First Last Monday: Laborious Reads

So, it's the last Monday (and day) of the year. Perhaps a book post can give us a little momentum heading into 2019? (Also, hj prodded me to post something here today.)

I've been reading a book that I kinda like, yet am sorta bored with, since November. This book and its author are both new to me, though I know a fair bit about the author, who was the best friend of one of my favorite poets. The book's not the sole reason I won't reach my reading goal for the year, but, well, it's been laborious. I'm not entirely stalled out — I make a little progress every day — but I'm definitely not going to finish it in 2018. It's a prominent book in a certain kind of genre, and 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the author's untimely, unexpected passing. I feel a bit obligated to finish it, both because, while it's not my cup of tea, it's not that bad, and because it seems like something I should read.

When I finally finish it, I've decided to create a new tag in my tracking system — Laborious Reads. I may retroactively tag a few other books like this, too; Chernyshevsky, I'm looking at you.

What books have you laboriously read? What were your initial motivations for reading them? What was your motivation to finish them?

As always, fill us in on what you've read since last time, and what you will be reading as we turn the page to begin Chapter 2019.

34 thoughts on “First Last Monday: Laborious Reads”

    1. Same. 3 tries in the last 15 years and never got past page 50.

      I have a kindle unlimited subscription, so often I will "borrow" a 3 to 5 book epic fantasy collection as I absolutely hate waiting a year or two for the next book to come out. I would say that for even the very positive reviewed series, I give up on about 50% of them.

      Just finished a re-read of Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. I think I flew through it way too fast last time, as I missed a lot. It is the worst rated book of that series, but I thought it was pretty good. The final battle scene is great. I love the characters Sanderson has developed in the series quite a bit. All their flaws are fleshed out nicely and the whole story is one filled with redemption for past sins. Only thing I don't like is Sanderson has so many projects going, it is 2-3 years between books. At least he is better than George RR Martin. I gave up on him years ago.

    2. I tried only once and succeeded but wow, it was an incredible slog. I was determined to not let it be the only book I couldn't finish.

    3. I actually finished the Silmarillion and enjoyed it.

      Got 63 pages into Infinite Jest.

      Started War and Peace probably 5 times and couldn't get past the foreward.

    1. I finished that one a few years back, and while I wouldn't use the word "slog" it never quite gripped me like I expected, knowing all I knew in advance about it.

  1. Inherent Vice was a slog for me. Enough so that I gave it up. Felt like I should like it, but I just didn't.

  2. Every year (for the past 6 or so years) I read the winner of the Best Translated Book Award. Last year's winner was The Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lucio Cardoso. It's an older book, recently translated (obviously) about a declining ranching family in Brazil/Argentina.

    It took me 6 months to read the whole thing.

    It is 600 pages, and I'm a little bit of a flighty reader if a book doesn't have my full attention. I often start about 5 or 6 books at the same time and then settle in with one or two to finish while the others wait their turn.

    Murdered House just kept getting pushed into the waiting pile. I read the first two chapters (and I liked it), and then set it aside, then read ten chapters over a couple of days, but got distracted into other books. Then I sat down and worked out a plan to finish it in September (one chapter a day), but never followed through.

    So it was the beginning of November, and I was still 1/3rd of the way through this book. It's a good book, the decaying atmosphere of the country mansion, the locals speculation as to what scandals are playing out there, the actual scandals that are happening all worked to very effectively create this dreary hopeless tone throughout. And the character that acts as a catalyst for the novel (the woman from Rio that the younger brother married and brought back to the manor) was perfectly mysterious and bewitching.

    I returned a bunch of unread books to the library and set out to finish it. I read two to four chapters a day and knocked the rest of it out in about 2 weeks.

    I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads. That might be generous, but the book accomplished what it wanted. I just had to give it undivided attention to tackle it properly.

    The BTBA winner this year is The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresan. Another 600 page spanish language translation. I'd better start soon.

  3. I am plowing my way through Alan Taylor's American Colonies. Not a slog, per se. But a behemoth.

    Bought Jill Lepore's These Truths fir the Girl and had to endure almost a full day of her mocking Lepore's writing. Let's just say Lepore needed tighter editing. Contra the rather fawning NYT review's description of the writing as "elegant," she found (at least the introduction) to be excessively verbose and trying too hard to be "literary."

  4. Ulysses, Joyce. Last 60 pages is one sentence. Strap in.

    Resurrection, Tolstoy. Only got 30 pages into it.

    Against the Day, Pynchon. A third into it, but I keep confusing the characters/name. A friend tells me it gets better.

    1. Against the Day absolutely gets better. I was so lost through the first part, but once the clouds parted... Yeah, it's probably my favorite book.

  5. Pepper, how many years have I had your copy of The Goldfinch?
    I believe you still has my DVD of "Grave of the Fireflies" so every time I think of that movie, I'm reminded that I still have to read the second half of this book.
    I should probably get myself a paperback and split it into 3 volumes or so. But then I'd miss your marginalia.

    Reasons it's taking me so long:
    It's big, it's hardbound, it's not my copy. So I'm not just going to throw it in my backpack and break the spine or binding, or squish it against a forgotten pear or banana. And I'm not going to read it whilst falling asleep and to then drop it on my face or on the ground.

  6. Here's my 2018 List, in rough order

    Tier I: Would Recommend to others

    The Devil All The Time-Pollack
    Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy-Reynolds
    Trigger Warning-Gaiman
    Native Son-Wright
    The Prophet-Gibran
    The Red Atlas-Davies & Kent
    The Fall of The Ottomans-Rogan^

    Tier II: Eh, were alright

    Disturbing The Peace-Havel
    On Her Majesty's Secret Service-Fleming
    The General and His Labyrinth-García Márquez

    Tier III: Didn't like

    Foucoult's Pendulum-Eco^
    Badass: The Book-Thompson


  7. Slogs:

    Couldn't get into, finished anyway - Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance, All The King's Men

    Good books, just really really long - Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

    1. Zen is a great add to the slog list. I've been working through it for a year. That said, I really enjoy it whenever I pick it up. It just isn't light reading. I'd put it in your second category there.

      1. I don't much like philosophy, but I tried since it's such a classic. I can't actually remember any of the philosophy except he wove Zen (duh) with some dead white guy (HUme?)

        If it was just a travelogue+motorcycle repair book I would have liked it immensely more. But I can't hate on it for being what it advertised on the cover, now can I? That's like poking a tiger then getting mad when it bites you.

        1. I don't much like philosophy

          That said, I am picking up Tim Scanlan's "What We Owe To Each Other" at the library today because of "The Good Place". 400+ pages of modern philosophy. Thoughts and prayers very welcome. I fear it's destined to go into the slog pile after 30 pages.

          But I'm gonna give it my best go.

          1. Ah, Zen and the holds a special place in my mind. I finished that book in Vaxjo, Sweden, and I will always regard it with reverence for that time in my life.

  8. Reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It's pretty easy reading, which is fine by me.
    Bonus is that it appears to have been annotated by one of my younger sisters...not sure if HS or College...but their noted commentary on some of the moral imperatives to the more liberal, er, pleasure-seeking is amusing.

  9. Read the two Spero Lucas novels by The Wire hitman George Pelecanos (he always wrote the penultimate episode of each season, so he led to "Where's Wallace?", Sobotka's long walk, McNulty not getting to tell Stringer he had caught him, and Carver letting Randy down). They were the pretty mediocre.

    American Tabloid by James Ellroy was worse than mediocre.

    Killers of the Flower Moon, on the other hand, was really good.

    I finally got to the top of the wait-list for Snap at the library yesterday.

    As for slogs, Steven Kotkin's two Stalin biographies take forever. Tackling a 900 page history book isn't uncommon for me, but those have just taken forever. I didn't find War and Peace to be a slog until the epilogue.

    1. So this Pelecanos fella, he's the one I can write my strongly worded letters to. "Where's Wallace?!" and Randy yelling at Carver at two of the moments in The WIre that just cut me deep.

    1. And I am offended that they call 2001 the "classic novel." The film was based on his short story. The book was a companion piece to the film.

      1. Several of them aren't more than short stories or novellas. Flowers for Algernon for example is in one of my SF anthologies college textbook. And I definitely would not put Dalhgren in this list.

        I've started reading Anathem ebook from the library. Definitely having to roll up my sleeves on this one, but while not bad, Snow Crash is a better Stephenson read.

        1. likewise (lengthwise) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It's basically a novella.

          and rather than Dahlgren, maybe Babel-17.

          hey, sean! why <em> instead of <i>? Is the latter deprecated? It still works, but the former is what the button does.

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