Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why I Finish Every Book I Start

Life is short and we can only read so many books before we die. Why waste a second on a book we don't like?

The best way to avoid a bad book is to not pick one up in the first place; that's why I read reviews and ask friends' advice before picking up a new novel. But when you're halfway into a book and you realize you don't like it, then what do you do?

I recently noticed I don't put books down, even when I hate them. This wasn't a conscious decision; it just works out that way. After pondering on this, I realized my reasons:

1. You can learn just as much from a poor quality book as you can from a good one. For example, I suffer from POV switching. Sticking to one character's viewpoint just didn't click for me. I recently read a book where head-hopping was rampant, and I thought, "Ah, I get it now. That really does sound bad."

2. I'm picky about books. If I wasn't determined to stick through them, I would have found an excuse to put down almost every book I've ever read. I could have missed out on many good stories.

3. The ending of a novel changes everything. You can understand the point of all you just went through, or everything can get resolved in a satisfying way that makes it all worthwhile. It's not fair to judge a book you didn't finish.

4. My library sucks, so I own almost every book I read. If I'm going to pay $4 for a used book, then so help me, I'm going to get my money's worth.

5. Often I want to put down a book because it upsets me. If I stop reading right when a story gets disturbing, that last image will stick in my mind. If I finish it, I can move past it. (This theory didn't work out too well with "Kite Runner".)

6. Often I want to put a book down because it offends me. I try to resist that. The world is a diverse place; everyone has at least one idea that's offensive to someone else. I search for the good in books (sometimes with a magnifying glass) even when they include an idea that bothers me; otherwise, I wouldn't read anything.

7. Offensive and poor quality books drive me to write more than good books do. When I read a good book, I feel content because the world of literature is in good hands. When I read a book I hate, I run to my computer because someone needs to stand up to trash.

What about you? Do you ever put down a book you've started, and if so, when?


  1. You're probably right. Years ago I tried to read Sophie's Choice and after two hundred pages I hated it so much I stopped reading. It wasn't until I saw the movie years later that I learned what the story was about.

    I bet you've lost all respect for me, right.

  2. There's been one book, so far, that I just could not finish. I gave it to my niece. It was Christopher Paolini's second book, the red one...Brisngr...something like that. I loved his first book and was stoked to read the second one. I got going and going and felt myself drifting off, thinking about 20 million other things. I finally gave up. I think I may challenge myself to get that book again and try to read it with more patience.

  3. In general, I'm with you. I feel I owe it somehow to the characters or the story or myself to finish. Sometimes it has to do with the reason I'm reading the book in the first place. As I get older, however, I find I am more likely to leave a book unfinished, if it doesn't grab me enough and I have no other ulterior motive for reading it, I may let it languish. Sometimes I come back to it, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I come back to it ten years later and try again.

  4. Teralyn: Yes! You are right on every account. I always try to finish a book; in fact, I've only put down 2 or 3 in my lifetime. #3 is especially true in both books and movies. Unfortunately, it works in reverse as well. What stinks worse than being totally in-love with a read only to have it abruptly end or change voice entirely as if someone else was paid to write the ending. Not. Good.

  5. Tiffany: You hit the nail on the head! The ending can make or break a book.

  6. I used to be like that, finishing every book I started.

    But life is too short for being bored or reading something that I hate. There are too many other books out there calling to me, and they're probably going to be more rewarding than that book that is too slow, too depressing, too confusing, etc.


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