I am the type who really works at finishing the books I start. Ever since I first started at a young age on my path to full fledged bibliophile, I have avoided “quitting” on a book at all costs. For me to not finish felt like a failure; a nagging sense of a half-completed job.
Since becoming a book reviewer/blogger – and as my life has grown busy with kids, work, etc. – I have gotten more comfortable in not finishing books. I guess I have less time to waste and so feel less charitable towards bad books.
But it isn’t always a bad book either. Sometimes a book just doesn’t work for me at the time. I am not able to focus on it or my mood doesn’t match the book’s style or form. Sometimes things just don’t click and I find it necessary to abandon a book or keep reading out of guilt.
I thought it might be interesting, as a sort of confession, to offer five books I have failed to finish in the last year or so. At least this way the books get a little publicity (there’s no such thing as bad, right?).
Here is my list:
- Amerika: The Missing Person: A New Translation, Based on the Restored Text by Franz Kafka. This is one of those that I don’t blame the book so much as my inability to focus. When I picked this up I had a lot going on and was only reading it in small snippets before bed. I just never got into it and so put it aside. I still plan to read it in the future.
- Binu and the Great Wall by Tong Su. This one just fell flat for me. I have read most of the Canongate Myths books and enjoyed them. But at some point I had to recognize that this one was a chore to read and I didn’t want to finish. It had some interesting aspects to it, but the story didn’t seem to be going anywhere and held no insights for me. Perhaps, my unfamiliarity with the source of this myth and the underlying culture handicapped me.
- George Washington on Leadership by Richard Brookhiser. This is another one where I blame me rather than the author (who is one of my favorites). If you are interested in history and leadership this is actually an interesting and informative book. But I had a lot of other reading to do for my job at the time and I put it aside to work on a project and never picked it up. It has joined its brothers on the To Be Finished pile.
- Wide Awake: The Future Is Waiting Within You by Erwin Raphael McManus. I am not sure what to make of this one. A publisher was kind enough to send me an advance copy and I thought it would be an interesting book. But, while I didn’t hate it, it just never seemed to connect for me. It was a little to close to Christian pop psychology for my tastes and I never finished it.
- Enduring Justice (Defenders of Hope Series #3) by Amy N. Wallace. This was a combination. I was reading it when I had a lot of books I was trying to review and this one was part of a blog tour where I need to post by a certain date. I had two choices: finish it and all likelihood write a negative review or drop it and move on. I chose the later.
As you can see, there isn’t really one type of book or genre involved. What also jumps out at me is the circumstances surrounding my reading. If I am very busy, under a lot of stress, or doing a lot of reading for work my patience seems to give out quickly. If I am reading for pleasure, and particularly when I have a lot of books I am really excited about reading, I just have a hard time reading something I don’t enjoy or that seem like work.
When do you stop reading a book? Do you feel guilty or do you see it as an essential time management tool (life is to short to read bad books)? Do you put books aside and pick them up again later? I would love to know your experience.