Thursday, May 6, 2010

Welcome to Dumpsville

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This week's Booking Through Thursday question asks about not finishing books:

So … you’re halfway through a book and you’re hating it. It’s boring. It’s trite. It’s badly written. But … you’ve invested all this time to reading the first half.

What do you do? Read the second half? Just to finish out the story? Find out what happens?

Or, cut your losses and dump the second half?
That is an easy question for someone with my kind of Teutonic reading habits -- if I start a book, I finish a book. Without using all my fingers, I can count the books I abandoned without finishing:

Anna Karenina

Now, before you jump all over me because this is the greatest book ever written, I'll explain. I left this at the gym when I was only a few chapters into it and it went missing. I was in college and poor, so didn't get a replacement. I now have a couple of copies but to my book shame, still haven't read it.

Tom Jones

See above. Same exact thing. Not that surprising, really, given the number of books I've brought with me to gyms over the years, but you'd think I'd learn my lesson.

A Frolic of His Own

I intentionally abandoned this one because it was making me batty. I really didn't like anything about it, in particular the lack of punctuation and speaker identification that made it impossible to know who was talking. But since then, I became obsessed with book lists and because this won the National Book Award, I will someday give it another go.

India: The Rise of an Asian Giant

I got this from the Internet Review of Books to write a review. Despite the great cover, it turned out to be a very dry book, mostly of election and agricultural production statistics. I was stuck on a cross-country plan trip with it, so got about halfway through. But then I pulled the plug. It was liberating.

Maimonides: and the Biblical Prophets

This was a LibraryThing Early Reviewer book. It is a very good book, I'm sure, on its subject. But it's more of a textbook for rabbinical scholars. I don't qualify.

There are also two audio books I abandoned after about five minutes because I didn't care for the reader's voice. But I can't even remember the names of them.

How about you? Will you dump a book halfway into it?


  1. I don't abandon a book very often either.

  2. There is only one book I have never read the whole way through. Just one.

    I'll leave my gushing about Anna Kareneina - my blog was full of it last month!

    I was sick on my copy of Crime and Punishment, but poor student that I was, I went out and bought an ugly £1.50 copy!

  3. Bermuda -- It goes against my task-oriented nature to not finish something I started!

    Bethany -- Now I am dying to know what book you abandoned! And I hope it wasn't C&P itself that caused you to barf on it!

  4. I'm going to be perfectly honest. I had to read Anna Karenina for a course called "The Realist Novel" in college. Not only couldn't I finish it, but I once threw it across the room in frustration!

    I started a blog on the Modern Library top 100 books, and of those I've started without finishing: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf; The Wapshot Chronicles by John Cheever; Scoop by Evelyn Waugh; and (though I'm sure anyone would forgive me) Finnegans Wake by James Joyce.

    I'll write a post about these later. Good luck with Tolstoy!

  5. Just curious . . . do you actually read when doing cardio? I'm always amazed when I see people doing that. I can barely follow a TV plot when working out.

    I honestly can't remember the last time I stopped reading a book mid-way through. A couple of months ago, I lost a bet with my boyfriend, and so had to read Henry Kissinger's 1200-page doorstop called, "Diplomacy". I am still plodding through that one. Fortunately, each section can stand on its own, so I don't lose much by taking breaks in between them. Although, it has turned out to be surprisingly fascinating, I can't imagine doing it all in one go.

    I think I have read Anna Karenina over 6 times now. You have to get around to picking it up. But then again, I love everything Tolstoy, even his later stuff.

  6. Okay, I am hugely impressed by your record with unfinished books. I will cast aside a book fairly casually, there wouldn't be enough fingers and toes to count all my abandoned books if there were three of me. Nor would I remember them all. :P

  7. hell yeah i will. i have dropped a large number of books over the years.

    i have a simple system i use, the 50 page rule:
    if something does not catch my attention in the first 50 pages, i drop it. typically i can always find something of interest, plot, main character etc, but some books just are not worth the effort.

    If i make it past 50 pages, it gets finished. there have only been 2-3 exceptions to this rule.

    i have to say, there are some books i wish i could UNread..
    example being Sloan Crosley's I was told there’d be cake...

    it made it bast the 50 pages due to the first essay being stinkin' incredible.. then it made me want to drink draino for the remainder of the book.

  8. I very rarely - if ever - abandon a book once I've started but I sometimes take a very, very long time to read books that I'm having trouble with. Slow but tenacious is my style.

  9. I used to finish a book, regardless, which made me quite choosy about what I would start.

    Nowadays list reading is still compelling--can't check it off if I didn't finish it! But the general TBR others had better be good or I'm outta there. Life is too short!

  10. Dormouse -- I have to come visit our blog! Finishing the books on the Modern Library list (yes, finishing them -- I am compulsive -- even FW) was what inspired me to start this blog.

    Devon -- Yes, I read while doing cardio and while resting between sets when I do weights.

    Good luck with Kissenger! 1,200 pages is pushing his luck.

    Jenny -- Funny! Having unfinished books would make be crazy. I'd spend so much time thinking about them that I might as well read them and be done with it.

    Erisian -- I have a strange rule too -- not 50 pages, but 100. But my "rule" is that I won't look to see how many pages the book has until after I get to page 100. By that time, I am so invested that I always finish.

    I have that "cake" book on my TBR shelf. Now you make me reconsider.

    Vanishing Lake -- Your "tortoise" approach reminds me that there is another book I've never finished. It's a philosophy book called "Think" that is supposed to summarize western philosophy in an accessible way. I keep it on my "books I'm reading now" list, but maybe, since I haven't picked it up in seven years, it's time to declare defeat. :)

    J.G. -- I admire your willpower! For me, it is harder to let one go than to just slog through.

  11. ugh... Anna Karenina... i read 500ish pages and didn't finish. and i didn't have a good excuse like you.

    honestly, i hardly ever DNF a book, but that was one for me.

  12. I typically don't abandon books, but I can think of a few that haunt my conscience. Some are unintentional abandons, others I just gradually forgot about while moving on to other books, and some were, shall we say, quite deliberate. But there's always this thought in the back of my head that I'll return to them.

    Wishful thinking? Probably.

  13. I don't dump a book often. When I do, it's because I've struggled and really can't read it.

  14. Little Reader -- Too bad about Anna Karenina! Maybe it will tickle your fancy later.

    Biblibio -- Exactly! Those unfinished books leave a burr in my brain. It's not worth it. I'd rather just finish and be done with it.

    Bybee -- I am trying to be more willing to drop the books that are a chore to read. I felt like that about the India and the Maimonedes books. But they weighed on my mind until I gave them away -- out of sight, out of mind. I hope.

  15. Halfway in, I've usually got enough mo to get me over the finish line. I'm not afraid to bail in the first third, though. I've got 135 books on Goodreads, and 5 are in the "abandoned" category, but I'm guessing the actual rate is closer to ten percent.

  16. I usually plough on to the sometimes very bitter end of a book. However I just couldn't get through Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon. Has anyone ever finished that book?


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