Giving-up on a Book

I feel guilty this week because I gave up on a book half-way through.

It’s something I never used to do but as I get older I am gradually doing it more often. And every time I do it I feel bad. I don’t know why I feel bad – it’s not as if the author is breathing down my neck checking that I read every word or that I’m going to be tested on it at a later date.

Maybe it’s because I’m acknowledging that my choice of book was not up to scratch or because I’ve wasted my time getting as far as I did with the book – when I could’ve been reading something better.

I won’t name this book but the jacket is covered with glowing review excerpts from all the major newspapers. So I feel that I should have enjoyed it. Does that mean there’s something wrong with me?

I’ve just had a look at the book’s Amazon reviews, they are all 4 or 5 star except one. That single 2 star review makes me feel better – so at least I’m not alone in being unable to appreciate this book which the Guardian tells me is ‘a real page-turner’ and the Literary Review says is an ‘impressive piece of storytelling’.

How do you deal with books that don’t live up to expectations?

Finally, here are a couple of quotes that I’ve come across. Take them as a confidence booster. Forget all those ‘I’m not good enough’ voices in your head and just sit down and write!

To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong. Joseph Chilton Pearce.

I am the MASTER of my FATE. I am the CAPTAIN of my SOUL. William Ernest Henley.

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  1. #1 by Wendy Clarke on October 6, 2013 - 9:09 am

    Over the last year or so, I’ve taught myself that it’s ok to give up on a book. I used to feet so guilty – but why? There are too many good books waiting to be read, without wasting te on the duff ones. In fact, only this week I ditched one for something better.

  2. #3 by Carl D'Agostino on October 6, 2013 - 9:16 am

    Don’t see anything wrong with the “toss”. I wind up tossing at least 1 out of 4 after first 75 pages. What other star givers think is immaterial. For example the movie John Carter got panned. I thought it was fabulous. Reason I read all 11 books of John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs by age 14 and it was a thrill to see my mind’s visions portrayed across the big screen from my reading 50 years ago !

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on October 6, 2013 - 12:19 pm

      That’s reassuring to know, Carl. I’ve never heard of the John Carter books but glad the film lived up to your expectations (I find screen adaptations often don’t).

  3. #5 by Patsy Collins on October 6, 2013 - 9:23 am

    If after the first few pages I’m not enjoying a book, I stop reading and go on to something else. I usually then give it another try as sometimes I’ll feel differently another time but If I still don’t like it then I give up.

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on October 6, 2013 - 12:20 pm

      Patsy, I wonder if being writers we read more critically and are therefore more likely to give up on a book?

  4. #7 by Anne Harvey on October 6, 2013 - 10:06 am

    I know that guilty feeling, Sally, but as I’ve got older, I’ve tried to think, well, life’s too short to be a reading a book you can’t get into when there are so many others left to read. On another note, I’ve now been diagnosed as having two cataracts (waiting for hospital appointment) so am struggling to read anyway.

    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on October 6, 2013 - 12:21 pm

      So sorry to hear about the cataracts, Anne. I hope you can get them sorted soon.

  5. #9 by Lesley Dawson on October 6, 2013 - 8:47 pm

    Hi Sally. If I’m not enjoying a book right from the first page, I can’t continue with it … and I don’t feel guilty either. In the past, I’ve tried to persist with books I’m not enjoying and it’s too much of a slog. We don’t do ourselves any favours by punishing ourselves in this way. I did feel a bit perplexed when I couldn’t ‘get into’ any of Catherine Cookson’s novels, considering that I’m of north-east origin, but I’ve accepted that, whilst I don’t enjoy her writing, I do enjoy the dramatisations of her books.

    Being a fan of Stephen King, I was disappointed in one of his recent novels, ‘Joyland’. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t find it as much of a page turner as his previous books. I own up to feeling a tinge of guilt at admitting this, as I don’t want to be disloyal to my ‘hero’, but I suppose writer’s styles evolve and they can’t please everyone all of the time.

    Don’t feel guilty, Sally – it’s just one of those things.

    • #10 by Sally Jenkins on October 7, 2013 - 7:11 pm

      Thanks, Lesley. I think with age I am accepting that giving up on a novel isn’t a ‘failure’. I don’t think I’ve ever read Catherine Cookson, maybe I should – she certainly knew how to keep the readers coming back for more !

  6. #11 by sulomater on October 6, 2013 - 9:10 pm

    I’m exactly the same. The older the get, the more willing I am to give up on a book. And, more and more, it’s book-club books that I don’t bother finishing. I much prefer my own choices… somehow I’m more invested in the book if I’ve made the decision to read it myself.

    • #12 by Sally Jenkins on October 7, 2013 - 7:13 pm

      I’m not in a book club, Sulomater, so all my choices are my own! But I do have a friend who’s in 2 book clubs and she often gives up on the books chosen by the club.

  7. #13 by susanjanejones on October 6, 2013 - 9:15 pm

    I tend to dip in and dip out if I’m not sure. I have the complete works of Shakespeare….don’t laugh, it was only 50p off the market. I read bits, and find them funny and then put it down again. The Agatha Raisin books are addictive. I’m on the terrible tourist at the mo, I read one of those in a couple of days.

    • #14 by Sally Jenkins on October 7, 2013 - 7:15 pm

      The Complete Works of Shakespeare, I’m impressed, Susan! The last time I read Shakespeare was Julius Ceasar for O’level. I’ve not read any Agatha Raisin at all.

  8. #15 by hilarycustancegreen on October 6, 2013 - 11:07 pm

    Like you, I rarely give up on a book, but those I have put down sit on my conscience (and include a Booker prize-winner and and much lauded American writer) for ever. I tell myself I will have another go one day. I have twice thrown a book into a rubbish bin – curiously I feel no shame about these.
    I have certainly found a difference in my reading since I have been writing. I find it less easy to lose myself in the story and certain habits/errors that I would have been unaware of before, now jar uncomfortably.

    • #16 by Sally Jenkins on October 7, 2013 - 7:20 pm

      I’ve never thrown a book in a rubbish bin, Hilary. They all go to the charity shop. I think sometimes prize-winning books can be praised too much and then turn out to be a disappointment (or maybe they’re just too ‘literary’ for me!). And I agree, being a writer does make you read differently – as well as some things jarring, I think I also appreciate good writing more.

      • #17 by hilarycustancegreen on October 7, 2013 - 10:02 pm

        Believe me, you would have thrown one of these in the bin. Yes, I agree, greater appreciation comes with knowledge. i remember this being a revelation as I studied poetry at school and the dull became exciting… and so on. If we ever succeed in weeding, my husband and I take them to Charity shops, but we tend to bring home a few more.

  9. #18 by Tracy Fells on October 7, 2013 - 8:41 am

    I used to be the same, Sally, and would always finish a book. But there are too many good books out there to enjoy so why torture yourself. I’ve just given up a book I’m supposed to be reading for my MA course – feels really naughty, but I was starting to dread opening it. What’s the point of that – reading is supposed to be pleasurable after all…

    • #19 by Sally Jenkins on October 7, 2013 - 7:21 pm

      Yes, that’s the crux of it, Tracy. Reading is supposed to be pleasurable – but I think you’re brave abandoning a course book …

  10. #20 by Linda on October 7, 2013 - 12:26 pm

    I very rarely give up on a book once I’ve started reading it, but if I get bored I might skim through the rest so I can follow the storyline to the end without spending time on long, descriptive passages or scenes where nothing much happens.

    • #21 by Sally Jenkins on October 7, 2013 - 7:22 pm

      Seems like you’re in the minority here, Linda. But good on you for sticking with it!

  11. #22 by Jennifer Thomson on October 8, 2013 - 6:58 pm

    Don’t feel guilty. There are too many good books you’ll enjoy to waste time on ones you don’t enjoy. I’ve been really disappointed with a few of my favourite authors recently and haven’t been able to finish their books.

    • #23 by Sally Jenkins on October 8, 2013 - 7:37 pm

      It’s a shame when favourite authors disappoint, Jennifer. Do you think sometimes their books are published because of the author’s track record and not the merits of the individual book?

  12. #24 by Vikki Thompson on October 18, 2013 - 4:07 pm

    I adopt a 50 page rule, although this week i read one to page 61 (in the hopes that it would improve but it didn’t!).

    Lifes too short to waste time reading something you’re not enjoying and there are so many other great books out there to read, thats what i say ;)


    • #25 by Sally Jenkins on October 18, 2013 - 7:48 pm

      Spot on, Vikki! And it just goes to show how we writers really have to hook the reader quickly!

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