To Finish Reading or Not? (For real this time!)

Open book on table with coffee mug

​(Oops! When I ​ ​originally wrote this on November 26th, I thought I'd saved the post. But somehow, the text from the previous week's post about my run-in with the door showed up on the blog under this title instead. Because, you know, the universe apparently wants to make sure everyone knows about that embarrassing, and painful,​ incident. If you're reading this for the first time after December 5th, you have no idea what I'm talking about, because I redirected that incorrect blog post here. ​Anyway, this mistake is further proof that Murphy's law is plaguing me more than usual. *sigh* Okay, on to the original post.)

​I’m reading a book right now that’s not grabbing my attention. It’s bad enough that at the half-way point I took a break to reread a favorite book. I’m back to reading the original book, but I’m trying to decide whether I care enough to finish.

I don’t like not finishing books, but I will if I don’t feel a deep connection to the characters or the plot doesn’t have me eager to learn more. This book straddles that line. I want to know whether my suspicions on how the protagonist ended up in the situation that drives the plot are correct. Yet the sense of urgency regarding whether the protagonist will achieve the primary goal has been eliminated, since the protagonist has admitted that the status quo is pretty nice. Um, hello? Why should I keep reading? Now what’s the goal? Who am I supposed to root for?

The other strong plot goal belongs to a secondary character, yet I don’t care enough about that character to continue reading for another two hundred plus pages.

Since I returned to reading the book I’ve been viewing it as a writing lesson rather than a reading experience. This is a novel in the science fiction genre and the world-building is original. There has been a lot of action, which usually I like. It’s started to seem the same, though. Pointless. When I’m not holding my breath wondering if the protagonist will survive, there’s a problem with the scene.

But the biggest issue is that I’m not curious to see what the protagonist does next. The internal conflict is not deep enough, the external goal not urgent enough, to make the character sympathetic and therefore someone I want to follow until the end of the book.

This is also another example of me being burned when trying a book that writers I admire describe as having beautiful writing. The language used is a bit distant. It’s possible in third person point of view to write deep into the character so that the story is told in such a way that you get inside the characters’ heads and feel their emotions, almost as if the characters are telling the story. Not here.

So, will I finish?

When I wrote the first draft of this blog post I thought maybe I’d continue reading sporadically. That it would be something I’d fit in between reading other books for entertainment and that’d I’d study it with the mindset of an author.

Yet by this draft, I’ve changed my mind. I don’t have enough time to spend on a book that doesn’t engage my emotions. Reading is my primary form of entertainment and I’m not going to waste precious reading time on a book I don’t enjoy.

This book is going onto my list of books I did not finish.

How about you? Do you put books down without finishing them? If so, what’s the main thing that will make you turn away from a book?

Leave a Reply 2 comments

Elene Wood - December 8, 2019 Reply

I read your comments with interest and fully understand your dilemma. I am not an author but I am a complete book nerd, sometimes reading a book a day.
I always appreciate the time and effort an author has put into a book and as such feel guilty when I do not finish a book. In the past I would persevere to the finish but then felt guilty when I posted an honest review with my views. Could these hurt future sales and others might have different views?
Sampling is a great way to overcome the guilt and having good “blurb” helps me to decide if I want to continue. If my interest is not engaged in the first chapter I don’t normally proceed unless it is a review book.
My biggest bugbear is when an author gains immense success with one type of storyline and then flogs it to death with each successive book becoming more about the word count and publishing deadlines than the stories. These I will often read to the end but my review will reflect how I feel about this.
Thankfully you have not gone down this route and your books very much feature on my re-read shelf.
But returning to your point life is too short to continue with a book that does not engage you especially when there are so many fantastic books out there waiting to be loved.

Vanessa Kier - December 8, 2019 Reply

Thanks, Elene!

I agree. Life is too short to waste time on books we’re not enjoying.

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