Books I Abandoned in 2012

books i abandoned in 2012

As a general rule, I believe in seeing books through to completion. Some terrific books take a while to warm up to, and even bad books often have some redeeming qualities.

So for me, it’s really saying something to abandon a book mid-stream. When I do give up on a book, it’s usually because either: 1. The book is truly terrible, or 2. The timing is wrong.

I wish I kept better records of the books I started (as opposed to completed) in 2012, but these are the books I know I abandoned. This doesn’t count the ones I’ve completely forgotten about, were so bad I’ve blocked them from my memory, or the abandoned book graveyard known as My Kindle.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail


I heard rave reviews from readers with good taste, but I only made it to page 40. The trouble started right at the beginning, as Strayed watched her mom die of cancer. Because of my personal history, I hate cancer books (though I adored A Homemade Life, which began with a similar story).

Wild reminded me of Julie Powell's (of Julie and Julia fame) Cleaving, a truly terrible book that I should have abandoned, but instead stuck with through the sad, sorry, never-should-have-been-published end. (For pure entertainment value, read the Amazon reviews of Cleaving, such as, "where insecurity and narcissism converge." I concur.)

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The Irrational Season (The Crosswicks Journals)

The Irrational Season (The Crosswicks Journals)

This is the second book of L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals. I love the first installment, A Circle of Quiet, so much that I read it three times this year. But every time I turn my eyes towards volume 2 my pace slows to a crawl and I stall out around page 30. Maybe one day I'll summon the resolve to make it through. In the meantime, I'm enjoying Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L'Engle in Many Voices.

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Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel

Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel

From The Philadelphia Inquirer: "A rambunctious tour de force of inventive and intelligent storytelling . . . Foer can place his reader's hand on the heart of human experience, the transcendent beauty of human connections. Read, you can feel the life beating."

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At Home: A Short History of Private Life

At Home: A Short History of Private Life


I love books about cities, architecture, and the way we live. I adore A Pattern Language. I've devoured every book by Jane Jacobs and Witold Rybczynski. But I couldn't make myself care about this one enough to keep turning the pages when there are so many other great books to read. Maybe because I felt like I'd read it all already?

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What books did you abandon in 2012?

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  1. Linda says:

    You just made my day! I always feel guilty when I abandon a book, especially when someone I respect recommends it to me. I feel like I failed in some way. I’ve tried to read Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven – twice – and failed miserably. Maybe this will be my year??

  2. Comparing Wild to Cleaving is a good way to guarantee that I will never want to try Wild. I’m still annoyed that I stuck with Cleaving, hoping that surely it would get better.

    I also now hate cancer books, so it has that extra strike against it too. Thanks for the warning.

  3. I, too, try to stick a book through to the end. However, I’ve become resolved to the fact that I don’t really have time right now to get through a book I don’t just really enjoy from the beginning.

    I tried several times reading Eragon. I am certain that I will enjoy it, but it didn’t capture me from the beginning and got shelved for other life things.

  4. I can’t remember a single one. Not because there weren’t any, but because there were so many. I abandon books all the time. Life is too short to give up precious minutes to books that don’t speak to me.

    That said, I am so glad I returned to The Book Thief after abandoning it a few years back. Totally agree that sometimes the timing is just off.

  5. melyssa says:

    First of all, I love that photo – I’m still chuckling.

    Cleaving sounds a lot like Eat, Pray, Love to me…pls don’t let your readers kill me.

    As far as abandoning books: yes, occasionally. As a YA author, I mostly read YA. And there’s a lot of fluff out there. This year, according to my Goodreads list, I gave up on:

    The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Diviners, Swamplandia!, Pretty Monsters, and Mayfly Requiem. Whew!

  6. HopefulLeigh says:

    I rarely give up on books. I might skip ahead a few pages or a chapter but I am determined to finish, one way or another. I can only think of a few books that I’ve abandoned in the course of my lifetime. Maybe I’m a book masochist.

    However, I have set books to the side in favor of other books. I’ve heard great things about Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend but couldn’t get into it for the life of me. I’m going to give it another go sometime next year.

    • debbi says:

      I know I am 4 years late to respond but….same! though I did finish it, it was purely because that was a point in my life when I didn’t put books down. so when a friend recommended the goldfinch, I was completely put off. I tried it (very begrudgingly) and ended up enjoying it immensely. maybe it was the book or the fact that I was at a different point in my life or that I’d finally learned that I can enjoy and dislike books by the same author.

  7. Rachel says:

    I have a hard time giving up in books. That said, I gave upon Shadow of The Wind. I’ll try again. I also gave up on Anne Lammot’s follow up to operating instructions. It was just so horrible and whiney, like she banged it out over the weekend…

  8. Angela says:

    I also give up on books a lot. Sometimes just because I hate them, sometimes because the timing just isn’t right.

    I keep a list of books I finish, but I think I need to also start listing those I start but don’t finish, because right now I can’t think of a single one. 🙂

    My mom was telling me recently about a book she was reading but didn’t like. I told her to just quit, but she couldn’t – once she starts, she’s going to finish it, no matter what.

  9. Tim says:

    I gave up shortly after starting a Bryson book too, Anne. I read one or two in full, but by the third found it was too much about him and not enough about the subject.

    This year, one that I gave up on soon after starting was The Eyre Affair. It came so highly recommended from people whose taste I trust, but I just couldn’t get into it. Way too much inside joke/literary references for me to follow. It was as if the writer was just being clever too much of the time.


    • Anne says:

      Tim, I nearly included The Eyre Affair on this list! I’ve checked it out from the library at least 3 times, stared at it for a few weeks, and returned it unread. (It didn’t make the cut because I’ve never actually read a single page.)

  10. Christy says:

    Yes to the Cleaving book! I read it before I read Julie and Julia even, and wanted to quit it because it was so terrible on so many levels, but thought, “surely, it HAS to get better!!??” But definitely not. And the movie of Julie and Julia was so much better-they at least attempted to make her likeable!

    And I really liked At Home. But sometimes if you’re just not feeling it you’re just not feeling it!

  11. Elizabeth Kane says:

    I’ve noticed I’ll hold out for novels more than non-fiction. I keep thinking it’ll get better, the story will gain traction soon, I just have to hold on for a few more chapters!

    Of course, that just puts me in a sour mood searching for new books so I’m redefining this unwritten rule for myself. There are *too many* good novels in the world to be reading ones that don’t resonate with me.

  12. My main TBR list is not real flexible. I’m pretty much locked in for the next 15 yrs or so.

    As for side reading — I have to be very picky from the onset b/c my time is so limited. I read some good stuff this past year and I have four or five books in queue on my Kindle. I’m straining to think of something I had to completely abandon.

    That being said, I AM a strong believer in tossing a book over one’s shoulder if it proves unworthy.

    • Kandace says:

      Adriana (if you’re still out there),
      Locked in for 15 years?? Why on Earth would you do that to yourself?! 😉 I have a long TBR professionally (I’m a philosopher.), but part of what I love about pleasure reading is that “fall down the rabbit hole” effect that happens when I read one that leads to another that leads to another…from Bag End all the way to Modor!

      • Adriana says:

        Thanks for your comment, Kandace. Yes, I’m still here and still happily plodding through the same old TBR list. ???? It sounds like you have a fascinating life as well. Cheers!

  13. Lisa Rose says:

    I have attempted to read some classics this year, those that I never got around to in High School. OMG, I had to ask myself why some of them are classics as a few were simply awful! At first I though there was something wrong with me, then a very well-read friend agreed with some of my findings so I felt a little less stupid … just a little … lol

  14. Jennifer H says:

    I abandon books all the time and I do allow my son to abandon bedtime books after he has given them a chance. Most often the timing is wrong, such as when I started CS Lewis The Magician’s Nephew in 1st grade, but he loved it in 3rd grade. Most recently he gave up on Harriet the Spy (which I got off your list! lol) because he said she wasn’t a nice person. I also have a kindle graveyard. If it’s free, it definitely doesn’t make it past the first few chapters if it’s no good.

    • Anne says:

      Nope, Harriet certainly doesn’t start out as nice. I’m glad he could at least recognize that! Maybe in a year or two he’ll enjoy it more. (It can be painful to watch someone grow up, even if it’s in a book!)

      Glad I’m not the only one with a Kindle graveyard 🙂

  15. Amy says:

    OK I won’t say I abandoned Bonhoeffer exactly, but I have taken an extended break 🙂 I just had no idea the book was hundreds and hundreds of pages. I downloaded it on my Kindle and once I noticed my percent wasn’t changing much, I did some research to find out how long it is. Wow! They dropped off from his personal story and more into the politics and I got bored. I hear so many good things though and like hopefulleigh said, “I’m a book masochist,” so I’m determined to finish at some point!

    • Anne says:

      I haven’t read Bonhoeffer since I read him in college. In German. (Really!) At times I absolutely loved it, and at times I felt like I had no idea what he was saying through the language barrier. I’ve been wanting to read him in English, and not as a 20-year-old, for a while now, but you’re not exactly encouraging 🙂

      But it WILL happen, one day!

  16. Kristin says:

    I started running this year so my sister-in-law recommended the book Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. She said it was a great story and would help ease the pressure I was putting on myself to want to run “perfectly.” I tried to like it and kept at it even as I finished other books, but I just could not get into it. Maybe this year…

  17. Jamie says:

    My husband informed me quite some time ago that I am a brutally critical reader. Lol. I love to read, and have read so many amazing books that I cannot bear wasting my time on literary dregs.

    I try never to be obnoxious about tossing a book aside, and will honestly admit when something has quality but is simply not to taste. However, with all the modern technology currently available I have no respect for nonsense that is not proof read or properly edited before publication.

  18. Jeannie says:

    This post and the comments were so interesting! I think life is too short to read books I’m not enjoying, so I definitely abandon books if I’m not getting into them. This year I started P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley (a “sequel” to Pride & Prejudice) but it was all talk and no action, so I skimmed the last 1/3 of it and returned it to the library with a sigh of relief. I suppose some people would say P&P is all talk and no action too — but the difference is IT’S GOOD.

  19. Karlyne says:

    I not only abandoned Vita Sackville-West’s “The Dark Island”, but I (gasp!) threw it in the dumpster! Pretentious, wormy drivel. I can’t imagine it improving with time…

  20. GASP!!!

    You abandoned AT HOME?!!!? I don’t know if we can be friends anymore. (Kidding) (Kind of)

    But, as you know all too well, I sort of accidentally abandoned Henrietta Lacks. Hoping to get back to it though. I definitely abandoned The Paris Wife and The Orphan Master’s Son though. Meh.

    • Anne says:

      You abandoned The Paris Wife?? See, we can be friends after all 🙂 I abandoned that one too, yet I know so many people who looooooove it.

      At Home wasn’t terrible; it just felt so repetitious to me–I think because I have read so many books of that type by other authors. I like that theory, at least. 🙂

  21. Janice says:

    Ironically, the first book that I ever abandoned was…wait for it…”Pride and Prejudice”. It was the summer before my senior year of high school. I was trying to be the “Good Student” and get started on the reading list for senior English. It was not the right time, and I had zero perspective about real life so I could not relate. Of course, now that book is one of my favorites. I rarely abandon books anymore. Maybe I don’t take enough reading risks and stick to authors that I know too much about. Maybe that should be my resolution this year.

    Another notable book I abandoned – Catcher in the Rye – ick

  22. Marie says:

    I totally agree with you on Cleaving…but I have to say, I loved Wild and found Strayad’s voice entirely different than Julie Powell’s. I think by the end, you have enough context on her story to truly appreciate her perspective. I found she did not try to justify her poor choices, but made peace with herself and has become quite a beautiful person. Reading Tiny Beautiful Things also gave me a richer sense of her backstory. I find her voice has infinitely more depth, conscientiousness and compassion than Julie Powell’s…

  23. Eliza says:

    Would you consider picking up Everything is Illuminated again? It is one of my all time faves! The movie is also fantastic.

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