nothing. And I'd already bought the first 4 books, based on enthusiastic descriptions. Let's just say, the library's getting lots more business these days.
Bradley Beek
158. beeker73
I absolutely loved the first couple WoT books, really liked the next several, but only kept reading out of a sense of being "pot commited" as the poker players say. After waiting for many months for the latest book to be released I think I forgot that I was even reading WoT and never went back to it. I don't even know how many books I read. Perhaps I'll start at the beginning again once I'm certain the series is finished.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (side-step to avoid lightning strike) confused and bored me, so I didn't get through more than 1/3.

There are others, many others. I'm a slow reader so if I'm not enjoying a book I can't just slog through it all in a day. I'm not enjoying it for at least a week. Having not finished so many, I don't take much note of it and so I can't recall any other specific books.
159. Katelyn Patterson
1) Moby Dick- its so long! BUT I am listening to the audiobook of Les Miserable right now so I guess I dont really have that excuse.
2) Ulysses- long and insane.
3) Discworld books by Terry Pratchett- (also side-stepping to avoid lightening strike) ok ok ok i am only 2 books into these... 2 out of 37 for christ sake. I am enjoying them just fine but ppl i know go crazy over them. I feel like I am missing something here. BUT I am going to stick with it b/c I understand they get better.
160. Harq Al Ada
1. the yiddish policemen's union: While it was eloquent and the setting was interesting and it wasn't exactly boring, I just couldn't finish it. The characters just weren't interesting, the plot seemed practically non-existant, and it didn't seem to say anything profound or interesting to compensate.
2. the lost world: It was very engaging, but I'm sorry, after reading Jurrasic Park and liking it so much, I just couldn't stand to see how miserably Crichton failed at his sequel. I stopped reading it on principle.
161. Harq Al Ada
Also, here are some non-SF books:
1. Anne Frank the diary of a young girl: I know, I shouldn't be so hard on her, she's only twelve and had no idea anyone but her would ever pick it up, but from a purely literary merit based standpoint, I found the book boring, it had surprisingly uninteresting characters, and it wasn't really profound or insightfull.
2. chronic city(may be a little SF): I actually found this book interesting and funny, but it just never seemed to go anywhere special, and it didn't go anywhere special at a greuling speed, so I put it down.
3. on the road: Alright, this is the second memoir I've mentioned, I guess I have some bias against them, but I've read good ones, this one just didn't do it for me. Nothing that happened in it seemed to be the slightest bit interesting and (though maybe this is because I read the original scroll version, which has a greater word per page density than most fat encyclopedias), I never got anywhere when I sat down to read it. Stopped 40 pages in.

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