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Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda, or Angie's Top Ten Books She Almost Put Down But Didn't

Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme hosted @ The Broke and the Bookish

Yes, I'm one of those readers who has trouble DNFing a book. The truth is I've gotten better at it over the years. I used to never quit. But now it's become a matter of self preservation. I really do only have so many available hours in the day. And I am simply not going to waste them sticking it out to the bitter end with a book that's not doing it for me. But I've noticed it helps if I'm able to make the judgement call early on. Before I start to feel any obligation or enough investment that I'll finish it out to see if things pick up or are redeemed in the end. So today, I give you a split list. The first half are books I didn't put down and really wished I had. The second are books I came this close to tossing but for one reason or other didn't and now I am so glad I pressed on.


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - I know. I know. You will all now burn me at the stake for this load of Jamieheresy. However, I staggered through the entire 800 and some pages and I have something to say. Yes, Claire and Jamie are frequently adorable throughout all 800 and some pages. But. Claire is literally in MORTAL PERIL every time Jamie turns his back. It grew more and more disturbing and more and more tiresome until I finally, gratefully finished the chunker in a haze of ennui. Good riddance.

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale - Every time I think I've processed my anger over this book and have washed my hands of it, I actually think about it for a second and am filled with rage anew. Never, never should have finished it. What a terrible waste of time.

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer - I have no excuse for finishing this one except the train wreck one. I still regret finishing it and whenever my mind does land on it, even briefly, I feel the immediate urge to go scrub it out with some Robin McKinley or a good Megan Whalen Turner. Someone who knows the worth of a character and is not afraid to make the hard choices.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman - Once again, I know. You have the tar and feathers ready. But I just will never be satisfied with this incredibly well-written, incredibly meager, wrapped-up-with-a-bow, slapdash "resolution" to Adam & Mia's story. Nope.

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy - Brutal indifference, indeed. It's really a shame this was my first Hardy. The way he wrote the women in this book angered my 17-year-old self to a murderous degree. I was never one to put up a fight with assigned reading in high school. But this one. This one I harbor resentment over.


The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner - To my everlasting chagrin, I actually did put this one down the first time. For a few years. Honestly. I just did not get far enough in to see Gen. But once I did, it was ALL OVER. Forever. 

Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson - This is one of my very favorite Robin Hood retellings. But it almost never was. I read the prologue standing there in the bookstore and it was offputting enough to make me set it down and doubt. It's one of those show you a glimpse of the climax first and then figure out how the characters got in such a mess sort of deals. Not my favorite. But all it took was turning the page to the first chapter to fall in love with Marian.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King - A Sherlock Holmes pastiche was never going to be at the top of my reading list and I struggle with May-December relationships, though this one is so amazingly slow burn you hardly even notice it's happening until you're like, Did they just . . . Ohhhh. But it was the meeting of minds that caught me in its grip. Russell and Holmes. What a match. I can never decide which book in the series is my favorite.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - Like The Thief, this is one I insist people read past the first 50 pages before giving up in bewilderment. Because though the writing is unrelentingly lovely from the first line, it is a bit touch and go with what in the hell is happening for the first while. Once you get the lingo down and give yourself up to the slippery way she has with time and memory, it is so bloody perfect.

It by Stephen King - I never would have picked this one up without my husband's urging. Somehow he knew it was the right King for me. And I still have moments of blind terror when I think of it. And I still struggle with certain parts. But I fell absolutely in love with those outcast kids, the summer of 1958, and Bill.


  1. I have Outlander and Jellicoe Road on my list too, but I ended up liking both books by the end. It look me a while to get there though, with both of them. Glad to have found someone else who read The Actor and the Housewife. I have such a conflicted relationship with that book. I was angry most of the time I was reading, but at the same time there were moments that made me laugh, as Shannon Hale always manages to do. Definitely my least favorite of her books, though.
    And, AMEN to everything you said about Breaking Dawn. I feel like that series has no closure, since essentially nothing happened in the final book plot-wise. It needs another book to finish things up, but I doubt we'll ever get one.

  2. Love this list. I used to be really bad at DNFing books, but have gotten much better - like you said, there is only so much time in the day!

    Can't believe you classify OUTLANDER under your should-have-DNF'd though...

    Though to be honest, I'm not entirely sure I'd have made it through if I read it today - not quite sure what that says about my attention span nowadays!

  3. Excellent list. I agree with all your slow-to-start picks, and your wish-I'd-never reads as well. I actually did put down Outlander, and still don't regret it. And neatly avoided The Actor and The Housewife thanks to your review. But I joined in the train wreck of a Breaking Dawn and found that it utterly spoiled the entire series for me. And while it was never, truly, good writing, it was a good story once upon a time--and brought back the nostalgia of the angsty obsessiveness of first love in the teen years. I just so wish it had grown up. And thank you for the recommendation for Jellicoe Road--I absolutely loved it, and agree that it requires--and deserves--a commitment to get through the beginning. But it is so very rewarding.

    I'd like to add Left Drowning to books I wish I hadn't finished. I loved Flat-Out Love so much I felt that Jessica Park had earned my time, but that one just wasn't worth it.

  4. I'm so glad you continued through with Jellicoe Road. I felt much the same way and it proved to be an awesome read.

    Tanya Patrice

  5. Thank you! I am deeply confused by The Emperor's New Outlander. I couldn't get over our "beloved" Jamie horsewhipping his wife--and forcing her to have sex when she was hurt. Really? No bueno.

    I also quit reading The Actor & Housewife after the prom scene at the state capitol. Just couldn't take it any more.

    I did finish Breaking Dawn in a confused stupor. I still haven't recovered from Edward suggesting that maybe Bella could have babies with Jacob. Again--no bueno. I have to say the movie really improved it for me. Sad times.

    Completely agree with The Thief--greatest ending of all time. I finished the book and immediately returned to page 1 to read it again in awe of MWT's pure awesomeness. I still bow to her greatness.

    Haven't read IT, but I swore to never again read Stephen King due to his constant albeit creative reinvention of the f-bomb. Grow up, dude. Even Dennis Miller gave it up when he turned 50.

    Thanks for the list! Super fun post.

  6. Well, I know now that I need to read your second five books immediately (except for the Stephen King one - I don't do horror)! I've been meaning to pick up THE THIEF for ages anyway. Great list!

  7. I am in agreement with most of these! In fact, I actually put down Outlander (and have never regretted that decision), and neatly avoided The Actor and the Housewife after reading of your response. I love all the books on your second list, and do agree that Jellicoe Road and The Thief in particular require--and deserve--the extra time to become absorbed. I find that Stephen King is often off-putting for people before they even pick him up, and feel pretty strongly that deserves a read as well. He is an excellent author, and I love his characters and the pace of his stories--he paints a whole picture, and he takes his time getting there. If the horror genre is a roadblock (and truly, I don't read horror except for him), I think 11/22/63 is a good entry point--clearly, not a "classic" since it is so recent, but so atmospheric. And it gives a nice little tie-in to "It."

    I'd like to add one to the never-should-have-finished it pile: Left Drowning by Jessica Park. I felt I owed her the benefit of the doubt after Flat-Out Love, but yuck. That book did nothing for me.

  8. I slagged my way through the second Outlander book too. They're terrible! So so slow. And Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'ubervilles was my least favorite book for school ever.

    I'm definitely like you. Used to never quit a book, now do it fairly frequently because I have so much to read and too little time to waste it on books I don't like.

  9. The only one I've read on your list was The Beekeeper's Apprentice, but I do have The Thief on a shelf. I read Twilight and wished I hadn't.

  10. As much as I loved Hale's MG book The Goose Girl, I was not very impressed with her adult work Austenland. Maybe she's an author who writes better for children than for adults?

    And 3 of the 5 you list as those books you almost gave up on but loved are 3 that I wholeheartedly support (Lady of the Forest, Jellicoe Road, The Thief). I'm not a fan of horror, but it sounds like I should give The Beekeeper's Apprentice a try. :)

  11. I can't agree with you about Outlander or Where She Went but that's okay. And it was really the next two books that cemented my love the MWT books. I do agree with you regarding Jellicoe Road. I had no clue what was going on in that book but ended up loving it!!

  12. Right, The Actor and the Housewife was a DNF for me. If I remember correctly it started so well, but then I had this "where is this going?" feeling and I think you might have said something about being disappointed and I peeked ahead and was utterly appalled and stopped reading. Ug, Breaking Dawn.. I forget what the order was of the Twilight books - was this the last one? All I know is that my cousin gave me all the books as a gift and I felt obligated to read them because of it. I wanted to throw out New Moon. Each book just got crazier. And yet I liked the first one, I don't know what happened!


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