Abandoning Books

I found this infographic on Goodreads, by way of The Paris Review.  It was too interesting not to share, and I hope I’m not breaking blog etiquette by copying and pasting it here.

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The first category is Goodreads Top 5 most abandoned books.  I’ve read two of them: Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  I hated the former.  I loved the latter.  I have not tried 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James, nor will I ever try it.  I am embarrassed for all of us, but mostly for the high school “friend” who informed everybody on Facebook that buying his wife this book improved their love life.  (He related that information more crudely than I have here.)  I have also not tried The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling, but I will.  I just haven’t gotten to it yet, and it honestly isn’t high on my list.

I did try to read Wicked by Gregory Maguire, and not because I’d seen the musical.  I tried to read it before the musical, when the book first came out.  It was just plain boring, and that’s why I abandoned it.  I have since seen the musical twice.  That isn’t boring at all.  But I would not have seen it if not for my friend Toni, who had an extra ticket and took me with her and her daughters.  Because of my experience with the book, I did not realize that the musical was worth it.

As to the Top 5 abandoned classics, I have read two and two-thirds of them.  And the truth is that if I had not been “forced” to finish them because of the BBC book list, I would probably only be able to say that I had finished one.  That one is Moby Dick (click to see my review) by Herman Melville.  I did get bored reading it, but I wanted to finish it, and I did find some of the scenes genuinely hilarious.  (And it is on the BBC book list!)  So maybe the truth is that I wouldn’t have finished any of them.  I also recently finished Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, grudgingly, and I’ve read J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two TowersThe Return of the King will be read sometime in the next twenty years.

I have probably read a tenth of of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, but I honestly hated it.  I talked with one of my favorite professors about my failure to read it, and he laughed.  He didn’t tell me what to think about it (but I could tell he didn’t think it worth my time).  He said, in his wise and professorial voice, something like, “You’ve passed the age during which you could’ve enjoyed it.”  I was around 28 at the time.

And it looks like I will be reading Ulysses by James Joyce for the BBC book list.  I have read a chapter of it for a Modernism class.  Yeah, I’m not looking forward to diving back into that one.

Points of no return are, in order of importance to me, slow and boring, weak writing, and extremely stupid.

What keeps me turning pages is usually wanting to know what will happen, like with Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  Yes, I’ve read it.  No, I did not enjoy it nor do I like it.  (I do like the movies!  Shhhhh.)  But once I started reading (I HAD to know what the hype was about), I couldn’t stop because I wanted to know.  I kept saying to myself, “Why are you still reading this?” And then I’d turn another error-filled page.

When I abandon a book used to be never.  I used to engage in the “as-a-rule-I-must-finish-things” mindset, but I gave that up about ten years ago when I realized that there were so many books I wanted to read and so many great books to read that I shouldn’t waste my time on one that wasn’t interesting or uplifting or enlightening or engaging.  I also wanted to get rid of the guilt of feeling like I HAD to finish or feeling like I was a bad person if I didn’t finish.  If decided that if I couldn’t get excited about reading it after about 50 pages, I gave up.  I’ve since changed that rule to a chapter or two.  I’m impatient about it.  If I get about halfway through, however, I usually stick with it even if I want to quit, because I figure that I made it this far, I might as well finish and then give it one star on Goodreads!

What are your book abandonment habits?

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