Reads I'm leaving behind in 2023

Why read boring books when you can nap instead?

Reads I'm leaving behind in 2023
Why read when you can nap? My fluffy grey cat is always ready for naps. Frankly, I'm envious.

Maybe even more interesting than my reads in 2023 are the books I decided to not finish. Inspired by l'ours inculte, here are four of the worst reads of 2023 — though that does not mean the books are bad books! It just means that, for myriad reasons including my level of grumpiness, they didn't click with me in the moment.

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Rage Inside the Machine, Robert Elliott Smith (2019)

My first DNF (did not finish) in January 2023, the book's subtitle reveals all: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All. I had a lot of hopes for this book, which I ferreted out of a bibliography of a Philosophy Tube episode. Unfortunately, we really did not get on from the start:

Not even past the preface and the first paragraph describes Elon Musk (alongside Stephen Hawking and Henry Kissinger?!?!?!) as one of the "greatest minds of our times" and I may not be able to take this book seriously. (23/11/2022)

The next chapters were thankfully better than the book's intro, even if I found a lot of the technical explanations overlong and superfluous. The 5th chapter was definitely my favourite, based on how much highlighter I used; it dived into the origins of statistics as a science and its intrinsic link to eugenics, and how that still reverberates today in the development of Big Data and "Artificial Intelligence." (I would have preferred a whole book on that topic, I think.)

I did end up stopping the book about 2/3 of the way through. In my journal where I recorded the DNF, I wrote that "'AI' depresses me, let's move on to something else." Good idea.

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (1966)

This was actually my second abandoned book of the year. I was thinking a lot about True Crime as a literary genre, now a huge cinematic and podcast genre with a lot of steam. In Cold Blood being one of the first of its kind, I also ended up thinking a lot about its nonfiction fictiony nature, and how nonfictionny documentation of crimes and mystery crime fiction end up interplaying in True Crime. According to my notes, I got to page 66 before I had to return Capote to the library.

Now that I think about it, I should put In Cold Blood back on my TBR pile. I'm glad I'm looking at this abandoned books list, I'd forgotten about this one.

Wicked, Gregory McGuire (2000)

I read Wicked a few times back in secondary school — my ship at the time being, obviously and evidently and undeniably, Elphaba and Galinda (I'm pretty basic, I know, I know.) There's always a risk when rereading a book that was a childhood favourite after a large chunk of time has passed. I decided to listen to the audiobook read by John McDonough on my way to and from the ballet studio, and his pronunciation of the invented names was odd and often grated.

I got to the end of the university period, about halfway through the book, before I decided to DNF. That first half, which mostly follows Elphaba and her inner world rather closely, tends to be a lot more interesting than the latter half. Once out of Shiz University, my attention really waned.

I continue to not love the experience of listening to audiobooks. If I'm not intimately familiar with the text being read, I really have difficulty immersing myself into the writing.

Operation Mindfuck, Robert Guffey (2022)

I know at the top of this blog post I read that a book appearing here does not mean that it is a bad book, but Operation Mindfuck makes a liar out of past Gersande who wrote that intro.

I was diving into the origins of a few American political ideologies and conspiracies (tangentially related to my NaNoWriMo project this year) and this book by an American professor floated across my radar, so I bought it. I regret it. This book sucks. It's not really readable, even if you come preprogrammed with perfectly memorized details of all major actors, events, and locations. If the current political mess coming out of the United States concerns you, and you'd like to know how conspiracy theories play a part, I highly recommend checking out Will Sommer's Trust The Plan instead.

There we go: 4 memorable DNFs for 2023, though in fact I DNFed more than two dozen books in all. I used to be a lot more rigid about finishing books that I'd started, but honestly, life is far too short to read all the amazing books out there, so why waste time with books that just don't click with you?

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