I used to really commit myself to a book, pushing myself to read it cover to cover even if I didn’t like it that much. Often it is the curiosity about how a book ends that will motivate me to finish–even if the book isn’t great, I still want to know how it ends! But I came to realize that there are just so many good books out there to be read, why should I waste my limited time on those that don’t fully engross me? A few years ago I started my 50 page rule. I will give any book at least 50 pages to suck me in. Here are some recent ones I put down:
Bad Faith by Tannenbaum : I don’t know what is was about this book that lost me. In one way, I felt like there were way too many characters being introduced, and too many story lines going on, but I’ve made it through books like this before. Some of the story lines include: (1) the secret underground lives of homeless/unemployed “mole people” living in the subway tunnels and abandoned areas under New York City, (2) discussions of whether parents who refuse medical treament for their children due to their religious beliefs should be persecuted by law (3) a charismatic, cult-like religious leader who is really just a con man pretending to be religious in order to swindle people out of their money (and their wives). The author does manage to intersect all of the story lines, as diverse as they seen. I probably read about half of the book before giving up.
The Gods of Gotham : I might give this book another chance when I have less other books waiting for my attention. It’s a historical fiction novel set in mid 1800’s New York City. It talks about the formation of the police force, the great fire that destroyed much of NYC in that era, the problems with Irish Catholic immigrants flooding the city, and the far-reaching effects of the potato famine in Ireland. There is also much rich information about the political parties, who at that time were the Deomcrats and the Whigs. It was interesting comparing the “hot” policial issues of that time (e.g. what to do with all of the Irish Catholic immigrants and their starving children) with those of our current time. What made this book difficult to read, other than it’s itty-bitty font, was the langauge. At the beginning of the book is a mini dictionary which includes some of the unusual words used in the book. However, many more are not included and leave the reader to figure out what they mean. For example, there appear to be at least a dozen different terms for prostitudes including bats, owls and stargazers. It’s a challenging read that seems like it would be an excellent story.
1222 by Anne Holt: This book is by a Scandanavian author and takes place in a Scandanavian country. Despite my intelligence and education level, I just find the writing of Scandanavian authors very taxing and difficult to read. The names are complex, sometimes the sentences are too detailed and lengthy, at times they go on and on about a irrevelant character, or make their main characters so quirky or atypical that I can’t relate to them. The plot of this book sounded good, but I think it could have come to a head in at least 100 less pages. It kept going on, and on, and I really just wanted it to end!! I did force myself to finish this one because I wanted to know who the murdered was. But then I was disappointed anyway. The story is about a group of people who are marooned at a hotel during a severe winter storm after their train crashes. The main character–very hard to relate to–is a former policewomen who was injured in the line of duty and is now in a wheelchair. She is retired, but finds herself involved in an investigation as people at the hotel keep turning up dead.