It’s pretty rare that I start a book and don’t finish it. I’m very open to not ploughing on with books that I am not enjoying, but I tend to select carefully to start off with (and my friends are really good at buying me books!) and then if I really don’t fancy something, I DNS it instead of even starting. These two have happened within the last week, and while it’s definitely a case of “It’s not you, it’s me” with these perfectly adequate books, I don’t think it’s indicative of a reading slump – one was picked off because I didn’t want two Tolkien books in my 20 Books of Summer, and the other picked up on Kindle because it was the oldest one on my NetGalley list – and that was obviously for a reason!

Colin Duriez – “The Oxford Inklings: Lewis, Tolkien and their Circle”

(31 Oct 2018 – The Newlyn Bookshop)

I managed to get half-way through this one before I accepted the dawning realisation that I’m only really interested in Lewis’ “Narnia” books (and certainly not the process of his religious conversion) and Tolkien in total, and found myself plodding through descriptions of Charles Williams’ Christianity-themed novels in the hopes of glimpses of Middle Earth (this is not to say I reject books about religion, not at all, but this is not what interested me about this circle). I have two other books on Tolkien in my TBR (including that huge companion to the exhibition I didn’t get to go to) so would rather concentrate on them. A perfectly competent book, although I wasn’t massively keen on the writing style.

Roxane Gay – “Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture”

(01 Sept 2018 – NetGalley)

I didn’t pick up on the savage irony of the title, the author’s mantra for years after she was gang-raped as a teenager: in this collection she points out that yes, it is that bad, and here is the proof. There are then thirty contributions from authors who have experienced sexual assault, harassment, street-calling, all the #MeToo things we keep hoping will go away with more education but don’t seem to.

While I understand that it’s important for the rape culture that seemingly underlies not just US but all culture to be exposed and discussed, and it’s vitally important for people to be able to share their experiences and their pain, it’s also important that if we’re reading something that’s unremittingly grim and hugely upsetting we allow ourselves to look away from it and place it aside. I’m well aware of the terrible experiences so many women go through, and naturally have my own experiences of assault, harassment and street-calling (what female-identifying person hasn’t?) and this was just too much. To be fair, I was also looking for maybe some analysis or a call to powerful action which I wasn’t really finding in the 18% of the book I got through, and I took the time to look up reviews, too, some of which did mention this point.

So a vital and important book for many to read: I had a taste of it, couldn’t face reading on and will continue to support women who experience violence and harassment.

Thank you to Atlantic Books for the opportunity to read this via NetGalley.

Have you read (and finished?) either of these? What was the last book you gave up on?