This list shames me. I try not to abandon books (unless the prose is so bad and riddled with errors that reading it causes me physical pain). Even when I’m not enjoying a story, I strive to at least skim my way to the ending, if only to give a more thorough condemnation. But here are a few titles that, for various reasons, I never finished.
Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
A creative writing instructor once commented that every soul in McMurtry’s epic horse opera had motive and history. That’s admirable world-building, but sometimes it’s okay for the bartender to just do his job and serve the hero a drink. I don’t need to know the life story of every person mentioned in the narrative. It makes for dense, ponderous reading. However, that’s not the main reason I didn’t finish this book. I’d already seen the miniseries several times (one of the best Tommy Lee Jones roles ever!) so, by a certain point in the novel, I knew nothing remained but sad parts. No point in continuing.
The Stand, by Steven King
I think I just got sidetracked from this one. I like classic Steven King—titles like Hearts in Atlantis and The Green Mile—and I remember enjoying what I read of The Stand. At some point I’ll re-read it. I’ve made a point of avoiding spoilers, so I still don’t know how it ends!
Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
Early in the tale, one of the main characters lusts after a wench and proposes marriage to her…only hours after his poor devoted wife goes to her grave. Really? I know medieval life was “nasty, brutish, and short”, but really? I’m supposed to empathize with this soulless serf? Disgusted, I put the book aside. My love of historical fiction will probably compel me to try it again someday, but it’s not a priority.
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
This travelogue takes readers on a road trip, off the interstate and into the quirky back corners of America. Colorful characters and philosophical musings abound. It’s pleasant, but meandering, with no real plot structure to keep me turning pages. Eventually my interest just ran out of gas.
The Fires of Heaven, by Robert Jordan
Perhaps this is more accurately categorized as “series I didn’t finish”. Fantasy isn’t my favorite genre, but back in our teens, my sister insisted I read the first Wheel of Time book. It took me many chapters to get into it, but the marvelous characters—especially the strong, complex women—ultimately drove me through four books in a row. Imagine my disappointment when, upon opening book number five, several of those marvelous characters seemed conspicuously absent. Like George R.R. Martin, it appears Robert Jordan couldn’t accommodate all of his ever-expanding cast in a single volume. Without the promise of some favorite characters, my motivation to read an 800+ page tome withered. Now what limited patience I have for interminable fantasy series is reserved for Game of Thrones. Speaking of which…
Note to Mr. Martin: A Dance With Dragons came dangerously close to making this list. I only finished it thanks to a series of consecutive business trips, during which Skymall proved an insufficient escape from seat 22B. Don’t count on airport delays to save you again.