Thursday, April 08, 2010

Land of the Lost

There is a page in my Goodreads account that makes me very sad.

In structuring my collection and the lists I keep, I have things mostly divided into to-read, currently-reading, and read, the default shelves. But I've added some others--"like to think I will read," which are books that sound interesting or improving, but that--who are we kidding?--I'll probably never get around to. It's sort of a catch-all for books that I've heard of and don't want to forget exist, but doubt I'll ever get to. Interesting-sounding books about political topics that are no longer immediately relevant (What's the Matter With Kansas?), classics that intimidate me with their heft (Vanity Fair), books that got high recommendations from people I usually agree with but seem to be the opposite of my style (Shogun), books I want to like but just can't seem to (The Book of Night Women).

For the most part, these books don't make me sad. They represent hope, and the fact that anything is possible--even me reading The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson.

The list that makes me sad is the one that represents surrender. The shelf of books I gave up on. It's a shelf without hope. "Did not finish."

This shelf has a sub-category of "never tried," which pretty much means I really thought I wanted to read it, picked it up and got through three pages before I put it down. Or, I really, really wanted to read it, because I love the author, or the premise, or I have huge, high hopes for some other reason, but even before touching the book, I know I just can't.

Flash Forward, which has a great premise, also has the absolute worst sample on Audible. It's got to be pages of how this computer programmer's girlfriend dresses him, and what about his outfit is comfortable vs. casual vs. fashionable, and how he really doesn't care. Just pages. Just...ugh. There's The Zookeeper's Wife, which by all accounts is excellent, but was the book in which I realized that number of Polish street names in the first five pages of a book pretty much makes or breaks the thing for me.

But "never tried" doesn't hurt nearly as much as the rest of "did not finish." I was so excited about 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows, which was supposed to be a companion book to the Traveling Pants, but which just fell flat. How much hope did I have for Brides of Eden, about a religious revival in Oregon at the beginning of the twentieth century? How great an idea did The Explosionist sound like? I mean, I was tingling at the thought of reading The Explosionist. Who wouldn't be--what a great title! Alternate history, domestic terrorism in Great Britain in the '30s, a girls' boarding school for crying out loud! And then somehow that was also a ghost story? With very obvious romantic complications right on page 5. God, what a let-down.

And now--now I'm about to stop reading The Illuminator. I just have too many other commitments--Sharon Shinn and I are involved in a kind of exclusive thing, but I'm trying to juggle the new Megan Whalen Turner on the side (oh, God, Eugenides is right there in the pile and I'm sitting here typing to you people?), plus the other, what is it, 25? Books I have checked out right now. I'm not kidding, I think it's 27. Minus books for the baby, that's like 23. God in heaven, I need to go read.

I don't think The Illuminator is going on "did not finish" yet. I think it's going back in to-read. Because I'm all about the power of hope.


Carrietracy said...

I am trying to keep myself from buying Conspiracy of Kings, but I don't think I can do it. Maybe if I do my work for school, I'll let myself have it as a reward. Oooh.

I've stopped feeling guilty about books I don't finish. I blame the author, now!

Also, I have 23 books out from the library, only 2 of which I have read. I should also get to reading!

Claire said...

Life is too short to finish books that don't appeal to you! I've become a more courageous non-finisher with practice. It's nothing to be ashamed of!