Books You've Started More Than Once

But didn’t finish

Dickens- Old Curiosity Shop
Updike - Rabbit Run (I somehow read the second one first and really liked it though)
Dostoyevsky - Brothers Karamazov
Faulkner - Sound and Fury

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I kept trying because it’s one of those books I’m supposed to love, but I end up hating the protagonist with a such passion that I can’t continue.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy was almost like that. Started it twice, couldn’t get through the dense prose. The third time I made it through but didn’t exactly enjoy it. I read it a fourth time and thought it was one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

Proust - I’ve got almost to the end of the first volume in English but it was a mighty slog. I still recoil a bit at the memory of attempting it in the original (armed with a dictionary) in order to improve my French vocabulary. What was I thinking?

Don de Lillo’s Underworld is another I’ve had a few goes at. The opening, set at the baseball game, is wonderful, kinetic, sweeping writing - really just glorious - but after that it just bogs down into tedium for me.

Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson. I’ve tried it three times, each time getting farther than the last. The third time I made it about half-way through. I won’t be trying again.

Many people rave about this series, so I figured there must be something there that I’m missing. But the book is just dumb. The whining by the “protagonist” was hard to take, but what really turned me off was the ridiculous dialogue. It makes George Lucas look like a master wordsmith.

Catch 22. Started it four times, yet to finish.

Citizens: A Chronical of the French Revolution by Simon Schama. It’s a subject I’m interested in, but I started it twice and couldn’t go on (though I got a lot of it from a bio of Danton). It may be Schama; I gave up on another of his books.

Lord of the Rings. I want to like it, so every two or three years I try to read it - usually I buy a copy at the used book store, because I’ve given the last one away. It’s probably the book I’ve bought most in my life.

I just don’t like it.

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad. Admittedly, my main reason for reading it is the ALIEN movie connection, since two ship names are taken from Conrad’s book.

Lord Foul’s Bane took me three or four tries to get into. I was just way too young for Donaldson’s writing level the first few times. I may have first tried it around 10 or 11. By around age 13, it finally started clicking and it’s been one of my favorite books ever since. I re-read it every three or four years now and actually own five different copies of it (hardback, two paperback editions with different covers and two digital versions).

More than one book (bit of a special case, I feel): all and any works by Jane Austen. Have tried and failed several times, with Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and possibly at least one more. So many people regard Austen with adulation, as likely one of the half-dozen best-ever authors in the English language; that I’ve long felt, “she must be great, if I could but see it”.

Seems, though, that I can’t: at each attempt, I’ve managed only a couple of dozen pages before succumbing to the, to me, utter tedium – and, I fear, the couple-of-centuries-ago English, which I find maddening. I can perhaps claim a bit of “slack” in that I’m male, whereas Austen’s appeal seems overall, rather greater to the opposite gender; but there is a very sizable minority of impassioned male “Janeites”, too.

Anything by Hemingway.

Finnegan’s Wake

This too. I can’t stand Tolkien’s prose. To be fair, I did get all the way through the spider forest in The Hobbit before I lost the book at my middle school way back when.

I had to read Nostromo many decades ago for the UK General Certificate of Education, English exam. I found the first three-quarters or so of the book, intensely boring; after which for me it took a sudden big turn for the better, and became outright gripping. Admittedly that experience has not led to my embarking since then, on reading anything else by Conrad.

Being and Nothingness.

I just keep losing it when the sentences turn into paragraphs.

Dune. I keep trying but I can’t get through the first chapter.

The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison. As a big Tolkien fan I tried to read it maybe 5 or 6 times in my teen and twenties. Never got very far - it just lands like a thud on my brain.

My ex-boyfriend highly recommended it, although he added, “If you can get through the first 38 (or thereabouts) pages, you’ll love the rest of it.” I loved those first pages, and gave up on it by about page 45 or so. It wasn’t my kind of story. We were incompatible in plenty of other ways, too.

“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe is not that long of a book, and yet I have never been able to finish it.

Nearly everything mentioned with the exception of Catch 22 which I somehow read when I was 12 or 13 and loved, and Hemingway who I reread often. My last effort at Lord of the Rings I couldn’t complete page one.

Lord of the Rings, here, too.

Took me two tries to get into Dune, but the second one took.

Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon.
Ulysses, by James Joyce
Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clark

Ref. my post #9 above, concerning Jane Austen: on hearing about JS & Mr.N, I felt intrigued, and duly tried it. Found, however, that the author had cleverly crafted her text in Jane-Austen-type language – which speedily “did me in” as regards this book.