I used to be one of those people that finished every book I started. It was a matter of principle (finish what you start), it was a matter of pride (I CAN finish this book even if it kills me), & it was the thought that if someone chose to write it & someone else decided it was worth publishing, then how could I determine it wasn’t worth reading.
That has changed.
I realized a couple of things: first, my time is valuable & reading something I’m not enjoying is a waste of time. Second, I will probably die before I read all the books I KNOW I want to read, so why waste time reading something I don’t? Third, who’s keeping track or even cares that I don’t finish a book I started.
In the last couple of years there have been several books that I started that I didn’t finish. One was Before You Know Kindness. I’ve read several books by Chris Bohjalian and they’ve been hit & miss for me. Another is Atonement – yeah, don’t go ballistic – I couldn’t get into it. I’ve had several folks tell me I should give this one another try & maybe I will, just not right now. Another has recently been made into a movie – The Namesake – and I can’t IMAGINE how horrible that movie is going to be. Ugh.
Anyway, with this said, I am at one such decision right now. I’m in a book club at work, and this quarter’s selection is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. When the book was first selected, I expressed some trepidation at the choice. I’ve never gotten into westerns. Never like Louis L’Amour, never read Lonesome Dove (though I did like the movie), just never cared for them.
I was promised that this book would be different. “The language is so beautiful you won’t even know you’re reading a western.” Because I’ve read another book by Ron Hansen (Mariette in Ecstasy), loved it & knew he wasn’t just a ‘western’ genre writer, I thought I’d give it a try.
Guess what. It’s a western. Characters are western, setting is western, plot is western – and quite frankly, none of these have even developed very well. I’m on page 113 of 389, and I’m just not into it. My feeling is that by page 100, I should either care about a character or want to know what happens next. Neither of these is the case.
So what’s the quandary? Well, this is for a book club, and I feel a certain obligation to the group. I mean, isn’t part of why we are in book clubs to stretch ourselves & read something outside our general interest? Do I go & not participate because I didn’t finish the book? Do I not go? I just don’t know.
Meanwhile, a stack of books I want to read just sits. . . and waits. . .
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3 Replies to “To read or not to read. . .”
Ok, I had to weigh in here, because I, too, suffer from “finish all books” syndrome. In fact, a book I am 1/3 way through sits idle now on my nightstand, and has so languished for several weeks. And I cannot make myself start another. It is a curse.
As far as your particular situation, I would say finish it, only because it is for bookclub. However, I would qualify that with give it what I call the “heavy skim.” Just so you can participate in the discussion. Yo.
PS, Don’t go back to Atonement. I will chime in that it was a truly painful read and received the “heavy skim” from me.
OK. . .since I'm still about a month out from the book club, I may read another quick read first & then go back to it for the heavy skim. I'll keep folks posted.
On another note, I think my mom is up for being a "guest blogger" as well! She just had a horribly painful experience with one of Chris Bohjalian's books. . .
Now, I’m with you on Before You Know Kindness. I just couldn’t do it. Chris B. is crazy to me, because a few of his books are in my list of favorite books (Skeletons at the Feast, Midwives) and then others I just can’t do. Usually, when I like an author, I love to read everything they have, but not so with him.
I do love Atonement though. It’s sort of a novel-length Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge! A bit tedious in parts . . . anyway, worth the read at the end of the day, so don’t throw it away at least!
Anyway, about the book club dilemma, I would TRY to read it; you could look up some reviews of the book to see if any of the themes really interest you at all, and that at least gives you something to offer at book club. I agree with you–I’ve reached the age where if I try several times and it’s just not getting it–DUMP IT! Think of all the other books out there 🙂