Seven books I abandoned


When the teacher warned his son, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12), he wasn’t kidding. There are so many books out there to read—and even more that may make you feel ashamed for ever having read them.

I’ve shared a number of book lists over the last few months—on books new Christians should and shouldn’t read, on homosexuality, and prayer, among others—and today, I wanted to shake things up a bit: instead of telling you about books I think you should read, I want to share a bit about a few books I’ve abandoned.

Some of these are good books that, for whatever reason, I couldn’t get into. Some are terrible ones that were simply too awful to finish. And some might be on your bookshelf right now. Here’s a look:

Moby Dick by Herman Mellville. I know this is a classic work, but oh my gosh, it is one of the most awful books I’ve ever read. Or tried to read. I think I got through about 100 pages and wound up watching the movie instead.

Lord, Change My Attitude: Before It’s Too Late by James MacDonald. I know some people love his books, and there’s probably an unspoken rule that I’m supposed to because I go to a Harvest church, but I’ve never enjoyed any book I’ve read by MacDonald. I’ve tried several and gave up each time within a couple of chapters (in fact, there’s only one I ever managed to finish). They are consistently terribly written and painful to read.

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller. This one is probably a surprise since I really enjoy Keller’s work. He is always thoughtful and well-written (which itself is a wonderful contrast to so many books written by pastors). This one, I think, is a victim of timing: I was just in the wrong headspace when I was trying to read it, so it was abandoned. Perhaps I’ll try again someday.

The Gospel According to Jesus: What Is Authentic Faith? by John MacArthur. This, again, might be a shocker to some. There’s much that I agree with in the book, but dang, MacArthur’s tone makes it difficult to finish most of what he writes. This is one of those that I came really close to completing, but it took me a couple of years of picking it up and putting it down. It’s since left my personal library.

Community: Taking Your Small Group off Life Support by Brad House. My first thought as I started reading it: small groups, the Mars Hill way. That’s probably not giving House’s work a fair shake, but that combined with its dull (though technically correct) writing didn’t inspire me to finish it.

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink. Pink’s work is actually pretty well-written, and the research he presents is always fascinating (I especially enjoyed Drive). But this one just didn’t grab me. So, I never finished it (though my son did destroy the dust jacket).

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Again, another well-written book, but it just didn’t grab me. It’s on my “try again sometime” list, so we’ll see.

So those are a few of the books I’ve abandoned. What are some of yours?

photo credit: gioiadeantoniis via photopin cc

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.

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11 Replies to “Seven books I abandoned”

  1. I just can’t do Piper or Sproul. Don’t know why, I just can’t get through anything they’ve written.

    1. Piper I can definitely see. There are a few of his books that I just can’t get into at all.

  2. Womanly Dominion by Mark Chanski is one that I abandoned. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it was rubbing me the wrong way. Everyone around me loved it, so I shelved it and figured I’d try it again some other time…after my negativity about it dissipated a little.

    Heaven At Home by Ginger Plowman was one that I really wanted to shelve but ended up not being able to because I was going through it with some other ladies. I really enjoyed her book, “Don’t Make Me Count to Three!”, but “Heaven At Home” really brought out some differences between us that made me dislike her book.

    Anyway, those are two off of the top of my head. Others I haven’t been able to abandon because they were review copies, but I would have if I could have.

  3. I like Moby Dick, but only the abridged versions! (Same thing with Hugo; those guys needed stricter editors.) I’ve only in recent years allowed myself to abandon books (and movies). I can’t stand not finishing what I start. But these days I mainly accidentally abandon books because I get lazy or bored. The book that is currently abandoned on my Nook is The Emporer of All Maladies, A Biography of Cancer. Super interesting, but man is it long!

  4. Michelle Dacus Lesley September 26, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    About 10 or 12 years ago before I knew about the theological problems with Beth Moore, I tried to read a couple of her books. I can’t remember which ones. I wanted to like her- I really did -because she was pretty much the only Bible study author the women’s group at my church ever did.


    OH. MY. GOOD. NESS. The woman writes like a hummingbird on amphetamines. She jumps around all over the place, introducing a topic, and saying, after a few sentences, “I’ll talk about that more in Chapter ___,” before proceding to introduce a new topic in the same way. After a chapter or two I just wanted to bash the book into my head to make it stop. Maybe that was God’s way of protecting me from her.

  5. I’ve put many books aside, but several because the weight of the content had to marinate in my soul. Here are a couple that fit that category:

    Zach Eswine, “Sensing Jesus” – it has to be read a few pages at a time; otherwise it’s a force that can feel crushing to the soul.
    Paul Miller, “A Praying Life” – again, the soul work that this book exposed meant I needed to put this down several times.
    Kyle Strobel, “Formed for the Glory of God” – I felt like I was drinking deeply from a well that made my soul sing. I wanted to put the book down so I could revel for a while.

    1. I spent almost a year reading Sensing Jesus. It’s likely my favorite “Christian Living” book of all time. Small doses though.

  6. Good wisdom here. There are too many good and even necesssary books to waste time wading through bad ones, or those that aren’t scratching where you need it. Great angle!

  7. Aaron, great angle for a blog post:) Loved it.

  8. I have a few “shelved” books – not sure I can bring myself to call them “abandoned”:

    – Desiring God by John Piper. Started reading this before I was ready, I think. I also (at the time) found him quite dense theologically.

    – I Believe in Preaching by John Stott. Circumstances just got in the way, I think

    – God Redeeming His Bride by Robert Cheung. We were going through a church discipline process at the time, and the process ended before I finished the book…..

    There are more, but these are the ones that sprang to mind.

    From your list, the only one I’ve read is Community by Brad House, which I actually really enjoyed. I thought he had some really useful stuff to say (and it’s pretty un-Mars Hill for the majority – I don’t think he was at MH all that long). I have used his book trailer a number of times – it’s extremely good and thought provoking. He also has one of my favourite quotes when encouraging people to think about sustainable mission:

    “So how do we inspire ownership [of the mission]? I [have tried many things with] differing measures of success but very little sustainability.What went wrong? It was like trying to inspire a painter with a tube of paint. It is not the paint that is inspiring – it is the sunset.
    If you want to inspire people to the mission of God, you must lift up the Son. When we grasp the glory of Jesus, it becomes the sustaining inspiration that transforms life.”

  9. I could not get into Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life, part of the Theologians on the Christian Life series. It seemed like the writing jumped all over the place and just wasn’t engaging me or drawing me in. So I gave up on it, though I may try again at a later time.

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