Abandoned Books

The Literary Stew posted a mini-meme today about abandoning books. Coincidentally, I was just staring at my book shelves and thinking about this very subject! πŸ˜‰

1. What would cause you to stop reading a book ?

Apparently, it takes a lot. All of the books in my Hall of Shame from last year are books that I absolutely should have abandoned because they were terrible and I knew they’d remain terrible, but I have this thing about finishing books that I start. If I’d abandoned Infinite Jest or The Satanic Verses, it would have taken a lot of willpower to return to those books later on, so I just sucked it up and kept on going; I’m proud of myself for having read those books.

Lately I’ve gotten better about abandoning books and actually have abandoned a couple for various reasons, the biggest being that I just wasn’t in the mood.

2. Name a book or books you’ve abandoned in the past that you ended up loving later on.

Anna Karenina is one; I’d made it about 300 pages into the book the first time around. I abandoned the book even though I loved it because I was a student with a really hectic schedule at the time and couldn’t juggle the extra reading. I finally returned to the book last year and adored it.

More recently, I abandoned Michael Crummey’s Galore on my first go; I didn’t make it past the first paragraph. I just wasn’t in the mood. I returned to the book a couple of weeks later and was blown away; it’s been one of my favorite reads so far this year!

3. Name a book you’ve abandoned in the past that you hope to finish someday.

I’d been anxiously awaiting David Foster Wallace’s final work, The Pale King, for months and snapped it up as soon as it was released. I got about ten pages into the book and ultimately decided to put it aside. The writing is gorgeous, but I just haven’t been in the mood (if you’ve read any of DFW’s work, you know it often takes a certain level of uh…concentration). I do hope to finish it sometime this year.

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4 comments

  1. pagesofjulia

    Ohhhh I SO put down Satanic Verses. Not sure I can go back there, either. Did it get better? Oh, and The Sound and the Fury. That one didn’t take me too far, either.

    I don’t know, I’m hard pressed to think of a book I regret putting down, or one that I’ve picked back up and felt happy with in the end. Can’t do it off the top of my head.

    Mostly I guess I feel fine about putting down books. I don’t do it terribly often; and as one of my coworkers says, we’re grown-ups now and don’t have to read books we don’t like!!

    Great post. If I come up with any good answers I’ll use it. πŸ™‚

  2. Jennifer O.

    My reading depends on moods. And sometimes my reading moods last for years. Sometimes months. Sometimes, there’s a turnaround in days.

    I started Madame Bovary in high school and loved it. Then stopped at around page 150. I can’t say why. Then I abruptly moved onto Anna Karenina and stoped at about page 100. And then stopped.

    I didn’t pick up and read Mandame Bovary until years later. I was 23 and was pregnant with my third child, and I felt completely and utterly alone in a different city with no friends or family around. From the beginning of Anna’s childhood, I read on breathlessly. I, too, could identify with being raised on a set of ridiculous notions that sprang from supbar romances. I, too, could identify with the clash between idealism and gritty reality. And thanks to Emma, I learned a lot about myself and avoided some of her mistakes.

    Madame Bovary (and later Anna Karenina) went on to be my favorite books.

    Reading books can come down to the right time in my life for them. Or not, sometimes, the fancy just strikes and I move in a certain direction.
    There’s so much structure to life….why not read what you want, when you want to?

  3. amymckie

    I love hearing how other people abandon books. I’m like you in that I often slog through them when I really shouldn’t be torturing myself so. And usually I put them down to try again at a later point. But occasionally I am getting better at just giving them away!

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