Sunday, October 10, 2010

Abandonment issues

The last few weeks, a book has sat on my desk looking at me with woeful eyes. This debut novel, which sounded really cool and came on sale, was my choice read about a month and a half ago. I started reading, got about 120 pages in (out of 350 or so) and just... stopped. Frustrated by the unbelievable dialogue, bored by a story that was dragging on for way too long, it was very easy to set the book aside (I should note that this book is not available in English and should never be).

I'm not one of those readers that abandons books. I keep bookmarks deep in books I've set aside years ago, convinced one day I'll go back and finish the job. Meanwhile, I've been dipping in and out of several books over the last few months. Books I really like, but ones that just take a little more time and space to read. And then... this. A book that obviously had potential but I lost interest so quickly that the thought of reentering it seems like a waste of time. Why bother?

Everybody has their own rule for abandoning books. Some do a 100 page test. Others can abandon books much more quickly, within the first pages. Others still are like me - leave no book abandoned. But the last few months have seen a sharp rise in the number of books I've read even as the time for reading has gone down significantly. Why? Because I've recognized two important facts: 1. Sometimes it just isn't a book's time, and 2. If a book has been consistently bad, the likelihood that it will turn around in the second half doesn't justify the effort.

It saddens me to say it. Abandoning a book is a failure. It's spitting in the author's face. Now I know that if the author publishes another book, I'm not even going to bother. Perhaps rightly or wrongly. A man poured his soul into his debut novel and I'm giving it up before we even get to the alleged plot (I blame the editors so badly here - this book could have been good with a lot of cutting). But yes - I'm giving this book up. At this point in my life, it's not worth it. And it's definitely not worth feeling guilty over.

But this will not become my new policy. I have no intentions of taking the bookmark out of My Name is Red, nor of saying that I'm not currently reading Nobody's Home (but seeing as the latter is essays, I really don't feel like I've set the book aside; this is just how I read essay collections...). I have simply reached the conclusion that there is one book that was not worth my time for clear reasons. Will I review it even though I didn't finish? Yes. And the question: can I even review a book I have not completed? But that's a story for another time.


  1. I don't have a policy about abandoning a book. I take each as a separate case. But I do feel badly about doing it, regardless. As you said, I am all to aware that someone pour their heart and soul into this work and spent so much time..and I just walk away, dismissing it.
    But what can you do but be honest with yourself?

  2. The real issue here is that you're feeling guilty, and for no reason at all. You are forgetting that it is still, ultimately, a matter of taste and is entirely relative. Someone else might enjoy the book so you are hardly "spitting in the author's face" by not enjoying the book as much as someone else might. Mostly likely whoever picked the book for publishing liked it well enough, and that should be some comfort..

  3. I think about this topic a lot. Until this year, I have no memory of ever abandoning a book. I always slog through to the end. But recently, as I've become more involved in the bookish world, I realized two things. 1. My reading time is precious and I honestly don't want to waste it on something that isn't even close to well done and 2. There are just TOO MANY other books out there that I want to read to slog through one that I am not enjoying at all. I will make exceptions for book club choices, although not always :)


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