Thursday, May 6, 2010


btt  button

So … you’re halfway through a book and you’re hating it. It’s boring. It’s trite. It’s badly written. But … you’ve invested all this time to reading the first half. What do you do? Read the second half? Just to finish out the story? Find out what happens? Or, cut your losses and dump the second half.

If the book is trite, boring, and badly written I doubt I would have gotten half way (unless it's only 100 pages long - I'm willing to give most bad reading experiences 50 pages). There is no question for me on this point - dump it. What am I reading for? Fun, enlightenment, information - whatever the case - it's all for me. I have no obligation to anyone connected with my reading. Even if I have received the book for free to review I won't finish it (in fact, especially then, as I am trying to give an honest reaction to what I have read and it is usually something I would never have read in the first place). Who am I kidding? The author is not hanging around waiting for my opinion, ARCs are publicity, kids. I don't read for my many adoring fans, much as I love them both. Two exceptions - reading for school, I almost always complete assigned reading unless I am simply tortured by it, and reading something written by a friend, although my friends don't usually write things that are trite, boring, and badly written. They don't tend to sin in threes. Where I might sit on the fence is if a book has a dull subject but is brilliantly written (I almost never find this to be the case), or has a killer story but is written in illiterate fragments or a string of endless cliches. Even in these cases, I don't agonize over not finishing a book. Closing doors is healthy. There are enough choices to make in this information-saturated world and ruling one out lightens the burden. Lastly, although I sometimes talk about investing time, an economic metaphor in this case isn't entirely appropriate. If I have invested $1000 in a stock and it disappoints me by going down, to not sit it out means I have lost my money. Having spent a few hours in reading the first half of a book - if it was a good investment, then my time was not a wasted regardless of whether I continue or I stop. If it was obviously not a good investment from the get-go I shouldn't have read so far (and generally I don't). I may invest time to read, but it is only by continuing to invest it when I am getting nothing in return that I experience a loss. That is the reason I don't agonize about pulling out, there is only a cost for continuing. If a book is good enough to make me wonder whether, if I read on, it would improve then there is something compelling in it and I should consider the pleasure of that anticipation its own reward. Any way I look at it, reading is sheer indulgence and I'm going to trust my taste and follow my pleasure since I can't do that as relentlessly in most other areas of life.


Janet said...

"Closing doors is healthy." Well said!

I read for pleasure and not obligation as well, and don't have a hard time giving up on a "bad" book. There's always a chance I'll try it again in a different season and find it to be much better.

gautami tripathy said...

Why force oneself to plod when there are zillions of great books out there?!

BTT: Half way

Marce said...

Trusting your own taste definitely is something to stand by and then most times you won't have to give up on a book.

My response

Nithin said...

I do usually try to finish the books I've started, but I'm seeing the foolishness in that, and lately, I've started dumping books that are really boring.

Criticlasm said...

I support you in this.

I have also found, though not with the badly written things, that books I can't get "into" at some point I may be able to a few years later. I couldn't read "Howard's End" the first time I tried, then when I picked it up a few years later it became one of my favorites, and one that I've read 7 or 8 times at this point.

Sometimes it's crappy writing and it's off to the used bookstore for it, but sometimes it's me just needing to wait for the right moment to be grabbed.

And then, there are writers who other writers have recommended, like Augusten Borroughs with Elizabeth Berg, that I not only don't get "into", but find my esteem for the recommending author goes down a little. Perhaps a little judgmental of me, but there you go. I suppose I should give her another try....Reading is so personal and we all have our tastes. Like film in that way.

But you're right -even when it's tough and head-spinning, it's indulgence and we should be able to read whomever we like.