Lists and Tags

Not finishing books

Not finishing books you started is something that I don’t see a lot of people talking about, even though I’m 85% certain we all do it.

I hate leaving a project half completed, it makes me itchy and feel anxious. I like having closure, in this case closing a book and saying “I hated this book, but hey, I finished it so I’m entitled to my opinion!” However, because I force myself to finish something I’m hating, I get into a reading slump where my desire to read goes to level zero. It makes me feel like something I loved doing before (reading) has now become a chore.

That’s why, as of 2016, I started giving up on some books. Since then the reading slumps have become less frequent and I’ve come to terms with book-induced anxiety — I got better at managing it, but it’s still a work in progress! I even created a Goodreads shelf called “will-not-finish”. (Look at me, all committed!)


1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

alchemistThere’s a lot of praise out there for this Brazilian novel, I, however, could not bear it. This novel follows a young spanish shepherd who has a dream about a treasure hidden underneath the Egyptian pyramids, and so begins his journey from Spain to Egypt in order to find it.

I though that the prose was awful, uninspiring — which was the opposite of what the author intended — and preachy. I did not like the metaphysical and religious undertones of the novel, I will even be the first to admit that these are topics I tend to stay away from and are actively turn-offs for me.

Because it’s so loved worldwide I felt like I had to read it. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.

2. Fall of Giants by Ken Follet

fall-of-giantsBefore I write anything more I have to tell you that this didn’t end up on my “did-not-finish” pile because I didn’t like it. I loved it. But because it was so long and I was borrowing it I had to stop reading it when I had 300 pages left to read. I will continue on with the series in the future, but I won’t re-read this beast of a book — I will read online summaries and recaps.

This is part one of the epic historic journey the reader is taken on through the modern world’s History, but mainly Western History. It follows a lot of different characters whose paths are sometimes intertwined from various countries (Ireland, England, France, Germany, Russia, The United States of America…) and tells the country’s history and situation through their eyes, which I thought was very interesting.

What’s stopping me from re-reading it to get up to speed is the sheer size of it. It’s 920 pages long, for crying out loud!

3. When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

when-youThis Young-Adult novel follows Danny as he tries to make sense of his life after having lost his mother to a five-year battle with cancer three weeks before his graduation. He gets a letter from his mother’s property manager in Tokyo, where she was receiving treatment, showing him a side of his mother he had never known — to connect with his late mother he travels to Tokyo.

This book appealed to me because my best-friend praised it for being as good as The Fault In Our Stars which was one of my favorite reads back in 2013, she borrowed it to me and some months after that I started reading it and could get no more than one hundred pages in. The characters felt flat and the story was going nowhere. I didn’t hate it, I would totally read it if it was the last book on earth, but because I own more promising books, I won’t pick it up again.

4. Watership Down by Richard Adams

watershipThis novel follows a group of hares as they make the journey from the hill they have always known, but is now threatened and poses great danger, to somewhere new where they can be safe. It has been highly praised and is regarded as a modern classic, so I’m outnumbered when I say I couldn’t get into it.

I don’t know what happened but this novel just wasn’t clicking for me, the story felt very slow and the amount of things being hidden from the main characters — and the readers — went past intriguing into annoying grounds. I don’t think I’ll ever pick up this book again, even though it has been recommended to me on a number of occasions.

And that’s my list… Aside from the DNF shelf I have on my Goodreads, I also have a “will-return-to-later” shelf where I put the books I’ve started, put down for now but that I’m confident I will revisit later on. Do you tend to DNF books? If so, which ones?

9 thoughts on “Not finishing books

  1. Prior to a number of years ago, I hated to not finish a book if I had started it. I have since given up that hatred. If I am not satisfied with a book, even after I have read a fair amount, I stop reading it.

    I think it started with Italio Calvino’s work on the uses of literature. He had an almost musical quality to his writing, which had me understand his spell, but almost thirty or more pages into the book, I realized he had nothing of substance to offer. It was in my terminology – gobbly-gook. I stop reading the book and went on to another.

    Since then, I have put down at least half of dozen books. The last one was Lee Smolin’s “Three Roads to Quantum Gravity”. He just did not have it in my opinion.

    I will say, I quite enjoyed “Watership Downs”. My girlfriend like the audio edition she checked out from our local library system as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy to know that I’m not the only one doing it!
      I know what you mean, there are some Portuguese authors I’m told over and over to read because they are modern-day geniuses but I just don’t get the appeal apart from lyrical prose.
      I guess it didn’t click for me… I’m happy you liked it, though! 🙂


  2. I’ve been trying to finish the ones I start. Sometimes it takes me over a year, but I’m usually glad I persevere. One like that was The Emperor of All Maladies by S. Mukherjee. It was very dense and full of information. Hard to read much in one sitting. It took me more than a year to finish it, I kept picking it up and putting it down and picking it back up again. But 5 or so years later, it still stays with me. I think it was worth it.

    I think it’s good, as a writer, to analyze where a book might bog you down and see if you can apply that insight to your own work.


  3. Interesting blog topic. I agree with you about giving up on some books. We only have so much time and I don’t want to spend mine on books I don’t enjoy. My TBR list is so long that I will never get though it as it is.


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