Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Finished!

Back in July I did a post on Resistant Reading, those books that you’ve been carrying around with you for months but for some reason can never get yourself to read. It seems like I always have one of those books. Typically a book that everyone else loves and you hear about constantly, but for many reasons just can’t get yourself to read beyond the first few pages. Well, I did it! It took me nearly four months, but I finally read that book, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

In July’s post I promised that it would be the next book I read and it was, sort of. Typically it doesn’t take me four months to finish any book, so why did I take so long? I did pick up Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir as soon as I was finished with the book I was reading at that time, but I also picked up at least one other book and at least five client manuscripts as well as a large handful of submissions. In other words, other things continued to get in the way, and for me that’s always a bad sign. Anytime I can put down a book and not immediately feel the need to rush back to it, it’s a bad sign. In fact, I’m not so sure I would have finished this book if I hadn’t made such a public promise to do so.

So what were my thoughts? I liked it on a global level. I really liked her voice. I found her charming and relatable and liked her writing style immensely. The story was at times nice and interesting, but it dragged at other times for me. Sometimes I wanted the whining to end and at other times I really wanted to learn more about other people besides the author. I know, this is a memoir and so it’s about the author, but even in a memoir we want to get a glimpse of the rest of the world. And there were definitely times the story really dragged for me. There weren’t really any parts that stood out to me as amazing, and while it was fascinating to literally watch her change on the page, you could even feel the changes through her writing, it wasn’t enough to make me fall in love. My final verdict is that this is a book that I think is worthy of its bestseller status, it’s just not a book I will spend weeks and months thinking about and smiling over.

Now it’s your turn. Did you finish that book you’ve been promising yourself you’d get to, and what did you think?

Jessica

40 comments:

Richard Mabry said...

Jessica,
It's really hard for me to read part of a book, decide it's not worth it, and lay it aside permanently. I feel like I'm being unfaithful to the author when I do that.
Nevertheless, I've done just that on many occasions. My hat's off to you for persisting and following through on your commitment to this one.

Matthew said...

Yes, that book would be Rushdie's Midnight's Children. I managed to read a few other books in between. Now I'm dragging through a translation of Wolf Totem.

On the topic of memoirs, I've read a few that were fairly well written, but had too much that could have easily been cut. It makes me think about what I'm doing with my own memoir of life in China. I'm thinking of just turning it into fiction...or maybe half-fiction.

linda hall said...

There is a book that I read the first chapter to nearly six months ago. The plot, even in the first chapter, was convoluted and hard to follow. It's a very well established author, usually one of my favorites and I have to be honest, I really have no desire to get back to it. I will finish it because I finish all the books I buy, but...ugh, like pulling teeth.

SpaSlave said...

I love the term 'resistant reading'! One of the books I've been meaning to finish and just managed to do so is 'Running for the Hills' by Horatio Clare. It's the story of a family who moved to the wilds of Wales, and its a beautiful, descriptive narrative.

I think my problem was that I was trying to read it on the Tube, and it deserves a much closer read than the cramped environs of the London Underground.

Anita said...

My tweenager has been asking me to read Patterson's "Maximum Ride" series foreeeever. I finally read the first book. I'll be writing about it soon in a new book recommendation column for the Colorado Springs Gazette. But in this space, I have to say, like all Patterson's books, it was a page turner (only at a tweeny-bopper level).

green_knight said...

A few years ago I realised I did not have to finish every book I started, and I have given myself permission to put things aside - thus making time for reading (or re-reading) the books I *do* want to read.

My 'reluctant reading' book was LOTR. The first two times I tried to read it, I could not get past Bilbo's birthday, even though I'd loved The Hobbit.

The third time, I skipped that passage and started with Frodo's and Sam's flight, and I have loved it ever since. These days, I appreciate the subtleties of the first part, because the peace of Hobbiton is what keeps the hobbits going, but when I was fourteen, I couldn't get into it at all.

Let me qualify my first statement a bit: if it's a book that I see no merit in, a book that aggravates me, a book written in a style I cannot enjoy, then I'll put it aside. If it's a book that's 'not for me' at the time I'm reading, I often put it aside and come back to it when I'm more in the mood.

Lorra said...

Hah - just finished the "guilt" book. I know the author personally and she's coming to town to speak so I forced myself to read it.

And guess what? Unlike her previous two books which I read under duress, I really enjoyed this one! But, of course, I can't act like I just read it when I see her since it's been out for over six months.

Adulthood can be so challanging at times.

Justus M. Bowman said...

I read the Harry Potter series this year. It was a big step for me. I wouldn't have gone through with it except Stephen King wrote that a writer needs to read.

I will admit that some of the books had interesting plots which compelled me to continue turning pages, but the thicker books housed a verbosity that made it a struggle to get into the story. I also didn't care for Rowling's awkward dialogue attribution, her misunderstood teenage hero, the recurring villain, etc.

Melinda Leigh said...

For me it was The Secret Life of Bees. Took me six months to finish the book. I wanted to like it. Everyone else seemed to, but clearly it didn't ring any bells with me.

On the other hand, my ten-year-old just gave me Christopher Paolini's Brisinger. I'm not typically an epic adventure reader, but I love this series.

Anonymous said...

I finished a John Green book I'd been meaning to read. I chuckled at your post which said that anytime you put a book down and don't feel compelled to return to it that it's a bad sign. That was my experience with his book that so many others praised. But I forced myself to finish it, in the spirit of solidarity to your challenge.

Jessica, can I incite you to do a post naming a few of your current favorite books and why they are your favorite?

Petrina Green said...

I'm with you on Eat, Pray, Love. It's been sitting next to my bed for months. I finished Book One, and haven't gotten back to it. All my friends love it. They say it gets better after Book One...maybe when I can find some spare time that I'm working on my own novels.

spyscribbler said...

I gobbled up Eat, Pray, Love soon after your post, because it is one I had resisted reading, too. I LOVED it, mostly because I connected with her on so many different levels: the marriage, the spirituality, the yoga, Italy. I even took comfort in the "four brothers."

It was a bit whiny and self-absorbed, and I had the tiniest wish she had written some things a bit differently, but I loved it. I will probably read it again over the holidays.

Mark Terry said...

Actually, I've been trying to make it through "A Legacy of Ashes" a history of the CIA for a couple months now. It's sort of derailed by being a contest judge for ITW, but I'm sure I'll finish it ... eventually, despite the fact I thought it would be impossible to make a history of the CIA be boring.

Anonymous said...

Cormac McCarthy's Blood Merdian. Been sitting on that book for a year before picking it up. I've read and enjoyed his Border Trilogy, No Country for Old Men, The Road. I'm not finished yet...two thirds of the way through. But I must say so far I'm sorely disappointed. I was led to believe this is his masterpiece. So far I would have to differ. His Border books (written later) are much better written and his often overly flowery passages in Blood are often off the mark, in my opinion, and even nonsensical (I know, heresy). I think his later writing and books, particularly the Border books are more powerful, much better written and are more engaging story-wise(I think he finally totally mastered his style in those books).
Sorry for the digression. Blood Meridian is a fine book, but pretty flawed and over-rated (in my opinion). Having said that, McCarthy rocks. All The Pretty Horses is perhaps the most brilliant bit of sustained writing on every level I've run across.

Christina said...

I bought Janet Fitch’s novel, Paint it Black, in June and have yet to finish it. I am such a fan of her debut novel, White Oleander, but somehow, I cannot seem to get past the first five pages of Paint it Black. I find it boring. With White Oleander, I was immediately drawn in. I realize that sometimes with books, it takes several pages before it “gets good”, but the rhythm of the writing is unappealing in this particular novel.

On another note, it took me several months to finish Running with Scissors, but I’m so glad I did. This book was incredibly funny, disturbing and all around entertaining. In fact, it’s such a strange story that I sometimes found it difficult to believe that it was a memoir and true. After I finished the book, I rented the movie. The movie sucked.

Robena Grant said...

It took me a long time to read Phillipa Gregory's, The Other Queen. I kept wondering what was wrong with it that I could read a chapter and put the book down for a week. It was beautifully written and well researched but quite dry, however, once I finished the book and could reflect on it as a whole it left me wanting more. Strange huh?

Moth said...

Archangel by Sharon Shinn. Final verdict: Meh. Not bad. Not the best thing ever. Don't get why it's such a classic.

Jeanie W said...

I have a couple of half-finished books that have been sitting on my bedside table for at least six months. They're both good books, and I do intend to finish them. But I've found them to be easy to set aside in favor of books that are more relevant to my life right now: books on writing craft, books in my genre, books by speakers at conferences I'm attending. I'm sure I'll get back to them later.

Crimogenic said...

I can't seem to get past the first few pages of The Kite Runner. I hate the voice of the narrator and I hate when foreign or cultural words are highlighted so that if I didn't know it was a 'foreign' word, then for sure italicizing it will remind me. I've had this one for about 10 months now...hopefully one day I will pick it up again. In the meantime, I have read countless enjoyable books.

jnantz said...

Ugh, LIFE OF PI. This book absolutely put me to sleep. If I hadn't had to read it for the AP workshop I was attending, I never would have touched it. People tell me it's such an engaging work and that's just the kind of book my AP students might enjoy after HEART OF DARKNESS or WUTHERING HEIGHTS.

Maybe, but I'm not putting my kids through it, because I can't fake liking it well enough to teach the damned thing.

Shaun said...

I had read a lot of Christie Golden's short stories on the high elf vampire, Jander Sunstar. I liked the character; a vampire who was both a high elf and GOOD was not the norm. So, when I found that Ms. Golden had written one of the first Ravenloft books, "Vampire of the Mists," I just HAD to read it... But it took me about a year to get through it. It was not like the short stories. Yes, Jander was still good, but, unlike most Stephen King books, it just did not keep my interest enough to make me want to come back each evening after work and pick it back up.

Stephanie said...

Jessica-
I will have to agree with you re Eat, Pray, Love. I was very resistant to reading this memoir. And then I read Stern Men by Gilbert and I loved this story and her voice so I immediately petitioned my book club to choose her memoir for the following month. My enthusiasm waned after page after page of whining. I'm glad I read it but it was not the transcendant experience I had imagined.

AC said...

I'm so glad to know this has a name: "resistant reading," ha!

Right now I'm doing this with "The Eyre Affair," which I know should be an easy read, and I want to read it...it's just that I'm about two chapters in and...it's been sitting on my shelf for three weeks.

Anonymous said...

I am about 30 pages away from finishing Edith Wharton's House of Mirth but I haven't touched it for weeks. This is because it's dry and the ending was ruined for me. Also, though I can somewhat sympathize with Lily, sometimes the societal ornament who can't adjust to lower-class living thing gets too thin.

Honestly, I'm feeling more guilty about giving up on Portnoy's Complaint 50 pages in. It was just too full of Jewish stereotypes and whining about his family. They're not even that bad a family; the main character is just way too thin-skinned. Sometimes I wish there was a support group for writers who find a famous "canonical" work of fiction out-and-out bad. "There, there, it isn't your imagination, it really is awful, you're not just a bad critic..."

Anyone else with me?

-Matt

Julie Weathers said...

I forced myself to finish reading THE HORSE WHISPERER. That was my final lesson on finish something you read just because you should.

That book made me want to hunt Evans down and take away his cowboy lingo dictionary, stomp on it--a lot--and then burn it. Then I would take out an ad in the LIVESTOCK WEEKLY with his picture and warn horse traders never to visit with this man. Ever.

I promised my son I would read the Halo books and I will, because they are important to him as he loves the writing and the story. I've started them and have to admit for books based on a game I was really surprised at the story. It's really good.

Reading something that doesn't get and keep my interest? Nope. Time is too precious to spend it wanting to hunt down writers for wasting my time.

I try out new authors when I can, but if they don't catch me by the end of the third chapter, I am gone and I'm not coming back. I don't mind donating books to the library at all.

GAME OF THRONES is still unfinished, but that is just because my life is such a shambles right now. Any free time is spent rewriting the end of my book and doing revisions. I love his story, characters, style, details, everything. I just haven't had time to read for pleasure.

ALL THE PRETTY HORSES drove me insane. It didn't even make it out of the library.

Amy Nathan said...

If I don't like a book, I don't try to finish it. Hmm, I'm wondering about that now. I do give books a solid try though, but only want to read things that don't annoy me, like Eat Pray Love did. I loved her voice as well, but I think I could find myself if I was paid to travel the world to do so. ;)

The Rejection Queen said...

Right now I'm almost done with "The Bone Garden" and I am also reading "I know this much is true" at the same time. Both are excellent books and I will probably end up finishing "The Bone Garden" this weekend, while "I know this much is true" will take me awhile since it's almost 900 pages!

Heidi C. Vlach said...

I keep meaning to finish A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge. I floundered halfway through because one of the two main subplots really didn't interest me at all, but Vinge's wonderfully creative sci-fi species make me guilty for not finishing the story. If I can't read it for the humans, I at least need to read it for the sentient plants on robot scooters!

WendyCinNYC said...

I feel like I've been slogging through THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE, but last night the plot started to pick up, so I'm hopeful. The gorgeous writing has been pulling me along.

Anonymous said...

"Have a hard time reading Harry Potter" WOW!!!! I read the last one in less than twelve hours. It just goes to show, no one has the same taste. I'm trying to read Inkheart (my daughters loved it). It's a struggle for me, but I'm sure it will get better if they both loved it (I'm over half way through the first book). This is all the more reason for agents to stretch beyond their realm and if they think they have a good writer but not their cup of tea, involve more people in the process before eliminating a book. I realize it's not an easy job being an agent, and not as easy to sell a book if you prefer something else, but if my two daughters tell me they love a book, even if I didn't, I could sell it.

Jarucia said...

For me it was (and is) the Twilight saga. I held off, but I'm a blasted lemming. I read the first two and swore no more, but will likely read the rest come December. I just have to 'understand' it. It feels like field research at this point.

With Eat, Pray, Love, I ate my way through that book. I found myself doing nothing but craving the food she talked about.

Was in Naples this year, and I agree, it's the best pizza anywhere.

Shelli said...

My own! (now I just need to try and sell it :)
Shelli
http://faeriality.blogspot.com/

sylvia said...

Sometimes I wanted the whining to end Haha, I really disliked Eat, Love, Pray for that reason.

My resistant reading is World Enough and Time. I'm coming up with excuses not to pick it up.

Anonymous said...

Twilight saga loved the first two, last one was rough and that was more than my opinion. Writer's tend to see errors and follies. A reader just wants to be drawn in. It's all in the prospective. Harry Potter, Twilight, Eat Pray Love, who knows what is going to strike the reader's fancy. Just goes to show you need to keep an open mind.You never know who might have the next Eragon.

Vacuum Queen said...

E.P.L did NOT do it for me. I swear I'm the only one in the universe who didn't love it. Bleh. A little smarmy or something. I don't know. Kindof like Bridges of Madison County and Skipping Christmas. The world LOVED them. Me? Not so much.
Oh well.
The book I currently cannot read is any book at all. I am busy with other things, and I have this huge guilt that if I start a book I will want to finish it and that usually takes me 2 weeks of cutting out on other people's time. Very hard for me to do that. As soon as it's Christmas break (maybe) I'm going to read 3 Cups of Tea - again - EVERYONE is telling me to read it. Life changing apparently. ??? We'll see.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I'm in the middle of my Resistant Reading book right now--the second half of The Book of the New Sun. I read the first half and didn't like most of the characters, although I really wanted to like the book. I think I read four unrelated books after the first half before moving on to the second.

Nature Walker said...

it has to be... hold your breath... I am sure there will be those who will run with spears in their hands abd track me to the edge of the earth and want to hurl me off the edge if they can... It is " The Secret"!!!!!

I find the preachy style really off putting. I also think that a book like the Secret ought to be written and read as a free flowing text and not like a documentary with several people- no matter how important they are- giving their opinions about a secret which is not a secret really.

I am sorry to be so harsh about a book that has been on the bestseller list and that has broken many records. But I do feel it could have been treated very differently.

My apologies to all purists who love the book. I might never go back to it.

We all live and attract what we need to learn in our lives.... Since I am already in that groove- may be I donot need the Secret!

There... I got it off my chest!

I will welcome all the brick bats that follow this comment and wait for that one poster who will concurr.

Cari said...

Yes, I read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Okay, I listened to them. But they were fabulous! I'm so glad I did.

To the above poster who's resistantly reading The Eyre Affair: it starts slow, but it gets so much better! You must press on!

Jessica Dotta said...

Wives and Daughters was like that for me. I trudged through the pages for months. Only to learn she died before the book was finished.

I was not a happy camper that day, although judging from her notes, I couldn't have taken another 200 pages. Love the BBC movie, though.

Barbara Martin said...

In September 2006 I bought The Lady and the Unicorn, read to page 14 and never went back to it. The book is in my bag of donations to the public library.

To improve my writing I read a wide variety of books: fiction and non-fiction, and in the process find gems of information to research further for use in my manuscripts.