Tuesday, April 27, 2010

To Keep Reading or Not To Keep Reading... That is the Question

At what point do you, as a reader, give up trying to read a book? I find it difficult to call it quits when I'm reading--I keep pushing myself, thinking, "It might get better on the next page. What if I miss something?" The fear of missing something is what made me never want to take baths in the evening as a kid--what if I left the living room and something amazing happened while I was gone? I couldn't let myself be the only one to miss something potentially amazing. When I look at books, I look at each page as being a new possibility for something amazing, so it is no small feat for me to put down a book only to never pick it up again--I might wait a year before actually finishing it, but I usually finish books I start. If I don't finish them, it's a testament to how much I dislike the book (whether the dislike is due to style or plot or character or all of the above).

Why am I stressing about this now? Nearly a year ago, I started reading I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles after a student suggested the book. At first, I was enthralled because the language drew me in, and I'm fascinated by Queen Elizabeth and that whole era. But then I started getting frustrated by the density of the book and by Miles's take on Queen Elizabeth. I've found that I'm a fan of interpretations of Elizabeth as a minx--no, a vixen--who knew what she wanted and did what she needed to in order to get it. I like thinking of her as a progressive woman before her time who took the world and moved it in the direction she saw fit. In I, Elizabeth, though, Elizabeth is portrayed more as a woman who had things happen to her instead of being a woman who shaped those things. She is more passive and innocent, which is making it hard for me to continue the book and cheer her on. I'm frustrated. I'm 273 pages into a 618-page book, and I feel like the story still hasn't started yet.

I made it a goal for me to finish that book before picking up The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes, but I just couldn't. So I started reading MK's book, and I'm halfway through it already and loving every minute of it. And I'm staring at I, Elizabeth, wondering if I should push myself to continue, little by little, and finish the book or call it a bust and put it in the donation pile. I keep thinking that maybe the next chapter will be the one that pulls me in, but, as my sister so wisely put it, if I'm 270 pages into a book and still not intrigued, chances are I won't find that something amazing on page 280. Even if I do, would it be amazing enough to be worth the first 273 pages of lackluster reading?

What would you do? Would you force yourself to finish the book? Or would you realize the book just wasn't for you and move on?


Lula O said...

I totally felt the same way about I Elizabeth. The first part was good but it just got slow after a while. I skimmed the last half of the book. Life's too short.

Jessie Sams said...

I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one who struggled with this book! And you're right--life is too short to spend reading a book I'm not into. I'm officially crossing it off my need-to-read list and putting it in the donation pile.

Shannon said...

Good for you! I think I have a whole host of unfinished books on my shelves (why do I keep them? Hmm...) Every so often, I'll pick one up again when the mood strikes, but more often than not, I end up getting just as stuck and bored as the first time. And then I pick up another! Too many GREAT books to waste time on ones you have to struggle through.

Jessie Sams said...

Agreed! I have it in a pile with others to donate for a book sale one of our English Department organizations runs yearly. My goal is to build that pile of books I have no intention of reading (or re-reading) to open up some space for ones I actually want to read. Although I haven't exactly stopped buying books, so really I just need to open up some shelf space for those new books. *insert sheepish grin here*

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