Books Purchased but Never Read

Who amongst us Dopers has purchased a book or books but hasn’t read them for whatever reason?

My List:

Satanic Verses by Salaman Rushie
Infinite Jest by David (?) Wallace
The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco
Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut

This is just the fiction list - I have many more non-fiction books that I haven’t read yet. Someday, though.

The book of Mormon.
When I first went off to college the girl accross the hall gave me a copy and asked me if I’d like to talk.

Apparently my drinking induced debauchery didn’t go completely unnoticed.

And, needless to say, I knew who to avoid on that floor for a year.

I’m too humiliated to even list them. I mean, it would depress me to realize how much cashola I’ve put out on books that I then don’t get to. I read voraciously, but for some reason I never get to some of the ones I thought I “had to have.”

Here’s one I’ll admit to. The Road Less Traveled, or whatever that M. Scott Peck book was/is.

Ulysses by James Joyce.

“Hey, they said this is the best fictional work of the century, I had better own it.”

It didn’t go much farther than that. And I admit it, I will keep it on my shelf because it makes me look smart. (Not that I’m dumb, but I’m sure the chicks go crazy when they meet a guy with Joyce on his shelf.)

I did read Dubliners though. Good set of stories.

The one that immediately comes to mind is **The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, by Jan Potocki. **

I bought it during an author signing (Jim Crumley) in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place bookshop on Van Ness in San Francisco. About four years ago. Picked it up off a display table, attracted by the Goya cover art (it’s a Penguin edition). It’s a hallucinogenic late 19th-century Polish novel, originally written in French, picaresque, with hints of Gothic. It also involves a treatise on non-Euclidean geometry, or so it’s said.

Excuse: I can’t find the fucker. It’s SOMEWHERE in the house. Once in a while I pull books off shelves to see if I double-shelved it back THERE. I refuse to buy it again, because as soon as I do, the first copy will turn up.

I also have here on my shelf the Modern Library edition of The Wandering Jew, by Eugene Sue, which I bought because Thomas M. Disch called it the greatest potboiler of 19th century French literature, with scenes that could be rejected as cliche if they have not established themselves as archetypes.

Excuse: It’s 1,337 pages long.

[sarcasm]Oh yeah. Used to happen to me all the time. Let 'em catch a glimpse of the entire Joyce oeuvre on my shelves and they were putty in my hands. We won’t even talk about what happened when they saw I had two copies of Gravity’s Rainbow.[/sarcasm]

Back to the OP, The Island of the Day Before is on my list too; enjoyed The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, but couldn’t make it through that one. It’d take most of the week to list the rest of the stuff I own but have never read; I could probably spend all day just on the stuff I’ve bought but never even opened. I’m particularly susceptible to buying things that just “look interesting” on remainder tables. I used to have a rule that any book under $3 was worthwhile. I no longer think that, but I’m still a sucker for cheap books.

Stuff that sticks out in my mind among the purchased but unread (these have all been in the backlog for a year or more – anything newer than that I don’t consider really backlogged):
[li]Ghosts, John Banville. I’ve read a half-dozen or so of Banville’s other books, but just haven’t gotten round to this one.[/li][li]Mason and Dixon, Thomas Pynchon. I’m a big fan of Pynchon, but I grabbed this about the same time as the big going out of business sale at Oxford Books a few years ago, and after reading the first few pages, it got pushed aside in favor of some other, less demanding reading and I’ve never gotten back to it.[/li][li]Ulverton, Adam Thorpe. Sounded interesting when I came across it during Oxford’s liquidation, but I’ve never gotten round to it.[/li][li]The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Helen Vendler. I feel compelled, through personal and intellectual indebtedness to Professor Vendler, to buy anything she publishes. I have not, however, yet been able to devote to it the time and attention this deserves.[/li][/ul]

Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf hasn’t quite been on my shelf long enough to count, nor has Derek Walcott’s latest volume, Tiepolo’s Hound.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph
by T.E. Lawrence

The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien. I bought a Lord of the Rings boxed set, but never got past the middle of The Two Towers.

Another one here for Island of the Day Before … what is it with this book? I like Eco but I can’t seem to even pick this up (and I raced out and bought it hardcover when it came out, too). Can anyone offer some motivation to get going on this?

I have a bunch of books that my mom gives me, the sort of books that have nice trade paperback editions and are featured on the tables at bookstores at the mall, The Shipping News comes to mind. I have no interest in reading them, but they seem like the sort of thing that someday, someone will ask to borrow, so for now they are on my shelves.

I also buy those paperback classics, things like The House of Seven Gables, and Mutiny on the Bounty, when I see them on sale for 99 cents. They seem like handy things to have around the house for reference, and I do eventually read them, although I never seem to catch up.

I read somewhere that A Brief History of Time was the book that was the most often purchased but not actually read. How do you suppose they gather statistics on things like that?

Anything I bought but haven’t read I refer to as “reference.” :wink:

Oh, and of course many a college textbook that wasn’t good enough to read, but looked too good to sell back.

Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus.

As for Ulysses, I seriously lucked out the other night at the public library: Ulysses unabridged, from Recorded Books, Inc.! Thirty-three audiocassettes, forty-seven hours of listening. The circ librarian said, “Wow!” at the size of it when I borrowed the set. I said, “Hey, it beats eyeballing the whole thing.”

I’ve got scads of books that I’ve bought, but not yet read. I go on binges of book buying, so some I just never get to.

My most recent shame is “Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates Of Human Societies”. I’ll get to it though, if I don’t die first.

More likely to happen is that I’ll start a book, and then be unable or unwilling to finish it. “Infinite Jest” was definitely one of those. After awhile, the work I was putting into it surpassed what I was getting out of it.

The Satanic Verses. I tried. I got at least 100 pages into the hardcover version. I know some one has read this book, but I don’t know who. A lot of people, people who are smarter and better read than I am, have seen it on my selves, and asked if I’ve read it. Then they admit that they haven’t. So I don’t feel so bad.

V by Pynchon
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
The Invisible Man
Tropic of Capricorn. In fact, I’ve only gotten through a couple of Miller’s books.

There are more, but those are the ones I’m most embarrassed of.

Oh, this is such a sad, sad list…

Moby Dick: I have a beautiful copy of it, and have read the beginning about 20 times in the 15 years that I’ve owned it, but I’ve never even made it to the middle.

Wuthering Heights and Pride and Predjudice: On both of these I was fine as long as I was reading it, but as soon as I put them down, I couldn’t get back into it. Heck, I couldn’t even remember what had happened so far! And this is like the next day.

The Great Gatbsy: I couldn’t even make it to Chapter Two. Yet, I’ve read all 700 + pages of the Deep Space Nine Companion. What does this say about me?

Memnoch the Devil: I read the entire Lestat series up until this book. Just couldn’t read it. It was also the only book in the series I bought in hardcover.

The Lost World: Hardcover again. I liked the whole chaos theory thing in Jurassic Park, but couldn’t make it past page 2 in the sequel.

This is by no means the definitive list. I have stacks of books that I own and haven’t read. Thanks to over 20 years of library usage, I also have a long list of books that I love and don’t own.

I’ve read pretty much every non-fiction book I own, though. I think I should get bonus points for not only owning, but reading and enjoying A Brief History of Time.

Purd - Me too, on the Guns book. In fact, if someone wants my copy, e-mail me and it’s yours.

I found a good home for that Pinker book too, “Words and Rules”. An e-mail buddy who teaches English as a second language is finding it interesting.

But outside of a huge TBR pile, I’m doing pretty good with the fiction. I have whole shelves devoted to Joyce Carol Oates, Clive Barker, John LeCarre, Orson Scott Card and Larry McMurtry, but I will read all of them. Some day. Pretty soon.

The third book in the Wheel of Time series and Shadow Dawn. There’s a couple that I bought, started and then never finished, but those are the only two I’ve never even opened.

Robert A. Heinlein’s <i> Grumbles from the Grave </i> …

I got into Heinlein a year or two before he died. Sadens me as he is without a doubt my favorite author. I bought this book which details parts of his life … personal lettes … etc. but can’t bring myself to read it …

It sits on my shelf learing at me. Taunting me with its very existence.

Underworld by Don DeLillo. Actually, just the last 700 or so pages. The first hundred were magnificent. Then, bang - unreadable, IMHO.

This reminds me of my own trials and tribulations with the Post Office, who lost a box of my books somewhere. I think it’s the mail deliverer, who left the boxes out in the rain for several days on the grounds that even though we had asked that they be held for us at the post office, she knew that we didn’t really want to have to carry the boxes all the way from the P.O. The funny thing is, she typically doesn’t deliver boxes, so it’s a bit ironic that the only time she actually did deliver them was the time when we had asked her not to.

What do I mean when I say she doesn’t deliver boxes? Once I was expecting several boxes, and they never showed up. Finally I walked up to her truck after she had passed our house, and I asked her if there were any packages for me. She opened the back of the truck and there were all my week’s worth of packages, which she offered to let me deliver to my home myself. I politely indicated that why yes, I would be thrilled if she carried the boxes to my house, and I would be right there waiting for her.

What does this have to do with the OP? Simple. When we opened the boxes of books which actually did make it to our new home (you know, the ones that were out soaking in the rain) we found two books in there which we do not own. One of them is a BYU study guide to the Book of Mormon, for Religion 101. Now, I realize some might see some sort of miraculous, or at least symbolic, significance in the fact that such a book would mysteriously materialize in our packages. However, the second book was How to Catch Any Fish, Any Time, and only the most doggedly symbolism-minded could see any Christian imagery in that. (Anyway, I think it was written by the same people who wrote How to Lay Any Woman, Any Time.)

I have not read these books. Admittedly, I did not buy them either. In fact, I clearly remember not putting them into the boxes before I sent them to our new home.


“The Island of the Day Before” by Umberto Eco.

I tried. I really really tried. Everyone told me it was wonderful. Every human in the world apparently read it and loved it. But I can’t get past the first page!

I’m still working up the courage for “A Monk Swimming” by Malachy McCourt. His brother’s writings (Frank McCourt, “Angela’s Ashes” and his second one, I forget the name) are so wonderful, I just know it’s not going to live up. Someday!