A Book You Previously Tried to Read and Gave Up On: Staff Picks for the 2019 Reading Challenge

October 21, 2019 | Book Buzz

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Are you participating in our reading challenge? So are library staff all across the city. These are some of their picks for the category "A book you previously tried to read and gave up on." Quite possibly the most difficult challenge to complete!

Pauline's pick:

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

All formats and editions

"I gave up on it because it was required reading in high school. As an adult I re-read it (instead of just skimming parts of it) of my own volition and absolutely loved it! It fostered a new love affair with reading fiction set during the Jazz Age."

Amy's pick:

Every heart a doorway

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

All formats

"My book for this was Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. I want to say it was first recommended to me in 2016, I think... or else I just saw it on our new list, and was intrigued by the cover and description. When I first tried to read it I did not like the prologue writing style. At all. And my TBR pile was huge, and I'd just reached the phase in my life where I was okay giving up on books, so I ditched it after only a page. I went back to this book after @TPLMaggie told me the main character is asexual. I'm always looking out for ace representation! And I'm so glad I did. I devoured the book, all the Wayward Children sequels, and I'm impatiently looking forward to the next ones. They're great little short fantasy novels for fans of fairy tales, alternate universe stories and heroes who are just trying to find their way home.

So I learned my lesson... don't judge a book by its prologue!"

ER's pick:

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

All formats and editions

"I gave up on it during university because the first few pages lacked purpose (or so I thought). I re-read it after watching "the Public", in which librarian Stuart (Emilio Estevez) quotes lines from the book . I was hooked, since it captures familiar themes that are relevant today, such as the abuse of power, exploitation of migrant workers, climate catastrophes and much-needed social justice . Steinbeck reminds us that respect, though overlooked sometimes, is always worth fighting for."

Sarah's pick:

The mars room

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

All formats

"Pretty heavy-duty, as the main character, 23-year-old Romy Hall, is in prison for killing the man who stalked her. As if that isn’t bad enough, she is separated from her young son and missing him fiercely. I had to put it down the first time because I wasn’t in the right headspace, but I’m glad I picked it up and tried again. Kushner really brings Romy, her fellow inmates and the California setting to life, and her writing pulls you along to the last desperate page. For those wanting an edgier counterpoint to Orange is the New Black."

Wendy's pick:


Milkman by Anna Burns

All formats

"I started it twice, but I was put off by the fact that it's 600+ pages of dense, peculiar prose about a young woman being stalked and harassed in 1970s Belfast. But a friend whose taste I trust recommended it, so I went back to it, and it turned out she was right: it's funny and quirky and charming and life-affirming. And the fierce eccentricity of the prose is there for a reason: sometimes the failure to fit in is the only effective form of resistance."

Picks from the Facebook Discussion Group

Here are just some of the picks from our Facebook discussion group. Visit the group to see the full list!


Have you already completed the Reading Challenge and Advanced Challenge?  Our online entry form for the year-end prize draw is up and ready! Read more about it on the main Reading Challenge webpage.


What books have you given up on? Do you ever go back to them? Tell us in the comments!