No one likes layoffs. But in economics you learn that labor market flexibility is a two-way street. If employers know that they can cut jobs if they need to, they’re more likely to hire people. If they can’t cut jobs, they’ll need to be really certain before they add people to the payroll, and the pace of hiring is slower than it might otherwise be.
In my quest to read more books, I’ve adopted the same mindset. I don’t want to abandon a book after starting it, but if that’s an option, then I’m more likely to try a book. Sometimes, I wind up reading a lot of books by an author after trying one I wasn’t sure I’d like!
Over the past few months, here’s a partial list of books I’ve abandoned (I’m not including review copies someone sent me that I just glanced at — since I wasn’t actively choosing to purchase those books, I don’t think it really counts as abandoning them. But oh boy, I abandon a LOT of those.) Since I purchased several of these in physical form, here’s the give-away: Please leave a comment here about books you’ve abandoned. I’ll choose one random commenter on Thursday and mail that commenter his/her choice of one of my abandoned books that I own in physical form (indicated by an asterisk; I read others on Kindle).
Now wait, you say — if you abandoned these books, why would someone else want them? The answer is that everyone has different tastes (you’ll see a theme in some I abandoned). I abandoned books that are on lists of the best American novels. I abandoned books that were run-away bestsellers. I abandoned books by authors who have cult followings. In this case, the phrase “It’s not you, it’s me” really fits. These books just need a better home!
The Little French Bistro*, by Nina George. I read and mostly enjoyed The Little Paris Bookshop. This has a very similar theme (unhappy person goes off on quest through gorgeous French landscape). The difference is that I really don’t like the device of the mistreated woman no one understands who turns out to be something special. I particularly hate when authors rack up the misery at the beginning as a way to make us cheer for this mistreated woman. Marianne, the heroine, is escaping a miserable 41 year marriage with a guy whose wretchedness just goes on and on and on. I skimmed the first 40 pages describing this bad marriage, and then I realized from the flap copy that he was going to return. I read a few pages in the middle and couldn’t get back into it. But the description of the French landscape is really nice, so that’s a selling point if someone else would like it!
Girl with a Pearl Earring*, by Tracy Chevalier. Probably abandoned for similar reasons. The heroine becomes a servant girl that no one really understands until the painter discovers she’s special. Tons of people loved this book. I read for a while, but didn’t love it enough to keep going. I should mention here that I also abandoned The Secret Life of Bees several years ago, another book that seemingly everyone loved.
This Side of Paradise*, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Clearly, an “it’s not you, it’s me” choice here. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of Princeton is a literary classic. But I had trouble with Tender is the Night because I didn’t like any of the characters. I realized a few dozen pages into this one that Amory Blaine was going to be even worse. To be sure, no one in The Great Gatsby is all that likable either, but somehow those characters seem more sympathetic.
Hawaii*, by James Michener. I went to Hawaii over spring break. In anticipation of going, I bought this doorstop epic of a novel about the history of Hawaii, thinking it would be great to read on the plane over. Fortunately, I started it prior to getting on the plane, and realized I wasn’t going to like it, thus saving me a lot of weight in my baggage. The opening about the geologic history of Hawaii was interesting. But then we cut to seafaring tribes in Polynesia who engage in human sacrifice, and I’m just not that into reading about human sacrifice. I presume that part’s over by about 100 pages in, though, if someone else likes Michener and wants to give this one a shot.
The Green Hills of Africa, by Ernest Hemingway. This one is on Kindle, so I can’t give it away. But Hemingway’s non-fiction discussion of his African travels just didn’t have the same zip as some other travel writing I’ve enjoyed much more (e.g. Bill Bryson).
In Morocco, by Edith Wharton. Same as above. Great author. Just not my favorite work.
Absolutely on Music*, by Haruki Murakami. I’ve enjoyed several Murakami novels, and I enjoyed What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. So, since I like music too, I figured I would enjoy his musings on this. I didn’t. It’s a dialogue between him and a conductor, Seiji Ozawa, and it wound up being a wee bit inside baseball for me. Could be perfect for the symphony connoisseur in your life.
Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams*, by Jenny Colgan. I read (and finished) The Little Beach Street Bakery, and The Bookshop on the Corner. But possibly two novels with pretty much the same plot was enough. This would make a good beach read, though, so I’m sure someone else will really like this tale of a forlorn young urban woman who goes to the UK countryside to revive a relative’s sweet shop (as opposed to a forlorn young urban woman who goes to the Cornish coast and starts a bakery, or a forlorn young urban woman who goes to the Scottish highlands to start a book store. Also, lots of hot local men!)
The Wedding Bees*, by Sarah-Kate Lynch. I think the chick lit/beach read genre is just not my thing. This is a tale of a woman who runs away at the alter, and moves every year bringing her colony of bees (!) with her, making new friends, then moving away just as quickly. Until she finds true love! If you read the New York Times wedding announcements, which feature in here, you’d likely enjoy this.
The Best American Science Writing. I like science writing, much of the time, but I also realized that anthologies don’t inspire me to keep reading the way one coherent narrative does. If reading time is limited, best to go with something else.
What books have you abandoned? How far do you need to read into a book to decide it’s OK to abandon? Or if you’ve never abandoned a book, I’m intrigued to learn that too!