Six Books I’ve Never Finished, But Wish I Had08/10/2019
For anyone who loves to read, the physical form of a book is sacrosanct and regarded with the utmost respect. I had a friend who cared little for the physical quality of the numerous books he repeatedly read. His copies had pages torn or missing. Front covers ripped in two, and one had a phone number in the margin of one of the middle pages. I tend to keep my books in better condition, but I do turn the corners down, and anger many of avid readers.
I used a bookmark, but I lost it and had no way to mark the page. It hurt breaking the sacred readers’ rules. But rebellion is freeing. I twisted the pages, swearing, I’d buy a bookmark for the next page, but I flew through books before I had time to buy another form of marker. It was too late. Almost every book filling my bookcase has turned down pages along with creases down the spine. Some readers may find my lack of respect outrageous, but that’s not where it stops. It wasn’t the first rule I’d broken. Besides, why make rules, if we can’t break them?
It’s insidious. How dare you start a book and not pay the author the respect to finish it. Well, sometimes there’s a reason. Sometimes, the books bad, sometimes life takes over, and the story fades from the consciousness, and sometimes something better comes along, not because it’s a bad book, but because some authors mean more to me than other. Not all writers were created equal.
However, I do regret the books I’ve never finished. I don’t like leaving anything undone. I’ve hidden most of these books behind completed titles, and they’re impossible to remember when I need something to read. So here it is, a confession, six books I’ve never finished, and the reason why.
1st of the Books I've Never Finished - A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James, Fiction
This list starts with the man booker winning novel by Jamaican author, Marlon James. Of all the books on this list, this book fills me with the most regret. James crams the narrative with voices and hilarious dialogue. There’s Jamaican gangsters, CIA operatives, and the everyday people influenced by the decisions these people make. The story revolves around a fictionalised series of events that lead up to the real-life failed assassination of Reggae legend, Bob Marley, referred to as the singer.
I couldn’t put this book down at first, but I worked a lot and had started writing the first draft of my novel, which led to a lack of time for a story as long as this one. According to ReadingLength, the average person spends over 15 hours reading A Brief History, and work commitments, both 9-to-5 and my new project, prevented me from committing to one of the best books I’d read. The amount of time I dedicated to reading slowed, and eventually, I found myself withdrawn from the story. My feelings for the characters faded, and a pile of new untouched books shone.
I’ve tried to pick it up since, but as time elapsed and the list of unread books grew, the story faded further from memory. Of all the books on the list, I think about this one a lot. A defeat, of sorts. A book too long to keep me engaged as I tried to keep my work/life balance in check. However, one thing was clear from the first page, James’ writing was remarkable, and would take any reader on an incredible journey. A deserved Man Booker Winner. I want to finish it now.
2nd of the Books I've Never Finished - Maxed Out, James D. Scurlock, Non-Fiction
My brother has a running joke he likes to throw around whenever I say I’m going to do something. He stares in my direction, says my name, then says, ‘read Maxed Out.’ In my younger days, I read a lot of non-fiction, usually about history and politics, but an occasional economics book caught my eye. Most of these were easy to follow language-wise or told an exciting story despite their fact-based narrative. Maxed Out was no different.
The problem with this book was its focus on an American economic system, which made it less appealing to a working-class kid from London. The tales within the pages excited at times and showed the severity of a system built out of credit, and the ability it has to ruin lives. It was a stark warning about the dangers of loans and mortgages. But as a teen, I couldn’t grasp the risks too well and had to rack up some debt before I could learn from the book. If I’d stuck with it, I might have found myself in a better financial position today.
I can’t see myself finishing this book at any point. I’ve read a lot of economic books since and don’t believe this book can teach me anything new. I can’t remember my initial thoughts because I read it a while back, but my brothers’ jokes have left me with a little animosity towards this book. While it offered the authors take on a subject he felt passionately about, it doesn’t quite live up to other books I’ve read with similar themes. Sorry, Maxed Out, I’m not sure I’ll ever wish I’d read you, but one day I may prove myself wrong.
3rd of the Books I've Never Finished - Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, Fiction
This is one of those novels from the last century that always finds itself on a list of dystopian novels that ring true today. Along with 1984, it’s one of those warnings against controlled governments. I couldn’t put 1984 down, from the first line to the scene where Winston chooses to survive in an abhorrent system than to live free with his love. With this book, I couldn’t connect with the characters. Winston felt like a hero, and his decisions were heart-breaking, but understandable under the circumstances. 1984 forced me to ask questions about myself, but I never allowed Brave New World to question my morality.
I’m my own worst enemy at times. I spend a lot of time working or socialising or trying to remain physically active despite having a hectic work schedule. When I have the energy to focus on reading and writing without drooping eyelids, I tend to focus on writing. When I’m tired, battling to keep my eyes open, I tend to skim and skip sections of chapters. Therefore, I struggle to stay focused. My mind engaged with 1984, but my brain needed to rest while I tried reading this novel. I found myself lost often, and that may be why I never connected with the characters or the story. However, the times when I focused on the writing, I was impressed.
Brave New World is a recognised literary classic, and I would love to revisit the book. However, I like to read new books, which may reduce this novel to nothing more than another cover on an ever-expanding bookshelf. If the story is as great as a wealth of literary critics and readers suggest, then I’m missing out, but it is one book I’m likely to revisit. Like most things, it’s a question of time and motivation.
4th of the Books I've Never Read - Warlight, Michael Ondaatje, Fiction
This novel travelled with me from Vietnam to Vienna, but the plane journeys and time in hotels still didn’t help. The book started well, with a suspense-filled introduction set in the aftermath of the Second World War. Nathaniel tells the story of his days when his parents left him, and his sister in the care of an assumed petty criminal as they spent a year in Singapore. Nathaniel befriends his guardian’s acquaintance known only as The Moth and a prostitute.
This book was longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker prize, but I never felt as though I was reading a longlisted novel. I’ve never felt let down by any of the books nominated for the award (I’ve not read every book ever listed, but I usually set my reading lists by them.) However, Warlight didn’t live up to expectations. I found it slow-moving and lacklustre at times. The first chapter drew me in, but the following pages didn’t hold my attention.
Although the writing failed to impress, the story itself captivated me, and I find myself wondering what happens every time I catch a glimpse of the book. If I find myself without a book to read, then I may pick this one up and find out what happens to Nathaniel. I know his parents were spies, but there’s something mysterious about the plot. One day, I may cross this book of the list, but right now, it seems unlikely, Even if better minds than mine, have deemed this book a worthy read. Maybe, I’m wrong.
5th of the Books I've Never Read - The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, Non-Fiction
This is a book everyone should read but never does. In all honesty, I never really started this book. It came coupled with the Voyage of the HMS Beagle which I did read to the end, but it felt like reaching the middle of a vast epic and having to start again.
The Voyage of the HMS Beagle describes Darwin’s adventures as he sailed around the world collecting data and specimens that would eventually help him develop the theory of evolution which he laid out in The Origin of Species. The text contains incredible descriptions of flora and fauna, as well as different cultures from the new world. What’s interesting about Darwin’s diary is the insight into the Victorian mind when most of today’s world still felt new. Europeans have only known about the Americas for 400 years, which compared to how long we’ve had civilisation, equates to about five minutes.
The second part of the two-book collection is something I’ve wanted to read for a long time, but like most of the books I want to read again, time prevents me. I’ll read this book at some point, not for any literary merit, or any educational reasons (the theory of evolution is one of the most studied aspects of science, so knowledge is everywhere) but because I want to read the original groundbreaking works of one of sciences greatest minds.
At its publication, Great Britain was a conservative, religious society and controversy followed its release. However, it’s a part of history, not British history, but human history. The phrase “changed the world” is often overused, but if any piece of literature deserves the accolade, it’s this one. It’s a book I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve left to gather dust on a bookshelf and the one book I want to cross off this list before its too late.
6th of the Books I've Never Read - The Sleepwalkers, Christopher Clark, Non-Fiction
This brilliant fact-filled compendium of events leading up to the start of World War One doesn’t belong on this list. I started reading soon after it’s publication in 2011 but found it difficult to commit to the length of the book. However, after visiting Serbia in 2018, I thought I’d learn more about the politics of a region that led to “the war to end all wars.” The first chapter describes the overthrow of the Serbian royal family and the vying for power between tiny Serbia, and the Hapsburgs Empire.
Clark shows each political moment as it’s own individual story with a significance that impacts broader continental issues. The book focuses on the history of regional Europe and Europe on the whole. It involves political commentary on Britain, France, The Ottoman Empire Russia, the unification of Austria and Hungary, German unification, and the lives of the politicians involved. There’s a sense of understanding between the reader and the actions of a historical figure that seem ridiculous until we understand the reasonings.
I visited Austria earlier this year and learnt more about the Hapsburg Empire. This combined with a greater understanding of Serbia, I decided to commit to this book one more time. I’ve almost finished, but a commitment to my writing and trying to juggle my work/life balance still presents an issue. It’s an extremely long book with 736 pages of small text, it may take me a little while, but I’m committed this time. Hopefully, it’s one book to cross of this list before the years’ end.
Final Thoughts on the Books I've Never Read
If I’m honest, I find the entire concept of “reading rules” ridiculous. As if you can disrespect a book by turning the corners to ark your last page or giving up a book you don’t find interesting. First off, you paid for the physical copy of the book, so you’re able to treat the book as you please, it’s the content that’s valuable and worthy of respect. That said, if you don’t feel engaged by the material, why should you feel forced to continue investing your most valuable currency, time, in reading work, you don’t value.
When I research blog writing, I’m told subheadings are vital to breaking up content so readers can skip to the parts they find relevant. And it’s true. What you want as a reader is more important than what anyone else suggests you do. Life’s too short to waste your time reading something that bores you; in fact, it’s too short to spend your time doing anything you don’t want to do. I write what I want, and you have a choice as to whether you want to read it or not. Neither of us should be forced to change our interests.
That said, this list was something I wanted to write, and I wanted to share my reasons behind why I don’t finish every book I start. Every one of them, somebody else highly recommends as a must-read, but life affects everyone differently. I’ve nearly finished the Sleepwalkers, but it’s taking a long time, who knows if I’ll reach the last line this time.
Let’s get serious, not finishing a book, is not the worse thing a person can do, nor is the most critical part of reading. It’s about new experiences, and above all else, enjoyment.
Six books I’ve never read. but wish I did. Written By Glenn Thomas, 2019. Don’t forget to subscribe and leave a comment. Thanks for reading.