In my youth I was a voracious reader. The problem then was always a shortage of books. Now there’s a shortage of time – and yes, I know I’m self under-employed right now, but there’s still far too much to do and not enough time. And there’s the internet. So I don’t read nearly as much these days. But I still love it, even if I lose my reading mojo from time to time.
I’m not always choosy in my reading choices. Occasionally I just need something light that I can race through, even if at times I do cringe at exactly what I am reading. (I do have some standards though – there are some books/genres I don’t touch). A quick easy read often allows me to renew my enthusiasm for what I like to call Real Books. It is rare for me to find a book I can’t finish.
But there are some books that are harder to get through than others. I persevere with them, getting through them a few pages at a time. Others languish on my “currently reading” list on Goodreads for months. I like them, but not enough to devote a lot of time or energy to them. Some of these books get a second chance, and I find if I read them at a different time, with a different mindset, I can get something from them, and often finish them easily.
But inevitably there are books I just do not enjoy. I feel as if I need to persevere, that I’m missing something if I don’t finish them, that I’m admitting to a character flaw if I stop half-way through. It’s worse if they’re books I’ve bought – then I feel as if I’m wasting money if I don’t finish, and so they might get shifted to what turns out to be my perennially-reading list. As long as I think I might finish them, then I haven’t wasted* my money.
In recent years, I have conceded and begun abandoning books if I just can’t get through them. I’ve abandoned two Booker prize winners – Anne Enright’s The Gathering (all I remember of it is “whine, whine, whine”) and John Banville’s The Sea (unrelenting and ultimately uninteresting gloom and doom) – and two of the popular Kate Atkinson’s books. I couldn’t get past the first chapter of Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Dealing with a character’s conception, the first words were “I exist!” The ridiculousness of this (not to mention the biological inaccuracies of the timing of conception – I know too much for my own good) insulted me. I pushed past those first paragraphs, but I couldn’t continue. Equally I found her Life after Life book – much lauded, including by members of my own bookclub – so gimmicky and so pointless (less Sliding Doors than a very tedious A Thousand Ways to Die), that, despite going into it with an open mind and forcing myself through several chapters, I eventually threw it aside in disgust. I’m officially giving up on her as an author. I feel liberated by the decision.
I’ve decided I need to embrace the idea of abandoning books I dislike. Life is too short to read bad books, when there are so many wonderful stories and authors out there. What about you? Do you feel the same guilt at not finishing a book? Or do you abandon with … well … abandon?
* That’s my logic, and I’m sticking to it.