As you might imagine, we spend a fair bit of time here at NoveList HQ chatting among ourselves about books — what we are reading right now, what we’ve loved, who we’d recommend it to, etc. Not too long ago, the conversation turned to what highly acclaimed book had we started but never finished. Since readers’ advisory is near and dear to our hearts, we couldn’t just leave it at that. We asked everyone what they’d suggest someone read instead. The responses were so good, we couldn’t keep them to ourselves.  And, of course, I couldn’t resist adding some further reading suggestions of my own.

Lindsey has never finished Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, despite enjoying the movies. Seth Grahame-Smith’s parodies, which insert zombies into the comedy of manners, are much more to her taste. I’d recommend Lindsey give Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin a shot; it doesn’t include any undead characters but is a thoroughly modern adaptation of the classic, and I think a more current timeline might help draw her in.

Only one book received two votes from our staff. Both Jenny and Kaitlin couldn’t get through Moby Dick. As Jenny says, “I was rooting for the whale.” For a faster-paced sea story, Kaitlin suggests Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and Jenny thinks Paradise Lost would be a good substitute due to the beautiful language. For a lighter take on man vs. nature, why not give A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson a shot? You can’t get much farther away from Captain Ahab and his whale hunt!

It just goes to show, though, that reading tastes vary, since the book Jenny suggested in place of Moby Dick was the one that Eric couldn’t finish! He didn’t care for the writing style in Paradise Lost that Jenny found so beautiful. He recommends The Count of Monte Cristo instead. If it’s the revenge plot that Eric likes, he may enjoy The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, a horror-tinged story on the vengeance is mine theme.

Jessica felt that The Stand by Stephen King was a little too intense to read to the end and thinks Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler would be a good recommendation for someone who wants a similarly apocalyptic plot without the uncomfortable intensity. I co-sign that suggestion and would add in Severance by Ling Ma, which is especially timely as it deals with a global pandemic apocalypse

If you’ve ever talked to readers, you know these examples are the norm and not the exception. Even the most highly regarded book will have readers for whom it won’t resonate, and as readers’ advisors, we get the amazing opportunity of helping people connect to the books that will work for them.

Now I turn it over to you: what book award-winning/well-reviewed book have you never finished? What would you recommend instead? And what would you suggest for our above NoveListos? Email us!

Need some help with NoveList themes and turning #DNFs into new favorites? DownloadThe Secret Language of Books today!

Halle Eisenman is a Content Development Manager for NoveList. She is currently reading Atomic Love by Jennie Fields and listening to You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson.