Finishing the Unreadable Book

Barbara Vey -- February 9th, 2011

I am currently reading a book I’m having a hard time getting into.  I’ve already read over 100 pages and it’s taken me 2 weeks.  I’m trying to stick to it because I feel like maybe it’s me and not the book.  Feeling frustrated, I threw it out on Twitter by saying, “Fighting my way through a book & feel awful about it. A book should grab you & make you not want to do anything else but finish it.”

Proving the power of Twitter, Dan Blank retweeted what I said and one of his followers contacted me.  Porter Anderson asked, “With all respect, I wonder if the reader doesn’t share some responsibility to weather a difficult passage? Isn’t it a dialogue?”

Having a dialog

Having a dialog

This got me thinking about a dialogue between an author and the reader.  As a reader, I always thought it was one sided.  The author wrote for me and I really didn’t have any obligation to the author other than to enjoy the book.  Even though I’ve always tried to finish all the books I started, I’ve found that now that I received so many to read and write about, I’m a little pickier about what I spend my time reading.

I always try to give new authors a look and a chance to prove themselves to me.  While it’s not possible for me to love every book I read, I always try  to keep an open mind.  I’ve always subscribed to the theory that there is a reader for every book and offer the books I can’t finish to another reader to enjoy.  Sometimes it works for the best, sometimes it doesn’t.

I can remember starting Outlander by Diana Gabaldon four times before I finally got into it and then I was hooked.  It remains one of my favorites.  I’m grateful for all the good things said about it that made me try time and time again.

While I’m struggling with this book, I’ll keep at it.  I may slip a book in between, but I really have high hopes for this author.  I’ll keep the dialog open and hope to find the diamond in the rough, but how far is enough  before it’s ok to give up?  Are there any books that you had to start several times before finally finishing and then were glad you did? Or do you just feel like you’re time to too valuable to waste on something you aren’t enjoying?

Bottom Line: “When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place.” ~ Unknown

93 thoughts on “Finishing the Unreadable Book

  1. Amanda

    There are books that I absolutely don’t remember because I forced myself to finish them. Put it away and try something else. You can always go back to it later.

  2. Christine

    I have occasionally stuck with a book because other people have said great things about it, but it’s not always worth it. I finally got into The Shipping News after 60 pages, but there aren’t that many books I want to invest in for that long before beginning to enjoy them.

    I heard someone say recently that you should give a book x number of pages before reconsidering, and that x equals 100 minus your age. (So if you’re 45, for example, you should give it 55 pages.) I don’t think of giving up a lack of dialogue between the reader and the author, but perhaps the book just isn’t the right one for that reader at that time.

  3. Alana Abbott

    I think it’s not only a dialog — it can be a whole conversation. Like Christine, if I’m not grabbed right away, I’ll keep giving it a shot if others have loved and recommended it. I’ve been really pleased to finish a few of those that didn’t grab me right away. I’ve also gotten to the end of some books that I struggled through and thought, “man, what a waste of time.” (Or, in the case of at least one book I’ve reviewed, “I’m so glad I got paid to read THAT drek.” *g*)

  4. Fiendishly Bookish

    This is a great topic. I force myself to finish the book and actually re-start from the beginning because I feel I owe it to the author. I think everybody deserves a chance therefore I don’t usually have a measuring stick in which to follow.

    But, I can usually gauge somewhat successfully by the first chapter. If it’s not cutting it-its usually an “Uh-Oh” moment. I check other bloggers and their comments. Maybe they have seen something I have missed. And then I trudge on. I have ended up being surprised many times!

  5. Carol

    Great post! Thank you! It hits close to home. I have given up on books before, feeling that my time was too valuable to be spent reading a book I wasn’t enjoying.

    Enter Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Thank god my sister gave me the disclaimer before I started…a disclaimer I now give it to everyone I recommend the series to: “You MUST keep reading. Up to page 50 is “eh”. Pages 50 – 100 are better. Once you hit page 150 you will be completely hooked and begging for more. Then strap in and enjoy the ride because it will not stop until you hit the words “the end”.

    I ended up reading the whole series (7 books so far). So here I am – waiting (im)patiently for the next installment – running an Outlander blog – and realizing that, thanks to your post, maybe I should rethink some of the books I’ve put down without finishing. :)

  6. jjdebenedictis

    Every human being’s brain is wired differently. Although we have much in common in that regard, we’re also each unique in how we interface with the world.

    So if you’re not engaging with a particular book, that’s not necessarily a symptom of either you or the book being flawed–it might just mean that story doesn’t resonate with you or that writing style doesn’t mesh well with your brain’s methods of interpreting information.

    There are books (and series) that I am glad I stuck with, because they became so very rewarding later. That said, it’s just a book. There is no need to feel like you’ve failed somehow if you decide not to finish it.

  7. Tawna Fenske

    I had exactly the same experience with Gabaldon’s “Outlander,” but came to regard it as one of my favorite books on the planet.

    I also recently read a book by a popular romance author and had sort of a “meh” reaction to it. I was ready to write the author off entirely, but my agent encouraged me to try another one of her books. I was instantly hooked.


  8. celena

    Wow this post really hit close to home so i had to comment. I am reading Outlander right now and have thought about stopping because the vocab seems so stuffy and not enough is going on for me, plus i’m reading on my nook and only just saw the number of pages after i opened it, didnt know if i wanna spend the time. But i always think of my first experience with Karen Moning’s fever series, the final book was recently reviewed on this site. I stopped and started that first book quite a few times, i kept thinking…this is too weird, so not my usual book genre, and various other things that bothered me i can’t even remember at this point. But now that i’ve read it and all the other books in the series, i am sooo glad i didnt give up, now i have a new favorite author, and got to read one of the best books (shadowfever) i think i’ve ever read.

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