Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Almost Put Down But Didn’t

Top Ten TuesdayThis week’s post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is Top Ten Books I Almost Put Down But Didn’t. For me, this is quite an interesting one.

Once upon a time I used to make a point of finishing every book, no matter how much I disliked it, as if out of a sense of duty. But this conflicted with another reading habit of mine – reading several books at once, so that some books I would zoom through while other books would sit on the sidelines half read for months and months. Sometimes I would return to those books, but sometimes I would realise I didn’t want to, and I would shelve them with the thought that maybe in the future I might feel like reading them from the start again.

So these books I almost put down but didn’t may stem, in some cases, from me simply reading other books at the same time that were better, or just not being in the mood for that kind of story at a certain moment in time. In other cases, the story may have been boring me, or I may have been actively disliking the story and had to force myself on as I clung to some desperate hope that maybe it would improve.

Without further ado, I give you my ten books I almost put down but didn’t, in no particular order (other than the order I found them when scouring my Goodreads shelves):

  1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This was a really captivating story, with some really likeable characters and amazing imagery through the circus itself. It bordered on the realms of fantasy in places but by not going in fully it retained this sort of unique magic feel about it. But then the story seemed to go on a bit long and as I waited for something, anything to happen, the story sort of fizzled out. The last quarter or so of this book took me a long time to read, I’ll say that.
  2. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: Long-time readers of my blog will know my feelings about this book, winner of the Man Booker Prize a couple of years ago. It’s only a short book, and it reels you in with a couple of mysteries that you want to know the truth behind. But the characters are boring, a bit pathetic actually, and when you get to the end (the very end) and the final twists are delivered, they are so over the top they seem out of place. I only kept reading this in hopes of a satisfactory ending, but it was the ending that made me really dislike this book. Don’t waste your time on it.
  3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery: When I first picked this book up, I wasn’t in the mood for it. I think I was reading lighter literature and this novel is quite verbose to say the least. I tried again later that year and fell in love with it, reading it non-stop in every spare bubble of time I could find. Sometimes if you don’t like a book you thought you would like, you should try again at a later point rather than forcing yourself on then and there. This one isn’t for everybody, though, I must admit.
  4. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie: One of Rushdie’s most successful books, both critically and commercially (it won the Booker of Bookers), I probably rushed into it without really understanding magic realism enough. So I didn’t fully get why the novel read the way it did, and that coupled with the fact it is quite lengthy made me struggle with it through my first reading. I would like to reread this one day, though, as I suspect I’d like it a lot more now.
  5. Evil For Evil by K. J. Parker: The second part of Parker’s Engineer Trilogy, an unusual Fantasy series containing no magic which follows an Engineer who is sentenced to death by an empire, escapes that empire, and then slowly rallies together kingdoms nearby to unite against the empire so that he can be reunited with his wife. The first part of this trilogy was intriguing, the third part was dramatic and clever, but this second part sort of dragged on in places. It had some good points, and was an interesting commentary on morals and ethics in wartime, but it could have been a couple hundred pages shorter.
  6. The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: The second part of his four-part series of novels revolving around The Cemetery of Forgotten Books (the first being the extremely successful and amazing The Shadow of the Wind), this book was really quite confusing in a lot of places. Oddly enough, when I read the third book, The Prisoner of Heaven, it put this second book in better context and now I actually understand it better (and look forward to seeing how the fourth part ties everything together when it’s published). Just sheer confusion made me question finishing this one, at the time.
  7. Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez: Considered one of his masterpieces, this was the novel that introduced me to his work. I fell in love with the writing almost immediately, and the story was quite lovely in its own way too. But the middle part of the book seemed pointless in places, like it was just trying to bide time until the last quarter of the story. It was interesting to read but I can’t help feeling the beginning and end were much better than the middle, and for a brief while I wondered, while reading it, if it was going to get better again. Luckily, of course, it did.
  8. The Stranger by Albert Camus: A pretty weird book, to say the least. It’s one of those novels that people either love or hate, and it has a lot of content and themes and philosophy crammed into the few pages between the covers here. I think what makes it hard to read is the lack of emotion by the main character, who is sentenced to death for a murder but who is really condemned more for not feeling sad about his mother dying, as well as not being religious and so on. The story is meant to be slightly absurd, and it draws you into it by making you a judge of the situation too through it’s almost objective feel, but that doesn’t make it easier to read. Glad I did push on though, and I plan on reading more of his work at some point.
  9. We Are All Made Of Glue by Marina Lewycka: I think in this case I just got bored of the story. It read too much like her other novels, but the characters weren’t quite as charming anymore, the humour wasn’t quite as funny, and the storyline was nothing special anymore. I finished it, but I don’t feel inclined to read her latest book after how I felt about this one.
  10. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: This is an interesting one. I chose to read this at university to write a critical essay on it for a creative writing course. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. The writing here is so thick, so dense, that it took forever to read each and every page of this story – it was like charging at a wall with my head down in an attempt to break into the room on the other side. In the end, I read it through fully three times before I wrote my essay. By the end of the third time I think I was starting to get it, but there’s still so many layers there for me to uncover. I only considered putting this down because it was so hard to dig into, but the rewards for doing so are plentiful. By memory I got a good mark for the essay, too.

And there we have it, my top ten books I almost put down but didn’t. Am I glad I finished these books in the end? For the most part, yes, but I am learning I don’t have to finish books if I don’t want to anymore.

What books have you almost put down but then forced yourself to finish off? Was it worth it?

20 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Almost Put Down But Didn’t

  1. The only one of these that I have tried was Heart of Darkness and I have to be honest I did put it down – that’s very unusual for me but I simply couldn’t carry on – I found it boring – Sorry Mr Conrad (yeah I know he’s dead) but sorry anyway.

  2. I haven’t read any of these books – i feel like i need to get out more reading wise 😉

    When i started Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy it took me ages to get through the first quarter. I was reading other books at the same time (like you mentioned you do – i do this as well) and so it sat there for a very long time. When it had almost been a year i decided i was not to start another book until i had finished Anna Karenina. It was interesting because there were some parts that i literally could not put down and others dragged. However because i made myself read the last three quarters, i flew through it. At the end i realised how much it had grown on me and how thought provoking it was, and really how much i had actually enjoyed it that i wanted to start reading it all over again! I hope to one day…when the piles of books by my bedside table have lessened somewhat (if that ever happens!!!)

      • I have indeed. Haha. And i read it word for word unlike my Mum who said she skipped all of the long winded thought processes of Levin (which is most of the book so it didn’t take her very long to get through it because of that!). I definitely think you should try again. I would love to know what you think of Anna Karenina if you should choose to read it. It was so philosophical. I loved it. I really want to read War and Peace now!

        • See I tried War and Peace. In the first 50 pages I think I was introduced to several hundred characters but nothing had actually happened, and I put the book aside for retirement reading. But maybe I should try Anna Karenina, I think if I could just force myself through the slow parts I might enjoy it. I’ve read plenty of slow and challenging books before. I’ll let you know if I do try Tolstoy again one day soon! (And yes, I too would have to read it word for word, as always) 🙂

  3. I experienced the same “almost-put-down” situation with Midnight’s Children. But I’m glad I didn’t. Because, by the end of it, I was in love with the book! And Saleem Sinai, of course! By the way, Love in the Time of Cholera is a book I actually put down when I got halfway through because I found it a bit too slow.

    • It was a tough read, but I think so much of it comes from understanding Magic Realism both as a genre and a concept. I struggled with the concept when I read it, as I said, so I’d be curious to see if I enjoy it now. But it still is a tough read at any rate – a bit all over the place really, and you can see why a lot of publishers didn’t take to it at first.

  4. I read Heart of Darkness in high school and if I had the option, I would have put it down. It is a tough book that took forever and I didn’t think was very rewarding.

    • I think almost everybody I know who read Heart of Darkness in high school absolutely loathed it, actually. Those who I know who studied it at university or read it later as an adult tend to be divided, either hating it or loving it. I think I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love it, but I respect it – there is so much packed into so few pages, so much references and imagery from so many other places that carry so much symbolism and meaning, that as a writer I am amazed he didn’t lose his head writing it. But, it is a nightmare to read and I don’t think you should have to dig so deep into a book to appreciate it. I guess I just have mixed feelings, and I can totally understand why people dislike it. 🙂

  5. Great blog – life is too shirt for bad novels and bad wine – I am reading the greatest traitor by Ian Mortimer – author of time travellers guide to Elizabethan England and can’t wait to read Alison weir’s – the lady in the tower – another historical fiction writer – you can see where my passion lies

    • It really is! I’m trying to single-handedly teach most Swedish people about why they should drink good wine, and tell them which Aussie regions are worth buying from (as there’s a fair bit of Aussie wine over here, although I must admit I’m drinking a lot of Italian wines lately).
      Ahhh I really like Ian Mortimer, he is very comprehensive in the way he writes his books, especially the historical biographies he writes. I have wanted to read The Greatest Traitor for a while – I find that whole story so interesting. The Alison Weir book sounds interesting too, I’m sure I recognise her name actually. But yes you can definitely see your passion! 😀

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