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Do You Leave Books Unfinished?

I find that I sometimes abandon books.

I recently left Small Island by Andrea Levy halfway. I’m now reading Never Far from Nowhere by the same author and not only did I finish it, I liked it.

For me the book test is: read from any three pages at random, and if you feel intrigued, pick it up.
Both books passed the test, both are by the same author, both have
great voice. But I left one unfinished and am on my way to finishing the
other.

There are so many books out there, and so many new writers I want to
try out that if I find a book too hard to like, I let it go, and find
something new instead. I’ve noticed that I tend to skip books on e-readers, probably cos making the change is so easy.

There are certain books that I did force my way through, like Shipping News by Annie Proulx, and felt rewarded afterwards. Which is why I feel
guilty sometimes– maybe if I force my way through, I’ll see light? As I
grow older, and realize I’m not immortal, I tend to be more forgiving
of myself in giving up on a book halfway through.

Do you ever not finish a book, and feel guilty afterwards?
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As an aside, Iā€™d request you to check out the chat I had with Zukiswa Wanner (Commonwealth Prize shortlister) and Rohini Chowdhury (multi-published, acclaimed author) on the A to Z Blog.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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41 Comments

  • The only reason I might feel guilty is the money spent, but then I just donate it to a charity shop. As others have said, too many books, too little time! Usually by the end of the first chapter if I'm not hooked, at least by the voice, I'm not likely to read on. This is why I'm grateful for e-books and samples, since there aren't many big bookstores near where I live.

    Sometimes, though, I read a book that's just badly written, and I finish it. Usually out of absolutely bewilderment that the author has an agent and a publishing deal, and I keep turning pages hoping to discover *how*. šŸ˜‰

  • Is the need to finish a book you don't like the same as cleaning your plate or eating just one more piece of rubbery asparagus? When I ceased to think of books as 'bad' because I didn't want to continue reading them, I stopped feeling compelled to finish them. Many of the books I don't finish are not bad. They are just not to my taste.

  • Lynn Proctor says:

    oh yes–i am sad to say, i have three i am ignoring at this time!

  • Richard says:

    I hate to admit it, but I do stop reading a book that doesn't hold my interest.

  • Jayne says:

    It's very rare that I give up on a book and I do feel guilty when it happens, a feeling of 'why didn't I love it when others did?' But not every book is for everyone, and I'm cool with that. There are a lot of books out there, after all!

  • Jo says:

    Funny, after reading this and commenting, I was trying to read a book on my Kindle and ended up returning it for a refund. So yes, I do leave books unfinished.

  • Hi,

    Long time no visit! Sorry… No, I can't think of a book I haven't finished. I've thrown the odd one at a wall because of annoying cliche' or irritating character traits. I have skipped boring passages (padded to up word count) but I do have a long concentration span and books such as Dickens, Austen classics and War & Peace etc., set the pace of my reading experiences since childhood. I'm a fast reader, too, so do consume books at one hell of a pace! The kind of books I won't read are celeb auto-bios and a book that doesn't grab me within the first chapter. I read the blurb, first chap and never, never am I driven by what someone else says about a book (review or recommendation). One wo/man's meat, another's poison. I buy on my personal tastes. šŸ˜‰

    best
    F

    • Damyanti says:

      I read the blurb, first chap and never, never am I driven by what someone else says about a book (review or recommendation). One wo/man's meat, another's poison. I buy on my personal tastes.

      That is the best way to read, imho. I sometimes follow recommendations, but not always!

  • I used to finish every book I started, but like others who've commented, I've given up on forcing myself to reach the end. I occasionally feel guilty – especially if I know the author through the blogosphere – but my reading hours are too limited and valuable to waste.

    • Damyanti says:

      Cally, yeah, as I grow older, I feel I have a monster around me gobbling and munching up time, silent and highly effective. Right now it is morning and before I've done anything much, it is evening already.

  • There have been a couple, but usually I push through until the end because I have a hope the book will get better. I'm an optimist!

  • HeatherL says:

    Like Alex, if a book hasn't sucked me in by chapter 3 or four, I'm done with it. The same thing goes for tv shows (although really since I don't have cable anymore I should say netflix shows!). I give it a good run but in the end if the story or the characters haven't wormed into my heart…on to better things!

  • Jo says:

    Very rarely – I enjoy most of the books I choose.

  • tjpieraccini says:

    I have failed to finish Bleak House THREE TIMES – after that many attempts (as far as page 600 once), I certainly don't feel guilty. I have finished and loved other doorstop Dickens (Our Mutual Friend, Dombey & Son, Pickwick Papers…).

    On the other hand, two books I did force myself to finish were The Secret Agent and The Scarlet Letter. Both turned out to be well worth the effort.

    • Damyanti says:

      I liked Great Expectations and Tale of Two cities by Dickens. I read Oliver Twist and Pickwick papers in their abridged kid's versions and that seemed to be enough. I never went near Bleak House!

    • tjpieraccini says:

      I actually prefer big books, generally, which is why I tried so hard…

    • Damyanti says:

      Something about the name put me off, I think. I like big books too — currently swimming through Faulks' Human Traces.

  • Hi Damyanti,

    I'm afraid I do leave books unfinished sometimes. It's a weakness of mine which my wife has highlighted on occasion!

  • The books I don't finish are because of writing quality issues – where I find myself critiquing the author's writing instead of enjoying the story. If the writing is at the level where the author could have plausibly asked me to beta read or even edit, I'll usually give up within 5 pages. And no I don't feel guilty. There are too many good books to read, and not enough time.

    If the book isn't that bad, but still has some annoying writing habits, like head hopping, I might give up about halfway.

    • Damyanti says:

      I try to never pick up books with poor writing quality, unless I'm in the mood for trash.

      I give up books that I simply feel like too much plodding, and since they're sometimes critically acclaimed, it doesn't do much good to my self esteem as a reader.

  • jabblog says:

    Yes, I abandon books sometimes. Even more, I skip passages in books I'm interested in, but if the imagery or the plot is sufficiently interesting, I will persevere.

  • I don't finish always, and I don't feel guilty. If the book doesn't engage me, that is on the author. Or, it just wasn't meant to be.

    That said, new books come out every week. It is a personal struggle to stick with what I'm reading and not be distracted by the shiny.

  • mooderino says:

    I tend to see books through to the end, but i will start skimming if I get bored. I feel that's a reasonable compromise, and I won't lose out if hte books uddenly gets good.

    mood
    Moody Writing

  • I have books I've started and put down. Usually not because the book didn't interest me, but because I got busy. Sad thing is I'm less likely to pick it back up too. I'm just the type of reader when I start a book, I read from start to finish in one sitting and when I put a book down, the initial drive to read fades and the book is left unread.

  • Jessica Bell says:

    I used to force myself to finish books that I wasn't getting into. Now I just force myself to get at least half way through, if I'm still not into it, I let it go. No use wasting time not enjoying something, right?

  • Hi, I haven't dropped by here for a while. Hope things are going well for you. I'm sooo relieved that you didn't finish Small Island either. I thought it was just me being too picky. I know people who would never leave a book in the middle but I think that life's too short to battle on when I'm past caring what happens next.

    • Damyanti says:

      Hey, there! Nope, no Small Island for me. I think I'm going to give the book away the next time they hold a open donations session at the library!

  • If it hasn't grabbed me by the third chapter, I put it down. Too many good books waiting.

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