Thursday, April 24, 2014

On not finishing

I always tell my friends that life is too short, and there are too many wonderful books waiting to be written, to slog through a book you're not enjoying.  Of course, reading for work is different, but there you can cast a critical eye, decide what works and what doesn't, and then write an article about it.  Reading for fun is a whole other matter.  If it's not fun, it's not worth spending the time.

It's one thing to say this, and another to really believe it.  Thanks in large part to book bloggers, I almost always read books I enjoy these days, because someone whose judgment I trust has said a particular book is worth reading, so I don't have to abandon books very often.  It's hard to set books aside, to decide you're done even though you haven't finished it.  It feels a little bit like failure, but it's a little freeing too, to get those neglected books off your bedside table where the stack is already so high that you risk toppling it when you reach over for a tissue or your teacup.

Also, I have so many books out from the school library for work that it's a little satisfying to bring some back knowing I won't need to refer to them later.

Also, I'm heading for England in only a few weeks (can't believe it!) and need to finish up and return all of my library books before I go.

So I'm sadly but relievedly (is that even a word?  I'll make it one, because it's such an apt descriptor for this situation) setting aside two books that have waited untouched on my bedside table for over a month now.  Jean Kerr's Please Don't Eat The Daisies came to me as a book blog recommendation, but its brand of humor just isn't working for me.  Its comedy feels labored rather than effortless, which makes it draining rather than invigorating to read.  I'm more unhappy about my second DNF, Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping.  One of my ten reading goals for this year was to finally read one of her novels, thinking that I need to stop worrying that she's too hard for me, but I ended up having to restart the book for a second time because it just didn't grab me and I lost all momentum just a few pages in.  It doesn't help that the book isn't particularly well-suited for reading in short snatches on the cross-campus bus, which is where I got a lot of my reading done this semester.  Now, this second time around, I only made it to page 29, but I'd have to restart it again if I tried to get back into it, and I just don't have it in me.  I think I'll try Robinson again someday - perhaps one of her other novels - but I'm going to set this one aside for now, until circumstances allow me to really give it the time it needs.

On the bright side, I'm 300 pages into South Riding and still fascinated by the minutiae of small-town rural government.  I just have to finish it before heading to London!

5 comments:

  1. I've read all Marilynne Robinson's fiction, and although I love Housekeeping, I think it's the least accessible of her books. I think Gilead is a better place to start.

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    1. Well that's very encouraging to hear! Next time I'll give that one a try. Thanks for the recommendation and the reassurance!

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  2. I have a very hard time with DNF books. After investing even a little bit of time I keep telling myself "Maybe it'll get better in the next chapter." My reading pace slows and I start resenting the book but I almost never set it aside. It makes no sense, but I have such a hard time giving up hope that it will turn fabulous on the next page. Being an eternal optimist can sometimes be a waste of time ;)

    Have a wonderful trip! Looking forward to hearing all about your time in England, Samantha!

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    1. Have any of your books turned out to actually get fabulous on the next page? Once in a while I run into one of those, which began slowly but got amazing after all the setup.

      Many thanks for the good wishes! I intend to blog about the trip. :-) I hope you have a great summer too!

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    2. No, I don't think any of them have gotten better! However, I usually chose well and rarely read "wild card" books so it's luckily not more than a couple a year. It usually happens with books that everyone else has raved about and perhaps I go in with (too) high expectations.

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