20 Books of Summer: Books I Didn’t Finish

As August comes to a close, I’ve finished 18 books for the 20 Books of Summer Challenge, but here are a couple I didn’t make it through.

I don’t really change my reading in the summer.  I’m not a fan of the “summer page turner.”  But if you’re on a plane or on the beach, or up at night because you’ve switched time zones (and lately I’ve had all of the above) you do need something that keeps your attention.

It’s not that I’ve only read books that are light.  I’ve read about the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, autism, serial killers, and the apocalypse. But there’s no denying I’ve been in a funk this summer.  I haven’t read anything resembling a classic, and my concentration is flightier than usual.  Earlier this year I blamed it on my thesis (fair enough) but at the moment I have no excuse.  I just want to read what I want to read.

This summer there were two books I picked up, read a good amount of, and then put down again.  One was LaRose by Louise Erdrich.  Erdrich is a very talented writer and I mean to go back to this one.  But it’s a sad read and I felt like it never let up.  It’s about two neighboring families, where one family accidentally kills the other family’s child.  The slow, steady pace and the overwhelming sadness got to me after a while.  And it was a library book, so when my three weeks were up, I had to let it go. It’s on my wait list but obviously if I felt strongly about reading it, I’d just buy a copy.

The other one, and this surprised me, was Emma Cline’s The Girls.  I’d been looking forward to this book all summer, and I’d heard so many good things about it.  Plus, I’m really interested in the time period and the story.  The Girls, if you haven’t heard of it, is loosely based on the Charles Manson cult of the late 60’s, from the perspective of a young teenage girl who joins them.  I found the book difficult to read.  The writing felt overly descriptive, and yet very little happened.  I really liked Cline’s insights about being an adolescent girl, but I tried to enjoy this book and couldn’t.  I also didn’t care for the “loosely based” aspect.  Even if it’s fiction, I guess I’d rather read about Manson as a character than someone named Russell who is obviously based on him.  I suppose because he’s alive, Cline couldn’t make him a character, nor could she make the other women characters in her book.  I don’t know why this bothered me, it just did.

I read between a quarter to half of both books.  I need to give a book at least 25% before I call it a DNF.  It’s when I find myself skimming text, skipping ahead, or thinking about things like what to make for dinner, that I know I’m not going to make it through a book.

Often a book turns a corner though.  I remember reading The Sparrow, and there’s a point where all the characters are on this space ship for months and the conversation just seemed endless, and I thought if the whole book was like that, I wouldn’t make it.  But I kept reading and it was an absolutely amazing book.  So I don’t put down a book lightly.

If you read either of these two books, would you recommend finishing them?  What were your DNFs this summer and why?  What makes you put down a book?  How far do you read in a book before you put it down?

For more reading discussions, see Feed Your Fiction Addiction’s Discussion Challenge.

  5 comments for “20 Books of Summer: Books I Didn’t Finish

  1. August 25, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    “LaRose” remains in my TBR pile so I can’t comment on that book but I agree with you regarding “The Girls”. I gave it only 3.25 stars and, looking back, I think that was actually generous. I’m always a little insecure when I don’t love a book that all of my reading friends do but I suppose that’s just how it goes sometimes… 🙂

  2. August 26, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    I’ve had that happen before where I’m so close to giving up on a book and then it gets WAY better – it makes it nearly impossible for me to DNF!

    • August 29, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      Yes, that’s always my worry. I thought that might be the case with The Girls, but a lot of people said the characters were underdeveloped, and I decided the writing style wasn’t going to change. I think when the plot is slow, you can wait it out, but when the writing style is bothering you, there probably isn’t much you can do.

  3. August 26, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    That’s too bad about LaRose. I recently read The Round House which was far from cheery but it did have a good bit of humor that balanced things. It feels I’ve been DNFing a lot lately – it’s been a funky reading year. The latest one was a book called Runemarks by Joanne Harris – it had kind of Nordic myth vibe which is cool but the style kept the characters undeveloped and I just didn’t have the patience for it.

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