Every Wednesday, I have an essay on any topic that catches my fancy!
Once upon a time, I didn’t consider myself a voracious reader. And guess what, I didn’t end up reading a lot of books. For the past three years, my New Year’s Resolution has been to read more books. I’m slowly getting there. It’s amazing what you can achieve if you set your mind to accomplishing something—and bearing in mind that goal every single day. At this point, I’ve learned to do something I never thought I would do: drop a book you’re currently reading.
Starting out as a reader, I always had this mentality that if you start reading a book, you should finish reading it. (I practice the same mentality when doing book reviews.) Unfortunately, it does not take into account the quality or content of the book. For a good few years, I faithfully followed that mentality, and personally scoffed at anecdotes by friends and acquaintances when they talk about books they didn’t manage to finish and never picked up again.
Eventually though, my reading horizons expanded. Sure, I read “better” books. But I also ended up reading books that, at the very least, did not appeal to me. Unfortunately, especially when it comes to novels, there is no real “taste test”. In order to judge the quality of a story, you have to read the entire story*. And by then, it’s too late. Perhaps that’s why we rely on word-of-mouth recommendations. Or book reviews. Or blurbs. Sometimes, these recommendations, reviews, and blurbs give us hope when the story starts out slow. At other times however, a story is simply unappealing to me as the reader, whether it’s the beginning, middle, or end.
So how does one wash out that aftertaste after reading a bad book? We move on to the next book. During this time, I wasn’t yet enamored by the art of the short story so all I had to go on was novels. It’s easier to finish a short story, even a bad one, as opposed to a novel. There came a point in time when I was reading a particular novel that was a thousand pages long and didn’t particularly appeal to me. I was slogging through the text and then I said enough is enough, dropped it, mentally made a note to come back to the book in the future (eight years has passed and the bookmark should still be there), and read other books in my ever-increasing “books to be read” pile (the pile grows every year). I never quite returned to that book and along the way, there were some books that made me drop them midway.
So, what causes you to abandon reading a book? Personally, at least in the first book that I dropped, it was because the story was getting nowhere. The conflict hadn’t established itself and the author was focusing too much on the details. There is such a thing after all as characterization and set-up but if I’m two hundred pages deep (easily the size of many short novels) and the content is pretty much the same as it was on the first page, and I know there’s eight hundred pages of this to follow, well, I’m lost.
Of course not all books I stopped reading are bad or even horrible. I simply stopped reading them amidst juggling other books. I fondly remember reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel when it first came out but somehow stopped mid-way. I keep telling myself I’ll return to that book one day but the truth of the matter is, I don’t see an opening in my current schedule.
How about you, what books have you dropped and do you intend to finish them?
*Or maybe I simply had more patience back then. When I started reading fantasy, Robert Jordan’s 7th Wheel of Time book was released in paperback and I did manage to finish the entire series in two weeks during summer break.