Thursday, October 25, 2007

Booking Through Thursday

(Link at left)
Read with Abandon

The books that you start but don’t finish say as much about you as the ones you actually read, sometimes because of the books themselves or because of the circumstances that prevent you from finishing. So . . . what books have you abandoned and why?
Several years ago, someone asked me a similar question, and I sort of "codified" my very ambiguous, erstwhile unwritten reasons for bailing on something I'm reading:
1) A book must have "hooked" me within the first ten or twenty pages. If, after fifty or so pages, it hasn't lived up to the hook, it's done.

2) Other reasons for not finishing a book include: dull writing and/or subject, manipulative writing, "dirty tricks," crises in my life, and any combination of the above.

3) If a book sits next to the bed for more than three weeks while others come and go, give it up!
Having said that, I will add that if a book comes highly recommended from someone I respect, I will bear with it longer. If a book is assigned for some reason, I'll usually finish it, though I never did finish Moby Dick (100 pages left to read when I gave up) or The Deerslayer (I read about 150 pages) or Madame Bovary (I read about 20 pages) or The Grapes of Wrath (I read about 5 chapters) or Cry, the Beloved Country (I've tried several times and get about ten pages further each time--I'm up to about p. 80 at my last try).

I have also stopped in the middle of reading books--novels, mostly--that hit too close to home, or were too gory in a "horror movie" way. Not Stephen King gory, the kind of gore that reads more like bad p-0-rn except with violence instead of sex. My tolerance for idiocy is not very high anymore. I no longer waste time with Pat Cornwell, and this is one reason.

And I tend to take mega-super reviews with a large helping of salt. Anything EVERYone liked can't be that good. There are exceptions (To Kill a Mockingbird springs to mind), but the vast majority of Oprah's books, Best of the Year, NYT Bestsellers...gaaah.

Overall, I'm MUCH less patient than I used to be. I used to have a mania about finishing books, but thanks to many discussions with a wonderful library patron several years ago, I'm over that. Thanks, Mr. B, wherever you are! I suspect he is with Eric Ambler, discussing plot points.

There are too many books out there for me to waste my time on anything I don't enjoy. I'd rather use my free time enjoyably. So, farewell, Janet Evanovich. Goodbye Anthony Trollope, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jan Karon, Jon Grisham, Tim LaHaye, Jane Austen.... I'd rather read something fun, intelligent, well-edited and of personal interest to me.

I currently have 362 books on my Want to Read List, and another 90 authors are on my Want to Read EVERYTHING by them (about 1550 titles). I'm never going to have time to read what I "should" read, and that's--mostly--ok.

And yes, I am THAT anal! I have not only lists of what I HAVE read, I have lists of what else to read AND what books "my" authors have published. The former is cross-referenced by author, title, date published, and what library owns, including OCLC numbers for ease of ordering. The Books I've Read list is on index cards in a file drawer.

You got a problem with that? :-)

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