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.


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?

138 thoughts on “Abandoning Books

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  1. Very interesting infographic! I love to see stats like that. And I have actually started but never finished both Catch-22 and Lord of the Rings… Although I will give at least Catch-22 another chance.
    I still hate to abandon books but sometimes you just have to, I think. Life’s too short and there are too many other books out there!

    1. I actually didn’t like Catch-22, although I know that large numbers of people do. So I couldn’t encourage you to finish it! Yes, there are WAY too many books. Read the ones you like.

  2. I tend to read so many books at once that at least a couple are “abandoned” for a time. The most common reason is that I get distracted by something better, or at least more entertaining. Those types I usually finish in the next month or so. But I have no shame as I’ve gotten older just returning bad/error-full books to the library – but I try to give them at least 100-200 pages!

    1. You are generous with the pages you try! I have probably returned unread more books to the library than I’ve read and returned. Sometimes you have to try lots of books and only end up getting to know a few of them intimately.

  3. Bravo! I give up on books these days as well–even if they’re part of my book club assignment. Moby Dick I’ve not finished three times (because it was a class assignment in college three times and I just couldn’t do it). Wicked I did finish and then left at my grandmother’s and several weeks later she said in a very accusatory voice, “Who left that book here?” I felt very guilty for having read it after that. I didn’t enjoy it, though I do like it when people try to take a book and give a different perspective. Twilight I read because my students were SO into it I had to know why, and then I couldn’t stop, though I did after the second one for over a year because that one just about killed me–good grief was all I could think. But I just don’t waste time any more. I love this post!

    1. Thank you! I love hearing all of your experiences with those books. How funny about leaving Wicked at your grandmother’s. Did you try to explain to her that it wasn’t really a “wicked” book? 🙂 I also like the premise behind it, but for some reason it just wasn’t readable, for me. And I hear you on Twilight. Knowing what it contained helped me with some volunteer work I used to do with young women in my community; it also helped me to know that I would be careful about having my own daughter read it when she gets older.

      1. My grandmother actually read Wicked as well. I think it was a little dark for her. I’m reading Anna Karenina right now because I’m determined to get completely through a Tolstoy book. . .though I admit I’m very tempted to give up! Why, oh why, must every character have so many names and why, oh why, must Tolstoy say at least two of them every time he writes a sentence about one of them?? Soon, I may have to give up to do the summer reading requirements for the beginning of the school year–that’s a good excuse, right??

        1. Excellent excuse! However, I would say stick with Anna Karenina. That is one I really ended up enjoying. The one I can’t get through is War and Peace. Someday.

  4. I seldom abandon, but if I get a third through and the plot still doesn’t grab me – or there is no plot! – I figure it’s not going to get better. I couldn’t read Moby Dick. I’m not into nautical details and that was half the book! Ugh. The Hobbit was just not compelling for me. I got to the middle and really didn’t care what happened next. (But saw the movie for Richard Armitage! )
    And I couldn’t finish Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. So completely different from North and South – no passion anywhere, no love story, no real plot. Boring.
    Wouldn’t touch 50 Shades if you paid me….

    1. I haven’t tried Cranford, but I did watch the miniseries! I did like it. As to 50 Shades, I’m totally with you on that. Thanks for sharing your own experiences. 🙂

  5. And here I was under the impression that I’m actually too young for Atlas Shrugged! I finished it with difficulty, and it took about six months and loads of other books between. I have the same problem of wanting to finish what I start, but maybe I should change that.

  6. Very interesting post, this. Thanks for flagging up the Goodreads findings. I have only read two of the 5 most abandoned books – Eat, Pray, Love – which I absolutely hated – and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – which I enjoyed once I had got past the first half of the book. Eat, Pray, Love was appalling boring and I immensely disliked the ‘heroine’ (if you can call her that). She was self-absorbed and annoying. I read it because a close friend gave it to me as a present so I felt I should honour his decision to choose that for me (though I hope I am not like her! :-O) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – well, I read that with my husband and he wanted to keep going though I kept falling asleep (he reads aloud to me). But suddenly the book became enthralling and we read the entire series. Of the classics cited, I have read none (shame!). I have read extracts of Ulysses but hated them – I don’t get on well with stream of consciousness. A classic that I couldn’t get on with was Robinson Crusoe – I just found it tedious. Nowadays, if I don’t like a book I tend to give up on it fairly quickly if I am convinced that it’s not one that I would like (eg subject matter, narrator, plot is not working for me). Life’s too short, and there are too many excellent books, to waste on ones that don’t matter. It’s only been fairly recently though that I have managed to escape the guilt from doing that! One book that changed my views on reading was Daniel Pennac’s The Rights of the Reader, and his twelve rights are worth remembering: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/19297-reader-s-bill-of-rights-1-the-right-to-not-read

    1. You describe Eat, Pray, Love perfectly! It seems like most people who have commented on it agree. It makes me wonder why so many people seemed to have liked it, including Oprah! It was self-indulgent. And you know, the one person I know personally who did love it is exactly the same way. I’ve never tried Robinson Crusoe, and now I’m not sure that I do want to try it!

  7. I like the blog post (and the info graphic).

    I find that I sometimes convince myself that it’s not the right time to read one of the classics; I’ll read it later. Sometimes I even do just that.

    Funny response from your professor about Ayn Rand’s book. I guess we should all take a look to see for ourselves, but I agree with his general guidance there.

    1. I thought it was a funny comment too, and this might be the ONLY reason I would be tempted to go back to my past and try it at a younger age. I really wonder now if I would’ve appreciated it then. Probably not! And I like your idea of going back to a classic.

  8. Emily — I cracked up at I kept saying to myself, “Why are you still reading this?” And then I’d turn another error-filled page. as I soooo know that feeling! One of the dirty delights of reading!

    I’m pretty happy to quit reading books I don’t like, but finishing sometimes pays off. So I’m really of two minds about whether I need to force myself to finish or not!

    1. Ha! I’m glad I made you laugh. And you’re right that it is a two-minded thing. (Maybe more than two. Multiple personalities?) There might be a reward at the end, so it might be worth finishing. I’ve definitely had that experience, and I have felt accomplished and grateful that I pushed through and soldiered on.

  9. Although I may temporarily abandon a book for months, I typically finish any I begin reading. I just can’t stop! However, with a few exceptions, I screen very thoroughly what I choose to begin…so perhaps that is the difference? I loved it when working at Borders, ’cause I read almost every “make” book and participated in the Fiction Reader/Reviewer program for our store, so I read quite a few books I would have never otherwise seriously considered and only three of those books were severe disappointments! Plus, as my friends and fellow book club members will tell you, I evidently have a much wider “appeal” or appreciation range than most other readers…so that’s an advantage.

    1. That IS and advantage. I like your policy of screening the books more carefully. I could probably cut my return-to-the-library-unread rate by half if I did that!

  10. I abandoned a couple, and I don’t like doing that because I feel like the book “defeated” me. I abandoned Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace but picked it up again. I’m so glad I did. Apparently, I quit reading right when it got interesting. I’ve tried, and will probably try again, to read Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. I mean, it started out with his being born, and after 100 pages he still hadn’t exited the birth canal. I couldn’t take it anymore. I will try it again, though, one day. It’s sitting on the shelf by my bed, waiting, lurking.
    Oh, and I urge you to try Wicked again. It’s astounding. (Not that you were looking for recommendations and such. Sorry for the unsolicited book push.)

    1. LOL! Yeah stop pushing books on me! 😉 And whoa to the Tristram Shandy! 100 pages of the birth canal? I’ve heard people mention that book as hilarious, and also claim to have read it to sound smart. Maybe I should try it…. Then I could brag about it.

      And I hear you on the defeated idea. That is an excellent way of looking at it, especially those “classics” that seem to be must-reads.

  11. I’m with you all the way, Emily, on all your points. There’s too much I want to read and I refuse to waste my time if the book doesn’t grab me in the first 20 pages. I ditched Eat, Pray, Love too. Talk about self-indulgent. Some others I ditched were The Book Thief and Freedom. One I almost ditched but am so glad I stuck with is The Poisonwood Bible. Great post.

  12. Fascinating! I used to think I owed it to the author to finish a book. Now I use the “life’s too short” test… If a book can’t pass that one, it’s toast!

    1. Oh, but now you have me feeling guilty. Maybe I DO owe it to the author? That is a fantastic reason to finish a book, especially if it is an author that you are somewhat “loyal” to.

  13. I saw this graphic too! I have utterly no interest in 50 Shades or Eat Pray Love, but I’d like to try Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Wicked I don’t having a feeling on one way or another, so it’s unlikely I’ll ever get around to reading it. And I just gave up on The Casual Vacancy last week, after a few chapters (done with the guilt thing too!); none of the verve of the Harry Potter series.

    I love Lord of the Rings, though I do think the first sixty-odd pages are a bit of a slog. Moby-Dick my father read aloud to me when I was eleven; we both hated it then but pushed through. I came back to it ten years later and fell in love. I got through 200 pages of Ulysses on my own in college and gave up; in grad school I read it with a class of 10 and a noted Joyce scholar, and the experience was incredible. Some of the guides are helpful, and I found the experience of reading it with a group of interested non-Joyceans (and an expert) invaluable.

    I used to like Atlas Shrugged. Then I turned fifteen.

    1. Bwa ha ha ha ha! Then you turned 15! Nice.

      You are definitely well-read. I am so touched by the fact that your dad would slog through Moby Dick with you at such a young age. And I am glad you read it again later. Maybe I will be begging for your help when I get to Ulysses…

      1. My dad’s a dear (he read aloud to me, and my siblings, until we left for college), and he still can’t stand it. One year he gave me the Cliffs notes for Christmas.

        I’d love to chat Ulysses when you get around to reading it! I’ve been meaning to read it again, but I think I need a push.

  14. Love this post! My shelves are full of half finished, book-marked volumes. How about ‘very short attention span’ for reasons to put a book down? More of a grass is greener kind of reason though. That’s why I write Half Way Through Reviews, just in case I never finish the book!

    1. I love it! What a great blog title and so true. I think short attention span counts, and I think that an author’s goal should be to keep your attention. It sounds like those books failed in some way.

  15. i have read a number of books on your list, surprise! i can’t believe u didn’t like ‘wicked!’ i’ve seen the musical a number of times (LOVE it!) & got the book because i liked the musical. but i really liked the book. it is much more political than the musical: revolution, political unrest, injustice, etc. i’m sure that’s why i like it, but i did. BARELY got through the hobbit when i was young, holy hell, was i bored. never tried the rest. ]

    my practice is what i call the ‘tithing test.’ i give a book, a movie or whatever i’m into a 10% test; that is, if i’m watching a 2 hour movie, i give it 20 minutes. if i’m not hooked by then, i delete it & move on. if i’m reading a 300 page book, i read 30 pages & decide whether to continue. that’s it. i like it. it works for me. feel free to quote me!

    1. I’m jotting this down… The tithing test. Yes, that will definitely be quoted, probably in my next sacrament meeting talk! No, I really do like it. It sounds reasonable to me. And I honestly was bored with The Hobbit too (the book), but I did like the movie. Well, the half-movie.

      And maybe, just maybe, I will give Wicked a second chance, especially since YOU liked it. That is a good test for me. The Alex test.

  16. what a great post! i enjoyed every word much more than i have some books. because it’s difficult to have any new book in hand here in the rural area of ecuador, ANY book is appreciated, so i read them all and sometimes wonder why i am wasting my time on junk – but it’s something about reading the written word, even if it’s bad. i shrug.. ‘my name is lisa and i cannot pass a book without reading it…’

    thanks for the great post and feedback on those titles!

    1. Thanks, Lisa! I can see how your situation would create the need to just keep reading and to just settle and read anything you could find. I really want to send you a care package now. One full of books!

      1. there’s a ‘weight’ limit on postal items.. i will ask the post mistress what is the best way and weight to send books. if it goes ‘over’ the limit, one gets a notice to go to portoviejo, about four hours by bus… after signing papers, one goes another half hour to manta and is present to open and inspect that package… i am not sure if there would be a tax on the value or not…

        thank you, amiga.. i will ask and find out what is the best option. it might be another week before i see carmen, the post mistress. her doors are often closed, as she drives to portoviejo to retrieve the mail!!!

  17. I don’t so much abandon books as much as lose them in my room. With the exception of two books that shall not be named which I actually detest with a fiery passion rivaling even the sun in intensity.

  18. I always feel supremely guilty when I abandon a book–probably because I most often stop abandon books I was assigned in school! As a lit major in undergrad, I was always reading and even taking classes I was interested in did not make it easier to finish all of the books! Now, when I decide to read a book, I feel a weird sense of obligation, like I am letting myself down if I stop reading something I’ve picked out on my own! The most recent book I’ve abandoned is Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I actually really enjoyed the book, but found myself sidetracked by other things. I think I will eventually pick it back up and finish it, but who knows when that will be!

    1. I want to read that one by Gaiman. I’ve heard it is really good. And I agree with the school thing. Once it becomes an assignment, there is more possibility for me to rebel and not want to finish it, especially if it is boring. But I always do finish those kinds.

  19. If a character annoys me, I will toss book away from me. I did this with Emma and Sense and Sensibility, to be honest. Also if the plot is just too predictable, like with many chic lit novels and YA fiction.

        1. I had a classmate tell us in a Master’s seminar on American literature that he had thrown The House of Mirth across the room. I really like that one, but he could not take it!

  20. This is a really good write up Emily (and infographic), it does really point out well written, good beginnings get a book read. I must say I am an abandoner early on if I do not connect with either the character or plot, and usually both. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Mike! Yes, intros are key, as I’m always telling my college composition students. If you don’t hook your audience up front, you may not get your message across at all. Thanks for reading!

  21. I usually stop around 50 pages if I’m not into it. If I get past 100, I’m finishing it no matter what.

    1. Yeah, if I get far enough, I finish too. Of course, that usually means that those books end up sitting on my shelves with bookmarks in the middle never to be returned to and then I can’t find any of my bookmarks!

  22. For most of my life I’ve been a devout book finisher, but Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time saga broke me. I committed to the series on raving recommendations of several people I respect and I diligently read 8 of the 14 books and then I did the throw-the-book-tantrum. I was probably really done with it somewhere in book 1 but I persisted out of some weird sense of duty. Or, maybe it’ll get better. I wanted to know what the fuss was about but it was about nothing! It has affected all the books I’ve read since. I don’t have any set rules for how many pages or chapters I’ll give a book, but if I find myself watching the news before bed rather than picking up my book, I’ll quickly abandon it within a few days.

    1. Good for you! I don’t care how many people have raved about a novel, if it doesn’t engage my mind or entertain me then it’s a colossal waste of my time – I could be reading something else that really does move me!

    2. I’m glad you’ve reformed, but I must say I admire your tenacity and persistence. Eight books?!? I would not do that, not even for a close friend! I think that says something really good about your personality. 🙂

      1. Ha ha ha ha. I have to laugh. I am reading book 8 right now of the “Wheel of Time.” I really don’t like it, Jordan is a terrible writer and for most of his books, which are all really long, nothing happens until the end. The only reason I don’t give up is that my husband and I take turns picking books that we read to each other. So after everyone of mine we have a Jordan, until one day we will finish number 14! The end is in sight! The sad thing is, Jordan died before finishing his series so the last couple of books are coauthored. That I think will make it even weirder.

  23. GoodReads seemed rife with readers who will not quit, no matter how swampy the prose or preposterous the plot. Life is too short, I say. Since in this era of ebooks I have a hard time judging a book by it’s postage stamp sized cover, I have become ruthless in my evaluation of the first line/paragraph/chapter. I expect the author to devote inordinate effort in engaging me by each of these points in the story–if he can’t succeed by then, I silently delete and move on.

    1. I agree. I want an author to engage me. And I, too, judge books by their covers. That first glimpse can really sell me or push me away. That is why I still stick to “real” books. I’m not a huge fan of the e-reader, except in certain circumstances.

  24. I’m very much of the bloody-minded, always finish it, group. I’ve happily finished Catch-22, Atlas Shrugged, Don Quixote, The Count of Monte Cristo, War and Peace and a bunch of other Russian classics. Only three books still have a bookmark in them – Deception Point by Dan Brown, it’s soooo bad; The Arabian Nights, I was half way through when I went on holiday and didn’t pick it up when I got back; and Planet Simpson by Chris Turner, because it was so brilliant it was blowing my mind, I had to get away for a while.

    1. You are a dedicated reader! I’m seriously impressed. I still have a bookmark in The Arabian Nights and War and Peace. Someday I WILL finish War and Peace. That I am determined to do.

  25. I am also one of those people who hates abandoning books. I usually only do so if the book is exceptionally long (like 200 or more pages) or if the language of the book is old and therefore difficult to understand.

  26. Great post. I just linked you to my blog. I am a big fan of goodreads.com. I love this chart. I read Wicked and saw the musical. Yeah, totally different. I have The Casual Vacancy, but I am not too interested.

    I do try not to abandon books, but I am realizing time is valuable and there are too many good books to let bad books take me away. But, giving one stars on goodreads.com feels good at times. I know I have done it. It’s hard to let habits go, especially not trudging through a book.



  27. A couple of years ago, I began getting the majority of my books from the library instead of buying them. I suddenly felt a lot less guilty about not finishing a book I wasn’t enjoying. Now I don’t bat an eye. Life is too short and, like you said, there are too many good books out there need reading.

  28. I am one of those who try hard to finish the books they have started. And although I have to read different kinds of books, out of curiosity about the work of various writters I happen to know, or I was told to respect, some of them are pretty boring and turn my reading into a tiring process. I loved Moby Dick when I was ten, I also read 50 Shades of Grey because I had to find out what is all about – quite disappointing, I must confess, not because of the poor writing, but because of the huge success a book like that enjoys in my country. What I usually do when I want to choose an interesting book, is reading a lot of reviews of any kind of people beforehand. It is quite helpful and then you also have the anxiety to see what they were talking about.

  29. I managed Wicked, before I knew anything about the musical, and the musical turned out to be infinitely better. I also read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and it was OK.

    More often than not, I abandon books because of the characters. Along with plot, they’re the most interesting aspect of the book (although really poor writing skills will put me off too). I’ve stopped reading books because I thought the characters were obnoxious or I just didn’t care about them. I have no qualms about leaving a book unfinished – it would be wasting time, and there are too many good books waiting to be read!

    – Lauren

    1. You have a healthy attitude toward abandoning books! I’m glad you told me more about Wicked. I agree with you. So who are some of the annoying characters you’ve encountered?

      1. I know this sounds criminal, but I’m really not sure why Cathy and Heathcliff are so popular. However, this is a book I’d like to try again!

        I also began ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ and the two protagonists were two of the most irritating I’d ever read about!

  30. Great post! I see my approach to choosing/reading a book a bit like entering into a relationship; I want to commit. If it’s good, I’ll stay with it, and return to it. If I’m just not interested, then I tend to drop it pretty quickly. I know it’s a random analogy, but it seems to work.

      1. It gets quite intense at times; I have this huge bookshelf in my bedroom and after finishing a book I will stand in front of this mass of books for ten minutes trying to find another book… I have high standards 😉

  31. I tried to turn the cover of almost every classic including To Kill a Mockingbird, Anna Karenina, Gone with the Wind but could not persist The Great Gatsby, may be, because I am from Subcontinent and English, a second language to me.

  32. I tried to turn the cover of almost every classic including To Kill a Mockingbird, Anna Karenina, Gone with the Wind but could only persist with The Great Gatsby (may be, because I am from Subcontinent and English, a second language to me) which is simpler and straight.

    Nice post..

    1. Ah, that makes sense. The classics tend to be dead white men and centered in Western culture. That would make it hard for sure! Kudos to you for trying. 🙂

  33. Thanks for sharing the Goodreads infographic. It is very interesting.

    I hated Eat, Pray, Love too. Actually, I confess: I didn’t even read the whole book. I read parts of it and skimmed through the rest. So, maybe that doesn’t give me any right to judge. But from reading parts of it and seeing the movie, I have no desire to go back and try to read the book again.

    I am currently reading The Casual Vacancy and I can see why people abandon it. So far, it’s kept my interest but I think some of it might wear a bit thin. And four-letter words are used a bit too often for my liking. They don’t offend me; I just don’t see the point of gratuitous swearing.

    Like you, I will never read 50 Shades of Grey either. To be honest, I think it is quite alarming that possessive, controlling, creepy ‘heroes’ (Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey and also Edward Cullen in Twilight) are swooned over by millions of women. The messages which these books give out are blatantly anti-feminist. To put it bluntly: it makes me feel sick.

    Anyway, getting back to the focus of your post: I rarely abandon books because if I do, I feel like I’ve given up! If I really dislike a book, I usually skim to the end so I can see what happens before I abandon it.

    1. You are absolutely right that those books send anti-feminist and anti-women messages. That is exactly why I don’t want my daughter reading such novels, but I also don’t agree with censorship, so if she really wanted to I would let her (with Twilight, not 50 Shades) and then have a discussion about what is wrong with the relationship and why. Maybe such books have value because they open up conversations like that and cause us to scrutinize our own experiences and values.

      And I hear you on skimming! I’ve done that just so I can attend a book club or mark it as read…

  34. haha I did the same as you with the Lotr- Trilogy: I finished the first two, quite hard 😀 but didn’t begin the third, and I am not planning it for the next few years, except someone makes it as a gift for me ;D

      1. I couldn’t get used to the style of writing in the Lotr-books. A lot of things are described in exact detail, like the enviironment they are walking through every time. It can be beautiful at times, but it was just written in a boring way, for me at least.

  35. Crime and Punishment, started and stopped multiple times, then read it almost to the end but couldn’t finish. Also, stopped William Gibson’s new book, Zero History, and had to stop. But with Gibson, maybe I’m not ready for it because sometimes he is a little ways out ahead of me.

  36. I must say I love Crime and Punishment. But I think Dostoesvsky is a masterful writer and thinker. A bit creepy but well worth the effort. Anyway, I was originally writing to thank you for this post. In the past few months I have given up on three books, something I never do and have been feeling this weird guilt about it. But you are right, there are millions of books in the world and we could never read them all anyway so we should read those that move or at least entertain us. It is weird that we feel guilty, to whom? The author? I think it is to my sense of self, I like being a reader and can you call yourself that if you quit books? Of course! Thanks for the reminder. It is funny that you mentioned being beyond the age to appreciate “Atlas Shrugged.” I never read it, it is on my shelf, but I have found that now that I am 30 things that would have been “profound” to me are now seen as pretentious or hollow, or at least not as meaningful as I would have thought. I wonder if I will feel that way about Rand?

    1. I would be curious to see how you feel about Rand. If you read it (or attempt to read it) let me know what your experience was like. And yes, stop feeling guilty! If you don’t connect with a book, it is okay. Dn’t waste your reading time on stuff you aren’t digging. For me, my reading time is precious since I’m busy with school and my children. I don’t waste it! And I don’t want to turn it into something to be dreaded.

  37. Thanks for posting this! I have lost count of how many books I have abandoned. My new motto is ” there is only such much battery life on my kindle”. Great blog!

  38. I loved the Casual Vacancy, and mostly enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love (though I found Richard irritating). I abandoned Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for exactly the reason listed in the infographic. Maybe I need to pick it back up and push on.

    1. I don’t know. You may like it. It is pretty… well, it tackles some disturbing subjects, but doing such is necessary too. I want to try The Casual Vacancy, and Rowling’s other new book under her pseudonym.

  39. Seeing Catch 22 there brought a smile – I think I started and abandoned it 22 times over a number years (maybe decades). Though I must not have truly abandoned because eventually I persisted … and loved it enough to read a couple of times.

    Thanks for another great post … and finding that info graphic

    1. My pleasure! I just love your story with Catch-22. It has all the elements of a good narrative, most simply, conflict and then resolution! What a great happy ending. 🙂

  40. I really love lord of the rings. I watched every film 10 times in a half year (yes… A bit too much free time). I started the first book and I made it to page 418. But I got so bored that I forced me to abandon it.

    To be honest Anna karenina was hard for me too. I read it in 3 months and I was a bit angry when a saw the short version in my grandma’s cupboard. It just had ca. 300 pages and I read the version with 945(or something like this). I think I learned a lot from this book but it was hard to read.

    1. My husband loves LOTR (the movies) too, but didn’t make it through the books either. He said there was too much poetry. I actually listened to the first two books and I enjoyed the poetry because it was sung and performed well.

      For some strange reason, I did not have a hard time with Anna Karenina, but I completely understand why you would. I think all Russian literature is somewhat intimidating. Kudos to you for finishing the long version!

      1. My problem with lotr was that they just walked. They walked, walked, walked and nothing happened. At the moment I mostly read books for teens like city of bones. And I looked through my bookshelf and recognized that I started reading a lot of books but I abandoned the most of them. Sometimes I get bored in the middle of the book and then I start to read the end of the book and the things that happen before the end and then I leave 20 pages out. I hate that but sometimes I can’t keep waiting till I know how it ends 😀

        I’ve got one book in my shelf which I got for 3 or 4 years. I started reading directly but it really bored me. I sometimes read a few pages but then I start reading another book.

        When I was younger I often read many books at the same time. When one book was boring I started another one (and I think that’s why I have so many half-read books) and to be honest I still do it without even noticing it.
        Now I mainly read city of bones (almost finished) but I’ve already started Jane eyre, portrait of a lady, gossip girl, skulduggery pleasant, madame bovary and many more.
        I just can’t stop with starting with another book when one book seems more interesting.

        1. Yes! The walking definitely made it boring. I too started Madame Bovary a long time ago, quit, and then ended up reading it and finishing it this year. It is easy to get distracted by other books!

          1. A friend of my dads cousin is a teacher and she started reading Madame bovary but didn’t finish it.

            I read a lot today. I finished city of bones and started with city of ashes. Those books are great for teens. I love the starcrossed books. And I who’s I could act Helen in the movie. I felt like I would know the character for ages because I often feel like her. But I live in Germany so it is a bit difficult to go to a casting…

  41. What a great infograph! I’ve actually read all of the ‘most abandoned’ books except for Wicked (and 50 Shades when it was still fanfiction) but I can see why people abandon them. Eat Pray Love was downright awful, and while I liked The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I could understand why slower or less invested readers might not finish.

    I usually try and finish a book, even if I don’t like it. Sometimes even if it’s a short book (like James Joyce’s A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man) it’ll take me weeks, but sometimes I don’t particularly enjoy it so I’ll read it as quickly as possible (to get it over and done with) and as a result get absorbed into the story and that style of writing and end up enjoying it.

    1. That’s good that you start enjoying it when you force yourself to finishing. I usually end up skimming it so much or tuning out while I’m reading that I do finish, but I have nothing intelligent to say about the book!

  42. I also used to force myself to finish books, and only changed that ‘policy’ recently! I think it’s left-over thinking from my school days…but like you, I now believe too that there are just too many books and too little time. A friend of mine once said to me that pleasure reading is not pleasure if you have to force yourself to finish something, and that really stayed with me.

  43. It’s so refreshing to read your perspective and the thoughts of my fellow commenters. I, too, finally changed my “policy” on never abandoning any book, but it took years before I wised up. (I think I inherited the unholy drive to press on from my mother.) I have actually read and enjoyed all of the top five abandoned classics, but simply could not abide Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund. I waded through the first pages, confident that I would get into the swing of the story, but realized mid-book that it was hopeless. I honestly believe that she could have benefitted from an editor more willing to trim. Never again will I ignore my inner voice.

    1. Ah, that inner voice. Yes, it is a pretty wise voice, if only we would listen to it more often, right? I liked hearing your experience and your perspective. Way to go on giving yourself permission to abandon books! 🙂

  44. I used to think I would never abandon a book no matter how bad it was because – according to me then – even a bad book had something to teach me (like what bad books are like, maybe?). . . until I finally found a book that was not worth finishing! I made a post about it (http://venomsblog.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/a-book-i-wont-finish/)

    I have unwillingly abandoned some books. I started Stephen King’s IT three times and never got to finish it, then I’d forget the characters and have to start over, but that was because of external factors that gave me no time to grab the 1000+ page book and continue it.

    I would abandon a book if the plot seemed too lame for too long, or the writer’s style was so juvenile (like something a friend would tell you on instant messaging). I recently borrowed an Arabic novel from a friend (I am Egyptian) and I started reading. It was said to be some kind of thriller, but all I found in the first 30 pages was a woman having a baby and getting a divorce, which is so not my thing. I asked my friend “Does it get interesting?” and she told me to just go on. And I did go on, and I did not regret it.

  45. Really fascinating post. I think sometimes, but it’s not a hard and fast rule, that our age has much to do with what we read or try to read! I remember carrying the paper back Doctor Zhivago around while in college. A cute girl was was impressed. I never read the book, but I carried it about…a lot!

    Another college required author, Henry James, I hated and refused to read. Thirty years later I was obsessed with Henry James! Whereas, H. James’, running buddy, Edith Wharton, I liked from the start and still do.

    While The Hobbit was great. LOTR was the most boring thing I’d ever read. I think by the time I got to the last book I was near brain dead.

    I know I started Ulysses but never finished it. Read the famous last sentence. On the other hand, Joyce’s Dubliners is sheer perfection. On abandoning books, there was a time when I very seldom did that, Ulysses was an exception, but now-a-days, I’ll lay a book aside in a minute–maybe I’ll come back to it–maybe not.

    I love to browse bookstores. That’s where I read the first page of Fifty Shades and that’s why I left the book on the shelf.

    I still like the loooong read. Anna Karenina is just the best reading ever. I think though one has to be “in the mood” for the hefty tome. George Eliot is the same. Middlemarch is something I hope to read again. It’s magic, a kind of mystical bliss to lose oneself in a world of words, an imagined world. Winter time is the best time to read the 800 page plus novel. 🙂
    Thank you Emily for the great post. Took me forever to get to it!

    1. Agreed on Anna Karenina and Middlemarch! They are such wonderful novels. Have you read War and Peace? I’ve tried three times and I just can’t make myself get through it. I watched the miniseries instead! I like your abandonment of Fifty Shades. It sounds just right for that book. 🙂

      1. I have read War and Peace. It’s definitely a “winter” read. 🙂 I’ve read it twice. Now here’s the thing: on both occasions l read another book right before I started War and Peace. It’s an incredible work titled, “Napoleon’s Russian Campaign” by Count de Segur who served as Quartermaste-General with Napoleon. It reads like a novel and Tolstoy supposedly used it in his own research while writing WP.

        So, what can I say, de Segur’s work puts me in the perfect frame of mind to read War and Peace.

        If I remember correctly, I read it over the Christmas break. I also remember that it was difficult to get into. The first attempt, I had to start over after a few hundred pages because I simply didn’t know who the hell was who. (de Segur didn’t help me with characters.) 😦

        I finally ended up keeping a list of names–each with an identifying tag.
        Oh, one interesting tidbit-Tolstoy greatly admired the writings of George Eliot. Of the Brit novelists, he placed her at the top…way at the top!

        1. Well, Tolstoy had that right! I keep getting confused on the characters too. I ended up watching the BBC miniseries and that was helpful, so maybe I need your prep book and then I will be ready to try again!

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