This Pulitzer-winning (2016) novel was one of the nominees for our Community Read. It sounded promising, the story of a Vietnamese double agent in America after the Vietnam War. However, I only managed to read 22 pages of the book. I had no idea what was going on. This author clearly spent immense time and effort in masterfully crafting each sentence, but I have no idea what those beautiful sentences were saying. I feel bad about abandoning a book for the Community Read committee, and I think this is the first time I haven't finished reading one. But it was so clear that this impenetrable book would be a turn-off to a lot of people and that's the opposite of what we're trying to do.
My first (and only?) foray into the work of Zadie Smith did not go nearly as well as I had hoped. For years I've felt like I should try this author and finally I put this book on my Personal Reading Challenge list and, a couple of weeks ago, dove in. The problem is that I knew I was going to start reading Middlemarch soon, and that's a terrible time to pick up a 400+-page novel with tiny print, thinking I could just breeze through it. There's no breezing with this book. It's not bad, actually, and for a while I liked it and assumed I'd read the whole thing. Then, about 75 pages into it, I realized that I just saw no compelling reason to keep going. The characters felt distant and unknowable, and the story had no momentum for me. The writing is perfectly lovely and had I not been just about to embark on an even longer, denser book perhaps I would have kept going. Would I have finished? There's no way to know the answer to that one.
Outcasts United by Warren St. John
So there you have it. All of my recent shame.
Have you read any of these books? Have you given up on anything lately?