Monday, March 12, 2007


Todays' Guardian has a list of 'great' books that people have never read (or finished). Among them is Ulysses, which ought to surprise no one. But Rowling? I mean, I can understand if it was the sixth book, but turns out it was the 4th.

So I quickly went to my bookshelves, to induce some guilt to see me through the week. Here's my list of books (in addition to Ulysses) I've never manage to finish:

  1. Orlando (Virginia Woolf). For some reason, after he turns into a woman, I just couldn't go on. Oops! Was that a spoiler?
  2. PowerBook (Jeanette Winterson)
  3. Trotternama (I.Allan Sealy). I've tried this one several times.
  4. Ragazzi (Piers Paolo Pasolini). Its' not for decoration. I promise you. I only want to see a Pasolini first before I read a book by him.
  5. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert Pirsig)
  6. Small Is Beautiful (E. F. Schumacher)

Kitabkhana, a few years ago, had a similar list. Go see.

Oh, and yes: for those who never do intend to read Vernon God Little or Cloud Atlas, Crace's digests further down ought to do very well.

And if anyone feels like giving me a digest of my list of books, or giving the ending away, please fee free!


Cheshire Cat said...

I'd be hard put to compile a list of 'great' books that I've managed to finish. Minor work is always more interesting - you tend to continue reading just to find out how much more flawed it can get. For 'great' work, a sample is sufficient.

Monica said...

I have a few of these too. Felt terribly guilty in college about not finishing Jacob's Room by Woolf - some sort of a Catholic guilt which mandated I finish every book I begin. But Suketu Mehta's Maximum City inspired no such guilt in me! Most recently, began Ardeshir Vakil's Beach Boy, but couldn't read beyond the first few pages.

Space Bar said...

Cat: Does that mean you almost never finish a 'great' book?! That I don't believe! Agrrw with you that minor (bad) work is more interesting. That should make for another post in itself, the godawful stuff one has ploughed through just to see how bad it can get and the sense of triumph at the end when one's worst fears are confirmed.

And thanks for the associative pointer: I wonder why Rowling is on that list at all...I mean popular, yes (which ought to be a surprise when her book isn't finished) but 'great'?

Monica: I'm edging around Mehta's book myself! Ideally, one ought to borrow such books, keep them lying around and return them only if the lender remembers!

Dipta Chaudhuri said...

I think my wife and I are the only two people in the world, but we could not finish Shantaram! We were genuinely surprised at our inability to see the magic which the rest of the world was gushing about!

I also could not go beyond a few pages of The Satanic Verses.

Of the 'greats', I have been stumped by each one of VS Naipaul's novels. Completely dense... But then, I must be in a minority of one!

HP4 unreadable? That one is the Goblet of Fire, right? I thought that is one of the better ones of the six. HP5 (Phoenix) was the sad one.

And I suggest you try Trotternama again. Its really good.

Space Bar said...

Dipta: Oh, god, Shantaram--that's another one of those ought-to-reads.

HP4 is Goblet. Iknow; the last was terrible in comparison.

Why don't you give me a digested read of Tortternana and I'll decide?

(BTW< wish Tina from me. I thought of her the day before, but I didn't have a correct number).

tangerine said...

I found HP4 (Goblet) a strange choice, but certainly HP5 (Order of the Pheonix) was a struggle to get through. Heaven knows how my daughter has read it 4-5 times!!

Another book I would add on the list is 'A Brief History of Time' by Stephen Hawkins. You used to get pirated copies for 10 bucks in India, any everyone thought it was an erudite to be seen with a copy.