Nicole’s Did Not Finish (DNF) Books

Nicole’s Did Not Finish (DNF) Books

Photo by Mari Potter on Unsplash

This week’s episode is special, the first Nicole’s six-pack about a few books she ended up DNFing for several reasons. Listen to this short 15min episode to hear all the whys!

As always you can find below the whole booklist they run through during the episode:

A little life by Hanya Yanagihara | Amazon | Bookshop

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs | Amazon | Bookshop

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown | Amazon | Bookshop

The Last Mrs. Parrish by LIV Constantine | Amazon | Bookshop

The Idiot by Elif Batuman | Amazon | Bookshop

American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey Into the Business of Punishment by Shane Bauer | Amazon | Bookshop

*Books linked above are our affiliate links through Amazon. There’s no additional expense to you, but if you make a purchase through us a small portion of that contributes to the costs associated with making our podcast. Thanks so much for listening and for your support.

Transcript

Welcome to another edition of The Readerly Report. Today we’re gonna have the first of. Our solo episodes, Gayle and I were not able to find any time in common this week to record together, but we did want to keep to our weekly cadence. So what we’re gonna be doing is recording some episodes in the form of what we are calling ‘six-packs’.

Now, normally Gayle and I have tastes that border on each other, but we do not like all of the same books, and there are some genres that I will read that Gayle won’t. Sometimes there are genres that Gayle reads that I don’t. So we thought it would be fun with each of these episodes to be able to bring you a little bit of the flavor of our reading that you might not necessarily get during the course of the show.

We would do these when we don’t have time and comment to record so that we still have an episode. So that’s the background on this. This is the first of the episodes. It’s me. I’m doing books that I have not finished cuz you know, I DNF books and Gayle does not. So thought that would be fun for this week.

I have a couple of different categories of DNFing books, like some I just wander away from just because I wasn’t reading them at the right time, or I got busy and I had to read something else and I didn’t get back to it or whatever. You know, like book club got in the way or life got in the way and my reading rmood changed.

So those books, I will usually just on Goodreads, I will put them back to to be read, because I know that it’s not the book. It’s not like I didn’t think that the book was good or anything like that about the book. It’s just that I. Was it in the head space to read it or, Like I said, life got in the way, so I plan to circle back to those books at some point, and sometimes it takes a really long time.

So the books I came up with here, are books that I just did not finish because I didn’t like, usually for some very specific reason. Lots of the times that maybe the violence is too graphic or I know where the story’s going and I just, I’m not in the mood for whatever, whatever I know is coming up. So the first on my list is actually the book that both Gayle and I have not finished, and it’s a A little life by Hanya Yanagihara, and this is one of those books that I really like the book.

I think that she is a good writer. It’s about, this is about four young men who have attended the same college, who stay in touch over the years. So it’s. I wanna say it’s something that I feel like I gravitate to, you know, for friends and you follow the courses of their lives after they graduate college.

You know, like who they become as adults, what their relationships are like when they finally get back in touch. If they’ve fallen out of touch, what develops? You know, like what secrets. Are connected to this friendship. But they, I think, are mainly living in New York and Boston. One wants to be a lawyer and we see him go through law school and he’s suffered some terrible abuse.

And I think with this book is that it was just so dark that I couldn’t finish it. It’s like the writing was beautiful. It said interesting things about relationships, interesting things about, you know, like there were these scenes about New York and Boston, which I visited several times, so that I could really relate to.

But when I tell you that it is just one thing after another and just very grim with this story that halfway through the book and it is, this is a book. I feel like this book is like 700 pages long. I could be… exaggerating. It might not be quite that long, but it just seemed really long and there was just, It was like one of these books where there is just no hope.

Just like people are spiraling with their addiction, with their mental health choices. I’m not saying that it’s. Realistic or whatever, but I just found it unrelentingly depressing and the good writing just could not get it there for me. Another thing I wanna say this, this has absolutely nothing to do with anything because I would read another one of her books anyway, but I have seen that she made a comment: something about people who organize their books by color are ridiculous or whatever, and I just thought that was kind of funny. Not all of my shelves are organized by color or whatever, but I don’t know. She made some kind of comment that you basically were not a reader or you weren’t a serious reader, if you would dare organize your books like that. But I really disagree. I’m a serious reader. Take my reading very seriously.

So I’m not sure, I haven’t done a lot of research into her to see if she’s written other books just because this one is so grim. But if she were to come out with another book, I would probably take a look at it because her writing is great and hopefully there would be something that I could read all the way through that wasn’t gonna, you know, threaten my own mental health because it was so dark.

So the next one on my list is a book that a lot of people have loved and I had to stop reading it because it just, it really upset me. It’s. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. The subtitle is A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League. and it’s by Jeff Hobbs. So this is one of these books, kind of like someone who makes good, you know, like his parents weren’t married.

He grew Robert Peace, grew up in a very dangerous neighborhood in Newark, in a ghetto. His father was in jail for a double murder. So he has like all of these outside influences that are very difficult for him to overcome, but he’s brilliant and he wins a scholarship to Yale University and he is majoring in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.

He is just a really smart guy and it’s poised with this opportunity to do well. So he graduates from Yale and then he goes back to teach at a Catholic high school, but he somehow he manages to become, embroiled in the drug trade again, and I think he’s using some of his knowledge of biophysics and biochemistry to create a particular type of product and it ends up that he is murdered.

What bothered me about this book is that there was a lot of speculation in it. It wasn’t… I didn’t even know if it was really condoned by Robert’s family. It wasn’t told by someone who really knew him. The guy who was his roommate in college, and I think he was only his roommate for one year briefly, they were not friends there.

He decides to tell Robert’s story. So it’s a lot about speculation. Like he does a couple of interviews with the family and tries to find out what he can and relays this story. So I just had such a problem with that. I felt like it was so exploitative that he is going to. Benefiting off this tragedy that he really didn’t know Robert.

As it came out, the marketing was that his friend had wrote this book, and when you read it you realize that it’s not, that it’s not true. Like they were not friends. They barely spoke when they were in college, and I just didn’t like it. You know? I thought, I thought. This is one of those stories that I feel like gets told about black people.

Like it’s really intriguing that, oh is is someone who almost made it and they get sucked back into whatever until all of their promise is not realized. And I don’t know, I feel like people kind of eat up that narrative. I mean that there are so many people who have been in those circumstances and have excelled.

And there are people who tragically do get sucked back, but it just rubbed me the wrong way that it was told by, you know, this white guy who did not even know him really when he was alive or couldn’t be bothered to know him. It’s an interesting story and he becomes intrigued by it and tries to tell him.

So tell it. I’m not sure quite if it’s a marketing thing or whatever, but I just couldn’t finish this one.

So the next one on my list is Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown. So earlier this year I listened to another of Janelle Brown’s books and I really liked it. It was fascinating to me when I looked back and I discovered that I had read, or I had DNF watch me disappear because I really liked Pretty Things and it, this is one of those cases where I’m not sure, maybe if I had listened to watch me disappear, like I listened to Pretty Things on audio. I would’ve liked it more. Pretty Things was one of those books that I kept seeing around in the bookstores and was intrigued by, but when I would pick it up and read a couple of pages, it was one of those books that I knew that I would not appreciate in print. But I was really intrigued by the storyline. 

Pretty Things is about this woman who’s an influencer. She has broken up with her, her fiance and her have broken up because she just can’t get behind.

The fact that she documents every aspect of her life and like doesn’t really live life, but she’s so busy trying to, you know, I guess create a persona online. So she goes back to her childhood home, in order to kind of lick her wounds, and maybe find herself a little. But she’s lonely up there, so she decides to.

Let out the cottage on the grounds to a woman and her fiance. And as it turns out, this woman is kind. She’s a grifter. She used to run a lot of scams. She’s trying to go straight, but her mother is ill. So she like needs one last big score and she thinks that this house where she used to know the boy who grew up there, they were briefly involved.

So she goes, Because of some things that he’s told her, she thinks that she can make this one final score to get enough money for her mom’s medical expenses, and then to be able to leave this life behind and do something else. So it’s all about their connections and what happens. And it says some interesting things about, you know, like social media and how we curate ourselves and.

How honest is it? Because it’s juxtaposed to this woman who is basically creating a persona and living her life in order to, you know, like run scams on people. So I really enjoyed listening to the book.

Watch Me Disappear. I just got a little bored with it. It is about this woman, She’s a mom in Berkeley. She kind of has this enviable life, but she goes on this solo hike in the wilderness, and no one sees her again. Like the only thing they find is a hiking boot. There’s no body, and her husband and her teenage daughter have to just figure out things as best they can.

It has a 3.7 rating on good reach, which is not terrible. It just meandered too much and it, it wasn’t focused enough. And maybe I was expecting. To be more thrillery than it was, but it just didn’t hold my attention. It wasn’t anything that I felt like, “Oh, in 50 pages, maybe it’ll get better and I’ll get back to it.” I think I actually skimmed through the rest of this book and I was, I was annoyed at how the ending turned down. I was kind of glad I hadn’t read it.

So the next book on my list is The Last Mrs. Parish by LIV Constantine and LIV Constantine is two women who write together, and this is some combination of their names. I read of her books I read the last time I saw You, which I wasn’t crazy about. I didn’t think it was that great.

The Last Mrs. Parish, I just knew where this story was going, probably within reading the first 20 or 30 pages, and I knew it was gonna be like this kind of ugly domestic abuse that I was not up for. So I didn’t finish reading that. Live Constantine has a couple more books. The Wife Stalker, which I think has gotten pretty good reviews.

The Stranger in the Mirror, so I might check her out again at some point. But so far, the first two books that she put out were misses for.

So the next book I have is The Idiot by Elif Batuman, and this is about a woman who is attending a Ivy League school. I believe it’s Yale, that she is attending. I just couldn’t get into it.

I just, it was I guess I felt like the writing was a little pretentious, like for the story that I was telling. It could have been more simply told and I was just bored by it. I’m trying to remember how many pages of it I read. Maybe it was 50. I just found it really frustrating. I actually listened to a podcast about her, which was really interesting. That kind of makes me wanna go back and read this book and maybe give it a chance.

So it’s not Princeton or Yale. She’s actually a freshman at Harvard. I just look it up, you know, maybe I just didn’t give it enough time to catch, Like I’m really curious about it after hearing this podcast. Cause she talks a lot about truth and fiction and how she doesn’t want to write memoir. But, how you can’t really write a nonfiction fiction book, which is essentially, I guess, what she tries to do because this is very closely based on her experience when she was at Harvard.

And you know, she talks about the treatment of other people, like how they’re gonna react to it. Just hearing her talk about it makes me want to go back and give it another shot, but, I don’t know.

We’ll see. This is one of those things that I think about with books. How sometimes when you go and you hear an author speak, they will just what, what they’re speaking about and what their experience is. They get you really hyped to read their book and then you buy the book and try to read it and maybe it’s not as good or it’s not as compelling.

So you really kind of have to watch when you hear. Authors talk about books or whatever because sometimes the experience is not gonna be the same. Sometimes they might be just really good speakers or storytellers, and I’ve had the opposite happen where some books are really good, but you’ll go to a reading or you’ll go and see them in person.

It’s just like, ugh, no, I wish, I wish I hadn’t done that. So my last book that I did not finish, which lately I have been contemplating going back and maybe taking a look. is American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey Into the Business of Punishment is by Shane Bauer. Now, this was one of these books that I stopped reading because it was just so graphic and depressing and grim.

Shane Bauer is a journalist who had gone off to, I think it was, Afghanistan, and he had crossed into an Iranian border somewhere that he wasn’t supposed to be in. He and his friends were prison, were in prison for like three years. So apparently he decides that he can’t get enough of jail and he decides to go undercover at a private prison in Winfield, Louisiana, making minimum wage.

So he wants to see what it’s like. Be a guard. What are the situation, what are the circumstances that he’s working about? So it’s kind of really interesting in the beginning because he talks a lot about the different guards, you know, I mean, the pay is $9 an hour, what it’s like, you know, what kind of people these are, what families they’re supporting, you know, who is taking these jobs.

He also gets a lot into. How for-profit prisons were, were started. He goes back to the Civil War, you know, just like how prisons used to be really segregated and the terrible, terrible things that would happen in them. So it is well reported. It’s definitely eye-opening. You know, there’s just, there’s just so much around policing or whatever lately.

I just could not, it was just so graphic and so grim. You guys. I couldn’t, I couldn’t do it. So I do think about maybe going back to it like maybe, well not now because I feel like I’m still not in the mind space to read something that heavy. Like I am such a thriller girl lately, like one of my next shows gal reads a lot of thrillers.

But one of my next six packs might be about thrillers anyway, cuz you know, we talk about other things on the show. I don’t know if we can just be all thriller all the time, but, So that’s my six pack. These are the books that I did not finish. Like I said, these are different from the ones that I’ve just kind of laundered away from that.

It has nothing to do with whether the book was good, but it was a timing thing or whatever. But these are the ones that I walked away for, for specific reasons and I probably will not get back to.

So that’s, that’s my show on DNFs and I will see you guys with Gayle and on the main show at another time.

Until then, happy reading!

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If you have any questions or ideas for a podcast,  email us! You can reach Nicole at nicole@nicolebonia.com, and you can reach Gayle at gweiswasser@gmail.com. As always, thanks for listening and happy reading

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