Sunday Salon: Just Call Me Ms. Cranky-Pants
You guys, I’ve been abandoning books with, well, abandon this week! Some of them I plan to try again one of these days, because I know I just wasn’t in the right mood: The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun and Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature by C. S. Lewis. One I know I’ll never, ever go near again (and will spend the rest of my life trying to wipe from the memory the crimes described in the 60 pages that I read): Defending the Damned by Kevin Davis. The last three I just found ‘meh’ and at a certain point decided it wasn’t worth the bother to keep reading: Dancing in the Dark by Barbara Ascher, Night Riders in Black Folk History by Gladys-Marie Fry, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Note that this are only the books I’ve read at least fifty pages of (one hundred eighty in the case of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) before deciding not to continue; if I were to add the books I’ve tried and set aside after just a few pages this week, it would show just how cranky a reader I’ve been. ;)
I don’t have a definite set of criteria for abandoning a book, but since I read in fifty to sixty page shifts, I always end up with ‘pauses’ in whatever I’m reading. If I notice that I put off reading when a certain book is at the top of the pile, or that I seem to begrudge an author the time I’m spending on the page or my internal monologue begins ratcheting up the sarcasm, I know that it’s time to take stock. So then I just ask myself if there’s a book I’d rather be reading in the questionable’s place; if a title immediately springs to mind or if I suddenly feel more excited about reading just thinking about alternatives, I know it’s time to walk away.
I always have mixed feelings towards abandoned books: on the one hand, I’m proud of myself for being willing to stop reading when I see a book isn’t working for me. But on the other hand, it’s frustrating to realise that I read over four hundred pages this week that all just kind of disappeared into a bookish void. Fortunately, there’s the comfort of the next book, the one that actually does delight all of my bookish senses! When I abandoned A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I got to pick up Elizabeth Nunez’s Prospero’s Daughter, which is simply marvelous. And setting aside the Lewis allowed me to delve into The River of Lost Footsteps, a truly fascinating account of Burmese history. At the end of the day, this is what matters.
How do you decide when to abandon a book? How frequently do you do so?
And now on to a few one-sentence remarks on books that I’ve actually finished this year! ;)
Books I Loved and Found Every Page a Delight
Read Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst if…you’re looking for an atmospheric and touching spy novel that won’t leave you horribly depressed and doesn’t involve main characters who speak ten languages fluently and with perfect native accents.
Reread Fledgling by Octavia Butler if…you love speculative fiction that challenges a reader’s preconceived notions or you’re looking for a very different kind of vampire read or you’re not sure which audiobook you should start next.
Books I Would Have Loved, Except for One or Two Little Quibbles or Books I Really, Really Liked
Read Shaming the Devil by Alan Jacobs if…you enjoy literary, intellectual essays and don’t mind a preponderance of white male subjects or are curious about modern Christian humanism.
Reread The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton if…you can’t resist meeting cousin Elena all over again and want to marvel at the acidly sharp picture Wharton paints of an earlier New York.
Books I Definitely Liked, Although They Didn’t Blow Me Away or Books that had Great Points Counterbalanced by Not-Great Ones
Read Death of a Glutton by M.C. Beaton if…you’re thoroughly addicted to the Hamish Macbeth series, to the point that you can overlook Beaton’s incredibly questionable portrayal of a food-addicted woman and somewhat slut-shaming approach to female characters & casual sex just to catch up with Hamish (this is by far my least favourite of the series so far).
Books That Aren’t For Me but I Could Still See Some Good Points
Read The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt if…you have a thing for memoirs by British professors ‘of a certain age’ (with everything that implies) and can overlook a lot of distasteful attitudes (see this passage) in exchange for an obviously sharp mind and just lovely writing.