Thursday, January 07, 2016

10 MORE minutes ranking and discussing the books I didn't finish reading in 2015

Last time I counted down from 36-31 the books I read in 2015; those were all books I didn't even bother finishing because they were so bad. All in all in 2015, I tried to read and/or completely read about 40 books, and then ranked them from 1-36.

It's not 1-40 because I listed all the books I could remember reading or find in my Kindle history, then numbered/ranked them. Then I added books that I remembered and renumbered and reranked. Then I thought of more and renumbered again, so on round four I just added the ones in and made them numbers like "26A," as you'll see below.

We're still on book I didn't bother finishing reading, beginning with

30. Stone Mattress: Nine Tales, Margaret Atwood: Margaret Atwood gets a lot of praise, and most of her books just sound unappealing to me. I finally decided to try this one, because I like short stories. I got through the first one, I think. Maybe I got mostly through it. I'm pretty sure it was about an old lady and her husband who is a ghost. Either way it was a plodding and dull story. I didn't care about the old lady. I wasn't interested in finding out why her husband was a ghost, if he was. The book wasn't aggressively trying to put me off, the way David Foster Wallace used to. It was more that reading it felt like a chore, like when I try to read articles about the deficit or Syria, not because I want to but because I feel like I ought to. I doubt I'll be trying any more Atwood stories anytime soon.

29. The Uncoupling, Meg Wolitzer. I already discussed this bomb, here. I only ranked it this high because the others were so much worse; at least on this one I got about 4/5 through it, although mostly that was because (as I said in that earlier post) it was the only thing I had to listen to on a day of long driving.

28. The Bees, Laline Paull: This really was disappointing. I remember when this book came out and I thought it sounded great -- a book told from the perspective of a bee, but not a humanized bee like in the cartoons. It was supposedly a major triumph of storytelling or something. The concept itself is okay; the book begins with the main character hatching and has some interesting bits in it, but I just couldn't get into it.  There didn't seem to be any energy to the story. I went back to this one two or three times because I really wanted to like it, but it never took, so a chapter or so in I gave up.

27. To Rise Again At A Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris: I bought this book on sale from Amazon, and it was the last book I actually purchased. Every book I've read since then has been borrowed from the library or given to me as a gift. I think this book might have been the reason I became so leery of buying books. It was only $2.99, and that low for a reason. It's not very compelling. And it should be! It's about a dentist who suffers insomnia and who finds out, unrelatedly, that someone has created a whole Web presence for him of a vaguely biblical nature. The guy himself is a sort of determinedly antisocial man who got that way because he was so desperately bad at being social. It has all the elements I should like, but never put them together in any way that mattered to me. I still have it on my Kindle and every now and then think I should go read it some more but then I think eh and go on with my life.

26. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt: Another one I mentioned here, and I just saw when I checked out that link that I also didn't finish Funny Girl by Nick Hornby so let's make that 26B.

The Goldfinch when I mentioned it in October was one I'd just started, and looking back to that post I can see I was still kind of excited about it. I'm not sure what went wrong.  In the book [SPOILER ALERT] the boy who steals the painting goes to a museum with his mom. There's some sort of bombing and the boy barely survives, taking the painting in the process. His mom dies, and his dad isn't really in the picture. Through all that I was liking the book. The boy goes home from the museum, just wanders away with nobody knowing he was in there (but it's done believably) and the book up to that point is really very good. The rest of that day and night are very touching and sad, as the boy relates what happens. Then there is this longish part where he stays with a friend and my interest just waned. I don't know.  Maybe it was that I had other stuff going on or something. It just felt like one day I didn't want to go on reading. Possibly the staying-with-a-friend lost steam or something. I just sort of dropped the book and can't really explain why, but when I saw it was available at the library again I thought about trying again, and my mind sort of went Oh no here we go again so I didn't check it out.

26A. The Star WarsJ.W. Rinsler (and George Lucas): This one was actually a comic book version of what I guess was the original draft script for Star Wars. It's really different than the movie turned out to be: Han Solo is an alien, Vader doesn't have a helmet, there are a lot more Jedi, Leia is a bratty teenager.  It's got the Empire, and invasions and some good fights, including one on the Wookie planet.  I was slowly working my way through it, reading it here and there -- I had it as a physical book I checked out of the library.  Right after Xmas, my time expired and I couldn't renew it, because someone else had put a hold on it. So I took it back having read about 2/3 of the way through. It wasn't too bad, but wasn't worth me putting a hold on to finish. Mostly it was kind of an interesting exercise, seeing how much of the very first part of the idea of Star Wars made it into the final movies, and in what form: there were lightsabers, but everyone had them, for example.  There was no Millenium Falcon -- at least not at the point where I got through. And I hadn't yet found Chewbacca. C3PO was a female robot, and Artoo Detoo could talk in regular human language; they seemed to both have the personality of the movie's C-3PO. If you like Star Wars it's worth trying to find.

You can see how the books are getting a bit better -- the last one I only didn't finish because of library deadlines. A couple others were maybe worth finishing. The next installment will begin with books I actually did finish.

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