Deciding Not to Finish

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Alas, it was not meant to be.

One of my reading goals for this year was to finally read Love in the Time of  Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  I’ve had a copy on my bookshelf for forever.  It’s been hovering at the top of my Goodreads TBR ever since I started keeping track of books I want to read when I joined the site.  I read and loved his One Hundred Years of Solitude some years ago.  I had high hopes.

Today I decided to abandon it.  I got to page 132 and could progress no further.  For weeks it sat on my bedside bookcase admonishing me.  I even obtained the audio book version from the library and tried to listen to it on my commute.  Nope.  Couldn’t do it.  I just didn’t care.  The story went nowhere.  And maybe it eventually does, but I don’t have the mental endurance for it right now.

It doesn’t help that I’m making myself finish my book for book group, and it’s also taking its sweet time progressing (Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, in case you were curious.) I’ve been entertained and not too annoyed by it, but it needs a good editor, in my opinion.  Now I’m in the home stretch, less than 100 pages.  And I think – I hope! – that there’s a resolution coming soon.

I still feel a small twinge of guilt whenever I abandon a book.  I read a great post on Book Riot a few months ago that said that reading should not be a chore.  Not that we shouldn’t try to stretch ourselves and read challenging things, but that we shouldn’t make ourselves finish something that makes us feel absolutely miserable while doing so.  I totally agree.  What’s the point?  Are we going to get some kind of reward, a gold star or an ice cream cone?  (Wait – I might make myself finish Love in the Time of Cholera if there was free ice cream involved.)  No one cares what we read!  Well, no one outside the lovely, friendly book-blogging world, that is.

And who’s to say that some future incarnation of Laila won’t pick up this novel again in ten, fifteen, twenty years?  She may love it.  I’m not ruling it out.

How do you feel when you don’t finish a book?  Any guilt?  Any books you regret making yourself finish?

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On Romance and Abandoning Books

I love Nancy Pearl’s Rule of Fifty when it comes to finishing books.  You’ve heard of it, right?  If you’re fifty years old or younger, give a book at least fifty pages before you decide to commit or give it up.  If you’re over fifty, then subtract your age from 100 and use that number as the number of pages you give a book.  I pretty much stick to this rule, with an exception for books chosen by my book group.  I like to be able to discuss the books with my book group pals, so I give it every effort to finish.

Even so, I still feel a little guilty when I abandon a book.  Probably something leftover from my childhood – the good student, good daughter, people-pleaser thing.  I’ve gotten better at abandoning books over the years, as I get older and realize that, sadly, I can’t read ALL THE BOOKS.

The latest book I abandoned is something that I chose to fulfill one of the categories on Book Riot’s Read Harder reading challenge.  (You can read about the challenge here.)  I wanted to stretch myself in my reading this year and venture into new territory.  I am not normally a Romance reader.  I’ve read lots of novels with gripping love stories – Americanah by Adichie comes to mind as one I loved with an amazing love story – but Romance as a genre is tricky to me.  The covers of the bodice-ripper types embarrass me.  The titles of Harlequin novels I come across in the library make me laugh.  I know that there are good, quality romances out there, but I honestly don’t know how to find them without wading through a lot of formulaic junk.

I don’t want to deride an entire genre based on its worst examples, though. There are some really awful, badly-written mysteries out there, yet I’m a lifelong mystery reader.  I just don’t know where to begin with romance.  So I’m working on finding the good stuff.  I asked two co-workers for recommendations, and unfortunately, this latest abandoned book was one of the ones recommended to me.

Initially I was enjoying the book; it was light, kind of fun, different – sort of like watching a romantic comedy.  Sadly, this book was no When Harry Met Sally.  I grew tired of the heroine’s ridiculous tactics to get back her man (they’d broken up ten years before.)  I made it all the way to page 222 before I said, “That’s it!  I can’t take it anymore!”  I actually said that out loud to my husband as I was reading in bed.  He glanced at the cover and said, “That doesn’t look like something you’d read.”

So.  Back to the romance drawing board.  Since I didn’t properly finish the book I’m not going to count it for my Read Harder Challenge.  I’m going to try one of the other books my co-workers recommended.  I’d love some suggestions from you guys as well – whatcha got?

Books I’ve Never Read That I Feel Vaguely Embarrassed/Guilty About

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

The Plague – Albert Camus

1984 – George Orwell

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Chronicles of Narnia series – C.S. Lewis

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

Hmm.  I thought that this list would be longer.  Good for me!  Book guilt is not useful or fun to carry around.  No one is checking up on me with a clipboard or a report card to see if I’ve read these.  I’ve got something like 290 books on my Goodreads to-read list.  So I’ve not got time for guilt!

Any books you’re embarrassed not to have read?