Tod Goldberg has a post on his site about books that he has never gotten around to finishing. We all have them. We buy and buy and buy, and the pile of books gets bigger and bigger, and we either never get to them or we start reading them and the bookmark stays in the same place for months. They stay on the coffee table or the nightstand, then we eventually put them back on the pile, to be lost and eventually topped by another book.
Writers are especially weird about this. Most people buy a book because they plan to read it, and when it’s done and they plan to read another, they go out and buy it. Writers just buy and buy and buy books, even if we’re in the middle of reading 3 others (like I am right now), and just keep them on a shelf somewhere. The only thing that’s worse than all the books I haven’t read yet are all the movies I don’t see at the theater and plan to rent on DVD and never get to either.
A few that come to mind:
Infinite Jest: I could actually put several David Foster Wallace books on the list. I like his non-fiction better than his fiction (A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again is a good read). But all of his writing in general is a little difficult to get through. Like trying to shit undigested paper towels. He’s a smart guy, no doubt, and I’ve always been a sucker for clever footnotes, within reason. But he gets to be a little too much. Now, I’m sure a lot of people have never finished reading Infinite Jest (though it’s "cool" to own it), but the real reason I don’t want to finish it is it’s acting as the base for a huge pile of books, and if I take it out the stack won’t be as sturdy and will probably fall to the floor. So I guess I’m not going to finish it for two reasons: the writing itself and engineering.
The DaVinci Code: My roommate swears it’s a great book. My sister swears it’s a great book. Every single person in the galaxy has bought at least two copies, if the bestseller lists are to be believed. I will probably see the Ron Howard/Tom Hanks movie before I try to read it.
Sue Grafton’s first three books (A, B, C): I’m a huge fan of first person mystery novels, and I read an interview with Grafton in the early 90s that made me think she was a nice person and that I would love her books. I bought the first three and they stayed on my table for weeks. I don’t know why I never read them. I think I was busy reading Robert Parker or Raymond Chandler or Ross MacDonald and just never got around to them. And now she’s up to the letter O or P or something, and I feel like I’m really behind. I’m sure they’re fun reads though, and Sue, it’s nothing personal.
The Tipping Point: Actually, I bought this only two months ago. I picked it up when I picked up Gladwell’s Blink. I read Blink first, because it seemed to be a more interesting topic. Probably a big mistake on my part, because now I don’t want to read The Tipping Point. When I read non-fiction books, I hate when I find too many "oh, I knew that" moments. And Blink is filled with them, these moments when you say "well, no kidding!" and "yeah, and so what?" A big letdown.
Underworld: Everyone who loves David Foster Wallace loves Don Delillo (and vice versa), so I’m not surprised that I haven’t finished this either. I saw the hardcover in the remainder bin at Barnes and Noble and said to myself "wow, that’s a book you should own. It’s so important and it’s really a piece of contemporary literature you should read." Got to page 90.