Books I’m glad I came back to

Timing is everything, in books and in life. With some books, it's best to DNF and move on. Others are worth coming back to, like these favorites.

Timing is everything: this maxim holds as true for my reading life as for the rest of my life. I firmly believe that setting aside books that are all wrong for you right now is one of the two best things you can do for your reading life. (The second is to track the books you read.)

I regularly put down books that don’t feel right for me, or don’t feel right for me right now. Some readers are aghast at the idea of not finishing a book they cared enough about to begin, but I believe persisting to finish a book when the timing is wrong isn’t fair to the book or its reader. Some books don’t merit your attention in the first place, but far more often in my own reading life I DNF (that is, Do Not Finish) a book because of the timing.

How might the timing be wrong? Maybe I’m not yet ready to appreciate a good book. (Picture 8th grade Anne reading Les Mis, unabridged: she needed to grow up a little bit to get it.) Maybe I’m in the wrong frame of mind. (Do I want to read a book about someone dying right after a loved one has died? Nope, nope, nope.) Maybe my own setting means I can’t give the book the attention it deserves. (If you’ve ever tried to read in the doctor’s waiting room with television news blasting over your head, you know what I’m talking about.)

DNFing doesn’t always mean a book isn’t for me, and I don’t want to miss out on a good book because of bad timing. That’s why I keep a list of books I’ve abandoned in the back of my reading journal (my list is actually on page 180 of My Reading Life, on one of the quotes pages designed to be versatile for purposes such as these). This list doesn’t serve as a record of poor decisions; instead, it’s to jog my memory about unfinished books that I may (or may not—that’s true, too) wish to revisit in the future.

This isn’t just lip service: there are countless books I initially struggled with that ended up being favorites, and I’m sharing a sampling of those titles with you today. These are titles that I put down early on in the reading process, but picked up again because I (rightly) suspected the problem was one of timing.

Sometimes I resumed reading after a pause of just a few weeks, sometimes it took me years. Sometimes I needed to be in a different geographical setting, sometimes I needed a different headspace. Once or twice a change of format did the trick, as you’ll see.

(I’m not the only one in my house who doesn’t always enjoy a good book on the first attempt: my husband Will just finished Dune, on his second attempt. Months ago he began and quit twenty pages in because his attention span was not cooperating, and resolved to return when he could give the book the focus it needed. He did, and he’s glad he did.)

There are so many books I could have shared in this list. I hope you enjoy this chosen assortment, and that it helps you reflect on giving a book or two another try.

Books I’m glad I came back to

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A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

I started reading this book in the summer of 2016, pre-publication and before many readers I knew had read it. I remember trying to read my galley poolside, while my then 6- and 9-year-olds splashed up a storm nearby. I struggled mightily through the opening, because the book needed (and deserved) more focused attention than I was giving it. I put it down and returned to the book a short while later, at home this time—and that's when it grabbed me. In this well-loved historical novel, Towles tells the story of Count Alexander Roskov, an aristocrat convicted by the Bolsheviks for crimes of state (involving poetry). His punishment is house arrest, confining him to a small room inside the elegant Metropol Hotel. Towles show us how, over many decades, the Count builds a life for himself after his walls literally close in. With a vividly drawn setting, endearing characters, and stylish prose, this novel lingers in readers' minds long after the final page. More info →
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Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere

I had a very hard time getting into this book—which I later came to LOVE—and I am 98% sure the reason is I started reading it on an airplane. (I'm an anxious flyer, and despite my love for all things literary, vastly prefer movies and podcasts in-air.) Once I got back on the ground it felt like a completely different story. The novel opens with a house on fire, literally. It belongs to a suburban family, and it wasn't an accident: as one character reports, "The firemen said there were little fires everywhere." But who did it, and why? That's the setup for this literary thriller, which explores what happens when an itinerant artist and her daughter move into a seemingly perfect Ohio community, and thoroughly disrupt the lives of its residents. More info →
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The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars

The circumstances of my first attempt at this book are fuzzy: I vaguely remember returning the hardcover to the library, unread, after struggling through a few dozen pages. A few years later, after talking to Peter Heller for a Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club author event, I gave it another try—and I'm so glad I did! I flew through it and loved it. For better or worse, this is a pandemic story, about a pilot named Hig who is one of the few survivors of a devastating flu. But when he receives a random transmission on the radio, he begins to dream of what might exist beyond life on the hangar. I found this to be a captivating story, and a tender examination of the landscape between hope and despair. More info →
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Writers & Lovers

Writers & Lovers

I distinctly remember beginning this novel on a dreary winter Saturday when I was a little bit sick and a lot exhausted. I'm so glad I gave it another chance when I was recovered and well-rested! This much-anticipated follow-up to King’s award-winning 2014 novel Euphoria follows Casey Peabody, who is mourning the sudden death of her mother plus a messy break-up in 1997 Massachusetts. Lost without direction, 31-year-old Casey waits tables to make ends meet while she works on her novel in a tiny, dingy rented room. While her friends have given up on their artistic ambitions in favor of stability and the next phase of life, Casey still harbors creative dreams and firmly grasps her youth. When she finds herself in the middle of a love triangle, it becomes all the more difficult to balance her art with "real life," and she just might reach her breaking point. I absolutely adored the exuberant ending. More info →
The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

The follow-up to Bennett’s smashing debut The Mothers—was worth the wait—even if I had to wait a little bit for the right reading mood to truly appreciate it. Identical twins Desiree and Stella grew up in a town so small it doesn't appear on maps. They're closer than close, so Desiree is shocked when Stella vanishes one night after deciding to sacrifice her past—and her relationship with her family—in order to marry a white man, who doesn't know she's black. Desiree never expects to see her sister again. The twins grow up, make lives for themselves, and raise daughters—and it's those daughters who bring the sisters together again. It's a reunion Stella both longs for and fears, because she can't reveal the truth without admitting her whole life is a lie. Bennett expertly weaves themes of family, race, identity, and belonging into one juicy, unputdownable novel spanning five turbulent decades. More info →
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Deacon King Kong

Deacon King Kong

I initially had a tough time focusing on this one and it was all because of timing and format. I started it in February 2020 and, in the wake of the coronavirus that March, the print copy wasn't keeping my attention. Several months later I decided to try the audio version, narrated by Dominic Hoffman, and I couldn't couldn't stop listening! The story begins with a shooting: it's 1969, in the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn; a beloved drunk deacon named Sportcoat wanders into the courtyard and shoots the drug dealer he'd once treated like a son point-blank, in front of everyone. After this jolting beginning, McBride zooms out to show the reader how this violent act came to take place, exploring the lives of the shooter and the victim, the victim's bumbling friends, the residents who witnessed it, the neighbors who heard about it, the cops assigned to investigate, the members of the church where Sportcoat was a deacon, the neighborhood's mobsters (and their families). All these people's lives overlap in ways that few understand in the beginning, and McBride's gentle teasing out of these unlikely but deeply meaningful connections—and the humor and warmth with which he does it—is what captured me. More info →
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The Transit of Venus

The Transit of Venus

You may have heard me say how much I loved this book—one of my favorites of 2021—but have you heard me say how very difficult it was for me to get into? For the first 75 pages I was terribly bored and couldn't even tell the two sisters apart. But by the end, I thought it to be one of the best books I'd ever read, with a spectacular—if devastating—ending. And then I flipped to the beginning to start again (and this time, I was RIVETED). I knew going in that Hazzard's husband once remarked that no one should have to read this book for the first time; read it and you'll see why. First-time readers should know that Hazzard knows what she's about, that it takes her ten years to write novels because each sentence is constructed with care, that this story, ostensibly about love and family, is every bit as much about power. More info →
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What books are you glad you gave another chance? Please tell us about your reading experience in comments!

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Leave A Comment
  1. Karen A. Riccio says:

    I had to start The Life of Pi, Anxious People, and Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s all multiple times, and need up loving all of them.

      • Debra Black says:

        I was recommended Anxious People but for three quarters of the book I couldn’t stand it. Then, all of a sudden I understood it and loved it. I’ve reread it and will do so again.

  2. bonni E mcshane says:

    Jane Eyre and The Night Circus. Both top ten favorites of all time. Both I started, didn’t get into, came back to years later and read and loved them.

    • Karla says:

      Jane Eyre was one I tried in high school and just couldn’t get into. Finally at age 60 I picked it up again and loved it. Life experience definitely helped.

  3. Kelly Adams says:

    Gentlemen in Moscow is my book that I want to get into but can’t!!!! Will give it a try again when I feel the time is right. I have tried both kindle and audible.

    • Cherie says:

      Try it as an audiobook, I couldn’t get into it at first either, even though it was recommended by someone whose recommendations have never let me down. I went ahead and tried it during a long driving trip, I was taking alone and ended up loving it. I loved it so much, I listened to it a second time on another long driving trip so my husband could enjoy it too!

  4. Megan Rathbone says:

    I need to try Gentleman in Moscow again. I really want to get through it, but I couldn’t seem to get interested the first time around

  5. Not a second-chance read, but I had to comment after your eighth grade experience: my book club is set to discuss vol ii of Les Mis this month. The whole thing has been brilliant and very long winded all at once. Some slash and burn would not have hurt this book in the least. I’m glad I’ve read / listened. It’s been a great experience. My eighth-grade self would have never made it through (or understood. Heck, my forty-eight-year-old self didn’t get all of it, but I believe you don’t have to to enjoy a book).

  6. Jill Fitzpatrick says:

    I nearly DNFd one of my long-time favorites, A Prayer for Owen Meany. I kept with it because my co-worker, who had recommended it in the first place, encouraged me to keep at it (“you have to stick with it through the first couple hundred pages and then you can’t put it down”).
    I did DNF and then came back to Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. Couldn’t get into it at first, but when I revisited it, I loved it.
    Reading for me can be seasonal too. I started Shadow of the Wind during the summer and it’s just too gothic and atmospheric for summer reading. It works much better as a fall/winter read.

  7. Kathy Rose says:

    Sometimes, format is everything. While participating in your 2020 reading challenge, the “classic I didn’t read in high school” I chose was “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens. I just couldn’t get into the prose, and ended up having to reread sentences over and over, trying to understand what was happening. I was not enjoying it. Then I switched to the audio version, narrated by Simon Vance. It was fantastic! I now count it as one of my favorite books of all time.

  8. Donna Jo Cason says:

    I just recently finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy on audio! I had previously tried reading it twice before and never made it through the first book. Mostly due to Tolkein’s well-known over descriptiveness. I am so glad I finally “read” the entire thing. Finishing that and Great Expectations on audio has given me the confidence to attempt Anna Karenina on audio. I am almost through it and enjoying it. My goal now this year is to keep working through difficult classics on audio. As a high school English teacher, I want to be able to say I’ve read these well-known classics.

    On a lighter note, The Host by Stephenie Meyer was a book I tried years ago, then came back to a year later. It was slow to start, but I ended up really enjoying it. Can’t say if it holds up, but one of my students loaned it to me and really wanted me to read it, so he loaned it to me twice.

    The Wingfeather Saga is one more. I read the first book by myself, but never finished the 2nd book. My family started listening to them on audio last summer during a road trip and binged the series. Everyone loved it!

    • Rebecca says:

      I’m also working my way through Anna Karenina on audio. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s narration is really bringing it to life for me. Her phrasing and enthusiasm has made the characters sing in a way that I don’t think I’d have experienced reading the text. 10 and a bit hours to go, feels like the finish line is in sight.

      • Cheri Parrish says:

        Maybe I have the wrong narrator. I listened to half of it, and it is hard for me to care about the characters or the story. I really thought I would like AK, but I don’t get why it is supposed to be one of the greatest books of all time.

  9. Susan Bacon says:

    The majority of your books on the list for DNF were on mine as well. I do intend to go back for a do-over read. I agree that some books shouldn’t be read as you are going thru’ different life situations. Books from your list that I’ll restart include Writers and Lovers, Deacon King Kong, and Little Fires Everywhere. A Gentleman in Moscow was a very slow read but am now an avid fan of Amor Towles writing b/c of Lincoln Highway book.

  10. Christina says:

    The High 5 habit by Mel Robins is my most recent addition to the DNF. I ended up getting the audiobook and I’m learning that books like that I do better with them as an audiobook rather than in print.

  11. Tracy says:

    A Gentleman in Moscow was a book my IRL book club picked. Everyone absolutely loved it and I couldn’t get past page 50!! Then my daughter and husband picked it up and they both raved about it and continually asked “did you read it yet?” I looked at that book for well over a year sitting on my shelf and finally picked it up in late fall of 2021. That attempt finally gave me the slow magic that everyone had been talking about. What I learned is I need the slower pace of fall to sink my teeth in a denser read. I am reading “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay right now at the recommendation of my husband, daughter, and son, and am finding the same feeling. I really want to slow down and enjoy, but my busy spring is holding me back. I am hoping an upcoming vacation will allow me the time to enjoy and finally finish what I know is a book I will love!!

  12. Debbie says:

    Not exactly a DNF, but I remember slogging through Grapes of Wrath in high school. Fast forward about 25 years when I reread it the summer it was assigned to my daughter. I loved it this time. Sometimes I wonder if we need a little more life experience before we can truly enjoy some literature.

    • Laura says:

      I was a weird one who absolutely loved Grapes of Wrath in high school! It was one of the first times I saw what power literature could hold.

      • Denise Sande says:

        Laura as an English teacher who has taught Grapes of Wrath the past 12 years, you make my heart happy. Grapes of Wrath takes place just beyond our back door in Kern County, CA. My students learn their history through this moving piece of literature.

    • KT says:

      Yes, I think so many novels are wasted on teenagers. Not that teenagers can’t appreciate great writing or great stories, but like you said–life EXPERIENCE changes the reading experience!

  13. Janna says:

    I’ve listened to all of Peter Heller’s books, Dog Stars was my last one and I could NOT stop listening in spite of how I felt it’s content was too close to home in this pandemic we are experiencing. Once I’ve given up on a book I seldom go back and try again.

  14. Ruth Wilson says:

    Pillars of the Earth took three attempts to get into. A brick of a book at 976 pages, maybe I was intimidated, or busy or distracted with my newly arrived first-born son. The third attempt, I remember distinctly: waiting in my car for my son at an appointment or a play date, I read 80 pages in the car, the book held up by the steering wheel, and I was HOOKED. After that initial reading session, I had a hard time putting it down.

    • Pam says:

      Pillars of the Earth was a longtime TBR for me. I bought the hard cover on sale, back when it first came out. Still had the receipt tucked inside the book, haha. I don’t recall ever starting it. Two graduate degrees, several moves and decades later, I finally picked it up in spring 2021; read it and enjoyed it. I noticed partway through that it is a first edition copy, so it still sits on my shelf. These days, I don’t keep many books once I’ve read them. I’ve downsized my parents three times in 20 years, and consequently have vowed to downsize myself before it becomes necessary. So, Pillars of the Earth is a standout for me – worthy of hanging onto! At least for now.

  15. Amy Hicks says:

    I listened to Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (author of The Martian, which I haven’t read or seen). SciFi is not my usual genre so I was hesitant. Plus, I wasn’t sure the narrator and I were hitting it off with the tone of the book (he’s very funny and I didn’t get that at first).
    This was one of the best books I’ve read: the story of a last ditch effort to save Earth from destruction. The timeline flips between past and present to reveal how Ryland Grace, a science teacher, was sent to save the world. Weir does a great job at explaining space, physics, and science in a very understandable (dare I say, interesting?) way. And then! Then, there is the beauty of the unlikely friendship forged between the lone astronaut and his newfound companion.
    I now have The Martian on my TBR list.

    • Amanda says:

      So glad you are going to read The Martian! I read the book before seeing the movie and the movie just could not capture all of the things I loved about the book.

    • Lea says:

      The Martian is a great book with humor, ingenuity, perseverance of the main character. I do feel the movie did it justice although, of course, not as detailed. Highly recommend the audio version.

  16. EJ says:

    I felt the same way about Gentleman in Moscow. I started it twice and it wasn’t until it became available on audio (and I sped it up to 1.5 speed) that I was really able to pay attention and enjoy the depth and details the author uses to make the characters and setting (which is really a character in and of itself) come alive. I have found that happens often, if I am bogged down with books in the print version, I can really enjoy it more in the audio.

  17. Susan says:

    A Gentleman in Moscow. I tried it on audio but it didn’t grab me and I set it aside. A long time later I tried again in paper, and that was when it worked for me. I needed to slow down, give it my full attention, and get absorbed in the words on the page. With audio I am usually doing other things at the same time, and that practice didn’t work with that story. A lesson well learned about my reading life and the format I choose for any given story.

  18. Melissa K says:

    World War Z by Max Brooks – it took me a few tries to get into the format, interview style with an “editor” and numerous interviewees in a post apocalyptic world, but once I did, I could not put it down. I guarantee you will find the person who you resonate with in this series of interviews. Knowing the Brooks wrote it to illustrate not a zombie b flick but the breakdown of civilization in the face of disaster makes the book even more important to me. There is a reason the military will use zombie attack in future planning as a place holder for unnamed enemies. Brooks used it to perfection to show what can happen when the laws of normal civilization fail.

    I highly recommend the book and even more so the UNabridged version of the audiobook with alllllll the voices.

  19. Tom Cutrofello says:

    The Dog Stars – major bore. He actually ended two sentences with ‘but’. When I finished, I donated it to the Salvation Army.

  20. Cliff says:

    I’ve had several books that I originally DNF’d, but I came back to and they ended up being some of my favorite books/series. One was Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs are two of my favorite books and I’m so glad I picked Red Dragon back up. Another was Wild Seed by Octavia Butler. It’s the first book in the Patternist series. The whole series is incredible and I’m glad I kept with it. Admittedly Wild Seed is my least favorite of that series, but it’s still good and definitely important for context for the rest of the series. The other two are IT by Stephen King and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Both of these I started in print and then switched to audio. I read the Thandiwe Newton narrated version of Jane Eyre and it was amazing. It’s one of my top ten all-time favorite books.

  21. Jo Yates says:

    I could not finish Moby Dick in high school, although I did well on the tests/assignments over it. I got bogged down in the whale chapters! Later as an adult, after discovering a love for narrative nonfiction, I breezed through it. Maybe I’ll try A Prayer for Owen Meany again.

  22. Carolyn Carson says:

    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I remember starting it and giving it a chance with my “50-page rule” — I couldn’t get to 50 pages. The book required my attention, and I was distracted for whatever reason. I returned to the book and the second time around, I couldn’t stop reading. The first 50 pages were a breeze, because the timing and my frame of mind were ready for this story and transformative experience. I recommended it to my book club. It was our “book of the year”. And, of course, I’ve enjoyed reading Barbara Kingsolver ever since!

    • Christine G. says:

      The Poisonwood Bible is one of my all-time favorites! I’m so glad you gave it another chance and enjoyed it.

  23. Terry Gianatasio says:

    Last February I started and put down Louise Penny’s latest, The Madness of Crowds. I love her and have read and enjoyed every one of her books but this one was way too close to the noise of the last President and his followers. I am ready now to read it and it is next on my list.
    I have always believed if I am not grabbed by a book I need to stop forcing it. Sometimes I come back and sometimes I don’t. Timing is everything for sure.

  24. Teresa says:

    Outlander is one that took me a few tries to get into but then really enjoyed. I have tried to get into A Gentleman in Moscow numerous times but all while knowing eventually it will click with me …I haven’t given up!!

  25. Colleen Bonilla says:

    This is such a great topic, which rings so true in my own reading life. I started reading A Gentleman in Moscow when I was laid low with Covid back in early 2020. The fact that I was in bed with absolutely no energy provided the perfect setup to read this book. For me, it was a comfort to read about how Count Roskov made the best of his difficult circumstances. I could hardly put it down!
    My most recent DNF is Jayber Crow. I just couldn’t stay with it. It’s a “quiet read” that just isn’t working for me right now. In light of this post (and Anne’s beautiful reflection yesterday on the pitfalls of hurry), I’m thinking that after the noise and disruption of our kitchen renovation is over, I’ll go back to Jayber Crow on a nice, QUIET summer day and see if I can stay with Jayber under those circumstances!

  26. Jane Taylor says:

    Long ago it took two attempts to finish Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ for school. Came back to ‘Larry’s Party’ by Carol Shields and was glad I did. Will make another attempt at’ A Gentleman in Moscow’.

  27. Lynne Kistler says:

    I felt the same about Deacon King Kong. Read first 30 pages a couple of years ago and just didn’t like it. Put back on shelf and picked it up a few weeks ago – and really loved it!

  28. Becky says:

    I shoved The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl violently back on my shelf awhile back. A year later, I was gazing hatefully at it sitting there taking up space and thought about donating it. But, first, I gave it another shot. AND LOVED IT. I very much believe I was in the wrong space for it. Glad I gave it another try.

  29. Suzy says:

    I’m so sorry to see so many people stuck on Gentleman in Moscow! I just want to say that the very first bit where he’s in court and being sentenced is the HARDEST part to get into—I was feeling like, Do I want to read about the Russian revolution and comrades and propaganda, etc.?? Not really! This is not interesting! But AS SOON AS THE COUNT STARTS UP THE STAIRS TO HIS ATTIC ROOM, the one he will live in for decades, things start to get GOOD! We’re grounded. So just get past that first part! And the audio is the best.
    I’ve read 4 of your 7 books, and after reading The Great Fire by Shirley Hazard I am NOT about to read Transit of Venus! No second chances there. Shirley blew it.
    In my case, I have two books that I actually did finish, but didn’t enjoy or “get”. But on rereading, I fell in love. One was “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency”—I was looking for a real detective novel and this wasn’t it. I couldn’t figure out WHAT it was! But when I heard the 3rd book on audio, I discovered the beauty of Mma Ramotswe, the cadence not only of their speech, but of their life—the nature of Botswana—good people, old world manners, common sense and human nature is the same wherever we go. Now I’m up to book 20 in the series! The other was “Master and Commander” by Patrick O’Brien. The vocabulary was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and the captain “hero” being overweight with a long blonde ponytail put me off—but WOW, on a second read, I LOVED it and have read every single one of the series—Captain Aubrey and Dr. Maturin are my friends. I don’t know how two readings could be so different.

  30. Aimee says:

    To Kill A Mockingbird which is embarrassing to admit. I never had it to read it in school (I know) and tried to read it in my 20s because it felt like I SHOULD have read it already. Couldn’t get past the way the characters spoke. Shelved it.

    In my early 30s a new friend I respected mentioned it was her favorite book of all time and I thought well, sheesh, if Emily says it’s that good I should force myself to read it so at least I can say I’ve read it. Started re-reading it and…it was SO GOOD (obviously).

    I am so relieved to hear I’m not the only person who loves to read but not on planes. I am a terribly fearful flier (as in, drug me anxious) and I just can’t with books or audiobooks while in flight.

  31. Hilary says:

    I love the idea of trying to reread books that weren’t right the first time but I think my success rate is 0. Sorry to all the devotees but I just have not been able to get into any of Amor Towles’ books. I’ve tried & retried.
    I tried Circe multiple times. It’s everything I would typically love but for whatever reason- that one is a ‘no’ as well. Donna Tartt’s The Secret History… I tried 4 different times. I think I’m scarred when it comes to attempting rereads!

  32. Katie says:

    I’m currently giving The Great Gatsby another try. About 10 years ago I didn’t get past chapter 2 because I had no idea what was going on and there were so many random people that I just couldn’t keep track, but no Gatsby in sight. Now I’m well into the book and am really enjoying it. It helped to know that my brother is reading it, too, and we will be able to talk about it.

  33. Nanette says:

    Let’s see. I’m currently reading The Starless Sea in print after getting completely lost in the audiobook. I think I’ll do the same with Cloud Cuckoo Land – tried the audio and just couldn’t follow it. That tells me that if one format fails I should try another before completely giving up. One I finished after DNF-ing it was In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. I still didn’t like and only finished it because it was a bookclub selection. I know Amor Towles is hard to get into but Gentleman in Moscow is one of my favorites. I tried to reread All the Light We Cannot See after loving it the first time (top five lifetime for me) but couldn’t reread it. I just couldn’t repeat the experience.

  34. Suzanne E Harley says:

    I tried to read “This Tender Land” by William Kent Krueger. This was during the pandemic. It had been highly recommended to me by a reader I respect but I just could not get my head into it. I think I needed something more predictable like a mystery. I need to try it again.

  35. Diana says:

    So Many great ones here! Gentleman in Moscow is also on my DNF list. I have attempted several times. Poison wood Bible is also on the same last, as well as Project Hail Mary
    I struggle with ALL the classics, and as much as I’d love to read them I just get so bored.

    A few that I am GLAD I kept through are “The Maid”, and “Normal People” and “The Boys Club”.

  36. Suzanne C says:

    I call these books NRN (Not Right Now) rather than DNF, which seems so final. Deacon King Kong was also an early pandemic NRN book for me; I could tell I would love it at some point, but March 2020 wasn’t that point, lol.

  37. Carol says:

    I had a difficult time with the beginning of The Chosen. Just was not interested in the play by play of the ballgame. Later I went back to it and gritted my teeth through the beginning. It ended up being a favorite book. The story and the writing are extraordinary.

  38. Jennifer O. says:

    I had a difficult time with Liz Moore’s Long Bright River. I started it in January 2021 for a book club but the overwhelming feelings of dread I was getting from the narrator (I’m also an older sister) combined with my HSP/empathy was too much for me in the moment. I even read a detailed account of the books with spoilers, a strategy I sometimes take, but still set it aside. I came back to it a few months later and listened to the audio on a road trip and managed to get through the whole thing. I’m not sure I ended up loving it, but I appreciated it, and it’s still on my shelf so that means something! I also set aside Hamnet right at the pivotal spot and came back to it months later and finished the last maybe 100 pages, again on audio. I know there were a few others I set aside, particularly during the pandemic, knowing I wasn’t in the right place emotionally. But there are others I just knew would never be for me (Tangerine, My Sister, the Serial Killer).

  39. Susan Abbott says:

    Your post is well timed! i was just contemplating contacting you about your approach to book abandonment and woke to find this post! Long ago someone passed on to me the 10% rule—jettison book at the 10%- of- total -pages-point if the author has not convinced me to keep reading. Some books require sticking it out a little longer though. Vanity Fair was like that for me—the sappy Amelia was initially difficult to stomach, although the scheming of Becky Sharpe was an excellent foil to her sappiness. By the end you are surprised at how things turn out, and realize that was likely the author’s intention all along.
    I would love to hear people’s reasons for abandoning a book besides timing—boredom, bad writing, good writing but don’t like the story or characters, author didn’t make me care about characters, etc?
    Life is too short to read a book not worth your time, but it can be tricky to judge whether or not to persevere.

  40. Rea says:

    I have started and shelved Arkady Martine’s A Desolation Called Peace two times now. I staunchly believe it is a not right now book for me, because I loved A Memory Called Empire. I will try again sometime.
    I generally leave some kind of note on why I abandoned it, it helps me look back occasionally to decide if I want to try again. (I try to read some of the books my daughter likes, but she likes extremely detailed dystopia sci-fi and they weigh too heavy on me. I AM, however, going to reattempt Dune.)

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