From Murakami to Roberto Bolano, the MBRB girls confess which books they abandoned midway in spite of their best intentions.
There was a time when not finishing a book was an unforgivable offence for the MBRB editors, unless it was something written by Harold Robbins. But over the last decade, our track record has been getting worse by the year – and we have to shamefacedly admit that these days we abandon almost as many books as we end up finishing.
A year ago, literary website Goodreads analysed books that were left unfinished by the readers on its database. And while we were not surprised by the Top Five on the list – despite our determination, we couldn’t go beyond page 10 of Fifty Shades of Grey – we were even more interested in the reasons that readers mentioned for their betrayal. Slow, boring and inauthentic had us nodding in vigorous agreement, while inappropriate and immoral was easy to understand but harder to digest. (Double click on image to enlarge)
You can view the full sized graphic here
Here then, in no particular order, are ten books that we have optimistically stacked on our bedside table, in the futile hope that they make it to the finished stack of our #2014ReadingChallenge. Amen!
We’ve always fantasized about tracing the journey of a river, so we couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into Alice Albinia’s voyage along the Indus. We enjoyed reading about Ramzan in Karachi and the Sheedis of Sindh, so the only credible explanation for pausing midway through the book is that our mental faculties were already overloaded.
This is a brilliant book, but the unveiling of the inner workings of the human mind takes a heavy toll on our poor little brain. But given the fascinating insights, we’re determined to finish this before the year is up. Wish us luck!
The MBRB editors are big fans of Latin American writers in general and Roberto Bolano in particular. We enjoyed the parts about the Critics, Amalfitano and Fate, but came undone in The Part about the Crimes – the repeated graphic descriptions of the violent crimes, however realistic, were difficult to stomach. As we prepare to overcome our queasiness, we take consolation in the fact that we did manage to get through John Galt’s entire speech in Atlas Shrugged (mercifully we read the book when we were still young)
A mysterious romance between an Englishman studying Sufism and an eccentric Californian, with the subtext of Rumi and the Iranian Revolution, had us dreaming about a deliciously complex read. But despite our adoration of Pico Iyer, we’re unable to progress beyond the first section of this book.
The début of an acclaimed poet into the world of fiction is always an exciting event, especially when the author is of the calibre of Jeet Thayil and the subject is the opium dens of 1970s Bombay. We succeeded in getting past the first sentence of Narcapolis (which runs into 7 pages) but threw in the towel after another 50 pages – the skilful writing somehow sounded pretentious to us.
There’s no mystery about this one. Am sure we are not the only Economics Graduate to have purchased the book, read the first 100 pages, and then abandoned it on our Kindle to read all the juicy discussion around the book in every single corner of the Internet instead. Ahh well, we can always count on the Wikipedia summary for rescuing us in case of a social emergency!
Everyone has that one classic that defeats them however much they try. For us, it is the adventures of poor Maggie Tulliver. Her strong belief in her brother, and the eventual stripping of her ego and soul through the pages of the book gets too much for us about halfway in. Does it make us bad feminists if we admit that we like the bodice-ripping Gothic romances of the Brontes more than the quiet determinism of George Eliot?
We are one of those geeks who await every new Neil Gaiman with bated breath. We jumped up to read Volumes 1 and 2, but ultimately there are too many parts, the mythology gets too convoluted, and (truth be told) we’d much rather sink our teeth in wordy prose than a slightly pretentious graphic novel series targeted towards the fan boys.
Firstly, the Booker should have gone to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life or Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being. Secondly this book is too damn long. We will give it another try before this year’s winner is announced, but chances are that The Luminaries and its Zodiac-inspired structure will stay in the ‘forever abandoned’ pile for life!
It’s hard to explain why this one didn’t work for us. We have loved every Murakami we read before, but halfway through his most celebrated book, we were willing to call it quits. Perhaps it was the length, or maybe the fact that Murakami’s dreamy unrealistic women have begun to grate? Or maybe it was just the mainstream acceptance of a cult writer who we liked when he was just “ours” but find it difficult to share with everyone on the Metro?
Are you one of those rare readers who finishes everything they start? Tell us which famous reads have left you cold midway through their pages in the comments below? And if any of you got to the end of IQ84, tell us what we’ve missed!