Books That Disappoint—what to do?

bad-dog3Some books make you wonder why the author bothered...and then make you wonder why YOU'RE bothering. Do you continue with a disappointing book...or put it down?

I've done both recently. I picked up Jaimy Gordon's Lord of Misrule on the basis of its solid reviews. But Gordon's prose felt so clogged and overworked it was offputting. It turns out Gordon is a professor of writing, which maybe is why the book feels a bit like a writing-class exercise. I love dense, rich prose, but not.... Well, anyway, I put the book aside.

Then I picked up Sara Gruen's newest, Ape House, in which a family of apes—who communicate using American Sign Language—eventually become stars in their own reality tv show. Just think of the possibilities! But Gruen's prose is thin and screen-writerish. And her apes turn out to be a lot more interesting than her humanoids.

I finished Gruen's book, though—thinking there might be a payoff. Besides it wasn't painful to read. And there is a sort of pay-off at the end, predictable but sweet.

*Added later...For a truly great read about apes and people, try The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (sorry, no reading guide)'s brilliant, funny, and  disturbing.

Questions for Book Clubs
What do you do with disappointing books...especially if one is your book club selection? Which ones have disappointed...and why?


0 #4 Cynthia Short 2012-05-05 10:21
I learned many years ago that there is no "book police" that punishes you for not finishing a book. In the book club I started 3 1/2 years ago, I pick most of the titles as the other women seem to be afraid of picking a book no one likes. I always read the books first, and I have to think they are wonderful or at least they will spark some good discussion/argu ment. There have been a few "clunkers" that surprised me. Recently I had the group read, "The Tiger's Wife" as I was mesmerized by it. There was only one member out of 14 who attended that liked it at all. No problem, just on to next month's book!
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0 #3 Dayle Rounds 2012-02-03 18:39
Rule of thumb that I read somewhere about whether to continue with a book: subtract your age from 100. If I am 70, the book needs to grab me in the first 30 pages.The older you are, the less time you want to waste on stuff you may not enjoy.
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0 #2 Dayle Rounds 2012-02-03 18:34
We are the Erudite Eaters! We're friends, not particularly intellectual, and are not embarrassed when someone picks a dog! Usually our discussion of it just becomes shorter. We take a lot of time reporting on other books we have read since last meeting. Much of my reading comes from these suggestions. We meet only every other month or so.
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0 #1 Brnoze 2011-08-30 13:29
I read a lot. The one book a month that my book club assigns is not enough to fill my reading habit. I have recommendeded books for the group to read, most I have preread, others I have recommended from looking at reviews and recommendations of other readers. Knowing what the book club members like has helped me choose titles. Now, we have read clunkers. Sometimes books that others have preread, sometimes books no one has read. When we get together there have been titles that a number of members gave up on, including me. Time is too short to read over 100 pages and still not care about the characters, the plot or struggle with the way it is written. I think it is fine to come together and enjoy friendships and not have read the book. Chasing that great book, is part of the fun.
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