Tinkers by Paul Harding — A Brief (non) Review

This is not a review of Tinkers by Paul Harding. The reason this is not a review is because I did not finish the book.

Here’s the thing: I’m supposed to like this book. In fact, there’s nothing to not like about it. The prose is beautiful, rich, and dense. The story, about a man on his deathbed surrounded by family and drifting in and out of consciousness and time, is compelling. And, one needs to give some appreciation to the fact that this is his first novel as it is better than most writers tenth novels. It even won the Pulitzer Prize. In other words, people far smarter than me like this book. They love this book.

Here’s another thing: You will likely enjoy this book as millions of others have. Not to mention as much as those who gave it the one of the highest prizes in literature clearly did. You will likely read this post, read the book, and think I’ve lost all sense and good taste. For all I know, you might be right.

Yet, I could not get through it. I tried three times. The funny thing is that the reasons I should have liked this book are the very reasons I could not push through it. I found the prose to be too rich and the story too deep. I found that it suffers from an affliction of many first novels in that it is weighed down by too much description — beautifully described, but too much all the same. It was like a well made flour-less chocolate cake — delicious first slice but a few bites more than that and you quickly become too full and too ill to eat more.

This is one of those rare times I understand "book guilt". Most of the time, I have no problem putting a book I’m not enjoying down and moving on to another. Life is too short and there are too many great books to waste a single moment more on one you are not enjoying. But, I felt very conflicted about walking away from this one.

Because no one warns you about the ones that might be too good. Or, the ones you just might not be ready to read — those you may need more wisdom or more patience to truly enjoy. Or the ones that you know are technically great, that everyone else says are great, but for whatever reason are just not for you.

Even though it is much more difficult to admit and do, the same rules apply for these too. Books are meant to be read and enjoyed. If one is not doing it for you for any reason, put it down and move on to another guilt free. Even is it is "good".

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