Books it took you years to finish reading

Not those you started and never finished, but those you started and evatually did finish. For me, it’s probably Phineas Finn, by Anthony Trollope. I finished about three years after I started it. I could break that record if I pick up William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill (Part the Deux), the reading of which, appropriately enough, I suppose, coincided with my own wilderness years. (I’m now in my scrubby wasteland years, in case anyone’s interested.)

The book that took me the longest to read was David Brin’s Earth. It took about 9 months.
Not worth it.

Thus far, my father has never gotten beyond chapter 4 in The Brothers Karamazov. Someday I will inherit it. He started reading it when he read of the tranquilizing effect it had on James Herriot, the vet writer. He says it puts you to sleep and is not particularly habit forming.

Still haven’t finished Moby-Dick. I read a good chunk of it six years ago, but never finished.

At this rate, Under the Volcano will go the same way.

Took me six months to read The Brothers Karamazov. By the time I was done I couldn’t remember what had happened in the beginning.

Strange. Brothers K is one of my favourite books and I read it pretty quickly.

Strange part II. I came here to mention the Brothers Karamazov, but it doesn’t meet you’re requirements. I loved it. I read most of it and pretty quickly. But it was bringing on an existential crisis so I had to stop. Some day I will finish it.

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco took me years to read because I had to keep checking out books on medeival theology/philosophy to find out what the guy was talking about (this was pre-Internet), then I’d put it aside, pick it back up later and have to re-read because I’d forgotten some plot thread, etc… It’s a great book… I think… but not an easy read.

I started to read Joseph Heller’s Something Happened shortly after it was published in the middle 1970s. Since I was madly in love with Heller’s Catch-22 (and madly in love with Heller himself, having seen him speak at a local college), I had very high expectations for the book. I was horribly, painfully disappointed, and I set the book aside for more than twenty years. I picked it up again in the late 1990s, and finally finished reading it. Still didn’t like it much, but at least I didn’t feel so betrayed by Heller.

In my early teens I started, but never finished, reading The Lord of the Rings about three or four times. I never really got into it, and I would read it to the first few chapters of The Two Towers and then zone out. Fast forward a year or two, and I’d think I should give it another try. But I could only vaguely remember the plot, so I’d start reading at the beginning again. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

I’m a fairly avid reader, but up to that point I’d only read fairly short novels, and no fantasy to speak of. Then I got more into science fiction/fantasy and got used to reading longer novels. Then at about age 20 I went back to read LOTR again, and it was great! A few parts definitely drag a bit, but overall I really liked it.

I think the main thing was that in the meantime I had accustomed myself to reading longer books. At first I was daunted by the LOTR’s length, but now I’ve read trilogies or longer series where each volume is as big as the entire LOTR trilogy.

Sampiro, I thought F’s Pendulum was pretty poor, especially compared with Name of the Rose, which was a great romp. Waenara, I intend re-reading LOTR this summer in France (30 odd years after the first reading).

I’ve been meandering through Vanity Fair for about six months. It’s not dull by any measure, or unusually thick reading, but for some reason I haven’t been whipping through it. I pick it up, read a few chapters, go “this is hilarious!”, note pages and good quotes, put it down, and don’t pick it up again for a few weeks.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t quite mastered the stylistic switch from real life to Thackeray: I have to sort of psych myself up for it, although once I’m in the zone, it’s excellent.

I started The Satantic Verses a few weeks after it was released (1989?) and I’m still on Chapter 3.

Another book I enjoyed and a person after my own heart who doesn’t feell comfortable reading a book without a pen handy. My favourite (well, only) quote from Vanity Fair is such a favourite that I think I’ve pretty much memorised it:

“Always to be right, always to trample forward, never to doubt,* are these not the [great qualities**] with which dullness takes the lead in the world?”

  • Yes, it does bring a few people to mind…
    ** forgot this phrase

I restarted *The Illuminatus Trilogy * a dozen times over the years before I finished it.

Same with Children of Dune. Started that one a bunch of times, however never finished it.

Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow…Started it in 1986, finished it in 1998.

it took me a year to read Daniel Bergamini’s Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy when it first came out.
Sometimes I’ll start a book, and not feel like reading it, but come back to it later and have no problem. The first adult science fiction novel I tried to read, Poul Anderson’s the Alien Stars, defeated me because I was too young at the time, but I came back to it later. I tried reading Langland’s Piers Plowman in grad school, and couldn’t get into it. But a few years later I breezed through it. In these cases, if I “started” reading it the first time, then it took years to read, but the True reding time was pretty short.

Samuel Beckett’s “Watt” took me about four years to read. It’s difficult prose.

I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve been reading The Education of Henry Adams for about 3 years. I’ll pick it up, read a chapter or two over the course of a week, then put it aside for a couple months while I read something else.

Middlemarch --I am trying, believe me. I will try again. I like Trollope and Hardy–why can’t I finish this book?
I have more books that I have started and stopped (not many, I was reared to finish what I start), but that’s another thread.