Book Review: A Gun for Sale and Under the Black Flag

These are two books that I put down before finishing. I don’t often do that. In fact, it’s something I only became comfortable with doing last year. In other words, all the books that I stopped reading before then still have the bookmarks in them. I probably said I would pick them up again one day. And my poor lost bookmarks believed it.

Putting books down before they’re finished often makes me feel guilty. It makes me feel like a quitter somehow. Obviously, it’s such a hangup for me that I can write two paragraphs about it. But recently, I’ve decided that forcing my way through a boring read is a waste of time. I enjoy reading so much that I’m still amazed that a book can be boring. Maybe I’m too naive, but here are two reasons why boring books surprise me.

A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene

I’ve never read Graham Greene before and this misfire won’t put me off him for good, but it was a stretch. For a mystery novel, everything seems to be in place: it starts out with a murder, the stakes are high for the main characters, and there’s a sleazeball middleman who is totally going to get capped. But for some reason, this novel just couldn’t cut it for me. I was surprised that this book bored me because I don’t require much from my mysteries. But this one just had me wanting to read some Perry Mason, which I’m planning to so soon.

Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly

This book came highly recommended, even though it didn’t need to – it’s about pirates. I like pirates. I was prepared to learn that what I thought was fact is actually fiction. This book should have been right up my ally. Surprisingly, it wasn’t (Surprise!). It was boring. It was a boring book about pirates. Such a thing exists. On a positive note, this book does a very good job at pointing out that the truth is stranger than fiction and what you don’t know about the pirates is cooler than what you do know. But be prepared to wade through the high seas of boring prose.

There’s nothing more to say. Just needed to get the guilt off my chest.

Up next: The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach

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Author: Joe McVeigh

I'm a linguist who researches email marketing. I also teach at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. I write about language and linguistics on my blog, ...And Read All Over, and I write about language and marketing on my other blog, Email and Linguistics.

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