On finishing books

My reading style is very linear:

Read back cover of book. Judge book’s cover. Read a handful of reviews of said book. Buy the book. Start the book. Finish reading the book.

I’m not a 2 books on my bedside table + a book in the living room + a book I carry around in my purse kind of lady. For me it tends to work best to read one book at a time and focus completely on that one book until I’m done. The key to that being “until I’m done.”

Confession: I’m horrible at putting books down that I start reading, even if I don’t like the book. I’m sure it’s happened at some point or another, but for the most part I power through (even if it takes me a few weeks).

This can likely be traced back to the days of being a kid and wanting to quit something I started (soccer), only to be firmly (but lovingly) told by my parents that I would finish what I start. Apparently I took those words to heart.

Here’s a few books that I thought I would love, read, and forced myself to finish even though the book didn’t grab me:

1. The Paying Guests

The first half of the book was pretty good, but the way the drama unfolded in the second (particularly the last third) really got on my nerves.

2. Cold Mountain

Rare is the time that I see the movie version of a book and say, “Yes, that movie was infinitely better than the book!” However, for some reason this book just did NOTHING for me. I remember a few things I liked about the book that set it apart from the movie, which I won’t give away as it involves the ending. Ultimately, the book failed to capture me for some reason. In fact, I have a vivid memory of falling asleep several nights as I read this book. So, if nothing else, Cold Mountain was a wonderful lullaby.

3. Midwives

I remember really wanting to like this book, but I just didn’t. Actually, I don’t think I remember a single thing about this book.

4. My most recent read: Truth and Other Lies

This book is very different than my normal read and I gave it a try based on the write up Sarah gave it on her blog, which I follow. I closed the book yesterday, finishing it, and thought “Ahhh, finally.” The book was readable, and I’d absolutely call it a page turner, but I found the main character to be deplorable and lacking any sympathetic shred of humanity.

I’m not for a second saying these books are bad. Oprah made Midwives her book of the month! Cold Mountain was a #1 New York Times Bestseller! The Paying Guests had, and still has, a lot of positive buzz (another lovely blog lady I read, Christine, loved it)! They just didn’t work for me.

Despite these books not capturing me, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around not finishing a book I start. On one hand, reading should be something you love. If that’s the case, then it makes perfect sense to quickly discard a book if it hasn’t grabbed you by page 50 or so. Why finish it if there isn’t something in the book that propels you forward? On the other hand… I just can’t quit books! I can’t and I won’t.

I guess that’s another wonderful thing about reading. Readers can call the shots. Readers can start and finish what we want, when we want.

What’s your reading philosophy regarding completing books you start?

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On finishing books

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