I know in this space, in this Books on Tap, I talk a lot about good books. And that's important. Writing a book is a lot of hard, hard work. When you do it well, it should be rewarded.
But what about the not-so-good books?
I wrestled with this question after reading one of the books on this list, a book that I, by all accounts, should have loved. I'd heard good things. It was frequently listed alongside books I've read and loved. It had gotten good reviews, both from people I know and a whole lot more I don't. So when I saw it was $1.99 on Amazon's daily e-book deals, I pounced.
I shouldn't have. It was, frankly, painful. But still I persisted, 20 percent of the way through the thing, until finally, with a cup of coffee on one side of me and my pup curled up on the other, I waved the white flag. I just couldn't anymore. I wanted to finish, to say that I did, but I just did not like this book.
As an author, I felt bad because I know how much work and love goes into creating an entire book, and I hate to so easily dismiss that effort without even finishing it. And as an avid reader, I've long considered it a badge of honor to wade through books that I'm not necessarily into, just for the sake of exploring uncharted literary territory. But y'all, I just couldn't take it anymore.
What about you guys? Do you make yourself finish books, or do you stop if it's just not doing it for you? How long do you give it a chance before you call TOD on a title? Does anyone else feel guilty, or is it just me? What's the worst book you've ever read (or not finished)? Let me know in the comments!
The Year of Small Things*, by Sarah Arthur and Erin F. Wasinger. This duo, along with their husbands and kids attempts to live a tenet of "new monasticism," or radical faith, every month for a year, despite their current suburban circumstances. It's an interesting read, and definitely inspiring to see the devotion with which they embark on the project. A lot of the practices (sharing your budget with friends, letting strangers live in your home) are probably too out-there for most people, but reading about their adventures will definitely make you stop and think about how you live out the gospel. 4/5 stars.
The Garden of Small Beginnings*, by Abbi Waxman. This is a cute book about a young widow, Lili, who has two small girls and is forced to take a gardening class for work. While there, she learns about gardening, friendships, and falling in love again. I really enjoyed Waxman's witty writing and there are several funny scenes and lines. However, the characters felt a little underdeveloped and one-dimensional. I also don't feel that the story went deep enough. I felt like there should have been more detail, particularly about Edward. He seemed kind of a mystery to me, a one-size-fits-all hero. A cute, easy read, but just okay. 3/5 stars.
One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. I'd heard good things about Voskamp's books, and this one, about the importance of gratitude to a Christian life, seemed interesting. But I couldn't stomach her writing. Her weird adverb/adjective usage, apparent distaste for the word "the," and bizarre sentence structure made it impossible to wade through. I'm all for some descriptive writing, but this was over-the-top flowery. Just. Spit. It. Out. This book was a DNF...and I took her other books off my to-read list. Not doing this again.
Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld. Eligible is part of The Austen Project, a series of modern retellings of Jane Austen's novels. It's basically a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I entered into it with hesitation, intrigued but cautious. But I was actually pleasantly surprised. Just as Austen poked fun at society in her time, Sittenfeld pokes fun at our society, such as obsessions with Crossfit and reality television. Yet she somehow managed to remain true to the storyline and Austen's original intent. Elizabeth Bennet is still a perfect heroine, while Darcy is simultaneously attractive and maddening, as Darcy is. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually really enjoyed this book. 4/5 stars.
English Lessons*, by Andrea Lucado. In English Lessons, Lucado (the daughter of prominent pastor and author Max Lucado) details her faith journey, specifically as works toward her master's degree in Oxford, England. It took me a little while to get into it. At the beginning, it seemed a little bit immature and first-world-problem-y. Having lived in a foreign country myself and missing that country to this day, I found her pining for America absolutely mind-boggling. However, she really hit her stride mid-book as she honed in on her point. It's actually really encouraging to see that even those people who have grown up in church and are well-versed in Biblical teachings still struggle with moments of faith and doubt. And at the end of the book, Lucado goes into depth about the concept of goodbyes, whether to people, places, or things. Again, having lived in - and very reluctantly said goodbye to - a foreign country, I can tell you that she hits the nail on the head. 4/5 stars.
The City Baker's Guide to Country Living, by Louise Miller. When Olivia Rawlings, a pastry chef at a fancy Boston dinner dinner club, accidentally sets fire to the building, in front of her married lover and his family, she takes a hiatus to visit her best friend in Vermont (wouldn't you?). There, she lands a gig as a pastry chef at an inn. She becomes more and more invested in the town and its inhabitants the longer she stays, particularly with the single son of her boss's best friend. Much like I would devour one of the desserts described in this book, I devoured this book. SO cute and satisfying. 4/5 stars.
Only Love Today*, by Rachel Macy Stafford. This book is difficult to describe. It's like a daily devotional, except it isn't dated. Instead, it's broken down into seasons and needs, to be read a segment at a time, or in big gulps. It's deeply spiritual, but not overtly religious. Instead, Stafford's beautiful lyrical writing encourages readers to live by their heart, acting from a place of love, instead of by a to-do list, societal pressure, or "shoulds." I read it all at once, but I think it's a better resource book, to dip into when you're feeling lost, distracted, or stretched too thin. I had never read any of Stafford's writing before, but I've now added her other books to my to-read list. 4/5 stars.
The Whole Thing Together*, by Ann Brashares. I chose to review this book because Brashares is the author of one of my favorite series, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I read the first book as a senior in high school, and fell. in. love. My copy is dog-eared and marked up and well loved. I even re-read the Sisterhood series when we were living in France (at the age of 31), and I STILL cried at certain parts. So Brashares clearly is a great author. But I struggled with this particular book. There are too many characters, and keeping the various family combinations straight is nearly impossible. However, many of the plot points are predictable (I called at least 3 from the very beginning), and while there are certain truly heart-wrenching parts, most of the prose is overwrought with people thinking things. It's not the worst book ever, but if you want Brashares at her best, go back to her first. 3/5 stars.
The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking. I'm endlessly fascinated with the Danish concept of hygge, or warm, comfortable coziness-ish. Hygge actually has no direct translation to English, but this book tells you what you need to know to be like the supposed happiest people on the planet. Basically, it centers on low atmospheric lighting, warm beverages, good friends/company, and some treats. If you're feeling a little at odds, pick up this book and implement a few strategies. Can't hurt, right? 4/5 stars.
*Disclaimer: The titles notated with a star (*) above were given to me for free by either NetGalley, BookLook Bloggers, Blogging For Books, or First To Read, in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
**Also - the books linked in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click on any of the book links and order one (or any) of them through Amazon, I may earn a small commission. B thanks you in advance for helping to support my psychotic book-buying habits. :)