Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Books I will probably never, ever finish

Since my daughter had Thoreau's Walden as a choice for her year long journal project, I thought that I would try to read it. Again. I took it with me on Saturday, when I spent seven hours standing in a field waiting for various cross country races. I didn't have anything else to do, and I only got through 50 pages. While the concepts are no doubt wonderful philosophy, the prose was so dense and convoluted that it made me want to cry. This marks the ninth or tenth time I have tried this book over the past 30 years, and I don't know that I will ever make it through. Perhaps a few pages at a time, but I don't think that I will ever be able to tell anyone else what the book is about. I am not recommending that my daughter, who liked 1984 (which I found difficult going as a teenager) , read this.

The other notable book that I have never finished was Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables. I'm surprised it didn't end up on this same sophomore reading list. For reasons I still don't completely understand, I bought a new paperback copy of this title and kept it for some twenty years, never getting further than chapter four. Eventually, I gave up.
So, readers: how many of you have gotten through these titles? Should I persevere? Notice that I didn't even list Joyce's Ulysses. Since I couldn't even make it past the first page, it's not even fair to say I attempted it!


  1. I read Walden within the past 14 years. While I liked it, mostly, there were parts that seemed a bit... too overboard (really? he had to discuss just how far your fingernails should be trimmed?).

    I attempted to listen to the unabridged House of the Seven Gables while shelving books at the library. Couldn't do it. Can't see attempting to read it, either - mundane is the word that comes to mind. I have enough of that in my own life.

  2. I read 1984 in high school and loved it. Read it again as an adult and still liked it. Didn't finish Walden in high school, not because I didn't like it but because I was too lazy. Had it assigned in college, finished it, and enjoyed it but I like that 19-th century prose.