Finishing a book…

Nick Hornby recently told a book audience that it was ok not to finish a book if they weren’t enjoying reading it. It’s a subject of much debate among book readers I know – my husband makes a point of finishing books where I am much happier giving up if I don’t like them. I think he’s only been defeated by Paradise Lost.

So what’s my list? What books haven’t I finished?

War and Peace – Tolstoy

I had a copy of this on the shelf for years before I plucked up the courage to read it. Friends had assured me it wasn’t as bad as I might have thought. It wasn’t difficult to read but my god, it was boring. I had an idea who most of the characters were after a while so that was one criticism out. When does it start to get good? I asked. It may well have been after page 613 which is where I stopped.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres

Everyone loved this a few years back when Paxman talked about it. I hated it.

Scoop and Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

I’ve not finished Scoop more than once. The first time I tried to read it was in my teens and I had the idea that Waugh was a grown up author who should be admired. I picked Scoop because I wanted to be a journalist at the time. It was bewildering and I managed about halfway before realising I had no idea what was going on.A few years later I tried reading Brideshead Revisited at university. Bleagh. A few years after that I thought I’d try Scoop again in case my understanding improved with age. It hadn’t. The only Waugh I have finished was Vile Bodies for my reading group and I hated that too.

The Hobbit/ Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkein

As a 13-year old I tried reading a lot of things. I finished Les Miserables that year. I did not finish this. A boyfriend at university was terribly shocked and tried to get me to read Lord of the Rings to make up for the gap in my knowledge. That was even worse – no further than the first line when I got cross at the ghastly twee-ness of it all. Eleventy first birthday. Ugh.

So those are the most obvious gaps in my list. I’d like to hear yours. What have you not finished reading?


  1. I used to be determined to finish a book no matter what, but Praying for Sleep by Jeffrey Deaver changed all that. No praying was necessary because it was so boring. Sleep came easily. I also can’t get on with Tolkein, even though numerous people have told me I must start with X Y or Z to get into them properly. NO. ALL TERRIBLE. And because I like epic fantasy someone (who apparently secretly hated me) recommended Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books. They’re not so much epic as turgid and are the only books I’ve ever attempted to read where the buildings were more interesting than the people in them. Oh, and Isabel Allende. Apparently magical realism, a genre I love, but I couldn’t get past the twenty page description of a woman farting around feeding her chickens in an orange grove, musing on her family’s supposedly fascinating history. (They all had torrid affairs I could not give less of a shit about.)

  2. I, too, never finished Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Soooooo boring. I also haven’t finished Labyrinthe by Kate Moss or the second of the Millennium Trilogy (The Girl who Played With Fire or Kicked the Horent’s Nest, I forget). Something by Carlos Ruiz Safon, something by Stephen King, plenty of “chick lit”, including the latest Bridget Jones instalmen. I’m terrible at finishing books but I struggle to find time to read. X

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