Thursday, May 06, 2010

BTT: Half

Over at Booking Through Thursday, Laura has asked:

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?

Once upon a time, I felt compelled to finish each and every book that I started. It might take me a long time if I wasn't enjoying it because I'm perfectly willing to set a book aside or even keep a couple of books going at the same time. (In fact, I'm currently reading both Hex Marks the Spot by Madelyn Alt and Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison.) But, after one totally disastrous experience, I've stepped back from that position.

'Twas a number of years ago when I started reading Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson. If you're not familiar with this book, it's the first book in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. The series had been given glowing reviews and I was looking forward to a great fantasy novel. Instead, I met Thomas Covenant—a totally dispicable character who not only has deplorable behavior, but who also whines and whinges all through the book. I kept plodding through, thinking, “Surely, this will get better.” But I got all the way to the end of the book and I had not enjoyed a single moment of the reading. In fact, I really wanted my time back.

Since reading Lord Foul's Bane, I'm no longer timid to abandon a book that I'm not enjoying. I do tend to keep track of how far I got in the book before I set it aside—just in case I later decide to give it another try. I suppose that deciding to do that will depend on the level of dislike. If I truly hate the book, I'm probably never going to pick it up again. If it's a milder level of dislike, I am honest enough with myself to know that I have to be ‘in the mood’ to read certain types of books. So, I might be more inclined to enjoy a particular book at a later date.

Some books I've started and decided not to finish:

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I think I just got fed up with the “academic” tone and trappings. I stopped reading at page 443 and returned the book to the Library.
  • Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult. I can't explain what I didn't like about this novel because I usually enjoy Picoult's novels.
  • Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. While I was somewhat enjoying this book, I kept finding myself looking over at other books in my TBR stack which I wanted to read more. Eventually, I realized that I hadn't picked it up in well over a week. I do have a bookmark set in my Sony reader and I suppose I'll make one more attempt to become fully engaged with the story.
  • The Secret Life of Laszlo by Roderick Anscombe. While this was a pleasant but not compelling read, I only got through the first 3 chapters before I packed it up and sent it to another book swapper at BookObsessed.

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