Thursday, December 15, 2016

books i didn't finish



Here's the deal: I've written, or at least posted, about each book I've read this year. Ok, that's a lie, because I can think of two that I didn't write about, not because I didn't like them but because I got busy and moved on to the next one before I really thought about these two. (The Turner House and We Should All Be Feminists, for the record.)

But, there are a few books I started and never finished. When Goodreads sent me an email and had tallied the number of books and pages I've read this year, I realized I wasn't totally truthful, with Goodreads or with you (though I'm not sure you care). I read more than I say I did. There's a reason, however, for putting each of those books aside, and some of those reasons my be worth writing about.

Pulphead by Jeremiah John Sullivan. A book of essays, one or two of which I'd read in other publications or for classes I've taken. Most reference pop culture in some fun and also thoughtful way. I really liked the first half of the book - the essays I've read before, plus one on the Real World, which consumed a nice part of my late high school and early college years. But then I got bored, and realized, yet again, how difficult it is to write and edit a book of essays that can keep one's attention, even when the reader isn't always interested in the topic.

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. I know a lot of other readers, especially liberal Christian women my age or a little older, really liked this book. I gave it at least 50 pages and couldn't get into it. She didn't say anything new about relating to God, and many of the anecdotes or illustrations she used felt untrue or not very meaningful to me.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. Oh, I have strong feelings about this. First, I should say I listened to it on Audible (which is a whole other post, possibly). The opening took my breath away - such beautiful writing. But then it just got heavier and heavier, all the things she shared about her life, in present tense (so immediate!), with no pull back into present day for reflection or to guide the reader through all the crap that happened. This is the problem with the genre of confessional memoir that's so popular these days - the underlying ideology that's taking hold is it's ok to be messed up! Wear it proud! I'm all for vulnerability, but only in my close circles, and with people who are committed to seeing me through it. Not for the sake of wearing our bruised skin always on the outside. What is the point of that -- so we can all celebrate that it's ok to be bruised? What about healing?

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. This was supposed to have been a good one, I think it even won some awards. The writing was nice but the two main characters, a married couple, were too self-involved and I could feel it all going south. I can't do a cynical book about marriage at this point in my life.

I've got 15 days of the year left and two books I'm partway through -- some short stories and a book about Africa that I put aside and intend to finish real soon.

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(photo: taylor taught me this)

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