Author Topic: Five favorite books you never finished?  (Read 1071 times)

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Offline bwv 1080

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Five favorite books you never finished?
« on: February 15, 2018, 09:26:01 PM »
I know some people have to finish books they start, fortunately I am not one of them

Enjoyed reading these, just lost interest somewhere about 70% through

Thomas Pynchon -Against the Day
Ha Jin -War Trash
WT Vollmann -Fathers and Crows
Faulkner -Light in August
John Dos Passos -Three Soldiers
Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum

Online vandermolen

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2018, 11:35:35 PM »
Anna Karenina
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline Jo498

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2018, 12:04:25 AM »
Anna Karenina
that's my first one as well. I read half or even more but got bogged down by the boring Kitty-Lewin arc and probably real life giving me less time to read. I do hope that I will start again some day as I have no doubts that it really is a great book. (I  successfully finished War & Peace, Resurrection, Kreutzer Sonata and a few shorter pieces.)

My second one is "Die Strudlhofstiege" by Heimito von Doderer, one of the most famous Austrian novels of the first half of the 20th century. This one jumps between many different characters and story lines and again it was a combination of a story line with a boring character beginning and less reading time and it was also at halfway point.
(The longwindedness of Doderer was the butt of many jokes in 1920s Vienna, like: Doderer is working on his new novel, it deals with Frau Brandner crossing the Ringstrasse and the first 1000 pages are already done. It is actually more complex than that because his novel has also "sharp turns" and the combination with the length makes it hard to read it slowly. It has to be read quickly or not at all, I fear.)
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strudlhofstiege#/media/File:Strudlhofstiege_2010.jpg

Next is "The Sound and the Fury". I tried this in translation, do not remember how far I got but had a hard time to follow the thing at all.

I am not even sure about "Heart of Darkness" but I don't think I ever finished it. Never as exciting as I had expected (although it is a short piece). I should try again. For some reason I expected to like Conrad better than I actually did. I read a few about 25 years ago when I was ca. 20. (Secret agent, then the one with the Russian anarchists and probably another one) but several others I could not get into.

Cannot think of another obvious candidate but while I read all of the "big ones" by Dostoevsky and most of them twice I still have several of his earlier novels ("Poor Folk", "The Insulted and Humiliated" etc.) and I started at least two of them but never finished.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
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The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
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Offline Ken B

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2018, 11:36:41 AM »
Only a few since the reason I don’t finish books is I don’t like reading them

Faerie Queene
Although in fairness, even Spenser didn’t finish it.

The Odyssey, a Modern Sequel by Kazantzakis

Tons of nonfiction, where for various reasons I read only part of the book, but that’s a different kettle of colored horses.
Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he is warm for life.

Online vandermolen

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2018, 12:21:03 PM »
that's my first one as well. I read half or even more but got bogged down by the boring Kitty-Lewin arc and probably real life giving me less time to read. I do hope that I will start again some day as I have no doubts that it really is a great book. (I  successfully finished War & Peace, Resurrection, Kreutzer Sonata and a few shorter pieces.)

My second one is "Die Strudlhofstiege" by Heimito von Doderer, one of the most famous Austrian novels of the first half of the 20th century. This one jumps between many different characters and story lines and again it was a combination of a story line with a boring character beginning and less reading time and it was also at halfway point.
(The longwindedness of Doderer was the butt of many jokes in 1920s Vienna, like: Doderer is working on his new novel, it deals with Frau Brandner crossing the Ringstrasse and the first 1000 pages are already done. It is actually more complex than that because his novel has also "sharp turns" and the combination with the length makes it hard to read it slowly. It has to be read quickly or not at all, I fear.)
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strudlhofstiege#/media/File:Strudlhofstiege_2010.jpg

Next is "The Sound and the Fury". I tried this in translation, do not remember how far I got but had a hard time to follow the thing at all.

I am not even sure about "Heart of Darkness" but I don't think I ever finished it. Never as exciting as I had expected (although it is a short piece). I should try again. For some reason I expected to like Conrad better than I actually did. I read a few about 25 years ago when I was ca. 20. (Secret agent, then the one with the Russian anarchists and probably another one) but several others I could not get into.

Cannot think of another obvious candidate but while I read all of the "big ones" by Dostoevsky and most of them twice I still have several of his earlier novels ("Poor Folk", "The Insulted and Humiliated" etc.) and I started at least two of them but never finished.
I think that I twice gave up on AK for the same reason as yourself. However, I thoroughly enjoyed War and Peace on both occasions that I read it.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline Jo498

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2018, 01:10:40 PM »
It was around 20 years or more ago but I don't remember any major problems with finishing War & Peace although I disliked the historico-philosophical excursions of the author (basically trying to prove that "great man" (like Bonaparte) don't make history, it's mainly "anonymous forces" and good/bad luck). I also disliked that a character that used to be a charming girl became insufferable after marriage (some people would claim that this not all that rare an occurence) but apparently she was still supposed to be a likeable character, she wasn't for me.

A book that took me three attempts to finish was Dante's Divine comedy. I don't quite remember the first time, I got through Hell (the most picturesque and entertaining part), maybe even through Purgatory. The second time I stopped around earthly paradise or so, in the early cantos of Heaven. About three years ago, 15 or 20 years after the last attempt I finally got through the whole thing. And I am glad I did because this time I was so fascinated by it that I hope to be able to read it some day in a bilingual version.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Online Daverz

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2018, 01:24:16 PM »
Gravitation by Misner, Thorne & Wheeler (AKA The Phonebook)



I've probably had a copy for 30 years.

Some of it is woefully out of date, but most of it is still solid, and in some ways still unsurpassed pedagogically.


Baron Scarpia

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2018, 01:38:16 PM »
The idea of a favorite book of fiction that you didn't finish is hard for me to understand. For a book of nonfiction, it is common to find that some content is not of interest. Never started the phone book. Never finished L&L The Classical Theory of Fields.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2018, 01:45:36 PM by Baron Scarpia »

Offline Christo

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2018, 01:54:42 PM »
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Thomas Mann, Der Zauberberg
James Joyce (You know which one!)
Lev Tolstoy, War and Peace (did finish AK though :-)
Solzjhenytsin, Gulag Archipelago (wish it were fiction)



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Offline André

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2018, 02:01:10 PM »
I must have read Zauberberg 4 times, maybe 5. But I could not finish Doktor Faustus in two attempts.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2018, 02:13:40 PM »
I should re-read Faustus. I read it and (finished) when I was 19 or 20 and it should be a rather different experience. I had read Der Zauberberg at roughly the same time and enjoyed it far more when I re-read it in my late 20s.
The one by Mann I did not finish (in fact never really got started) was one of the "Joseph" books. It wasn't the first but  a friend of mine who read and enjoyed the whole series had also started with one in the middle and recommended it. If I try again I will start with the first one.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Baron Scarpia

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2018, 02:23:49 PM »
I never finished Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace but I found it utterly insufferable.

Offline André

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2018, 05:07:02 PM »
I should re-read Faustus. I read it and (finished) when I was 19 or 20 and it should be a rather different experience. I had read Der Zauberberg at roughly the same time and enjoyed it far more when I re-read it in my late 20s.
The one by Mann I did not finish (in fact never really got started) was one of the "Joseph" books. It wasn't the first but  a friend of mine who read and enjoyed the whole series had also started with one in the middle and recommended it. If I try again I will start with the first one.

The Joseph saga is my number one book of all time. Read it 4 1/2 times (third time I finished only the first 2 books). It’s a gigantic vaudeville, certainly the most humorous of all Mann’s books. Its « scenes » are conceived on an enormous scale, developing their own internal rythm, an inexorable momentum that keeps the reader on his/her toes. The divination moments (Joseph is a soothsayer) are enthralling, the last one (Pharaoh’s dreams) the most enthralling of them all. Just thinking about it gives me gosebumps.

ComposerOfAvantGarde

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2018, 06:16:18 PM »
I must have read Zauberberg 4 times, maybe 5. But I could not finish Doktor Faustus in two attempts.

I started reading Buddenbrooks after I finished Doktor Faustus and ended up putting it down, perhaps because it was so different to what I had just read I didn't quite know how to adjust (and I ended up reading Goethe's Faust instead). Zauberberg is something I really want to read. My girlfriend read it in the Bavarian alps a number of years ago and loved it. That is sure to be an incredible experience!

How would you compare Zauberberg and Doktor Faustus btw?

Offline aleazk

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2018, 07:28:32 PM »
Gravitation by Misner, Thorne & Wheeler (AKA The Phonebook)



I've probably had a copy for 30 years.

Some of it is woefully out of date, but most of it is still solid, and in some ways still unsurpassed pedagogically.

I beg to differ on that. I really dislike it, particularly that "box" system it uses... which I think it's Thorne's addition. A certain quantum gravity researcher told me once in a class that he has it in his library just in case... but that, today, after decades, that case still never presented itself... lol.

Offline André

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2018, 07:49:16 PM »
I started reading Buddenbrooks after I finished Doktor Faustus and ended up putting it down, perhaps because it was so different to what I had just read I didn't quite know how to adjust (and I ended up reading Goethe's Faust instead). Zauberberg is something I really want to read. My girlfriend read it in the Bavarian alps a number of years ago and loved it. That is sure to be an incredible experience!

How would you compare Zauberberg and Doktor Faustus btw?

Hard to tell, as I never completed reading Faustus. One conspicuous difference is the humour and the otherworldliness that pervade Zauberberg - until the abrupt, catastrophic ending. Two seemingly disparate elements held in perfect balance. Faustus seemed devoid of humour - something that is abundantly present in Buddenbrooks and Joseph, but absent also from Death in Venice or Tonio Kröger. I loved the latter, even its sentimental elements, but could never muster much enthusiasm for Death in Venice. When Mann is dead serious he becomes a boring storyteller.

Offline Alek Hidell

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2018, 09:37:02 PM »
I suppose for me it's Gibbon's Decline and Fall. I acquired the unabridged version in a library sale some years ago and I started reading it once upon a time, but I got bogged down somewhere in volume one. All that eighteenth-century prose is a bit of a slog at times, I have to confess. :-[
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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #17 on: February 16, 2018, 10:57:14 PM »
I finally had some freed up time this summer so actually finished:
Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence
Don Quixote by Cervantes

Last summer I wrapped up Moby Dick

One book I could not finish, and don't think I ever will unless on a deserted island with nothing else to read is the History of the Second World War by Liddell Hart. Apparently this is a much better account than Winston Churchill's that might be said to be somewhat prejudiced.

I never got around to finishing an Analysis of Tonal Music by Cadwallader and Gagne, because of the exercises to be done. There are also books on Debussy lying around that are still waiting to be read to the end.
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Offline Ken B

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #18 on: February 16, 2018, 11:14:28 PM »
Gravitation by Misner, Thorne & Wheeler (AKA The Phonebook)



I've probably had a copy for 30 years.

Some of it is woefully out of date, but most of it is still solid, and in some ways still unsurpassed pedagogically.

That drove me crazy, as I am a mathematician by training, and I found the explanations of parallel transport etc hand wavy. Transport in what? Not in a surrounding Euclidean space like the pictures show! Finally I grabbed a real math text on the geometry, learned about fiber bundles, and went back to it.
Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he is warm for life.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Five favorite books you never finished?
« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2018, 01:22:06 AM »
It seems that mathematicians from Gauss to the early 20th century did successfully do differential geometry without "knowing" fiber bundles so they must have had a far higher tolerance for handwaving.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)