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Abandoned Books: Second Quarter 2010

July 30, 2010

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While this is about a month belated, I thought it was about time I published my second list of books I’ve abandoned…this covers April through July (assuming I don’t abandon any books today or tomorrow!). I feel a bit funny doing posts like this, but since the first one was received well, I’ve decided to simply ignore those feelings. ;)

Also, for awhile I had regressed to my reading self who refused to abandon a book no matter how torturous it felt. So for the past few days, I’ve been trying to really pay attention to how I react to a book early on, so that I can decide to abandon it before I feel too invested. It’s still difficult to decide to go ahead and give up, but once I’ve made the decision I find it quite liberating. How do you guys feel about abandoning books, and do you have a method for recording those decisions? (If you’d like to use my format, go ahead and do so! A link back would be nice, but I’m not going to freak out if there isn’t one.)

Moving Violations by John Hockenberry
Why did I want to read it? It was recommended by a travel book that I read.
What page did I get to?126 (Chapter 10 of 26)
Why did I abandon it? To enjoy a memoir, one has to at least enjoy a) the writing or b) the author. I enjoyed neither. The first chapter, in which he’s actually reporting in a war zone, had the kind of ‘mine is bigger than yours’ attitude that I dislike. And then the next 100 pages didn’t talk about travel at all, but about how he ended up paralysed from the nipples down. There were a few touching moments in there, but most of it was just SO ‘I have a chip on my shoulder’ that I found myself kind of rooting against him. Like this, when he’s talking about how in order to take humanities classes at the University of Chicago, he had to formally request the professors move into the uglier, wheelchair accessible buildings (which I completely sympathise with, since my college wasn’t entirely wheelchair accessible, and there was a student whose schedule determined where classes were held, and I think that the professors throwing hissy fits were arseholes):

I insisted that all of the classes be moved. The least cooperative professors were the ones I was drawn to. The less a professor wanted to move, the more I wanted to be in the class. If a class was closed, I suspected that the professor had filled it to keep me out. If a professor did move willingly, I presumed that some deal had been made. …A professor who moved to accomodate a crip must have something wrong with him.

Seriously?! Also, he CONSTANTLY uses ‘crip,’ which became grating fast. I understand that being in a wheelchair must make life difficult, but I thought the book was to more of a travelogue than woe-is-me memoir, so I simply wasn’t prepared for the latter. And before anyone gets annoyed at me, remember that I’ve got a bit of a disability myself.
Would I be willing to give it another shot? Nope!
Who might enjoy this more than me? Those who aren’t alienated by belly aching (yes, I know it’s justifiable belly-aching, but the whole tone of the last few chapters I read just annoyed me) or pissing contests.

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli
Why did I want to read it? I enjoy economics (I took enough classes to have a minor in it in college, except my school didn’t allow minors if you had two majors!).
What page did I get to? 105
Why did I abandon it? I was already unimpressed by Ravoli’s extreme neo-liberal logic and reasoning. Some of the things she said just seemed so out there (in terms of not acknowledging anything *human* just things you can put in a graph, which is my main problem with economics), that I was raising my eyebrows a bit. But then she quoted Thomas Friedman, and I instantly lost the small amount of respect for her that I had. So I stopped.
Would I be willing to give it another shot? Nope
Who might enjoy this more than me? Hard-core neo-liberalists? Those who don’t want to burn Friedman in effigy?

The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey
Why did I want to read it? I read a historical mystery novel earlier this that featured Tey as a the detective; that, and my abiding interest in the Golden Age of Detective Lit made me want to try her for myself.
What page did I get to? 80-ish
Why did I abandon it? I was bored. (How’s that for a reason? lol)
Would I be willing to give it another shot? I think I’d like to try one of Tey’s later works, to see if her writing progresses. ;)
Who might enjoy this more than me? Those curious about the roots of the modern detective novel! Just don’t go in expecting another Christie or Sayers (which is what I did).

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
Why did I want to read it? I enjoy fantasy, and I loved the idea of a fantasy novel set in SS Africa.
What page did I get to? I think around page 100.
Why did I abandon it? I thought it was YA, but it turns out it’s actually more children’s geared. The writing was very tell not show, which just started to annoy me too much. Eventually, it outweigh my delight with the world-building.
Would I be willing to give it another shot? I definitely want to try again with the author, just with a book aimed at adults!
Who might enjoy this more than me? Those who enjoy children’s literature (I confess, while I often love YA books, I only enjoy children’s books that I first fell in love with as a child). Also, if I knew any kids, I’d definitely get this in their hands: I think I would have loved it when I was younger. :)

The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Why did I want to read it? I very much enjoyed the gothic creepiness of House of Seven Gables a couple of years ago.
What page did I get to? 90 (but since the introduction was numbered in my edition, that’s around 51 pages of Hawthorne’s actual text)
Why did I abandon it? It just wasn’t grabbing me at all…I didn’t care about any of the characters, the writing wasn’t blowing me away, and there wasn’t a plot for me to latch on to (which wouldn’t be a problem individually, but all together I had to wonder why I should keep reading).
Would I be willing to give it another shot? Perhaps. I’m sure part of my lack of interest was just a mood thing, but it didn’t remind me of House of Seven Gables or even Scarlet Letter at all. So for those with more Hawthorne experience than me, please let me know if I should try again someday, or perhaps go for a different title instead.
Who might enjoy this more than me? It’s about a group of idealistic people who set up a commune in the country, so if you have an interest in that sort of thing go for it! Also, it’s narrated by an older man looking back on the foibles of his youth, which I know is a structure some readers enjoy. :)

Water by Steven Solomon
Why did I want to read it? I thought it was about contemporary water issues, which sounded right up my alley!
What page did I get to? 156 (the end of Part One: Water in Ancient History)
Why did I abandon it? I didn’t like it’s Western-centric bias. Also, since it’s a history of human civilisation (which I didn’t realise before I started reading it), it’s of necessity quite shallow. It felt like a Guns, Germs, and Steel rewrite but with water at the center (obviously). He made a few little mistakes (like thinking Sinbad the Sailor was part of the original Arabian Nights when it was actually written by Europeans centuries later) that made me distrust how much research he’d put into it. And he used the phrase ‘clash of civilisations’ when discussing ‘Christian Europe’ and ‘Islam,’ which is almost guaranteed to annoy me. In the end, it felt like very light pop history with a healthy dose of ‘the triumphant Western civilisation,’ which I don’t care for.
Would I be willing to give it another shot? Nope.
Who might enjoy this more than me? Those who don’t mind really broad histories, or the idea that Western Europe is synonymous with civilisation. ;) Or those who have less of an academic background in this kind of stuff, and are thus less likely to be mentally yelling at some of the author’s assumptions.

The Geometry of God by Uzma Aslam Khan
Why did I want to read it? I thought the struggle between science and religion re: Darwin would be interesting to see played out in a different country!
What page did I get to? 77
Why did I abandon it? I’m trying to get better at abandoning books, and when I realised that I only expected this book to turn out to be mediocre, I decided to spend my time on other books instead. There’s a lot going for the novel: one of the characters has a blind sister, and I found the relationship between the sisters to be very touching. But something about the writing style struck me as a bit too precocious or over-written (especially the part when the blind sister took over and misspelled various words, which is a tricky thing to pull off). And then a guy started narrating, and I didn’t like being inside his head, so I decided to give up.
Would I be willing to give it another shot? I definitely want to give Khan another go, but I think I’ll try out Trespassing instead.
Who might enjoy this more than me? Honestly, there wasn’t much wrong with this book, it just didn’t click for me. So I encourage you to still pick this up if it sounds interesting!

Have y’all read any of these and enjoyed them? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments!

56 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2010 5:20 am

    It looks like you gave them all a good try. I need to get better at abandoning books too.

  2. July 30, 2010 6:06 am

    I liked The Blithedale Romance, and it takes a while before it starts to really get interesting, although I’ve always been fascinated with communes (I think that has something to do with my ex-hippie parents). Also, I love Hawthorne’s short stories but didn’t like The Scarlet Letter, if that gives any indication to you as to if you should continue or not.

    • July 31, 2010 4:13 pm

      Maybe I’ll read some background on it and then give it another go. Usually, I love going into books by authors I’ve already enjoyed blind, but in this case I think it worked against me. That, and my lack of hippie parents. ;)

  3. July 30, 2010 6:12 am

    I haven’t read any of these, but I find this post very interesting. It makes me feel better that I sometimes don’t finish books!

    • July 31, 2010 4:14 pm

      Good: you shouldn’t feel bad about abandoning a book! :)

  4. July 30, 2010 6:15 am

    I need to get better at abandoning books, but when I have read 80-100 pages I often feel I would have wated my time if I gave up now. I know, I know, not logical at all since I would be wasting even more time trying to finish it.

    • July 31, 2010 4:14 pm

      I have the SAME feeling, that I’m also trying to squish. :)

  5. July 30, 2010 6:49 am

    Oh, so sorry to hear about Water! I have that too, but I loathe reading a book by someone who is sloppy with the facts – how do you know what you can trust? Ugh!

    • July 31, 2010 4:15 pm

      I know! Once I’ve caught more than a couple errors, I usually stop reading nonfiction, since my trust in the author is completely gone.

  6. July 30, 2010 7:11 am

    Great list, I will be avoiding a few based on these reviews – Water especially I didn’t realize was so Western centric. Though I have to say that Zahrah the Windseeker sounds great!

    • July 31, 2010 4:22 pm

      Water was such a disappointment to me. Do give Zahrah a go: I’m curious to see what you think of it!

  7. July 30, 2010 7:41 am

    Sad to hear that Water is so Western-centric, especially since it sounded good when you highlighted it a couple days ago. I actually wrote my final paper for one of my classes last fall semester on the misguided idea of “clash of civilizations” so I have no interest in reading something so misguided.

    • July 31, 2010 4:22 pm

      That sounds like a good topic for a paper. :) Yeah: boo to Water. But that’s why I love the library: I can just return it and be happy I didn’t buy it. lol

  8. July 30, 2010 7:46 am

    I tried reading a Josephine Tey novel last year and really didn’t enjoy it at all and abandoned it… I felt so bad because people rave about her but I was just bored out of my skull. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has felt less than titillated by her writing!

    • July 31, 2010 4:22 pm

      I’ve actually never seen anyone rave about her writing, lol. But I’m glad we had the same reaction!

  9. July 30, 2010 7:58 am

    Not only did you give them a great try, but you’ve very thoroughly explored your reasons for abandoning them…I must admit that when I abandon a book, I just toss it on a stack of “not going to read this one ever” and move on….

    • July 31, 2010 4:22 pm

      I’ve mainly started doing it this way to make it easier to convince myself to abandon them. ;)

  10. July 30, 2010 7:59 am

    I still love this list! I find negative reviews just as helpful as positive ones. :)

    I haven’t read any – and I definitely won’t! Especially the “travel memoir” that wasn’t about travel – I felt pissed off with him just reading your synopsis and the quote! – and the one about the history of water. I share your sentiments about economics, and while Adam reminds me that most economics in universities (here, anyway) aren’t neo-liberal or what-not, still the Big Names really do concentrate on keeping the human element out of economics, like it’s “pure” and operates independently of us. What rot! It was one of the things I loved about The Shock Doctrine, how Klein makes tangible the direct effect upon human populations that economics can have, and how economic policies do not just “happen”.

    Have you read If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics? I have to order it for Adam; it’s a New Zealand (I think) author who looked at the work women do that doesn’t get counted in a country’s GDP.

    • July 31, 2010 4:24 pm

      My college econ department was pretty evenly split on the neo-liberal line. And yeah: don’t get me started on the silliness of theoretical economics. ;)

      I’ve studied feminist economics a bit in the past, but I haven’t read that book no. If you haven’t done anything w/ feminist econ before, you’re in for a treat!

  11. July 30, 2010 8:17 am

    It isn’t very often that I begin a book and don’t end up finishing it. And that’s not because I dislike abandoning books–I do that on occasion. A teacher once advised me to get rid of a book if I don’t like it by the time I get to page 50. I usually give it a little longer, but I guess that depends on how long the book is.

    I like your setup for looking back at the books you abandoned. If I abandon books more often in the future, I will remember the questions you asked of yourself of those books you abandoned.

    I’m actually currently reading a book I can’t decide if I should abandon: Life of Pi. I know a lot of people love it, but I just don’t really get it yet. But I might just keep with it because of that–I want to figure out what it’s about!

    • July 31, 2010 4:29 pm

      Really? You must just be better at guessing which books will appeal to you than I am! :)

      I enjoyed Life of Pi, but I read it years ago, so I don’t know how I’d feel about it now. I didn’t love it, but it kept me entertained.

  12. July 30, 2010 8:22 am

    I absolutely love this feature, and just went back and read the first one. Such a great idea. And I like how you note who might enjoy it. Really, just brilliant! I’m reading American Bloomsbury for the second time, and if you haven’t read it, you may enjoy it. Lots about Hawthorne. I guess these sorts of communes were big in that time. Bronson Alcott began one that failed miserably and H. may have had him in mind.

    • July 31, 2010 4:30 pm

      Thanks Nan! :) I meant to read American Bloomsbury and then forgot about it-thanks for reminding me. Maybe I’ll read it and then attempt Blithedale again!

  13. July 30, 2010 9:40 am

    I really like this, Eva. I’m getting better at abandoning books. Now I want to write about why I do so. Sometimes I don’t want to write about them because bloggers I like and trust have enjoyed a book I just can’t get into. Sometimes it is just not clear to me why I am not liking a book. Your “Abandoned Books” feature is really thoughtful and well put together. Thanks for a great post.

    • July 31, 2010 4:30 pm

      Thanks Gavin! I always worry when I don’t like a book that some of my favourite bloggers loved too. I hope you start writing about your abandoned books, though; I’d love to read about them. :)

  14. July 30, 2010 10:01 am

    I haven’t read any of these titles, but I liked reading about your abandonment reasons! I ditch books for a lot of the same things: they’re boring, they’re annoying, I’m just not liking the characters enough. If it’s a struggle to make myself pick up a book and continue, I usually figure it’s not worth my time and move on to the next read!

    • July 31, 2010 4:31 pm

      I’ve always admired how good you are at ditching books Jeane!

  15. July 30, 2010 11:12 am

    That Hockenberry passage was AWFUL. Wow.

    I’m bummed that you didn’t like Tey but I can see how her books might seem slow. Personally, I love them!

    • July 31, 2010 4:31 pm

      Yeah: pretty ridiculous, isn’t it?! What’s your favourite Tey? I’m definitely open to giving her another try.

  16. July 30, 2010 11:56 am

    I need to put together one of these posts soon. There are several books that I’ve stopped reading in the past few months just because they didn’t hold my attention any longer. I can’t believe the one about the guy in the wheelchair – that would drive me nuts!

    I’m wondering who Thomas Friedman is now.

    • July 31, 2010 4:31 pm

      Thomas Friedman is the guy who wrote The World is Flat. ;)

  17. July 30, 2010 7:39 pm

    Water is one of the few books that I couldn’t finish this year. Like you, I thought history of water in say, the last 200 years, not a long drawn out history from when the cave man figured out that he could drink it to today. I can’t even write a correct sentence, I hated it that much.
    Just seeing that book now in your post made me cringe.

    It sounds like I would have drop kicked Moving Violations as well.

    • July 31, 2010 4:34 pm

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who abandoned Water! And LOL @ your caveman comment. :D

  18. July 30, 2010 9:10 pm

    I wish I could abandon books I am a literary masochist.

    • July 31, 2010 4:35 pm

      I only started abandoning them 2 or 3 years ago, so there’s hope for you yet! ;)

  19. July 31, 2010 12:58 am

    I agree with you about the Josephine Tey. She’s an odd writer – some of her books are fabulous (Brat Farrar, Miss Pym Disposes) whilst others are really laboured. I notice a lot of non-fiction on your list here. I think it’s something we perhaps don’t talk about much in reviews, but there are distinct categories of non-fiction that call for distinctly different kinds of reader engagement – passive and sympathetic, active and informed, some are overviews, some present the reader with really detailed knowledge, etc. I think for non-fiction to work, it’s got to be pitched at the right level for the particular reader, and that must vary from book to book. I mean, I loathe books about reading that patronise me, but then, I would, wouldn’t I? Whereas books about neuroscience in which I’m a bit interested, tend for the most part to go over my head completely. :)

    • July 31, 2010 4:36 pm

      Thanks for recommending the fabulous titles Litlove!

      You’re very right on different types of nonfiction; I touched on it a bit in my review of No Place Left to Bury the Dead this week, but Iwasn’t as precise as I should have been. But I experience nonfiction about my academic interests very differently from nonfiction about my general interests, and I’m definitely hardest on international relations-related books.

  20. July 31, 2010 1:08 am

    HAH… it’s not just me…I fell asleep and drooled on Blithedale more than once.

    One of my students read a simplified english version of a Tey novel last summer. I was following along with her and asking questions at the end of every 20 pages, and I remember thinking that the plot and characters didn’t seem very interesting at all.

    • July 31, 2010 4:37 pm

      lol @ Blithedale’s soporific inducing tendencies! You should have given your student a Christie instead. ;)

  21. kimberlyloomis permalink
    July 31, 2010 12:39 pm

    Finding this post was so timely for me. I had never before thought to do a post like this and, when I do my own, will most certainly link to this one.

    I feel so enlightened from reading this list. Never before had I heard of Thomas Friedman! That he writes for the NYT and seems an awful lot like Krugman are the only reasons I can think of for this particular oversight. [First time I’ve ever read the term neo-liberal, too, and I love it. :) ] Thanks for sharing!

    • July 31, 2010 4:38 pm

      Thanks Kim! Do you have a book blog? Your name doesn’t link to it, so I didn’t realise you have one: if you include a link I’ll come visit. :)

      I wish I had never heard of Thomas Friedman, lol. Intro to Microecon taught me all about neo-liberalism, and it’s exactly the opposite and what you’d think! ;)

      • August 2, 2010 9:10 pm

        Been holding off on replying until I figured out why wordpress was not linking to my blog. So, two days later… My blog is a habdashery one about books/reading and, of course, writing. ;-)

        I’ve always studied things in school that required the most minimum amount of math possible so I blissfully was unaware/ignorant of economic theories until the last few years. That said, I totally get what you mean when you say that neo-liberalism is exactly the opposite of what one might think when considering the word root. ;-)

  22. July 31, 2010 3:43 pm

    I have grown to love abandoning books!

    • July 31, 2010 4:39 pm

      I’m starting to love it too! It rather makes me feel like God. ;)

  23. Kerryn permalink
    August 1, 2010 10:23 pm

    I’m surprised that you didn’t like Tey. She is certainly worth revisiting. Other crime writers of that era worth checking out are Cyril Hare (especially his early titles), Gladys Mitchell (her main character is eccentric – you either like her or loathe her), Ngaio Marsh and Georgette Heyer’s crime novels.

    For contemporary crime fiction I highly recommend Peter Temple’s last two novels, The Broken Shore and Truth. Truth recently won The Miles Franklin Prize – Australia’s most important literary prize. It was the first time that a crime (genre) novel had won this prize. It certainly deserved it.

    • August 3, 2010 10:21 pm

      I’ve read some Marsh and crime-Heyer. :) Haven’t read Mitchell or Hare though: thanks for the recs! I recently read a review of the Temple novels that convinced me I should pick them up; your recommendation has certainly confirmed that!

  24. August 2, 2010 1:36 am

    Several of those sound interesting and I would have picked them up too – too bad they didn’t work out for you! I always abandon books I’m not enjoying, there are too many out there that I want to get to, I don’t have time to waste! :-)

  25. August 2, 2010 11:32 am

    I actually like reading these kinds of posts. Not everything can work, right? I typically abandon books and promptly forget about them. Should keep a closer tally so I could post about them.

    • August 3, 2010 10:22 pm

      Before this year I definitely forgot about abandoned books. And I’m not positive I recorded every book from this last period! (I also don’t bother if I don’t get to page 20, lol)

  26. August 5, 2010 12:02 pm

    This is a fantastic idea. I hope you don’t mind if I borrow your format… I would love to do a similar post because I often give books a try to eventually lose interest. I like the idea of starting a dialogue about why one chooses to abandon a book and, I must say, you’ve proven your case(s) very thoroughly. I can see why you decided to put WATER back on the shelf.


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