Where’d all my bookmarks go? (Books I started but never finished…)

I have a bad habit with reading. Rather than reading one book at a time, like a sensible person, I read several books at a time, and if a new book comes along that catches my attention, I start reading that one too. As a result of this, every now and then I realise I have completely forgotten to finish a book, abandoning it either on purpose or by sheer distracted accident.

And so without further ado, here are some books I started but never finished, including vague attempts at explaining what went wrong in the whole reading process…

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Actually, this one is quite simple to explain. I tried reading it once a couple of years ago, and managed to get about fifty pages or so into it, where upon I discovered two things: one, not much had happened other than a ridiculous amount of characters being introduced, and two, I still had approximately a bazillion pages left to read. I know this is a classic, and many people have told me that this book is worth it if you have the patience to read it until the very end. The truth is, though, that I have read many books over the thousand page length, and had no trouble getting through those books, so I think it is a very different kind of patience required for this tale. Since my first attempt, I have labelled it with a small note reading “For Retirement”, and placed it back upon my shelf where it will stay for another four or five decades.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

I almost finished this book. No, really, I did, I read more than three quarters of it and only had about a hundred pages left. I was enjoying the story, was moved by the plights of the characters, and the horrors of World War One, and generally was finding it to be a great book and another to add to the long list of much loved war books. So why did I stop reading it? I don’t know, to be honest. I suspect I was distracted by something, not just a bit distracted, but overwhelmingly distracted. It must have been a series of books, or something to take me away from this book for such a long time I just kind of…forgot…to come back and finish it. It has now been well over a year and I feel I need to start this book over, which is kind of annoying. But I will finish it one day.

Dune by Frank Herbert

I know, I know. How could I start this and not finish it? Well, quite easily, to be honest. I know some people get insanely excited about this, as if it were the Holy Grail of Science Fiction novels, but it just didn’t grab me when I first tried to read it. That was quite some time ago, and I perhaps wasn’t as disciplined with my reading as I am now, so maybe I should try again, because I normally don’t mind this genre. But so far, it hasn’t impressed me.

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

I had heard so much about Jasper Fforde, and he was an author I had been wanting to try for ages. I didn’t know where to start, but when I saw this book in a shop, and realised it was the beginning of an entirely new series, I thought, why not, I’ll give it a shot. The idea sounded spectacular – a new, futuristic world, in which society is based on a hierarchical structure that depends upon how well you see different colours, as everyone’s colour vision is somewhat limited. So much of the story appears to play with these concepts and notions of colour, mixed in with deeper social commentary, but for some odd reason I never proceeded more than the first few chapters into this book. Again, I don’t know why, as I was enjoying it, so I will return to this one soon to find out what actually happens.

Something Happened by Joseph Heller

Regular readers of my blog will know that although Joseph Heller isn’t my favourite author, he is the author of my all time favourite book, Catch 22. Want to know why he isn’t my favourite author? This book here is the answer. Want to know what the something is that happens in this book? So do I, because I read three quarters of it only to find that absolutely nothing happens! Not a thing! This book was just utterly boring, dismally disappointing, and a far cry from the pure genius that filled the pages of his most successful novel. Rather infamously now, somebody interviewed him later in life and said “You’ve never written a book as good as Catch 22,” to which he replied “Nobody has.” Regardless of this, it’s no excuse for churning out such dribble as that which can be found in between the pages of Something Happened. I can safely say I won’t be coming back to finish off this book.


So there we have it, five books I stopped reading part of the way through, in some cases because I was bored to the point of fearing for my sanity, in other cases because I’m a silly person and am far too easily distracted.

Do you have any books you stopped reading halfway through that you would like to return to one day? Or any that you plan never to open even if your life depends upon it?

55 thoughts on “Where’d all my bookmarks go? (Books I started but never finished…)

  1. No i have heard of War and Peace, it’s the book everyone pretends to have read but few have actually completed it and i for one are not even going to bother starting it. The only other book i know on your list is Birdsong and I can’t believe you didn’t finish it. It is one of the few books that i would actually read again. I did try to read Catch 22 a couple but gave that up and I’ve never tried since, but maybe i should.

  2. I have a 100% totally valid reason for not finishing Dune, somebody gave it to me to borrow 3 weeks before I finished my thesis! I’d asked for a good distraction, and was handed a book as long as a dictionary. Having said that, I’d love to revisit it!
    Forgotten unfinished’s that spring to mind for me are Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I keep trying with Victor Hugo, but I think it must take a similar kind of “War and Peace” style of patience to get through.
    Meanwhile, I don’t know why I stopped with the other book. I was reading it on a plane and was so enthralled I didn’t realise when the plane touched down, and then, maybe I just neglected to read it on the plane back and forgot about it from then on.. I’ve just found it in a box though, and plan to start reading it again soon!

    • Hahaha, that is a pretty good reason for not finishing Dune. I think I tried reading it during a busy phase at uni too, come to think of it.
      One Hundred Years of Solitude is on my to-be-read list of books. I have read one other book by Marquez, and while the other book’s story didn’t grab me, I utterly loved his writing, so much so I want to give other books a try anyway. 🙂

  3. I cheated with War and Peace – I listened to the audiobook. Birdsong is really worth finishing though as it is such a great book and has stayed with me for a long time. That being said, I am slightly obsessed with WW1 literature. I still have to read Dune as part of my book list challenge, so i’ll see how I get on with that.

    • An audiobook for War and Peace? It must’ve been a hundred discs long! 😛
      Yeah, I keep hearing this about Birdsong, and I really don’t know why I didn’t finish it. I love any war time literature, though I must confess I am more drawn towards WW2 literature than WW1, though I don’t know why.
      And Dune I will definitely return to one day, when I have more time and am less sleep deprived.

  4. I’ve actually finished War and Peace and enjoyed the story – I think for appreciating the literary contribution I’d have to go back and read it with a bit of a more critical eye. I had not heard of Birdsong, but I’m going to add it to my TBR pile – sounds like one I would enjoy.

    I recently posted on this topic, actually reblogged a post from The Literary Man, about how readers decide which books to put down and which ones to finish – interesting answers all around. I confess I usually get most excited about finding the bookmarks in them so I can use them elsewhere.

    • Ahh, that’s good to know it is enjoyable if one perseveres through the book. 🙂
      It’s interesting how many people seem to do it, choosing to stop reading books. I don’t normally choose, even if I’m not enjoying a book most of the time I will grit my teeth and force myself to finish it. But sometimes it is just too challenging to…

  5. Off the top of my head:
    The Hobbit – my dad tried to read it with me when I was about 8. The bookmark is still in the same place we left it after the first 2 attempts.
    Lord of the Rings – no clue why I even tried when I hadn’t succeeded with the Hobbit.
    The Aeneid – really I do mean to finish it, I just need to get round to it.
    Canterbury Tales – I can see the bookmark taunting me from here, but it is on my list!
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time – I know, very highly acclaimed and everything, I just couldn’t get into it.

    I must admit I haven’t tried any of your abandoned books, may need to take a look at one or two.

    • Some interesting books you’ve listed here. 🙂 LOTR and The Hobbit can be quite tough, as can The Aeneid. The Curious Incident I can understand as well, because the writing style is so difficult to get past, as it’s trying to get into the character. I liked it, but I wouldn’t want to read another book like that in a hurry.

  6. I did manage to make it all the way through Dune as well as several sequels, but I have many other books that were not so fortunate. I keep meaning to go back to them, but a new book comes along that I start and read ravenously and forget all about the lonely one still waiting to be consumed. Some are like the one you mentioned that nothing happened in so they will, most likely, remain unfinished, especially one by Patricia Cromwell that really disappointed me. Southern Cross was more of a character study than the murder mystery I was expecting. Three hundred pages into it and no one had been killed yet! Not that I am, by nature, a violent person, but when you read Cromwell, you expect a murder and forensic pathology to go along with it! That book had none of it, unfortunately.

    • Hahaha, I think that has a lot to do with it, actually – expectations! I think when you go into a book with any kind of expectations, and it doesn’t meet those, it is hard to stay motivated to read it. Especially when you’re plodding through it, and you can begin to see the ending shaping up, and you realise it’s probably going to be really underwhelming.
      While I understand some books are meant to be slowly paced and not overly eventful, there is a way of doing this and keeping it interesting, and some writers have perfected this (Ondaatje is one writer who springs to mind), while others just can’t quite get it right.

  7. I think I am too stubborn a reader to give a book up, although there have been a few books this year so far that have been hard to get through (Midnight’s Children, Love in the Time of Cholera, etc). I think I would have given them up if I could have. You must read Birdsong, it’s one I’m looking forward to reading again on my list. As for book marks, my library give me one with every book; I’m inundated!

    • Jennieflower, I have a plastic box filled with bookmarks I bought, was given as gifts and have picked up from bookstores and libraries over the years. It’s quite an eclectic collection and I’m proud of it!

      • I get a lot of bookmarks delivered with my books from the place I buy them from, so I have probably 50 or so altogether now. I keep losing them though, I need to find somewhere to store them properly. 😛

    • Hahaha, that’s funny, both those books you mentioned, I struggled to get through at points. I liked Midnight’s Children in the end but my goodness it rambles on at points, and Love in the Time of Cholera, you really could have cut out the middle 200 pages of that book and it would have made little difference to the story. In both cases, their saving grace was a beautiful style of writing.

  8. Fun post!
    I actually read Dune (but none of the other books you listed), only because it was assigned reading in school.
    My list of books that I have not finished (but want to) is many. 🙂
    1) The Count of Monte Cristo
    2) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
    3) Les Miserables
    4) Cold Comfort Farm
    5) Lord of the Rings
    and many more . . . someday, I’ll get to it all. 🙂

    • I read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.. Everyone says it’s a classic, but really, I feel like you’re not missing out on much. Unless of course you’re really good at knowing latitude and longitude to determine your locations. His descriptions of everything they do and every where they stop seem to me to be excessive (and that’s coming from someone who is known to make 10 minute stories 20 minutes long).

        • Funnily enough, I have heard that this is a particular problem of this author, Jules Verne isn’t it? Both 20,000 Leagues and also Around the World in 80 Days I think are both by him, and many people make similar complaints about both books, they there are just excessive descriptions in places. At any rate, I’ll read both one day, if only out of a sense of duty. 😛

  9. I’ve read and finished War and Peace – it took me 4 months though AND I read it in my HSC year. The others, I have heard the titles just not read them..The books I put on my shelf but forgot to pick them up are 2 history books, one on Egypt, one on American HIstory, A Tale of 2 Cities (shoot me now, considering all the other Dickens I’ve read I have completed), a book of Maori myths and maybe one or two others I cannot think of now. The ones I am currently reading range from the Arabian Nights to books on the Roman Empire and Greek pottery – the last two topics are for uni, But there are still many more awaiting to be read in my room.

    • Wow, reading it so young and when so busy, that is crazy, but impressive.
      I have a number of history books I have not yet read, though in many cases I am buying them for specific reasons, such as research for particular stories I may be writing currently or in the near future, stuff like that. I will eventually read through all of my history books, I am quite certain. At the moment a growing amount of them are about British history, in particular during the Middle Ages.
      Dickens is another author who I haven’t read enough of, despite really thoroughly enjoying his work.
      If only the days were longer… 🙂

  10. I never finished Dracula by Bram Stoker which for a lot of people who know me comes as a great shock because I’m a vampire apparently. I just got distracted by Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (I know, right? *laughs*) and never picked it back up.

    I also never finished The Stand or the Dark Tower Series by Stephen King. The Stand because I couldn’t get into it and Dark Tower because I lacked the last two books and forgot about it.

    Oh, and I tried reading that book Snooki (I think it’s called It’s a Shore Thing) put out while at my local book store but never bought it. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Yeah, no. I won’t even go there.

    • Ooh yes, that’s another one for me – I never finished Dracula either. To be fair, Dracula is a pretty boring book. The students at the school I teach, in Advanced English, they do Dracula in their second last year of high school, and then Frankenstein in the final year, and they always say that they hate Dracula but quite like Frankenstein, which I find really interesting.
      Speaking of the Dark Tower series, I just read the other day he is about to release the 8th book of that series, so apparently he still wants to keep it going? Either that or he is just running out of ideas to write books about! 😛
      Hahahaha, isn’t she off Jersey Shore or Geordie Shore or Ship to Shore or one of those silly programs? I imagine that would be up there with a Paris Hilton book, in terms of the level of intelligence to be gleamed from inside the covers…. 😛

      • You hated Dracula? Oh my gosh, I loved it. Well, let me amend that statement. I loved the first half. The second half was so-so.
        I thought Frankentstein was awesome!

        Did you guys read the sequel to Dracula? I have mixed feelings about it. 🙂

        • Haha, yeah, I just couldn’t take to Dracula. The story was good, but it just dragged on a bit, and wasn’t as excited as I thought it would be.
          And I had no idea there even was a sequel to Dracula? Well there you go, learn something new every day. Was it written by Stoker, the sequel?

              • @Literary Tiger: I actually own the sequel to Dracula but haven’t started yet as I want to read Dracula first…once I find it and make myself finish it.

                @theotherwatson: Yeah, Snooki is from Jersey Shore and her book read like one of the episodes. It’s basically about two girls going out, partying, trying to find jobs and yeah. I think I started hitting on the “big” plot point when the one guy the one girl is kind of seeing is only dating her because of a bet or something but that’s about the point I gave up on it.

                I tried to be open-minded with it but…yeah. I read a lot of interesting things when I don’t have to pay for them. I guess that’s why I love Coles and Chapters so much, you can just sit there and read and no one bugs you.

                • Hahaha, wow, that book just sounds…riveting. *vomits in mouth a little bit*
                  But I applaude you for being so open-minded and trying to give it a go, I don’t think I could, not with that book. I mean who does that, dates people because of a bet? These people are supposed to be adults but they act like teenagers? They have too much money and time on their hands, I suspect… 😛

  11. I can think of 3 books off the top of my head that I never finished reading. The first was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I got the book for Christmas when I was probably 10 years old. I remember trying to read it. It’s a hardcover with a dust jacket and a satin ribbon attached to the book for a bookmark. Super fancy to my 10-year-old mind. I thought I would look so grown up reading it. Well, I read some of it, placed that fancy bookmark in my spot, and promptly forgot about it. I probably did that two more times (always starting at the beginning again) and didn’t actually read the entire thing until just a few years ago. I probably never finished reading all those years ago because, at 10, I couldn’t quite understand the language or time period.

    Second book that I stopped reading was The Shroud by Dallas Tanner. I just could not get into this at all. The writing was not the best, too much explanation, really long and drawn out. I gave up (and I rarely do that).

    Most recently, I’ve done it with Moby Dick. There are so many tangents! Don’t get me wrong, I go off on tangents all the time, but it’s so hard for me to follow when reading the book. When there is dialogue, I’m okay with it, but so much storytelling! I’m reading it for a book challenge, so I’ll (hopefully) eventually finish it…it will just take time.

    Great post!

    • Oh wow, yeah, Little Women probably is a bit grown up for 10 year olds, although I wouldn’t know for sure because I never actually read it. But it is certainly a lot classier than what I was probably reading at 10 years of age.
      I’ve never heard of The Shroud, and I have heard the exact same complaint about Moby Dick from numerous people, actually! Apparently it just doesn’t stay focused, which makes it hard for a reader to remain focused, I suppose!
      Thanks for dropping by and for your interesting contribution!

  12. I actually wish I HADN’T finished Dune. I am totally on board with your opinion about that book. I had no interest in the main character and so didn’t really want to follow him. (So if it’s scifi blaspheme, then I join you.)

    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is one that I started and never finished, and I’m okay with that. I got about 100 pages into it and was completely bored. When I told my friend who’d lent it to me, he said “oh yeah, you just have to ‘get through’ the first 100 pages, then it picks up.” I never went back. Maybe it’s conceit, but I think if you have to ‘get through’ any part of a book, it’s not well written. I mean, if the rest of it is so great, why make the beginning suck?

    The third is the Hyperion books. I’m almost done with the second one (the second part to the 1st book). But I’ve been ‘almost done’ with this book for about 8 months. I felt wishy washy about the first one and was mad to find out I had to read a whole other book to find out the ending. Once I had something better recommended to me, I put Hyperion part 2 down. I do plan to finish it one day though, just to see how it ends.

    Wonder if my own books will ever make it on one of these lists someday…

    • Hahahhaa, glad to know I’m not alone in my initial impressions of Dune! 😛
      Interesting to hear that about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, that is another series I haven’t read but have been curious about, but yeah I agree, an interesting book should be interesting from the start, it shouldn’t have to take a hundred pages to become interesting. They need a sharper and tougher editor, I think.
      I don’t know much about the Hyperion books though I have heard of them, but I might not bother with them if they don’t sound all that interesting. 😛
      And hey, your own books might make it onto one of these lists one day. You never know…somebody’s books have to! 🙂

    • Hahaha, it sounds like most people have done this with at least a couple of books. I figure if the book wasn’t interesting enough, it’s nothing to feel guilty about, but rather the author should feel guilty for writing a boring book 😛

  13. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I tried. I tried really hard. But I just couldn’t find anything I liked about it. Maybe it’s because I had to read it for school, (or maybe that’s why I got as far through it as I did), but I just couldn’t stomach it. Needless to say, I am thankful for sparknotes.

    • Virginia Woolf can be really challenging, as her writing style is so different and unique. I quite like her writing but it took me a while to warm to it. Having said that, I oddly never read Mrs Dalloway, even when I studied Woolf at uni – we mostly focused on Orlando, and some of the shorter stories. I might give Mrs Dalloway a go sometime and see if I can stomach it.

  14. My advice is to give “Dune” another chance. It can be difficult to get through at times, and after “Dune Messiah” the series becomes positively daunting. I stuck with the series, though, and I’m glad–it turned out to be a rewarding experience. But these are cold, uninviting books, and I can understand people having trouble getting into them.
    “Dragon Tattoo” is amazing after those first hundred pages.
    By the way, I agree with your students. “Frankenstein” is so much better than “Dracula.”

    • Yeah, I think I will give Dune one more shot, because there is quite an abundance of people who say that it is worth it. I’ll see how I feel about sequels if I can get through the original.
      Dragon Tattoo is one I haven’t even started yet, but I will start soon I think, because I am curious, especially as they’ve been made into movies twice…

  15. I am a HUGE fan of “Lord of the Rings.” About once a year I pick up “The Silmarillion,” but I have yet to get past the first third of the book. And I am ashamed to say that I have never been able to get through “Les Miserables,” because I love the story.
    I read a lot. I’m always in the middle of at least three or four books at once. There are so many great books out there, and I’m scared that I won’t be able to read enough of them before I die.
    But there are certain books that I just need to put aside for good, so that I can move on with my life. Life is too short to waste on books that you don’t find enjoyable, but sometimes, for whatever reason, you feel like you should like a book, even if you don’t.

    • Yeah, I think some of those older classics that are 1000+ pages are just simply challenging because of their length, and sometimes even though the story is great, the pace at which it moves is just horrid and sleep-inducing.
      But I agree with you, I figure if I read an average of 50 books a year, and let’s just say I live for another 60 years (probably being hopeful, but we’ll see), that’s only 3000 books I have left to read. Which sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t, certainly not enough to waste reading books if I really am utterly not enjoying them. I read some books out of a sense of duty, but only if I feel I am getting something out of them, if maybe they are helping me grow as a writer, or something like that.

  16. I found that the secret with Dune was, you needed to be 15 the first time you read it. At least that’s what worked for me.

    And with the Jasper Fforde, the first 3 Thursday Next novels were a lot funnier than Shades of Grey. But, Shades of Grey was really kind of great at portraying how humans really treat each other in hierarchies. I’ll be interested to see where the second book goes.

  17. Oh, that’s an interesting take on the Dune thing. Unfortunately, in that case, unless I discover a form of time travel (how apt…) I am almost 11 years too late. Maybe if I psychologically trick myself…
    I was probably going to try the Thursday Next novels once I finished Shades of Grey. There seems to be a lot of the Thursday novels so I thought I’d leave them and figure out which order they’re in etc, before investing in them. But I think I’ll like Fforde, overall, he just seems to be up my alley, so to speak.

  18. I’m the same! I start a book and then either lose interest or find another book I want to start. I love buying books, and have so many unread books it’s ridiculous! I’d love to have my own bookshop, I’d be in heaven haha.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog by the way 🙂 xx

    • Haha, yeah, I think that’s my problem most of the time – I keep finding other books to start. I think starting a book and finishing a book are the two best parts of reading, easily. I need to have more self-discipline, I really do. My unread books on my shelves are over 100 books, it’s just silly 😛
      I’d also love to have my own bookshop, but I can’t help thinking I’d turn into Bernard Black off Black Books (hoping you’ve seen that show otherwise you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about haha).
      And that’s okay, you have a cool blog! Thanks for swinging past mine as well! 🙂

  19. Pingback: The 100th Blog Post! | wantoncreation

  20. I have a few books, Ulysses and The Road by Cormac McCarthy to name a couple.
    Plus like your title, I always lose my book marks to have read paper backs. I swear I have about 10 book marks but could only find 2 when I started a new book. They were wedged between the pages of some Penguin classics.

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