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Friday, August 5, 2024
FFM: Books I Couldn’t Finish
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:05 pm

After a one week hiatus (I was to busy last Friday), the Friday Fun Meme returns.


I am sure I could figure out 10, especially if I thought back to college text books, but these are the ones that leap to mind:

1. Little, Big by John Crowley. I bought the book because Mel Gilden, author and co-host of a SciFi radio show, Hour25, swore it was the best fantasy book he had ever read since LOTR. I tried mightily to get through, and have kept it for over twenty years with the possibility that I would one day try again. Mostly it read like a plodding LSD trip.

2. The Sword of Shanara. In High School I was always looking for the next LOTR and tried Sword. It struck me as too derivative and for some reason never caught my fancy. However, clearly many people disagree with me. Who knows, I might give it a try some day.

3. Lord Foul’s Bane. I think I gave this one a try in early High School. For some reason I could not get past the first couple of pages. I can’t even remember what it was that turned me off. I may give a try again some day, as I found his Gap novels most impressive, even though there was a general lack of respectable characters and one has to wade through a brutal tale in the first novel.

4. Battlefield Earth. I tried. I really, really tried. But several hundred pages into the book I just lost all enthusiasm. And consider: I was reading it as a Sophomore in High School right after we had moved from Texas to SoCal and I had yet to acquire any friends, so it wasn’t like I had anything else to do.

5. The Day Lincoln was Shot. I had to read it for 8th grade American History. The first time I ever used Cliffs notes in lieu of completing a book.

6. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. This one was for AP Literature when I was a senior in High School. That one really required Cliffs Notes. UGH.

7. The Book of Lost Tales. As one might note from the above, I am huge Tolkien fan–and was especially such in Middle and High School. However, even my hard-core Tolkienness could not get me to actually read all of the drafts and notes in the BoLT. I own it and several other of the edited volumes that Christopher Tolkien put put out (but not all of them). I have skimmed through them, but have never read them.

Feel free to jump in. If you link from your own blog, note that inline trackbacks and pingbacks are now working, so as log as you send one, you’ll get a link below. Also: if your blog doesn’t have trackback capability, you can use the link below to send a manual trackback.


  • el
  • pt
    1. Hmmm, interesting list.
      When I was in high school, it was a matter of pride for me to finish every single book (or series) I started. A friend recommended the The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever which starts with Lord Foul’s Bane. I read the entire series – it is not worth revisiting in my opinion. The main character is depressing and it is hard to empathize with a “hero” who starts out by raping another. The only benefit that I gained from reading the series was I then decided my policy of finishing every book I started was foolish and now have no compunction about quitting books that don’t keep my attention. I also enjoyed the Gap series. If you want more by Donaldson, his two-book series Mordant’s Need is decent.
      I enjoyed the first Shanara book I read, but the few others I read all seemed like the same story with a few minor changes. However, he’s still publishing, so hopefully his recent books are still not rehashes of his first.
      I had the same experience with The Book of Lost Tales as you. Fortunately I picked it up after reading the Tomas Covenant series, so I didn’t feel obligated to finish.
      However, I greatly enjoyed Battlefield Earth. I thought it was one of Hubbard’s better works and much, much better than the horrible movie with the same title. I picked it up in high school, but I’ve read it several times since then too. If you were going to retry any of these, I’d suggest this one.

      Comment by Admiral Quixote — Friday, August 5, 2024 @ 3:02 pm

    2. Funny, Deb mentioned this post as a good meme and I immediately said “Thomas Covenant; I couldn’t even get through the first book!” Funny to see it’s on your lis, now that I’ve seen the post myself.

      Comment by Jay — Friday, August 5, 2024 @ 3:05 pm

    3. I had the same problem with Lord Foul’s Bane my first time through. I just couldn’t get into it. The second time I forced myself past page 100 or so…and that’s when the book took off.

      My college friends and I enjoyed the series (all six books), and I think we all read the whole thing twice each. Donaldson’s problem is that he obsesses over the feelings of the characters way too much; if he focused on moving the story along rather than on how much emotional pain everyone was suffering, his books could shed 40% of their weight.

      My rule now is if a book doesn’t grip me after 100 pages, I’ll give up and throw it against the wall. Doesn’t happen often, but the last time it did was “TimeScape” by Gregory Benford. Yeah, I know it won a bunch of awards, but the plotline is stale and the characters were one-dimensional. Isaac Asimov’s “The Gods Themselves” is a much better example of the “talking backwards through time” genre.

      I’ve got Battlefield Earth at home; I’ll definitely have to try it soon. Thanks for the tip, Admiral.

      Comment by pianoman — Friday, August 5, 2024 @ 3:30 pm

    4. Funny–your post reminded me that I tried to start Timescape but just couldn’t get started.

      Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, August 5, 2024 @ 3:49 pm

    5. This will probably get Me banned, but I was not able to get into Dune. Everyone said how great it was, it sold and sold, and there were many sequels, but I couldn’t get more than 1/3 the way through it.

      Comment by Gary and the Samoyeds — Friday, August 5, 2024 @ 7:41 pm

    6. […]”>


      From Steven Taylor comes his Friday Fun Meme: ‘Books I Couldn’t Finish.’ Forthwith, here are mine: The Lord of the […]

      Pingback by The Bemusement Park » VENI, LEGI, CONCIDI — Friday, August 5, 2024 @ 10:36 pm

    7. Books I Couldn’t Finish

      From Steven Taylor at Poliblog, a Friday Fun Meme…. Books I Couldn’t Finish. Doing as he did and leaving out textbooks, and in no particular order:

      Trackback by The Kudzu Files — Saturday, August 6, 2024 @ 8:20 pm

    8. Well, the only two that jump to mind are:
      1. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
      2. Run Away Jury by John Grisham

      There are certainly others that I didn’t finish for one reason or another, but those come to mind as one I “couldn’t” finish.

      My husband teaches Portrait of the Artist is you ever want any pointers on it. lol But then again, he teaches Metamorphosis but he couldn’t make me like it.

      Comment by Jan — Saturday, August 13, 2024 @ 10:37 am

    9. I’ve read Metamorphosis, but egads, I can’t stand Joyce.

      Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Saturday, August 13, 2024 @ 11:01 am

    10. Steve actually considered doing his dissertation on Joyce. I’ve only ever read “The Dead” by him. I liked it okay, but it was only a short story.

      Comment by Jan — Saturday, August 13, 2024 @ 10:16 pm

    11. […] Dr. Taylor: Books you know you should read that you can’t seem to finish. Oh, wait. It already has been.

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      Pingback by Arguing with signposts… » My Tolkien confession — Wednesday, August 17, 2024 @ 10:25 pm

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