Reading – The DNFs

Can you believe it’s September already?

Regardless of my efforts to be mindful about the books I decide to read, sometimes there are duds. Some of the time, perhaps most of the time, it’s because I’ve made a poor choice, but sometimes it’s the book. Lately I’ve had several Did Not Finish (DNF) experiences, so I thought instead of telling you what I’m reading this week, I’d share those fails.

Chasing A Blond Moon by Joseph Heywood – mystery. I already discussed this one on August 5th (here), so no need to repeat. Subject matter didn’t work for me.

Gate Crashers by Patrick Tomlinson – science fiction. Though I love the work of Christopher Anvil, Fredric Brown and Eric Frank Russell, most of the time “funny” SF just doesn’t work for me. The premise in Gate Crashers held strong promise, but there wasn’t a page that didn’t have the author or a character trying to be clever, “funny” or cute about something, even when the situation hardly warranted it. No, thanks. I quit after a couple dozen pages.

Terra Incognita by Connie Willis – science fiction/fantasy. This is a collection of three novellas, but I only got halfway through the first one. When a writer makes up words to make the story more “science fictioney”, that’s when I quit, and that was the case here. Also there was no character I cared a hoot about, everyone was objectionable in some way. Phooey.

A Fire In the Deep by Vernor Vinge – science fiction. This one is all on me. This is generally considered to be a classic, and it was a Hugo winner, but for me it was convoluted to the point of being indecipherable. The author begins with an illustration of his galaxy (region of space? universe?), with various layers, each labeled. I studied it and could make no sense of it. I started reading and could make no sense of that either. Perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood, but it seemed Vinge was making me work way too hard to get into this one.

How about you?
Have you quit any books lately?

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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17 Responses to Reading – The DNFs

  1. Steve Oerkfitz says:

    I have not read anything by Heywood. Never heard of the Tomlinson. Have read some Willis but not these novellas. Loved her The Doomsday Book. Loved A Fire Upon the Deep. Haven’t quit any books lately. I’m usually pretty sure going into a book whether I’m going to like it or not. I tried to read a Lois Bujold Sf novel a couple of months ago but quit after about 50 pages.
    Just started Ahab’s Return by Jeffrey Ford today and loving it.

    • Steve, I might have liked, or even loved, the Vinge if I had been able to really get into it, but I quit when it started seeming like work to read it. Too many other things I want to read. I haven’t tried anything by Bujold, though I always read good things about her work. I’m not familiar with that Ford, but will look into it.

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Yes. I like Willis’s time travel stuff a lot, but one of her highly praised books (sorry, can’t remember the title offhand) just seemed stupid to me and I quit after way less than fifty pages. Heywood, so far I’ve only read the two Woods Cop collections of stories.

    In general, if it a series by an author I like, I will read it, but occasionally I hit a wall with a book and it has killed dead that series for me. It happened with Reginald Hill, for example. Yes, I could try the book again (in that case, I still couldn’t get past chapter one) or just skip it and go on to the next one (as I did with S. J. Rozan’s book where Lydia Chin is kidnapped and Bill Smith has to find and rescue her; couldn’t read it), but sometimes I get turned off an author.

    I should probably keep track like you of DNFs because I can’t call recent ones to mind, and there have been several, include books where I have read 200 pages or more before finally giving up. The first Robert Galbraith book by J. K. Rowling was one. I struggled through 100 or 150 pages, saw I had hundreds more to go, thought to myself that I did not care about any of the characters, or the plot, or where it was going, and returned it with no regrets and no intention of ever trying another. I have no problem with other people reading and liking them. It just isn’t for me.

    In recent years I find that there are too many things I do want to read to force myself to slog through something I’m not enjoying. In some cases, I start a book by an author I like (the third Nick Petrie Peter Ash book was one) and the plot just doesn’t interest me at that time. I fully intend to go back and read the book when I am in the mood, but after loving the first two books, this one just did not engage me. (LIGHT IT UP was the title.) Your mileage may vary.

    Not much help, I know, but yes, I am quitting more books these days, generally sooner but occasionally more than halfway through.

    • Jeff, one good thing is all of these books came from the library, so I didn’t waste any money on them. I have a lot less patience with books these days. If I’m not interested enough to want to keep reading, I’ll give it some more pages to get better, if not it’s out. Usually if I get to 100 pages, I’ll keep reading, but not always. I keep meaning to read Rozen, I have several paperbacks on the shelf, but never seem to get around to her. That’s part of the reason I quit books: I have too many others waiting their turn.

  3. Patti Abbott says:

    I quit more books than I finish. That’s because I reserve any book that holds the least interest for me at the library and so feel little need to stick with them. I took out four last week and three are going back unread.

    • All of these came from the library, Patti, as do about half or more of the books I start. However, I find that library books have a lower success rate for me, because I tend to take more chances with them. If I read a review of a book that sounds like it MIGHT be interesting and I can get it at the library, I’ll give it a try, if I had to buy it, I’d skip it. I do at least begin reading the library books, but feel no compulsion to finish them if I’m not enjoying.

  4. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Just thought of one: the very highly praised (I think Patti recommended it) THERE THERE by Tommy Orange. I just have too many other things I’m in the middle of, and I wanted something a little lighter. I might try it again after we get back from Florida…or not.

  5. Jerry House says:

    For the most part I don’t quit on books but some do get put aside to be finished later — usually because something brighter and shinier comes along. Among the books I have started and will finish some damned time sooner or later are Sheridan Le Fanu’s UNCLE SILAS, Anne Radcliffe’s THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO, Hall and Flint’s THE BLIND SPOT, and Stanton A. Coblentz’s INTO PLUTONIAN DEPTHS, all of which are interesting books. If I don’t get back to them this year, I will definitely block out time next year for them.

    As for this week, I’ve been dipping into old issues of UNKNOWN and WEIRD TALES, reading various short stories. The one novel I finished was Megan Abbott’s DARE ME, which was excellent. My FFB this week was the Asimov/Greenberg anthology ELECTION DAY 2084, still relevant in today’s political atmosphere. I also zipped through four graphic novels: THE AVENGERS: TALES TO ASTONISH (with three stories harking back to the Marvel Comics of the 1960s); DOCTOR STRANGE, VOL. 4: MR.MISERY (a bit over the top, methinks); Nate Powell’s COME AGAIN (about a commune strangely stuck in time and space), and IF: CRIME SCENE (an anthology of 38 stories by various artists from Alterna Comics; some good stuff, some poor stuff, and a lot of very minor stuff).

    I’ve been meaning to give both Willis and Vinge a try. (I did read Willis’ novella “Fire Watch” and enjoyed it, but have read nothing by Vinge that I remember.)

    Cooler weather should be coming soon so I’ll be able to tackle the jungle that ate my back yard. Hope the weather, the garden, and your reading pile make the coming week a great one for you.

  6. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I’m still reading mostly short stories – finished the British collection TEN YEAR STRETCH, and should finish the Mary Robinette Kowal (which I’m enjoying more as I go along, though nothing has come close to her great “The Last Astronaut of Mars,” the final story here) and Ed Hoch collections today (or maybe tomorrow). I’m also very much enjoying Jo Walton’s AN INFORMAL HISTORY OF THE HUGOS (1953-2000).

  7. The flow from AMAZON has slowed to a trickle. Packing up 2000 books for my STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK at Buffalo donation and dragged them up the basement stairs to the garage for pick up has forced me to confront the limits of my reading and collecting.

    I plan to donate 2000 books a year for the next 10 years so that will pretty much empty the basement. I’ll be down to a “core” collection of maybe a couple hundred books. But my purchases need to taper off, too. It’s tough to let go of so many great books, but at least I know they’re going to a good home where they will be catalogued and preserved.

    That being said, there’s a huge Book Sale next week. I’ve had great success in finding wonderful books there over the years! The thrill of the hunt!

    I’ve been reading non-fiction books this week: one on music and another on medicine.

    • Sobering, isn’t it? Yes, that will make a dent in your home book collection, and your ten year plan is awesome. Wow, I don’t know how you can narrow things down to just a few hundred books to keep in the home shelves. As fast as you read, I don’t suppose you quit many books.

  8. tracybham says:

    I go to an annual book sale in mid-September every year and I buy a lot of books at very inexpensive prices and so I do take some chances there. But generally I just decide I made a poor choice and donate it back and don’t even attempt to read the book. In the last two or three years there was only one book I did not finish. It was a chick lit mystery, 400 pages, and I really tried to finish it because it was a local author. But halfway through it still held no interest and I did not care about the characters, so I did give up.

    • I stay away from book sales specifically because I’m tempted to buy things I really don’t want. I rarely see anything I’ve wanted but couldn’t find elsewhere, and rarely see older books.

  9. Like many readers, I have “The 50-page Rule.” If a book doesn’t grab me in the first 50 pages, I abandon it and move on. I try to screen my books so that won’t happen very often.

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