I claim that I love to read. But lately I find myself unable to finish many of the books I start. I’m rather sensitive, so usually I find novels by current authors too traumatic or scary. For instance a few years ago it was all the rage to read The Shack, but once my mother told me what it was about, I knew I wouldn’t be cracking that book open. I did finish The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, but it was agony for me. The only thing that kept me going was being able to recognize the author’s tribute to the Bronte sisters’ novels. Maybe I should just go back to reading 19th century novels and children’s books. Except sometimes even those books fail me.
Here are some books I thought I would find fascinating, but gave up on. Are there any books that you have finished and can recommend?
Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East, by Deborah Amos. – My son, noting that the word “eclipse” usually goes with the word “sun”, insisted on calling it “Eclipse of the Sunnies.” This book is anything but sunny. It’s about Iraqis after the beginning of the US war there in 2003. Many Iraqis had to leave their country to save their lives. The book describes in detail how difficult it is for them as refugees in Jordan and other places. It was too depressing for me to read any more.
Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi – too disjointed. The chapters alternate between the obvious and the obscure. The author spends a whole chapter pointing out that people send e-mails during short bursts of time – nothing earth-shattering about that. Then he takes us back to an obscure event in Hungarian history. I suppose if I had finished the book I might have found out how that event was related to the theme of the book. When I was in 11th grade English class, my teacher taught me that when writing an essay, the writer must make it clear how each paragraph relates to the central theme of the essay. Doesn’t happen in this book.
Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey – This was recommended by NPR, but it was too crude for me, although funny at times. By the middle of the book, they hadn’t even gotten to America yet. I think I would be better off reading Alexis de Tocqueville himself, instead of this spoof.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire – By the end of the third chapter, I just couldn’t sympathize with any of the characters. I suppose that’s true to life – we all have faults that make us unsympathetic in some way. When I’m reading a novel, though, I want to have someone to root for. I read enough novels starring the "anti-hero" in college.
Emma, by Jane Austen – I have tried twice to read this book, but I found the central character to be an annoying ninny. I loved two other books by Austen – Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. What gives with Emma?
The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander. When I was a girl, I LOVED this book. I started to re-read it, with the hopes of recommending it to my 11-year-old daughter. This time around it gave me nightmares! Admittedly, I read it after an evening of discussing the bedbug plague that is rampant in some US cities (not ours, not yet). The title refers to a magic cauldron that gives birth to undead soldiers. Too scary. Add to that the idea of bedbugs, and it’s just Nightmare City. Check your mattresses. Now.
The Bible – I tried the “read through the Bible in a year” gig, but broke down in Leviticus. I retained almost nothing of the parts I did read. The experience convinced me that it is a waste of time to read the Bible without actually studying it. Now I am in a good Bible study with a group of people who like to read, study, and discuss the text. That’s the way to do it. Quality over quantity.