There are worse things than being stuck on a beach without a book to read, but it's still a pretty miserable situation. There you are, towel under your butt, sunscreen on your nose, and book in hand, ready to enjoy a lazy day of sun, swimming, and losing yourself in a good read.
And then ...
And then you find out that the book is miserably written. Or impenetrably dense. Or the characters are awful, or the plot is dull, or there's something else that makes you realize that you'd rather sit through dental surgery without anesthetic than read another page. And so you find yourself staring at the ocean, sitting next to a book that you can't bring yourself to pick up, twiddling your thumbs.
If you're looking to maximize the ROI of your beach reads, you're in luck: Goodreads, the social media site for readers, has released a list of the "most abandoned" books -- the ones that the largest number of readers have given up on. While there are hundreds of books on the list, a few patterns quickly become clear. For example, the top abandoned classics -- "Catch-22," "Lord of the Rings," "Ulysses," "Moby Dick," and "Atlas Shrugged" -- include an impenetrably dense Irish novel, a complex American classic, a couple of morally ambiguous polemics, and one of the most richly-detailed, geekiest fantasies every written.
Some of these patterns continue into the top abandoned mainstream books. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," for example, is overly detailed (at least in the beginning), while "Eat, Pray, Love" suffers from the amazing self-obsession of its author/narrator. For fans of "Wicked" the musical, "Wicked" the novel's political machinations may seem a bit excessive; similarly, fans of Harry Potter may find themselves thinking that JK Rowling failed to finesse the transition from Hogwarts to local muggle politics in "The Casual Vacancy." As for "Fifty Shades of Grey," a large number of readers just found it to be incredibly badly written.
So much for the bad books, but what if you want a good bet to tuck into your bag? Luckily, Goodreads also has a list of top-rated beach reads, which it updates annually. Katherine Stockett's 2009 novel "The Help" tops this year's ranking, followed by more recent arrivals "Seduction," "The Wednesday Daughters," "Gone Girl" and "Orphan Train." And, for those with more specialized tastes, there are dozens of other suggested reading lists, including compendiums of the best one-day reads and the best socially-redeeming page-turners. In other words, regardless of your beach-reading tastes, Goodreads probably has a list for you.
Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.
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