Books You Started & Definitely Never Finished

It's time to come clean, book readers. We're all sitting on a throne of lies. We all have at least one (or seven) books on our shelves, right now, at this very moment, that we started reading and then abandoned. And they're almost always the books that we're "supposed" to read to be smart and well-read individuals. But we just couldn't get into them, for whatever reason. So here are several books that you probably started but never finished. Maybe it's time to give them a second shot?

I mean, look, I'm not here to shame you for your reading habits. It's taken me roughly ten years to get through three quarters of The Once and Future King, and by now I can't remember who any of the characters are (Arthur is the king, I guess? Lancelot is his boyfriend? Who knows). So I'm not saying that you have to finish these books in order to be a "good" reader. I just think it's time we acknowledged these unfinished tomes with those judgmental bookmarks sticking out of them.

Are these bestsellers overrated? Or are we all just garbage people whose attention spans have been gradually eroded by years of Youtube videos and Candy Crush? Either way, here are some books that you almost certainly never finished:

'War and Peace' by Leo Tolstoy

I promise I'm going to try and include some non-Russian authors on this list. But come on... war and peace? That's a lot to cover. You definitely tried to read this once, and you remember that there were some Russian people having a party, and there was a count who was dying and maybe an orphan and then... um... there was a war (or a peace)?

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'Infinite Jest' by David Foster Wallace

"One day," you whisper every night to your copy of Infinite Jest, which you have placed prominently on your nightstand in order to impress/terrify potential dates. And you are planning to go back and finish this one... eventually. Things just keep getting in the way. It's about drug addiction, you think... or maybe tennis?

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'Les Misérables' by Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo just... loves his characters. I mean, he loves his characters. Everyone gets a name and roughly 10,000 pages of backstory, even if they play a relatively small role and then die. Even the unabridged English translation cuts out a chapter in which Hugo explains the history of prostitution in France. He's basically the George R.R. Martin of French history.

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'A Brief History of Time' by Stephen Hawking

A Brief History of Time is widely known as the "most unread book in the world." Everyone owns it, even though no one remembers buying it (I think it comes pre-installed on most bookshelves?). Everyone has tried to read it at least once and gotten really excited about black holes and the undulating fabric of space time. But then you got distracted by stalking your high school physics teacher on Facebook, and you never actually finished the book.

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'Fifty Shades of Grey' by E.L. James

This is possibly the only book that people brag about not finishing. You definitely started reading it out loud with friends as a joke (spoiler alert: there's a lot about hardware stores before the sex starts). But then you found out that your mom was also reading it, and you had to stop.

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'The Lord of the Rings' by J.R.R. Tolkien

To be fair, most people can barely make it through the director's cut of the movie. There are many people who have read The Lord of the Rings multiple times. But there are also plenty of people who get to the third elf song and give up (fun fact: not only did I read all these books as a young nerd, I dressed up as an elf and sang one of the songs a cappella for my third grade talent show).

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'Midnight's Children' by Salman Rushdie

Yeah, I know your dirty little secret: you never actually finished Midnight's Children. You made it almost to the end, but not quite. That paper you wrote in your junior year was a carefully woven tapestry of caffeine and lies.

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'Dune' by Frank Herbert

OK, look, I know that Dune changed sci-fi forever, and a lot of people really love it, so I don't want to call it an "aggressively boring" book, but... Frank Herbert sure does make you wait through several hundred pages of theology before you get the thrill of reading about a guy riding a large worm.

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'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens

You probably had to read this for school, and you probably have faint memories of wanting to strangle Pip and/or Estella. Miss Havisham is cool, through. I'll admit that I have a soft spot for Charles Dickens and his many words, but if you ended up "accidentally losing" this book... I get it.

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'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Boy, Russian novels sure do like their suffering. Crime and Punishment involves a lot of suffering, and just a littler bit of murder. And sometimes you just... need a break from all that suffering. So you put down Crime and Punishment for a few days, and soon it's retreated back into the wilds of your bookshelf, never to be seen again.

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'Moby-Dick' by Herman Melville

I know. You wanted to finish Moby-Dick. You wanted so badly to get to that scene where the whale eats them all or whatever. But sometimes we need to accept ourselves for who we are. Even if we are the kind of person who just can't finish Moby-Dick. Melville forgives you.

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'Ulysses' by James Joyce

Listen: I'm a huge James Joyce apologist. I will always suggest that you give Ulysses a second try. But I understand why your response to that might be to hurl your copy of Ulysses at me while sobbing. Joyce uses a lot of baby talk mixed with Irish slang of the 1930s mixed with Homeric allusions mixed with fart jokes. It's not for everyone. So if you gave up after the first page and turned your copy into a very literary doorstop... I won't tell anyone.

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