Popular Books I Couldn’t Get Through

  • Post last modified:October 16, 2021

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  I’m not a big book-abandoner.  It’s not because I don’t want to be, but because I tend to be more on the perfectionist side of things, and I dislike leaving things unfinished.  Even if I hate a book, I will often end up powering through it instead of putting it in the DNF books pile because I want to be able to close the cover and decidedly say, “I didn’t like this,” then articulate why.  And I just don’t feel like I can do that if I gave up halfway through.  It feels lazy, like maybe I didn’t have the intellectual skill to make it through a novel everyone else is raving about.

    And, as a writer myself, occasionally I feel guilty because I know how much hard work an author puts into their book, and how much potential someone else must have seen in it.  

    All this is not to say I don’t want to be a book abandoner.  In fact, I full-heartedly believe in leaving behind books you don’t enjoy.  There’s no shame in being able to admit that something isn’t for you, and in fact, more power to you.  You know yourself, and you don’t need to cave to the pressure of the literary tastes of people around you.  That’s why I’ve been working on that skill more recently.  (Or at least trying to.) 

Yes, sometimes it means I feel like I’ve wasted time working towards my GoodReads Reading Challenge.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t join in on a book discussion (though there’s always a summary online, y’all).  But that’s okay, because hopefully I will spend that time reading something else worthwhile.

    Below are a few books I’ve abandoned in the past few months and why — though of course that doesn’t mean someone else might not like them.  They just weren’t for me.

Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff Vandermeer   

DNF Books: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer (Southern Reach #1)

annihilation summary

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.

The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers–they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding–but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

DNF books #1: Annihilation

Maybe I’m cheating a little, but this is one I was assigned for a class at school.  Though this is a trilogy, my professor had us buy the three-in-one book (which is massive, by the way), but we were only assigned a few chapters of the first book, Annihilation.  I was honestly so excited about this book — I had seen it everywhere since the movie was coming out soon.  However, it was just a little long for my liking.  I felt like the pace was slow, and I didn’t connect with any of the characters, even the narrator.  I was definitely intrigued, and am still want to know how it ends, but I just couldn’t force myself through it.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

DNF Books: Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Here I Am Summary

How do we fulfill our conflicting duties as father, husband, and son; wife and mother; child and adult? Jew and American? How can we claim our own identities when our lives are linked so closely to others’? These are the questions at the heart of Jonathan Safran Foer’s first novel in eleven years–a work of extraordinary scope and heartbreaking intimacy.

Unfolding over four tumultuous weeks in present-day Washington, D.C., Here I Am is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. As Jacob and Julia Bloch and their three sons are forced to confront the distances between the lives they think they want and the lives they are living, a catastrophic earthquake sets in motion a quickly escalating conflict in the Middle East. At stake is the very meaning of home–and the fundamental question of how much aliveness one can bear.


DNF books #2: Here I Am 

You have no idea how much I wanted to love this.  I am a huge fan of Foer’s writing (Eating Animals influenced my life in a big way, and his earlier fiction is beautiful), and I checked at the bookstore every time I went to see if they had released the paperback yet (I’m a broke college student, y’all).  But, I just couldn’t make myself finish this one. 

His prose was as beautiful as ever, and there were lots of lines I marked to go back to, but I think that part of the problem for me was that it was overdone, something that happens a lot for writers who have a name to live up to.  Another issue for me was how cynical the writing seemed to be this time around.  Foer is writing from a different point of life now than he was with his first books, and I think it may have just been too different for me to relate all that much.  Maybe I’ll come back to it in a few years when I’ve had some more life experiences.

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King 

DNF Books: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (The Dark Tower #1)

The Gunslinger summary

In the first book of this brilliant series, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which frighteningly mirrors our own, Roland pursues The Man in Black, encounters an alluring woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the Kid from Earth called Jake. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, The Gunslinger leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

DNF Books #3: The Gunslinger

I will admit, this is one I desperately want to pick back up at some point.  Although I haven’t read any of King’s books, I did read his book On Writing, which is a must-read for writers.  I have been told how incredible and strange King’s world-building in his infamous Dark Tower series, and it sounded right up my alley, so I had high hopes.

Unfortunately for me, The Gunslinger was one of those that you pick up, read a few pages, wait for the hook, and when it doesn’t come you put it back down again and try again later.  I was at school when I first started this one, so I think that I wasn’t in the right mindset for it at the time, and needed something a little lighter to relax with.

Trust me, there are many more books that I couldn’t get on board with, but these are a few of the more recent ones.



Til next time,


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