Last night, about 2 a.m., our fire alarm started to go bip every thirty seconds. Just out of the blue, you know? Like it was lonely, and wanted to sing itself a little song. Anyway, it dragged the Husband and I out of a sleep which was, until that point, deep as oblivion. There followed nearly an hour of trying to figure out what the heck was wrong and how to fix it without setting off either a) the fire alarm proper or b) the house alarm – which wouldn’t have made us very popular with our neighbours or, indeed, each other.
So, we woke this morning feeling rather worse for wear.
As a direct result of this (and the fact that all the writing I’ve done over the past twenty-four hours has either been on social media or in preparation for the Date with an Agent event this weekend, which I’ll be attending), today’s blog post is a Top Ten Tuesday, hosted as ever by the fine folks at The Broke and the Bookish.
The theme this week is:
Top Ten Books I Almost Put Down (But Didn’t)
1. The Divergent Trilogy (Veronica Roth)
I wrote a bit about these books on the blog when I read them and I went through the issues I had with them, particularly with book one, Divergent. While the books did improve a bit as they went on, I found the voice (or rather ‘voices’, because there were supposed to be more than one) in book three (Allegiant) to be a challenging read. Some of the illogical bits in the first book did get explained by the end, but I found myself no warmer towards the characters at the end than I was at the beginning. I finished these books because they’d been blockbuster smash hits and I wanted to see if I was missing anything, but also because they were a birthday gift. I feel awful including them in this list because of that fact, but there you have it.
2. The Maze Runner Trilogy (James Dashner)
I don’t want to say too much about these, because I’ll be reviewing them on Saturday. Let’s just say I was challenged to read them, and that was one of the main reasons I didn’t fling them against the nearest wall.
3. Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)
Well. Isn’t this a surprise? Did you think a Neil Gaiman book would turn up on a list like this? I bet you didn’t.
Now, nobody who reads this blog is unaware of my adoration for Neil Gaiman. However, it is the truth that Anansi Boys was a challenge, and the only reason I finished it was (of course) because it was a Neil Gaiman book. I didn’t like the characters, I think – it’s been almost ten years since I read this book, and I only read it once. Something about the sheer nastiness in the story put me off. I appreciate it’s about a trickster god and, common misperceptions about Loki aside, they’re not generally very nice individuals, but still. I might give Anansi Boys another go in a year or two and see if I’ve grown into it.
4. The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (Diana Wynne Jones)
I had never heard of this until one day, while looking up a Diana Wynne Jones book for a customer in the bookshop in which I used to work, I came across it. I read the title out in surprise, and the customer said ‘Oh, haven’t you read that one? Give it a go, it’s great.’ I immediately ordered it for myself (this was the only drawback to working in a bookshop, for my bank balance at least), and when it arrived I was delighted.
However, I began to read it as soon as I got home and – bleh. The humour didn’t grab me, the concept behind the book (a sort of spoof travel guide to a generic ‘Fantasyland’, which pitilessly lampoons the conventions of fantasy writing) left me cold and I found it boring. So, I did put it down – for a while. I came back to it a few months later, though, possibly in a better frame of mind, and read it cover to cover with huge delight.
The customer was right: it is great. I’m glad I gave this one another chance.
5. Red Shift (Alan Garner)
Have I taken leave of my senses, I hear you ask? A book by my all-time literary hero Alan Garner is on a list of books I almost didn’t finish?
Alan Garner is an immensely intelligent man, and he brings that intelligence to his writing. His books can often be twisty, complex, filled with scientific, cosmological and philosophical ideas. All this is wonderful, of course, and I’m normally all over it. But, somehow, in Red Shift it’s just a little too much for me. I have read this book four times, with difficulty, and I don’t think I’ve ever understood it. It tells a time-slip story where three periods of history are interconnected through a Stone Age axehead, an artifact which is important to all the characters despite the fact that they are separated by hundreds of years. It’s a marvel of imagination and language, and I have been meaning to give it another go. Perhaps I’ve finally grown a big enough brain to finally be able to read it all, start to finish, without stopping.
6. Gold Dust (Geraldine McCaughrean)
I love Geraldine McCaughrean, too. She’s a legend in children’s books. I feel almost like I’m letting off fireworks in a church just by saying that I came within a hair’s breadth of not finishing one of her novels, but I cannot lie. Gold Dust just didn’t work for me. I didn’t enjoy the voice, or the story, or the characters. I’m sorry about it, though, if that helps.
7. The Last Four Things (Paul Hoffman)
I picked up this book because I thought, stupidly, that it would be about ‘the four last things’ – Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell – of medieval eschatology. It’s not, of course. It’s about a character named Thomas Cale and his induction into a shady secret society whose aim it is to bring the world to an end. I finished it only because I bought it on honeymoon and it has sentimental value; if this wasn’t the case, it’d have ended up in a second-hand shop a long time ago.
8. The Vision of Piers Plowman (William Langland)
Right, so this is a text I had to read for college; I fought it all the way, though. It’s possibly my least favourite of all the books (technically, it’s a long poem) I had to read for my studies and I freely admit I only finished it because I had to. Having said that, I appreciate it as a masterwork of allegory and symbolism, but holy heck is it hard.
If any of my old students are reading this, disregard the last few sentences. I read this because it’s a work of genius and everything I told you in class about how great it is is completely, one hundred percent true. All right? Good.
9. Tristram Shandy (Laurence Sterne)
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a crazy thing. Filled with exaggeration, digression, tangents which ramble on not for pages but for entire volumes, pages which are left blank, taking its sources from all over the place, and some of the most refreshing language of its age, it’s almost like a book that should have been written during the postmodern era. It’s insane. It’s hard to read. But it’s worth the struggle. It dates from the mid-eighteenth century and even the language is a challenge to modern eyes, but I’m glad it’s under my belt.
10. Every Dead Thing (John Connolly)
I am a huge John Connolly fan – now. At the time I first began to read his work, it was almost too much for me; too creepy, too scary, too gory, too everything. A friend recommended him, and so I bought the first four of his Charlie Parker novels, beginning with Every Dead Thing. It took me four attempts to finish it, but after that I was on a roll. I ripped through the rest of Connolly’s work, and I’ve been a religious collector of his books ever since. Genius. But scary.
So, that’s me. Care to share your own top ten list of books you almost put down – but didn’t?