2016 TBR Challenge Pile Fail: The Grapes of Wrath

Last year I read and loved John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. It took me about a decade to recover from the devastation and heartbreak caused by Of Mice and Men. When I finally read East of Eden as part of my TBR Pile Challenge last year, I fell in love. It was one of the most perfect books I’ve read.

So this year I was all about putting The Grapes of Wrath on my 2016 TBR Pile Challenge list. This great novel about The Depression, one of those epochs of time that had such a profound effect on American history, seemed like a good idea. I was ready to be swept away by Steinbeck’s beautiful, precise, and exacting prose. I looked forward to characters that would stay with me, that would change my outlook on life and love and move my soul in unexpected ways. I had hoped that this year my challenge books would all be read, without any books marked as DNF.

I lasted about 30 pages before I decided to give up.

So much dust you guys. And there was a thing with a turtle struggling through the dust before a truck on the road? And dust. A guy who got out of jail for killing someone hitching a ride with a truck driver? And dust. Dust EVERYWHERE.


At one point I thought seriously about going back to the start and highlighting every use of the word “dust” but it seemed like it would actually be a lot of work and I didn’t want to deface a library book.

I’m sure that this book is good. I’m sure that it’s on the list of books that we all have to read before we die and that some of you reading this right now are horrified that I gave up on this masterpiece after just 30 pages. But I’m really ok with it.

Maybe one day I will come back to it and it will do all those things I hoped it would. Maybe now is not the right time for me to read it. I don’t know.

I do know that when I stopped trying to read it, I felt a massive sense of relief. And that I’m getting so much better at walking away from a book that isn’t capturing my imagination instead of trying to slog through it. And that now one of my alternates is once again going to have to step in for me to complete my challenge; I’m liking the look of Erik Larson’s Thunderstruck.