Embarrassing Books

EMBARRASSING BOOKS….Ah, a new meme: “What 5 books are you vaguely embarrassed to admit you haven’t read?”

Sorry, but this is too easy. Even the best read among us can name hundreds of books that we should have read but haven’t. Instead, I propose something harder: not just books you should have read, but books you’ve actually purchased and started to read and are embarrassed to say you couldn’t finish. Here are mine:

  • Ulysses. Along with Remembrance of Things Past, I suspect this is one of the commonest of all unfinished great books. But embarrassing anyway. I got through about 300 pages and just couldn’t slog any further.

  • The Brothers Karamazov. This one is a real oddity, because I like Dostoevsky a lot. What’s more, I’ve started TBK twice, and both times petered out after a couple hundred pages. I don’t understand it.

  • The Reformation. Normally, this wouldn’t rank all that high on my personal embarrassment league table. It just turned out to be a different book than I thought it would be, which is hardly that big a deal. However, it makes the list because of the terrific ass kicking I got in comments after writing an ill-considered post about giving up on it.

  • The Bible. Is this cheating? Maybe. Even lots of devout Christians have never read it all the way through. And yet, I still feel that I should at least have read the entire New Testament. But I haven’t. I’ve read some of the Gospels and most of Acts, and dipped in here and there in other places, but that’s it.

  • The Power Broker. This is really cheating, because not only did I finish reading it, but I’ve read it more than once. Instead, think of it as a cautionary tale: it was originally assigned in a political science class and I bailed on it after a hundred pages or so. But it turns out that page 100 is just about the point where it starts to get really interesting, as I learned when I picked it up for a second go around. It’s now practically my favorite book of all time. Live and learn.

Next up: books I finished that I wish I hadn’t. Kim Stanley Robinson has much to answer for in this category.