Although I am an avid reader, I am still a very picky person when it comes to books. I have not yet determined my reading taste exactly, so I am still running on trial and error. This year I struck gold as I read a couple of extraordinary books in a row during lockdown, but we can’t always be so fortunate. Here are some of the books I didn’t finish, and why.
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
- Genre: adult fiction
- First published: November 18th, 1999
I started reading a lot more when I joined the Sheffield library and went on search for titles that interested me. Around this time the movie Bridget Jones’ Baby had just come out, and this is when I realised I’d never read part two of the book series: The Edge of Reason.
In school I had done an essay comparing Pride & Prejudice and Bridget Jones, so at one point I had had a genuine interest in the Bridget Jones universe. However, I found that I was now way past it. Whereas teen me had enjoyed Bridget’s silly adventures, my adult self no longer had any interest in them whatsoever. Years earlier I had found the writing style entertaining, but as an adult I merely felt irritated. So that was my goodbye to Bridget Jones.
What I enjoyed instead: Eleanor Olliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
- Genre: adult fiction
- First published: May 7th, 2019
This book I spontaneously picked up for some light summer reading. It is rare for me not to go into in-depth research on what a book is like and whether it would be suitable for me, but this time I figured I take a shot. Unfortunately, it missed the mark for me.
Straight at the beginning I found that the author was sharing too many historical details that distracted from the story. I’m very happy they majored in history, but I didn’t need this list of historical facts about a tiny town in Italy I’ve never even heard of.
Besides that, something felt missing. Many times as the author was going down the list of Stella’s almost-deaths and tragedies, I felt little to no emotional connection to the story at all. I wondered if it was just me, but I found a review online that said the same thing, so I would hereby like to confirm that I am not completely lacking in emotion. It just felt like the author was a little too pragmatic with the storyline, and failed to draw that important emotional connection.
Lastly, the almost-deaths and other nasty occurrences were described in a gruesome detail that just does not suit me. I drew the line when someone lost an eye out of the blue. I closed the book and never opened it again.
I am afraid this novel has been proof that a spontaneous buy is not for me. I need to do well-invested research before making a literary purchase!
What I read instead: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
- Genre: non-fiction
- First published: June 26th, 2018
Yiiikes, this one has my blood boiling just thinking about it. I would like to give you a critical review of the content but I’m afraid I won’t be able to do so, as I only managed to get 40 pages in.
I have a lot of issues with the language in this book: most of all, I felt like I was back at uni trying to fight my way through dense research articles. Except this time, I was doing it completely voluntarily. I literally fell asleep every two pages. That means I must have taken about 20 naps while reading this book.
Because it is so densely written, this book feels much less accessible to the general public. As if racism as a topic isn’t yet uncomfortable enough, adding dull academic language to the mix only makes matters worse. The language DiAngelo uses feels elite, and in my opinion, will only speak to the elite. On top of that, this choice of language makes it feel like DiAngelo is talking down to the reader. Why not just explain your thoughts in simpler terms? Reminder: using big words does not necessarily make your argument valid!
As I was trying to figure out what it was I didn’t like about this book, I came across this review by John McWohrter, which called out some of the problematic issues with White Fragility. It confirmed one particular feeling in me: this book feels like a punishment. Although I had only read forty pages, I kept wondering where the actual educational bit would come in. DiAngelo tone did not motivate change or encourage ways in which to be an anti-racist. Moreover, aforementioned review explains how the book talks down to black people. That is literally the exact opposite of what it should be doing.
What I’ve started reading instead: So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. It is much more accessible and lighter read, and written by a queer black person.