Yes, I’ve read over 100 books this year.
Yes, I have a lot of favorites (enough to break the ‘rules’).
But never fear. There are plenty of books I’ve picked up only to put right back down again. It’s true – I did cast my judgement before I some of these titles in their entirety, which could be seen as unfair (am I the only one that anthropomorphizes books? as if they really care if I read them or not). In my defense, though, I am learning that reading is something I do by choice because I love it, and because I love it I have the privilege of closing a cover and walking away if it’s just not working for me. There are so.many.books out there waiting to be discovered that I want to use all my time on the ones that I actually love, not the ones that I think I should love. I share these books not only to prove how un-right they were for me, but also to shed light on some titles that might not get as much attention in the wide, wide world of literature. Just because it wasn’t right for me doesn’t mean it’s wrong for everyone.
Without further ado, here is my list of ‘Books I Don’t Love All That Much’ (because the word “hate” is just so strong and, after all, these works of literature are someone’s heart and soul on the page), according to the categories from this post. I’ve added a few comments as to why they weren’t a good fit for me. Note: These titles are a blend of ones I’ve read recently and ones that were so…um…not my taste that they have lingered for quite awhile.
Historical Fiction: Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave — I really wanted to love this book as much as I’ve loved other WWII books that I’ve recently read (this time period is my sweet spot, especially this one and this one). I think I just missed the significance of letter-writing from loved ones back home to soldiers on the front, so when the book came to a close I felt like the ending was disconnected to the plot development.
Fantasy/Sci-Fi: Monster by Frank Peretti — I grew up reading most of Peretti’s novels in the mid 90’s and thoroughly enjoyed them. He creates entire worlds that draws you in as a reader, and they teeter on the edge of thrillers or fantasy just enough to keep you guessing what’s coming around the next corner. This book seemed to be lacking some of his trademark suspense and depth…I didn’t buy into the premise of the story and the resolution to the mystery was a bit too far fetched, even for a novel in this genre.
Spirituality: The Language of God by Francis Collins — Oh, how I wanted to love this book. A Christian believer who is also a scientist of the highest order, writing a book n defending God and Creation? YES PLEASE. I love reading books that have a Biblical worldview but also tackle the hard facts of life (science being one of those). However, this book took a surprising turn about halfway through and I had to put it down and walk away. His stance on creation, evolution, and the origins of life had me going in circles with his logic. Not because it was beyond my understanding – I’m not as smart as him, but I can follow an argument to it’s conclusion pretty well – but because it hinted at circular reasoning which left a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, Collins is a brilliant scientist who loves God and uncoded the human genome. I simply didn’t agree with where he was headed in this book.
Leadership & Personal Development: The Energy Bus by John Sutherland — This book personifies why people don’t like these kinds of books. Cheesy, gimmicky, and trite. No thanks.
Marriage & Parenting: The Course of Love by Alain de Botton — Okay, so technically this book isn’t about marriage and parenting. It’s more accurately categorized as a novel or novella, where the author uses a sort of ‘Greek chorus’ to interject his thoughts on the fictional couples life, decisions, and relationship. At time I loved this book, especially the Greek chorus parts. It was almost like reading psychology commentary on marriage. Then the main characters began making some foolish choices, which led to consequences of those choices, and the novel started leaving a sour taste in my mouth. I could foresee myself revisiting this title in the future and perhaps liking it, but for now I shelved it in favor of another read.
Childbirth & Midwifery: Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon — When we were pregnant with our second child, we decided to pursue a non-medicated, midwife supported birth at a birth center. I began to read everything I could related to pregnancy, labor, and how to handle the ‘sensations’ (as the mind-numbingly painful contractions are often called in the natural birthing circles) of childbirth. This book kept popping up on my radar, so I grabbed a copy from our midwife’s library at the birth center (oh how I loved that place…those shelves of books…sigh). While I appreciated the whole-hearted and extremely natural approach to childbirth, I walked away from reading this book feeling like labor and delivery would be something that happened to me, not something that happened with me. I didn’t want to ‘just breathe and relax’ through contra…er, sensations, I wanted to be aware of what my body and baby were doing and how to best support what needed to happen. Their approach wasn’t what I was looking for at all, even if it has been a wonderful method for other parents in childbirth.
Memoirs & Biographies: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp — I loved the premise of this book since I often struggle with self pity and choosing gratitude. I was really into it for the first handful of chapters. Voskamp writes prose like poetry, so some of the imagery still sticks with me to this day. Then it got to the point where it was just too much…like I was eating a giant cinnamon roll with gooey frosting and, even though I loved it, another bite would make me sick. Metaphor overload, too many analogies that were lost on me, or seemed completely disconnected to their original meaning or purpose. Like one amazon reviewer shares, “It’s like a middle school student trying to sound smart and poetic.” Without a doubt I can applaud this book for the impact it’s had on many people’s lives, and I totally agree with the message. The messenger just wasn’t to my liking.
Food: The Reach of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman — I absolutely loved Ruhlman’s first two books (here and here) in his trio about the culinary world. His third book fell flat with me, and I think it’s because I love his writing that brought me into the kitchen: the smells, the sounds, the heat. This book focused more on the business side of the culinary world, and while it introduced me to a restaurant I now consider to be on my bucket list, I would take the first two books over this one any day.
Narrative Nonfiction: The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein — Couldn’t get past the first chapter. Not sure why…it seemed like it would suck me right in since the description is full of action and mystery (bank robbery, detectives, pelt smuggling?). Maybe I gave up too quickly, but my stack of carefully curated library books were calling me and I set this one down.
Classics/Children’s: Anything from the Victorian period — My English class, freshman year in high school, began with Great Expectations…and I haven’t recovered. I’ve attempted Jane Austen but the dialogue loses me every time. Dickens is the same. I know I should revisit this period in literary history (and I know there is more out there than just Austen and Dickens), but each work seems like such a commitment that I balk at choosing any title in this era.
Books about Books: The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera; The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George — Both titles had all the ingredients to make up a perfect novel for me. Books, quaint settings in Europe, books, quirky but endearing characters, and did I mention books? Yet somehow the execution fell flat and they didn’t resonate with me. I finished the first one, but I put down the second book about a quarter of the way through.
Missions: The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns — I’ve read a lot of books about missions, community development, poverty, worldview…it comes with the territory. While I appreciate what this book did to bring attention to needs around the world, I completely disagree with the author’s proposal for how meet those needs. He suggests that if rich Christians give more of their resources (i.e.: money) to poor Christians, then poverty will disappear. Okay, so maybe I am grossly understating his thesis, but I walked away from finishing this book with more questions than answers. If I’ve learned anything in my fourteen years of living and working cross-culturally, it’s that money can fix some things, but it rarely ushers in lasting, permanent, sustainable, or transformational change.
For further reading, This article has some great things to say about finishing (or not) every book you start.
What about you? What books have you started reading that didn’t sit right with you?