Books You Don’t Want to End

Elizabeth Bluemle - February 20, 2013

I’ve always had trouble remembering the endings of books—which I have decided is simply a case of denial, the result of wanting a particular book world not to come to a close. But there are also books I just plain don’t want to finish, because I’m enjoying them so much. I suspect this is a fairly common phenomenon, that feeling of not wanting a good book to end. But do others find themselves slooooooowing way down while reading, or reading only a few pages at a time—in essence, sipping the book instead of gulping—to make it last? I have been doing this a lot lately, and worse: I have found myself simply not reading the last volume in a series. (I always buy the last book; I just avoid reading it, and look at it guiltily on my shelf.)
I hadn’t realized slow-reading and series-end-avoidance were an encroaching habit of mine until recently, when I picked up R.L. LaFevers’ Dark Triumph, the April 2013 sequel to a book I *loved* last year, Grave Mercy, about a female assassin in 15th-century Brittany trained in a convent by nuns to do Death’s work. It is SO good, and is a favorite handsell. When the ARC of Dark Triumph arrived recently, I chortled (a slightly more dignified version of ‘squealed’) and snapped it up and handed the second copy to another staffer, Sandy. (I’d asked for two copies, since she is equally hooked and no good would have come of the one-copy fisticuffs.) I rushed home and began reading and immediately sighed happily, because the book begins with the same vigor and narrative propulsion and effortless writerly authority that makes Grave Mercy so darned good. But then … I put it down after only a couple of chapters. Not because I didn’t like it; quite the opposite. I don’t want to be done with it. So I am going little by little, one breathtaking, action-packed, beautifully written snippet, a chapter or half chapter at a time.
Slightly more unsettling is my reluctance to finish series I love. Giant confession: I did not read Mockingjay, though I loved the first two and have every reason to believe I’d love the third. Nor have I broken the spine of the final volume of Patrick Ness’s incredible Chaos Walking trilogy, Monsters of Men, though I have a gorgeous edition in my bedside bookcase, waiting.
My most recent avoidance is Eternally Yours, the third in a fantasy trilogy by Cate Tiernan that is one of my all-time favorite YA/crossover fantasies and most successful handsells. The first in this trilogy, Immortal Beloved, has a title that can be a hard handsell at first (it doesn’t suit the sharp humor and prickly nature of the heroine and story), but once readers get their hands on it, as with Grave Mercy, they are hooked. And I mean hard. We often have people mention, on subsequent visits to the store, that they loved a book we recommended to them. But Immortal Beloved is the only book I can think of where people actually telephoned the store specifically to thank me for a book recommendation. It’s happened three times with this one! So one would think I would not be able to resist the allure of the third in the series. And I can’t. In fact, it’s so alluring I won’t pick it up.
Maybe it’s like being so attracted to someone you can’t ask her out. You don’t want to be disappointed, and you don’t want the beautiful dream of the relationship to end.
Readers, do any of you do this? And if so, what books do you read slowly? What series haven’t you finished, even though you loved them?

5 thoughts on “Books You Don’t Want to End

  1. MsElephantGun

    I’m actually very diligent about finishing my books – eventually! It may take years, but I do get there. I admit to being a habitual re-reader. If a book has brought me that much pleasure it never leaves that prized spot on my shelf.

  2. Morgan Dambergs

    I absolutely do this! I find it so hard to finish a book series (or even a stand-alone book) that I’ve loved any faster than I absolutely have to. I just don’t want the journey to end. I put off reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” until well after everyone else I knew had devoured it, because it was so hard to reconcile myself to that being the end. And I still have yet to read the final volume of “Sandman”, even though I started reading the series almost ten years ago. I know I’ll get to it eventually — my curiosity will win out in the end — but sometimes I need an awful lot of time and space to say goodbye to characters I’ve grown very attached to. I’m sure I’ll do the same with the final “A Song of Ice and Fire” book when it’s published.
    For the record, I do this with TV series I really love too. It took me ages to watch the series finales of “Buffy” and “Lost”. I try not to think about what it’ll be like when “Supernatural” (my all-time favourite TV show) finally ends! Eep…

  3. Christie

    Uh, no, to me that’s just weird. As a matter of fact I can barely WAIT for the next book in a series I love and I devour it immediatley–to the point of reading nothing else until I am finished. Then I can read them all again. Besides which that puts you in the awkward position of saying “don’t tell me the ending!” to anyone else who loves the same series and wants to talk about it (unless you aren’t like that).

  4. Bob in Maryland

    Wa-a-a-y back in the late 60’s (dating myself here), when I was reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time, I forced myself to stop at one chapter per day, no matter how much I wanted to read on. I didn’t want the book to end.
    More recently, I was devastated at finally coming to the end of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, despite having managed to stretch out the reading of it to more than an entire year.
    In both cases it felt like I was losing one of my closest friends. Reminds me of that line in Simon and Garfunkel’s “Dangling Conversation” where they sing:
    And you read your Emily Dickenson
    And I my Robert Frost
    And we note our place with bookmarkers
    That measure what we’ve lost.

  5. Dianna Winget

    I guess I just don’t have enough self-control. If I’m really enjoying a book, I can’t slow myself down even if I don’t want it to end. After I’ve read the last page, then I deal with the sinking feeling of knowing it’s over. Of course, I have the option of starting over again, or picking up the next good book waiting in the wings.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *