This year, due to national lockdowns and making a real effort to swap death-scrolling, I have managed to read 100 books! This is a huge feat that I am immensely proud/slightly surprised about. 100 is a bloody BIG number. There will of course be monthly wrap-ups, my top 10 books of 2020, and a ‘how to read 100 books in 2021’ post coming before Christmas/New Year, so keep your eyes peeled.
Naturally, while I have thoroughly enjoyed almost most of the books I managed to cram into the year, there have been a number of lost casualties along the way. Unfortunately, not every book can be as exciting as the Killing Eve novels or spark joy like the Harry Potters.
Below then are the seven books I cast aside this year. Be prepared for some raging negativity and controversial opinions. It is time to revel in the nostalgia of what-could-have-been.
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Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui
If you have been here for a while then you will know I am obsessed with swimming. I love the full-body tingling sensation and the lap against my bare skin. Mindless lengths and snorting the stench of chlorine? Heaven. As a water baby, therefore, I truly believed that Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui would be ‘it’. Good books on swimming are few and far between and when Lockdown cast me out of the pool, I thought Tsui would give me the respite I needed. 50 pages in, however, I deleted Why We Swim from my Kindle.
I feel I was oversold and projected too much hope onto Why We Swim. I was pool-sick and hungry for what was dubbed a “beautiful love letter to water”. What I wanted was a fierce passion and adoration for water. What I received were statistics and a memoir about why Bonnie Tsui swims. Is it self-absorbed to have wanted to know why my brain cools down in the water? Why my anxiety melts away as I push myself off from the side? I wanted to know why I swim, not why we swim. 50 pages aren’t much to go off but it was an uphill struggle upon which I was baffled and bored throughout. I and my big head won’t be re-downloading this.
Fire and Blood by George R. R. Martin
The A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin is monotonous. Both long and rich in exposition, the five novels are unfathomably complicated and truly require unquieted concentration. While willpower and stamina are necessities, it definitely isn’t all doom and gloom. The rewards the A Song of Ice and Fire saga allows you to reap are spellbinding. I have never read a series like it and would recommend it to anyone and everyone.
While I wait for The Winds of Winter, I thought the first national lockdown of 2020 was the perfect time to ease the dragon-shaped burn in my chest with Fire and Blood. Spanning 300-years, Fire and Blood tells the history of the Targaryens; a family known for rip-roaring murder, blood lust, and incest. Just lighthearted reading really.
I purchased the 27-hour-long audiobook via Audible. Fast-forward six months and it is still sitting in my Audible library, unfinished and abandoned. I tried, but Fire and Blood is even more tedious than A Song of Ice and Fire. There are no seemingly glowing moments nor crazy twists to keep my attention hooked. In all honesty, it is 27 hours of driveling world-building.
Will I ever pop Fire and Blood back into my ears? I would find it a great achievement if I did. However, I physically feel like the remaining 22 hours of that audiobook could be much better spent on several other things. The real question is what will come first: The Winds of Winter or me finishing Fire and Blood?
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I have always been one to succumb to the hype surrounding books. When I first started reading it was all about the YA. It was the John Green novels and The Twilight Saga, Mallorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series, and The Hunger Games. Later, I was obsessed with the Robert Galbraith Strike novels and now I have A Court Of Thorns and Roses on reserve from my local library. Hyped books are my kryptonite. I float to their calling. Sometimes when the hype doesn’t deliver (cough, cough Wolf Hall) I feel spat out and left by the wayside. What did I not get which seemingly everyone else did? A novel that left me stranded on the shore with similar feelings in 2020 was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
Despite being written in 1868, Little Women had a mass resurgence in late 2019/early 2020, due to the film adaptation starring Emma Watson being released. It seemed as if everyone was barking, watching, reading, criticising, and writing about Little Women. Not one to miss out on the hype, I wanted in.
What I received in return from my subscription to the hype however was a ridiculously archaic and unreadable text. I found the characters to be flawed and dislikable with little charm. The story itself was painstakingly slow and the language itself bored me to tears. I didn’t enjoy Little Women because it didn’t shine like an Austen, a Brontë, a Gaskell, or a Braddon. Is it wrong for me to compare Alcott with the greats? Perhaps it is unfair. However, much the same as Why We Swim, my expectations didn’t meet my reality. I was a flattened balloon. It is safe to say that the hype of Little Women shall forever allude and I am glad I didn’t spend time finishing this.
Meaty by Samantha Irby
Meaty by Samantha Irby being on this list is unfair but also warranted. In late November, I had just finished Eldest by Christopher Paolini and believed I wanted a lighthearted interval before beginning on Brisingr. Sadly, I picked up Irby’s Meaty before it was too late. My mind was consumed with dragons and reeling from a fantasy plot twist; the headspace for Meaty was not right. So I dropped Meaty and dived into Brisingr. I am yet to return to the former. Soon baby. Soon. I promise.
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave originally ticked all of my subjective reading boxes:
- Feminist text with (almost) all strong female characters.
- Winter setting.
- Historical Fiction.
- Based on witch trials.
- A Vikings-kinda vibe.
Sounds good right? I thought so too until I binned The Mercies off after only reading 20% of it.
When a novel is as short as 250 pages there physically isn’t time for George R. R. Martin-style world-building. The Mercies spent too much precious time describing and observing and not enough showing. I am quite fickle when it comes to novels – if I am not immediately entertained then my attention will wander elsewhere and I simply did not have the patience to slog through The Mercies. Perhaps I didn’t give The Mercies time to reach its crescendo. I may pick this back up in the New Year and start afresh.
To note: The Mercies has really fantastic reviews on Goodreads and has a solid 4-star rating. It probably is worth the read.
The Everlasting by Katy Simpson Smith
I judged The Everlasting by its cover and I thought it was going to be a good one. If you follow me on GoodReads then you will know a big chunk of my reading each year is always Greek/Roman Mythology retellings. It’s my favourite genre. The Everlasting – a book in which its narrative spans 2,000 years – is set in Rome and tells of the cities spirit, troubles, and inhabitants over the centuries. While there is no promise of Roman gods, myth, or anything otherworldly, I thought this novel would still play up to my strengths and entertain me. Unfortunately, The Everlasting ended up being more weird than wonderful.
I found Simpson Smith’s novel to encompass a lot of too’s. It was too broad, too ambitious, too literary, too complex, too odd. Characters weren’t given names, places, or direct reasons to be in the narrative. POV’s were too ambiguous and lacking in direction. The storyline itself was weird and I failed to discover what The Everlasting was about. I was so excited for The Everlasting making this edition to the DNF pile a true shame.
Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel
Much like Samantha Irby’s Meaty, Wolf Hall has earned its place on this DNF list for a reason other than ‘I just didn’t like it’.
Wolf Hall is the first in Hillary Mantel’s award-winning Oliver Cromwell trilogy. It is considered to be one of those ‘must-read’ novels that critics rave about. Each year, my GoodReads has been flooded with Wolf Hall and in March, I finally decided to discover why.
Upon beginning Wolf Hall, I immediately became obsessed. So much so, that I had quickly penciled in solid plans to follow it with both Bringing Up The Bodies and The Mirror & The Light. The gears however quickly ground to a halt and those dreamy succession plans evaporated as I began to wade through the gloop. This mammoth read made the DNF list because it took me three attempts and six months to get through it.
Wolf Hall timeline
March 15 – Started Reading
April 20 – Shelved at 10%
May 5 – Started Reading at 10%
May 10 – 35% read
May 31st – 55% read
June 1st – Shelved at 55%
September 15 – Started Reading at 55%
September 17 – Finished
Was it worth it? Hell no. My advice is don’t do it to yourself. Not even this English Literature graduate with a penchant for The Tudors liked it.
One thought on “7 Books I Did Not Finish (DNF) In 2020”
I also started reading ‘Little Women’ as part of a school project. Glad to know I’m not the only one who didn’t finish reading it!