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Sticking With a Book

March 21, 2011

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During my blog-free time, I was a Grumpy Reader. I picked up so many books, only to decide after however many pages that they weren’t worth my time; I left them in piles, so I could conveniently glare at them, until eventually getting them back to the library. In fact, I even returned a book that I only had thirty pages left to read! The book wasn’t bad; I just couldn’t muster up any interest in reopening it. So I didn’t. Looking back, I can see that this was a complete reading slump, brought on by a perfect storm of fibro flare-up, personal stress, and the inability to communicate with all of my bloggy friends. But at the time, it simply felt like every author in the world was letting me down; I was not amused. Now that I’ve begun reading again (although nowhere near my January level; let’s hope it picks up soon), I’ve noticed something interesting: I seem to have developed an almost ‘abandon by default’ mentality. Rather than expecting to finish a book, I’m expecting to give up on it. And I don’t think I like this new attitude.

For most of my reading life, I was not an abandoner; if I had started a book, gosh darn it, I was going to see it through the last page (this is still my mom’s style). Slowly, as blogging exposed me to the possibility of not finishing a book, I began trying it out. But I still reserved it for the most serious cases: instances when the writing was putting me to sleep or making me want to scream, instances when the author displayed rampant sexism, or when the characters were so unbelievable that my eyes were in danger of popping out of their sockets due to their constant rolling. It was a big decision, one I debated internally, and the book was only set down after quite a bit of mental gymnastics. I’m glad that I’ve become more comfortable with abandoning books; I particularly like my new practice of acknowledging within the first chapter that it’s not going to work out. I’m aware of Nancy Pearl’s famous fifty-page rule, and since I usually read in fifty-page chunks, I do follow it some of the time, but it’s even better to not spend the time reading fifty pages when I already know in my heart I won’t see it through to the end.

And yet, I wonder if I’ve swung a bit too far in the other direction. Lately, if after my first ‘chunk’ of reading, I don’t think it will be a four or five star read (my shorthand way of saying a book that delights me, that makes me want to read more of an author), I’m tempted to give it up and go on to the next one in the stack (because there’s always a plethora of next ones, isn’t there?). After all, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I enjoyed every page of every book I read? Why should I waste my time and energy on a less-than-stellar reading experience? But here’s the thing: when I look at my books read list, and see that variety of ‘ratings,’ there are three star, even two star, books that I’m still glad that I read. I read for pleasure, of course, but I also read to be informed, to be challenged, to live a thousand lives. Almost every book I read enriches me in some way, even if I don’t end up gushing about it. And when does this quest to only read ‘the best’ (according to my personal criteria) books begin to resemble feckless reading?

I don’t have any answers, but I think I’m going to stick with Xinran’s The Good Women of China, despite my misgivings. I’m a bit concerned as to the factuality of it, since it’s considered nonfiction. But whether the women Xinran describes actually exist, or if they’re prototypes to represent different problems her countrywomen face, the book still has value as a reflection of life for the modern Chinese woman. That’s something that I think is worth reading, even if the experience is less than smooth. On a broader note, rather than abandoning a book because it’s not providing a four or five star reading experience, I think I’ll only abandon it if I have other, more specific reasons for disliking it. I’m in no way going back to the ‘read every book I open’ mentality, but I think I’ll take a broader view of the book and why I’m reading it. None of this applies to the books that I only have to read a few pages of to realise the writing style and my reading style aren’t going to mesh; nowadays, I usually just use Amazon’s ‘look inside’ feature to test the book out before I even request it from the library. But for books that I’ve already invested a decent amount of time in, I think I’ll be open to a different kind of ‘return’ on that investment.

Do you find reading valuable even if you didn’t love the book? What makes you want to abandon or stick with a book? Do you think it’s possible to abandon too many books or too few? Do you have a few triggers that make you abandon a book no matter what? Or complete a book not matter what?

89 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2011 10:54 am

    I’ve noticed that if I read a book because I feel I have to (I received it before another book I want to read, it’s from the library and due back a certain time or is for a challenge (when I did those) than I don’t finish them or I have to make myself. I used to try to read my review books in the order I received them but that is what got me really behind. Now if a new book comes in and I really want to read it first, I do. It’s working much better.

    At least your reading slump wasn’t that long. Last year mine lasted 3+ months.

    • March 30, 2011 4:44 am

      I sometimes have to give myself permission to read books out of order too! :) My slump was at least six weeks, so about half the length of yours. But any slump is too long, imo. ;)

  2. March 21, 2011 10:59 am

    Eva, you seriously could be describing my relationship with books for the past three weeks or so. I referred to my condition as “Reader’s Rage” as every book was making irrationally angry and none of them seemed worth my time. Although part of me wanted to be reading, as soon as I picked up a book, it was the last thing I wanted to look at. I HATE feeling like I’m at war with books – it feels like I’ve lost my best friends.

    Thankfully, I’m starting to pull out of it! I’ve stuck with a book for almost 300 pages now and I’m excited to see how everything turns out. I even tell Tony that I don’t want to watch tv, I want to read! It feels so good to be getting back on track.

    • March 30, 2011 4:47 am

      I hate that feeling too Steph! I’m glad you’re finally coming out of your slump. I know JUST what you mean about suddenly preferring books to tv and how nice that is. :)

  3. March 21, 2011 11:04 am

    I know exactly how you feel about perhaps swinging too far in the other direction from “must finish” reading. I have been in the worst reading slump of my lifetime or at least the lifetime I can recall. There have been reasons and I have watched a lot, lot, lot of TV and movies that I have enjoyed, but still…

    Happily, we are moving this weekend to an apartment. Our house will close early next week. Our new house will be started soon, perhaps this week. It’s been odd for me because my books have been packed away (mostly) for several months. In any case, I know the feeling of being almost angry at not finding a book to enjoy. I’m hoping that time is coming to an end for me because I’m not liking this at all – I feel out of sorts all the time. :-(

    • March 30, 2011 4:49 am

      I watch a lot of dvds when I get into slumps too. And I hope that yours ends very soon!

  4. March 21, 2011 11:11 am

    I’m still in the “must read” stage…although I simply don’t start books I don’t think I’m going to like. That might be why I’m able to persist. I did have an audiobook not long ago that I just couldn’t stand to listen to the author/reader’s voice for one more minute. I gave up on it but it’s still sitting on my shelf and I feel guilty about it…

    There are so many good books out there that it’s hard to make yourself struggle through a bad one…but if we’re reading for pleasure, shouldn’t we dump the books that don’t bring us pleasure?

    • March 30, 2011 4:50 am

      But what happens when a book you think you’re going to like ends up not working? Or does that not happen to you?

      I agree; when I’ve picked up a book just expecting a pleasant, light read, dumping it for being unpleasant is the right choice. But sometimes I pick up books for other reasons.

  5. March 21, 2011 11:12 am

    I usually am okay with quitting a book, but I have stuck with some horribleawful ones lately (The Brothers Karamazov, Ulysses) just because they’re “classics” and I was bound and determined to finish them. Plus, it’s kind of fun to rant about how miserable of a reading experience it was. :-D

    When I do stop reading though, it’s often due to my mood…I’m bored by the topic, or find myself wanting something different. Or, I start too many books at once, and a few inevitably get pushed to the side and forgotten.

    • March 30, 2011 4:51 am

      I don’t let myself start a new book until I’ve finished a current one! Otherwise, I’m sure I’d have bookmarks in random places all over the house, lol.

      Also, I think you are a mad, mad woman for even starting Ulysses, much less finishing it. Major props to you!

  6. March 21, 2011 11:12 am

    I’m not very good with abandoning books either, but I’m increasingly doing so because there are so many good books out there and not enough time. Of course, I tend to abandon them only if they are really dire (in my opinion, of course) and feel guilty about it afterwards. That is until I pick up another book:)

    • March 30, 2011 4:51 am

      I don’t really feel guilty about abandoning books; authors are never going to know anyway! Unless, of course, they find my blog. LOL

  7. March 21, 2011 11:34 am

    I had this experience about a week ago. Every book I picked up, I’d read a few pages of and then when it didn’t feel like it was going to change my world or inspire me in some way … I’d put it aside. I don’t know why I went through this phase, it was like every book and every author wasn’t good enough and I knew this wasn’t true. So I abandoned several books, completely out of character.

    Usually I try and stick with a book because I’m always a sucker for knowing the ending (and I don’t peek). Sometimes though I’ll start a book and get distracted by another book that just sounds better at the time. It means nothing against the book I’m reading, just that I’ve found something that has peaked my interest a tad more. I usually try and come back to the first book I was reading, but I have a notoriously bad memory.

    • March 30, 2011 4:52 am

      Isn’t that frustrating?! I never peek at the ending either, but with books that I abandon I just don’t care. hehe

  8. March 21, 2011 12:22 pm

    I think you hit it right on the head—reading books you don’t like can be valuable experiences, asking you to reexamine yourself and/or the society you live in. That’s why I always finish the books I start; and, if they’re hilariously bad, that’s one more story to entertain my friends with. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of The Midnight Guardian that way. ;)

    • March 30, 2011 4:53 am

      That’s true re: bad books as anecdotes! Although, I’ve read some books that are offensively bad, primarily towards women, and I don’t think they deserve to be finished.

  9. March 21, 2011 12:27 pm

    I have a terrible time abandoning a book. I don’t know why but I always feel like I should stick with a book no matter what. This is something I have resolved to change since it doesn’t make sense to struggle through a book that I am not enjoying when there are so many other really great books out there, waiting for me to read them!

    • March 30, 2011 4:53 am

      I hope you can get better at abandoning the ones that are painful!

  10. March 21, 2011 1:28 pm

    I agree with you: while there’s no sense in sticking with a book I’m absolutely hating just so I can feel that sense of completeness, there are lots of different things a book can offer me apart from that soul-singing feeling of euphoria I get from my absolute favorites. It can provide interesting fodder for analysis or critique; it can open my mind to ideas I hadn’t previously considered; it can provoke thoughts about its style or genre that will illuminate other reads for me down the road; it can provide insight into the development of a genre/philosophy/idea over time or give an interesting new take on an old genre/idea. (For example, I found The Castle of Otranto to be embarrassingly bad by any aesthetic measure, but I’m still glad I read it because it was so influential in the development of the gothic-novel genre.) Very frequently I’ll finish a book and come away feeling it was flawed (e.g. not a “five-star” read), but still had enough beauty and/or interest that I’m glad I read it.

    • March 30, 2011 4:54 am

      Love that phrase, “soul-singing feeling of euphoria.” And I’m quite curious about Otranto! As usual, you put things much more eloquently than me, so I’m glad you agree. :)

  11. March 21, 2011 1:44 pm

    Great point. I find it easy to give up books… but I always put them on the shelf to come back to. I still haven’t mastered the idea of giving up a book… for good!! Maybe one of these days. I find though, like you say, that books that didn’t get high ratings were still very worth the read, and sometimes I completely change my mind near the end of a book and end up loving one I wasn’t feeling previously. It’s a hard line to walk :)

    • March 30, 2011 4:54 am

      Since I have library books most of the time, I tell myself I can always request the book again whenever I want!

  12. Ruthiella permalink
    March 21, 2011 1:59 pm

    Glad to have you back Eva. I have been a “lurker” on this site for ages, but I really missed your blog while you were out. Generally I will complete a book no matter what, even if I want to throw it across the rooms (like “The Kite Runner”). I guess I do this so I can truly state that I gave the book a fair chance. There are also a few books that I started two or three time before I was able to read them all the way through and in some cases (such as “Beloved” and “Foucault’s Pendulum”), I am very glad that I persevered. As to abandoning to few or to many books, well that is really personal isn’t it? It is like stating one shouldn’t read too much genre literature or non-fiction etc. What is right for one person isn’t necessarily the correct approach for someone else.

    • March 30, 2011 4:56 am

      Thank you Ruthiella! (As I say ten days later; too many technical problems here.)

      I lurved Beloved & Foucault’s Pendulum and loathed The Kite Runner, so it sounds like we have similar taste! And yep, it’s definitely a personal thing re: the ratio; that’s why I was curious what other people’s thoughts were. :)

  13. March 21, 2011 2:03 pm

    I just had to lay down a book after the first two chapters simply because it wasn’t the right time for me to be reading it. Even that is incredibly difficult for me because I feel like I’ve made a commitment to read the book. I’m not really sure why I feel that way because I choose books on a whim so you would think that I would be more willing to admit I chose the wrong book. I’ve gotten better about letting a book go if I think it would be the wrong book for me at any time. But I see how you are saying that there’s a whole grey area in there — not the most awesome book but not the wrong book either. Those are definitely hard to judge and it’s hard to see the value in many of them either before you are done reading them or before you’ve had some time afterward to absorb the book. It’s interesting to think about!

    • March 30, 2011 4:56 am

      I agree: some books seem more valuable to me the more I think about them afterwards!

  14. March 21, 2011 2:11 pm

    I used to never ever abandon books but force my way through every one. Now I’m getting much better at letting go the ones that are just annoying, frustrating or boring me. If it’s not purely a pleasure read but a book I want to learn from, or that seems to have extra merit for being a classic or getting tons and tons of great reviews I’ll make myself finish, but I often end up skimming a lot in that case, to get through it faster! Feels kind of like cheating, though.

    • March 30, 2011 4:57 am

      LOL: I used to skim and read quickly too to finish the books I was disliking! That’s when I decided it was better to just abandon them. ;)

  15. March 21, 2011 2:11 pm

    I have definitely experienced that feeling of dissatisfaction with every book, but luckily not for a few years now. I’m way overdue for one, so I’m just hanging with the good times while they last.

    I think it’s a difficult balance between choosing when to abandon a book and when to stick with it. I hardly ever abandon books. Usually, it’s a slow neglect where I pretend I’m still reading it, just very slowly, and then eventually face the fact that I’ll never finish. So it’s something I need to get better at. I love your saying that reading enables you to live a thousand lives – what a great way to put it!

    • March 30, 2011 4:58 am

      That’s awesome you’ve had slump-free years Meghan! My slumps usually correspond to my fibro flare-ups, so I doubt I’ll ever be slump-free. But thank God for good DVDs. ;)

      Love the slow neglect thing; I used to do that when I mainly read books that I owned. With library books, I have to fess up more quickly.

  16. March 21, 2011 2:32 pm

    Something must be in the air – because I have been exactly the same way lately. I used to always finish books. And now…I am quitting almost every book I read.

  17. Margaret Powling permalink
    March 21, 2011 3:01 pm

    There is absolutely no reason to feel we should finish a book, unless for a particular reason other than enjoyment – i.e. for an examination. School, sadly, has a lot to answer for: we were taught we must finish a book before we went on to another, a bit like eating our greens before we could have any pudding! If I’m not enjoying a book, for any reason, I just give up on it. Yes, I sometimes keep it, with the bookmark still in it, just in case I should pick it up again, but that is very rare. I have, on occasion, “picked up again” but usually, my thoughts and feelings are the same: the book isn’t for me. There are so many books out there, life is really to short to waste time on books we do not like. We would not watch a film to the end that bored us witless. Similarly, if we switched on the radio and heard a cacophany of sound that irritated us, we’d simply switch off. So sling the books we don’t like, there are plenty more where they came from!
    Margaret P

    • March 30, 2011 5:00 am

      I read books for reasons other than enjoyment, even though I don’t have exams. :) But when I’m reading a pleasure book, if it’s not working, I’ll definitely abandon! Also, my mom watches every movie to the end, even if neither of us are enjoying it! lol I’ll heartlessly turn a movie off whenever I realise I don’t care.

  18. March 21, 2011 3:09 pm

    I always finish the books I start, though sometimes so quickly and with so little enthusiasm that I may as well have just stopped reading them. I don’t know why I feel I have to see them through to the end, but I always have, ever since I was a child.

    • March 30, 2011 5:01 am

      That super-fast, bored skimming approach to books I wasn’t liking was what made me decide to just start abandoning them.

  19. March 21, 2011 3:50 pm

    I used to finish every book I started, but like you, I no longer do that. There are very specific times I put a book down. One is when it does not hold my attention at all because of overly cliche plot or characters (I can deal with a lot of cliche, so it has to be really, really bad), or if there’s something in the storyline that puts me off (once I read a book with graphic descriptions of inter-species rape, that turned my stomach enough that I not only put down the book, but also gave up on the series). But, there are books that don’t grab me, yet I still finish. Sometimes it’s because it’s a group read, a book I want to discuss, or something with a certain theme. Sometimes it’s the perfect fit for a challenge, so I still read it. Not too long ago, I finished a book that had a bad plot, flat characters, jumped POV every other sentence, but it had beautiful descriptions of Luxembourg. That was its redeeming value, and why I finished the book.

    • March 30, 2011 5:02 am

      Those are all good reasons! And, um, inter-species rape sounds pretty horrible. I abandoned a book when I came across the fourth rape scene in 80 pages; that’s just ridiculous.

      When I did challenges, I found it much more difficult to abandon a challenge pick!

  20. March 21, 2011 4:12 pm

    I’m a “stick with it and finish it” kind of person, but it usually causes me frustration. I only remember giving up on one book. Usually I keep reading because I picked the book on someones recommendation and I keep thinking it has to get better. Sometimes it never does and I end up disappointed. Oh well. I’m hoping I can be a little more like you. I need to give up when I know it’s not working for me and move on to something I really want to read.

    • March 30, 2011 5:03 am

      I try to remind myself of all the incredible books waiting for me out there when I abandon a mediocre one. ;)

  21. March 21, 2011 6:10 pm

    I don’t have any hard and fast rules about abandoning books, but the most likely reason for me abandoning a book forever is if it pisses me off ideologically — if, I don’t know, it’s pushing a women-must-submit agenda, or something like that. Apart from that, I tend to continue hopeful about books even if they’re not thrilling me right away. What if I abandoned them, and then they took a dramatic turn for the better? Like Life of Pi?

    Also, I haven’t immediately loved every book I love. Sometimes it takes me halfway through the book before I fall for it, or even a rereading or two. If I quit reading every book that I didn’t love right away, I’d never have loved, oh, half of Diana Wynne Jones’s books, or The Book Thief, or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, or tons of things.

    • March 30, 2011 5:07 am

      When I detect lots of misogynism in a book, I slam it shut and make an emphatic “hmph” sound for good measure. ;)

      I got right into the DWJ books that I’ve read, although as you know the ending of F&H made me cranky, hehe. But I can think of other books that I ended up loving, but not for a couple hundred pages! And OMG, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is such magic. All of his plays are; I think he sold his soul.

  22. March 21, 2011 6:39 pm

    I love that you posited this questions, as it remains the number one thing about which my friends still question me. I do read the entirety of every book I select. There have been books I have had to start and stop several times, but I have always managed to get through them. Were they my favorites? No, but I learn something about each book that I finish. Sometimes, it is as simple as knowing that I do not like a particular genre or style of writing. In fact, this is my approach to reading anything. I may not love it, but I know that it can help me learn something, either about myself or about a new culture or a new whatever. If I were to adopt a 50-pages-or-else attitude, I would have never gotten through Gone With the Wind or Jane Eyre or a whole slew of novels, especially classics, that take forever to get started but are worth the time and effort in the end. My love of reading stems from this ability to learn something new with each book, and I embrace that every chance I can get.

    • March 30, 2011 5:08 am

      That’s interesting that your friends ask you about it so much! I don’t think anyone in face-to-face life has ever brought it up. :)

      You know, I tend to get into classics right away, but I also love the rhythm. I think I cut classics more slack anyway, but I agree that for me the 50 page rule is too black-and-white.

  23. March 21, 2011 7:27 pm

    Well, this is a very timely post because I just abandoned Conversation in the Cathedral by Mario Varsa Llosa…and I rarely abandon books! I posted about why I abandoned this book…but in short, if it is not enjoyable or way too much work, I will sometimes let a book go. In Llosa’s case, the writing was so difficult to follow that I was completely confused. I had no idea who the characters were, or their relationship to each other…and I felt like I was just going through the motions. Often I’ll stick with a difficult book if I’m reading it for a book club or read-a-long…but not always. I figure I’m 50 years old now and life is too short if I really don’t like something. That said, I can count on one hand how many books I abandoned last year…so either I am really good at selecting them, or I’m a little stubborn! LOL!

    • March 30, 2011 5:09 am

      I didn’t abandon the Llosa novel I read a couple years ago (The Bad Girl), but I wish I had: it was so chauvinistic! I loved his nonfiction book about Les Mis, though. So I’ll have to fo read your post! :)

      I bet you’re just better at selecting books than me: I’m always reserving random books I’ve never heard of without doing any more research! lol

  24. March 21, 2011 7:31 pm

    I’ve traditionally considered myself more of a finish-it-if-I-start-it sort of reader, but I think the truth is I’m more haphazard. It doesn’t take any particular reason for me not to finish a book, just a little bit of distraction (usually in the form of another book!). On the other hand, I’ve forced myself through books I wasn’t particularly enjoying: sometimes I’ve even ended up liking the book, which is why I persist in trying to finish books. I never know when I might change my mind.

    • March 30, 2011 5:10 am

      That’s interesting that so many bloggers will start a new book when the current one is dissatisfying! I always have four hard copy books going at any one time, and a new one only gets added when I finish up an old one. lol

  25. March 21, 2011 7:57 pm

    I have abandoned books a few times for various reasons (boredom, bad writing, annoying characters etc) and usually have not regretted it. However there are some books that I have abandoned and then resumed later and found that I really liked them. One example I can think of is “Joseph Andrews”, which I did not like at first. Then I resumed it years later and found that I really enjoyed it. Maybe the second half was really better, or maybe I was more ready to read the book, I am still not sure. Perhaps I will read it again some time.

    • March 30, 2011 5:11 am

      That’s funny: I’m thinking I’ll probably read Joseph Andrews soon! Good to know that I should persevere. :)

      I’ve definitely abandoned some classics and then revisited them a few years later with more luck.

  26. sam permalink
    March 21, 2011 8:34 pm

    I used to be a finish every book person then I swung the other way when I hit 30. Now I think I may have gone too far in the other direction. I counted how many books I have with bookmarks in them and there are 31! It’s not that I don’t want to read them- I’m just too anxious to get to the next one. I decided a little disclipine is needed so no starting any more until I finish all I started.
    Oh and this seems weird, but I have problems reading library books because all I can think of while reading them is somebody else is waiting on them. I don’t like that pressure so prefer to own my books even though I work at the library! For me a library book is like taking work home with me.

    • March 30, 2011 5:13 am

      Wow! I only let myself have four books going at once, otherwise I’m sure I’d have piles too.

      I don’t think about other library patrons when I’m reading the books: after all, I don’t mind waiting for my holds to come in, so I don’t imagine they wait too much either. But I don’t work in a library, so I’m sure that helps!

  27. March 21, 2011 8:53 pm

    I haven’t been doing alot of reading lately that isn’t school related. Those that I pick up outside of school tend to be total brain candy. Right now, I just seem to accomplish more than that. BUT I really am one of those people that will finish a book once I start it. Almost always. I even finished Banville’s The Sea and it bored the living hell out of me! I don’t know why, but there is something completely ingrained in me that says I have to complete a book once I start it. It’s almost an OCD thing with me.

    • March 30, 2011 5:15 am

      Hehe: I enjoyed The Sea, but I can see how it would be torture if you weren’t a fan of it!

  28. March 22, 2011 2:14 am

    I always stop reading a book if I find myself finding excuses not to read at all… If it’s stopping me from reading altogether then I have no problem dropping it!

    • March 30, 2011 5:15 am

      The excuses thing is a good warning bell for me too!

  29. Debbie M permalink
    March 22, 2011 4:51 am

    I think it’s okay to abandon a book for reasons of dislike, because of several books I can think of that I have struggled with first time round, and then years later, have tried again, and loved. Most recently it took a ten year break for me to really dig Joseph Conrad’s “Nostromo”.

    • March 30, 2011 5:15 am

      I think sometimes I’ve gotten to a book too early, so I completely understand what you’re talking about. :)

  30. March 22, 2011 6:55 am

    I will abandon a book if it’s not working for me, usually with all the attendant guilt involved, but in the long run I prefer the guilt to the grimy feeling I get when having spent time and energy reading something that I really did not like.

    • March 30, 2011 5:16 am

      Ohh: that’s a good description, “grimy feeling”!

  31. March 22, 2011 9:43 am

    I’m more likely to stick with nonfiction books because I feel like at the very least I might learn something. I also try to stick with the classics, no matter how long they take me, because if they’ve stuck around so long, there must be something of value there. But as I find myself with less time to read, I am much more likely to abandon general fiction that is not wowing me because I’d rather spend time on something more entertaining (or educational or edifying, in the cases of the nonfiction and the classic books).

    • March 30, 2011 5:17 am

      I definitely give more benefit of the doubt to classics! For nonfiction, it depends on what’s annoying me about it. I don’t mind if the writing is dry, but if it feels too ‘fluffy’ or the author has biases I don’t share, I’ll abandon it easily.

  32. March 22, 2011 9:57 am

    I rarely abandon a book unless it really seriously sucks. A mix of stubbornness and optimism that it might get better plus the niggling feeling I might miss something usually stops me. Usually I get something out of every book I read – for example, Sarah’s Key really wasn’t a hit with me. I just got increasingly annoyed and thought it was silly for a variety of reasons but if I hadn’t read it I wouldn’t have learned about the Roundup.

    Granted, I didn’t have to have finished it to get that, but I also think that if I’m really going to be in a position to rip the book I dislike a new one – I should have finished it. Perhaps this is the main reason I finish books I dislike ;)

    • March 30, 2011 5:18 am

      Lol: yeah, I have mixed feelings of posting about my DNFs! Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. As for one-star books I actually finish, I’m usually so cranky just thinking about them that I don’t want to spend my energy on posting about them. lol

  33. March 22, 2011 10:56 am

    I’ve noticed that I’ve also started to do this, especially when it comes to books I’m reading for my classes. I guess I just get caught up in finishing the book so I can get it off my to-do list that I’m not really giving them the attention they deserve. Instead, I’m starting to skim for the plot rather than really understand.

  34. March 22, 2011 11:18 am

    Since I’ve been reading more I’ve noticed that every so often I’ll rush through a book, loving it, and then suddenly the end will loom and I’ll just stop, abruptly. I won’t not finish it, but it takes me a while, and it’s not always because I don’t want the book to end, but because I fear reviewing it because I know I can’t do it justice and so going slowly gives me more time. Other times I have no idea why I stop. I used to have this problem as a child because I had too many books on the go at once, and I thought I’d got over it.

    I think sometimes because we’ve so many others options we can see leaving something as easy to do and think we can always go back to it sometime, which of course generally doesn’t happen.

    I like reading books I wouldn’t rave about, I do find it valuable. And there’s a good feeling to finishing books, no matter how long or short they are. Other than this recent issue it’s very rare now that I’ll give up on one.

    • March 30, 2011 5:19 am

      That’s interesting! Sometimes I’ll put off finishing a book because I’m afraid the author is going to ruin the ending. But usually, my curiousity gets the better of my fear quite quickly.

      Now, putting off a review because I loved a book so much I think I can’t do it justice? That’s something I do all the time!

  35. March 22, 2011 8:43 pm

    Lately I’ve abandoned books that just weren’t working *at that time*. I don’t think I’ve crossed any books off forever lately. But it’s mostly been classics that fit in that category. I don’t mind returning a modern fiction book if I’m not liking it. Criteria: My mind always wanders when I pick it up. I dread the next page. I am not impressed with the writing. I run into too much sexuality, crude language, or another issue that bugs me. Any of those can be present, or just a few. (MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA for example drove me nuts after just 30 pages or so. I thought I’d give it a chance but dreaded picking it up.)

    On the other hand, I tried to read Dante last summer and I stopped because I was dreading it. But I know it’s because it was summer. Wrong time of year for a trip to hell. I WILL try again some day.

    • March 30, 2011 5:20 am

      I find it easiest to abandon modern fiction too!

      Yep, I think of Dante as a fall/winter read. I want to try out The Decameron this summer! :D

  36. March 23, 2011 10:16 am

    Hi Eva! So you say you read books in about 50 page chunks at a time. Just out of curiosity, how fast do you read? I’ve always wondered since you are able to read so many books so fast with such a critical eye. I’m very impressed. :)

    • March 30, 2011 5:24 am

      Hi Ingrid! Thanks for the compliment; I don’t actually read that quickly, I just have too much time on my hands. ;)

      I have no idea where I compare to other readers, but my reading speed totally varies depending on the book. It’s somewhere between 60 and 100 pages an hour, though (I know, a huge range).

  37. Adam Stone permalink
    March 23, 2011 4:00 pm

    I try to not start books that I don’t think that I will enjoy. I sometimes quickly glance through them before I start to see if it looks interesting or not, but it I get something out the library and I don’t think much of it I will take it back before I even bother reading it.

    • March 30, 2011 5:24 am

      I do that with library books too sometimes! :)

  38. Mumsy permalink
    March 23, 2011 4:12 pm

    Firmly in the abandonment camp. Life’s too short for useless books. I am sure I have missed a few marvels, but on the other hand, I’ve had more time for awesomeness.

  39. March 24, 2011 7:01 am

    I have no problem quitting a book. If I’m not sure about a book, I may put it down for a while and try it again in a couple of months. Sometimes it’s just my mood. Other times, though, I can tell a book just isn’t for me or that editing issues are going to drive me nuts. In those cases, I just put the book down and forget about it.

    • March 30, 2011 5:25 am

      I’m pretty good at forgetting books too! Except, now I’m trying to record them for le blog. Sometimes, I think blogging isn’t good for my reading. ;) j/k

  40. March 24, 2011 9:35 am

    There are two different kinds of love for a book. One, which has pretty much taken over the whole field, is that it’s a “fun read.”

    The other kind of love happens when it doesn’t matter how much “fun” the book is to read, because you’re sustained by your awareness that the author respects you and has something profound to say. You’ll work as hard as the author asks you to, put up with whatever you have to, to be in that presence.

    • March 30, 2011 5:26 am

      I don’t think fun reads have taken over! And I think a book can be both fun and profound. But I love your last sentence, and your whole description of profound books. :)

  41. March 24, 2011 5:11 pm

    I almost never quit reading fiction, because if I do, it goes on and on in my head until I invent an ending. It’s much better to just read the ending that’s there, especially if it’s not a very good book. I don’t want bad books going on and on in my head.

    • March 30, 2011 5:26 am

      That’s so interesting! I’ve never had that happen. Have you considered abandoning it but skipping to the very last chapter first?

      • March 31, 2011 8:53 pm

        Yes, I’ve done that, and sometimes it makes me have to go back and read how on earth the characters could have gotten there. Occasionally it does let me quit and go on to something else.

  42. March 25, 2011 11:39 pm

    As I was blog hopping this evening the book on the image above ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ caught my eye so I began reading your article.

    Funny thing is, it hits home. Your exact description of a reading slump is just what I experienced the day I began reading this exact book many years ago. I too set the book aside and took almost a decade before picking it back up.

    The day I finally finished reading ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ it was so good I couldn’t believe it took me so long.

    • March 30, 2011 5:27 am

      Hi Emmaline! Thanks for the visit. :) I read Monte Cristo a couple of years ago, and I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan. But I’m glad you were!

  43. March 29, 2011 8:00 pm

    I’m one of those (like your mother apparently) who complete every single book I start, no matter how bored or aggravated I am. The only very rare exception is if the book is waaaay more graphic than I bargained for and I really just can’t stomach reading any further (explicit rape scenes and the like aren’t really my forte).

    I come away from each book I read enriched in some way, like you said. Even if I hated the book. Even if I wanted to throw it against a wall. Even really bad books have the potential to shape me as a person. The good ones may affirm some way I have of thinking or challenge that thinking in a positive way. The bad ones affirm me in a different way, but in a no less important way.

    So that’s why I stick with 99.9% of the books I begin. That being said, I extensively preview books before committing to read them in order to minimize the number of horrible experiences.

    • March 30, 2011 5:28 am

      I am VERY picky about rape scenes; if the author doesn’t have a damn good reason for writing one, and it it’s not handled with sensitivity, I’ll chuck the book without another glance.

      I’m curious about what goes into your extensive preview process!

  44. April 3, 2011 9:05 am

    It’s a hard question. On the one hand, yes – absolutely, there are books that I found hard to read that I am extremely glad I battled through and am undoubtedly enriched by. On the other hand, there are so many books out there and you should never risk letting reading become more chore than fun. I stick with most books I start but certainly not all.


  1. Bookish links for Saturday, March 26, 2011 | BOOKS AND MOVIES

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