Books You Don’t Want to End

Elizabeth Bluemle -- February 20th, 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?