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BW

To finish the book or not?

31 posts in this topic

I have a very good friend who always finishes every book she starts - no matter what. :) I'm not of that tribe. If I start a book and really can't get into it after a good hard try and/or even putting it aside for another and then going back only to find it's still "no go" - then I shut the book and leave it under my bed for a few months in hopes that, if it hasn't been eaten by dustmites, it eventually finds its way to the used book department of a library nearby.

How about you all? Does guilt drive you forward, even if you're bored to tears? If the prose sticks in your craw, do you persevere? And better yet - what do you do if a friend gives you a book that they just loved but you can't stand it :) or it puts you to sleep? :yawn:

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It depends. There certainly are some books that ... just don't get picked up again. It's not that I decide not to finish them; they just languish. These are the ones that are hard to read, for some reason. Les Miserables is in this category; I've started it several times, and just can't muster the energy to keep going. If I just don't care for a book -- it doesn't grab me -- I'll usually try to finish it. I'm always hoping to find something redeeming in them.

As for the "recommended by a friend" issue: if it's a casual friend, the subject conveniently never arises. If it's a good friend, I figure our friendship is worth more to both of us than any book, so I go ahead and discuss it with her! Delicately, of course. The last time this happened the friend had actually made a present of the book. So I had to thank her for the present -- it really was a very, very good idea -- while at the same time saying I really didn't agree with the ideas in it. She laughed -- someone else had raised the same objections just a few days previously.

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Unless I know the author personally, guilt does not drive me to finish a book. Generally, guilt drives me to put aside even great books to get other things done. Come to think of it, even when I know the author, I often can't finish the book. Perhaps some day I'll have the luxury of time necessary to feel guilty about books. One can always hope.

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If after three chapters I don't feel that urge to know how the story will turn out, then I stop reading it. Usually no guilt involved. However a book I stopped reading after chapter 5 a few months ago had me agonizing with such guilt that I felt I should be placed in front of firing squad. The characters were quite likable if a bit......well bland I quess. I just couldn't work up enough enthusiasm to keep reading and find out what happened to them. But since I did like the characters I felt such a low down dirty skum for abandoning them.

Forget not reading a book your friends recommended, try not finishing a book your MOM recommends. Oh vey

:)

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Time for reading is always in short supply. I have no qualms about abandoning a book after one chapter if it doesn't pique my interest. Sometimes one paragraph is more than enough.

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Good question, BW. I used to feel an obligation to finish everything I started, but I don't anymore. For instance, when Ballet Alert chose "The Da Vinci Code" as its book of the month, I tried hard to get interested. But I gave up at around page 150, with about 300 pages left. I just couldn't stand the writing. I've never liked books that depend on plot rather than characters, and those that purport to expose worldwide conspiracies I particularly dislike. But my objection to this book had less to do with "The Da Vinci Con," as the New York Times Book Review headlined its article about the notorious hoax on which the plot is based, than with the pedestrian nature of the writing. For me this was a "thriller" with no thrills. Of course it's been on the Book Review's hardcover bestseller list for 47 weeks, so a lot of people apparently disagree. :shrug:

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I'd suggest that one's approach should vary depending on factors such as age and development of taste. These days, I don't spend any time persisting with a book that doesn't grab me beyond a chapter or two. However -- had I taken that line when I was very young and my judgment and taste were still relatively unformed, I would have missed out on a lot of good and great stuff. Giving up on an airplane read such as The Da Vinci Code is one thing, discarding Ulysses after chapter one is another. I'm not saying you're not at liberty to toss aside Ulysses or some of the Great Unreadables, like Richardson's Clarissa, but not after you've made an honest attempt, and this is especially true for younger readers.

Your taste can change, too, or sometimes the writers change. I used to grab the latest Philip Roth hot off the presses, but my experience with his recent work is that it's unlikely to enhance my reading pleasure, and so I don't bother. However, I regard that as his fault, not mine. :)

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If I can't get into the book after the first chapter or two I ditch it. I don't have time to waste on a boring book and I don't feel guilty about either, even if every man and his dog is raving about the book. I would much rather find a book to enjoy. :)

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Dorothy Parker used to say: "This is not a book lightly to be cast aside. It must be thrown with great force."

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Adding to dirac's point, I personally know about myself that I can never get into a George Eliot book till about page 300/700. Thank goodness I was forced to read Middlemarch in school, because I wouldn't have finished it on my own, and now it's one of my favorite books. Oddly enough, same exact thing happened with Daniel Deronda and Felix Holt. I had to force my way through the first 1/3 to 1/2 and then stayed up all night reading the rest in one breathless gasp. I always keep this in mind when I decide not to finish a book.

In principle, however, I fully support the idea of jettisoning a boring book midway.

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Somewhat off topic but...what about movies? I can only recall one movie that I walked out of, but several more I wished I had---Master of Disguise comes quickly to mind, of course my daughter loved it! :)

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Some posters have mentioned that sometimes plowing through is ultimately worth the effort, but it seems their references are to classic works.

If I can get past about page 10, I am determined to finish. Sometimes I "get distracted," though, pick up something else and don't return to the original . . . or haven't yet, anyway.

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I am definitely a guilt-driven reader. Even if the first paragraph is a struggle, I still plod my way through to the end, no matter how long it takes; I have found that in most books that start of really boring, once I'm half way through, it gets better. Occasionally there are the few chapters that get boring, but then everything livens up again and I enjoy it more.

One example of a book that was pure torture to read was Rome, by M. Rostovtzeff. It was translated from Russian, and presumably lost any emotion or feeling or interesting parts on the way. It reads like the most boring history textbook ever, but I still managed to force my way through to the end. I found that once I got used to the bland writing style, I was able to wade through much easier.

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:devil: OK, I confess to being the friend who gave that book to Treefrog as a gift. She kindly refrained from stating my name but it's OK, Treefrog, you can say it. B)

The only trouble is that now I fear I may be the friend who recommended a book (a different one) that BW's having a hard time reading :wink: And it wouldn't even be the same book! :mondieu: So, BW, out with it - I can take it :sweating: I recommend books like crazy and do realize, with good humor, that not everyone's going to be smitten by my favorites.

But back to your question: Do I try to wade through anyhow? It depends, usually, on how long the book is. And yes, I agree that it also depends on whether or not it's in the classics category. Back in my 20's, I struggled with "A Tale of Two Cities" and reread "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times" COUNTLESS times before I got past about page 20. And I ended up adoring the book. But I stuck with it simply BECAUSE it was a classic and I figured that it had enough widespread acclaim - and famous quotes :yucky: to make it worth my while.

But if a friend has recommended a book, and I'm struggling with it for one reason or another, I'll usually finish it if it's under about 250 pages. If not, I probably won't. I generally allow a book about 100 pages before I'm willing to give up on it. Currently, I'm stuck on "Middlesex". Initially I loved it. I bought it independently but then two good friends commented on how much they loved it and so I steamed ahead, believing that I too would finish and love this book.

Now I'm bogged down somewhere around page 300 and just don't want to bother to go on. I don't know why. It's a fascinating topic, I enjoyed it much of the way through the first quarter but it's just lost its shine along the way. My two friends are mystified - both thought it was exactly the sort of book I'd love.

Oh well.

We're still good friends. And we're still recommending books to each other.

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Off the subject of "Classic Books" I used to work in a kid's bookstore, and I have to admit it killed me when people didn't like books I recommended. It was an independant place and all the staff in my time had read just about everything there (bar Babysitter's Club, etc).

If one of the staff, or a beloved customer (adult or child) came back and said, "Well, I didn't think The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" or anything by Joan Aiken was the best thing they'd ever read (all of my favorite books, in the 1000's by now deserve "the best thing I've ever read" status), I always felt personally hurt.

The good news is I didn't ever blame the person in question, though. It's funny how personal things can be. I couldn't speak to my roommate for weeks when I found out he didn't like Don Quixote. Not cause I was mad, I just always wanted to say, "Why?Why?Why?"

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Never fear, vagansmom, I have enjoyed nearly everything you have recommended. In fact, just about every time I am close to finishing one book you start a thread here on a new one ... and I go to the bookstore and buy it. I quite look forward to finding out what my next read should be!

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dido, I know what you mean about taking it personally. Sometimes, with books (or movies) that are close to our hearts, it's very difficult when a friend doesn't respond. One of my favorite books is Saul Bellow's Seize the Day, and one day I brought it up with a well-read acquaintance, who said "Oh yes, that was something about some loser with father troubles." I didn't say anything about how I felt about the book, but it was hard for me not to let that lower my friend in my estimation.

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I think it's very interesting: (remember I know kids books) "I didn't like "I, Juan de Paraeja" What? Are you on crack? I didn't like "Roller Skates" or "The Good Master" (or anything by Kate Seredy).

I want is so much more powerful than I will.

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:o vagansmom, I can't think what book you might be referring to! Hmm, besides The Corpse de Ballet! :lol::devil: :grinning: :P:blushing: Edited by BW

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Several years ago, my daughter and I listened to a book on tape of "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" while commuting to ballet and I LOVED that book.

The question about walking out on a movie got me thinking.

While it may be true that if you stick with a book it will be worth it (I, too, was glued to Middlemarch at the end), I find that bad movies are bad all the way through.

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BW, I'm still embarrassed to admit that I liked Corpse de Ballet. Let's just say it appealed to all my basest instincts. :shrug:

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I once had a very interesting experience with a movie (although I cannot now tell you the title -- something in the late 70's about cross-dressers, I think). For the first third, I thought it was the worst thing I'd ever seen. :wink: It was the only movie I've ever considered walking out on. But I didn't, and by the end I loved it. :shrug:

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Also referring back to TutuMaker's movies post, I agree the situation can be very similar. I can usually find something sufficiently interesting in even the worst movie to make it watchable to the end, although there were a couple -- "Meet Joe Black" and "Disney's The Kid" spring to mind -- that I would have dumped if my companions hadn't wanted to stay.

We've talked about recommending books to a friend who didn't like it, but for me it can be even more awkward when your friend LOVED the book or movie and you thought it was awful. In the former case, you can often be discreet and not share your feelings, but in the latter case, you can be put in the position of actually having to lie your head off in order to be polite.

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:offtopic: but somewhat analagous: A friend of mine once went to see a friend of his in a Broadway show (which shall remain nameless but apparently is not "forever"), and wondered how to be supportive when, preemptively, the friend said to him, "Can you believe I'm doing this [bad word]?!!!" But there, at least, the two were of the same opinion.

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