Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Not Finishing Books

I’ve always been the kind of reader who finds it difficult to NOT finish books I’ve started.

Not finishing a book always felt like a (this is going to sound like an exaggeration) a crime to me. This is how I looked at things: I bought the book, so, therefore I HAD to finish it. I thought about books the same way I think about food. Not finishing it would be a waste. I thought that way, because I didn’t have much money to spend on books when I was still in school. I had to dig around in my favourite secondhand bookstore until I found something I liked and could afford.

Lately, my views on not finishing books have changed. This change started around the time I started blogging, when I discovered so many books I’d never heard of before and discovered new ways of getting them (downloading them from Project Gutenberg, for example). There were so many books I wanted to read that I didn’t want to waste my time forcing myself to finish something I didn’t even
like.

However, there’s always the chance that a book might grow on you. This happened to me with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. When I first started reading Fellowship, I kept on falling asleep, and I just wanted to start reading something else. For some reason, though, I didn’t, and I actually finished reading the entire trilogy. Guess what? I loved it.

I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post that I used to think not finishing books was a waste of money, but I don’t actually think that anymore. When I set a book aside, I try to think that I’m only saving it for later when I’m ready for it. For example, I tried to Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier tons of times when I was eighteen, but I kept falling asleep and eventually gave up on it. At the time, I wasn’t really into classics. I’d only read Jane Austen novels and To Kill a Mockingbird.

I read it again last year when I was twenty, and I completely fell in love with it. I didn’t have the patience to appreciate it at eighteen. When I read it last year, I had already started blogging about classics, and had read more classics than I could count on both fingers. I realized how great Rebecca was, because I’d already gain the experience and the patience to fully appreciate it.

On a different note, I just want to say that, yes, there are definitely some craptastic books out there. I recently bought a novel which shall remain nameless in this post, and it drove me insane. Bad writing and paper-thin characters. I want to say that it’s possible I might not be ready to fully appreciate it yet, but I don’t think I ever will be.

What about you? What are your thoughts on NOT FINISHING?

18 comments:

Trisha said...

Before blogging I finished every book I started, but now I can put a book down. I have to admit though that it doesn't happen very often since I tend to pick books I will probably like. :)

angus25 said...

I feel the same! I cannot afford not finishing a book regardless of the starry and crappy factors. I try to finish a book once I read it. The only time I broke this rule is with Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. I had to reread it every time I restarted. I didn't end up loving it though. I tried to be as objective as possible, but I just don't get it. :D

mooderino said...

if it's a well regarded book and i'm just not feeling it I will tend to skim. I really hate the idea of giving up when I was just a few pages away from the good stuff.

mood
Moody Writing
@mooderino
The Funnily Enough

Nymeth said...

I struggle with this myself, but it's definitely good to give ourselves permission to drop something if it isn't working for us. Life is short, after all! It could be a matter of timing and we could try again some day, but it could also just be that we don't get along with that particular book, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Laura said...

I have issues with not finishing books, just because I feel like I have to BEAT THE BOOK if I don't like it very much. Which is stupid, I'll admit, but it's what I do! I'm reading this one book at the moment which I'm really not enjoying, and I'm actually thinking I might just stop reading and give it away... We shall see!

Ben said...

I will go in the same direction than moody here. I always finish, but I skim the shitty parts. I wouldn't have finished VANITY FAIR if I didn't skim a little bit at the end :P

Kate said...

I understand you. I used to never be able to put a book down for the same reasons but as I've gotten older I have changed. My rule is go 100 pages before you put it down. (Lonesome Dove got really unputdownable and this saved me from putting it down) With the kindle it's 25%. If I'm near the end of a book and just can't bear it anymore, I speed read.

Svenja said...

mmmh, I feel sympathy and empathy towards people and also situations where it just does not "click". I find it more than likely that the same happens with a book, which could be seen as a set of expressions and fantasies of the author, as part of him as a person... I forced myself once to read through " the mill on the floss" by George Eliot and there I realized that I only read it because I had to (the duty of a committed student) and decided I shall only read for pleasure in the future...

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I have a hard time not finishing books, even when I'm not loving them. Like you, I always think, what if it grows on me and I write it off without giving it a real chance. I tend to ALWAYS finish, even when I should give it up.

Zibilee said...

I used to feel much the same way as you did about not finishing books. If something was unpleasing to me, I would read it anyway, and suffer the whole way through. I kept thinking about the fact that it might totally turn itself around and if I gave it up, I would miss out on a great book. Not to mention that it's wasteful. But now I have no trouble abandoning books that don't fit me. There are just too many books in the world, and not enough time to read them all, so I don't languish with a book I am not liking, unless I have made a commitment to that particular book.

Peggy said...

I'm with Kate on the 100 pages rule. If I'm not hooked by then, I move on. There are so many great books out there that not finishing one I dislike gives me time to read something else! (I also give a movie 30 minutes. If I'm not hooked, I turn it off.)

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I still have a problem with putting books down and have probably only put down one or two books in the last few years. Maybe I'm easily pleased but I enjoy most of the books I read so it's not usually a problem...

amanda @ simplerpastimes said...

I usually finish the books I've started, or rather, I almost never non-finish a book as a conscious decision. If it's a library book and I can't finished before I have to return it, then it doesn't get finished then, and perhaps not ever. This often happens because I select too many books, rather than as a reflection on the books. But they're always there to go back to later.

Aarti said...

I totally think it's fine not to finish books! I think similarly to you, when I was younger I didn't like doing it, but now I feel like I'm busy enough that it's a bigger waste of my time to spend hours of days that grow into weeks trying to get through a book I don't particularly enjoy, rather than enjoying a book that I want to read. It makes more sense to me that way. In economic terms, the opportunity cost of reading a book I don't like is just far too high :-)

everybookandcranny said...

I used to force myself to finish a book no matter how excruciating or laborious. Now I'm a big believer in timing, and sometimes it's just not right and therefore best to wait and re-evaluate later.
Just last weekend I set a book aside after just 15 pages, which I think it some kind of record for me. Time is precious.

Cheers!

Joanne said...

I never used to give up on books, but since I've started blogging I do it more frequently. I use the library a lot, so I don't have to worry about wasting money if I don't finish a book.

Caro said...

I can't not finish a book. I used to give up on books all the time when I was a kid, but eventually I decided I might be missing out on some awesome storylines and characters if I didn't just hang in there a little longer. Sometimes it proves to be true, sometimes it doesn't. But I just can't put books aside anymore.

Anonymous said...

I am only going to live to be 103.... so many books not enough time....
SO I give myself and my students an official invisible license to NOT finish a book and to move on to something that moves me! :)

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