I’m one of those people who hates not finishing a book. Or anything actually (witness the four-year long fight with a thesis which has recently ended), I view the determination to always finish what I started as one of my best qualities but is it always such a good thing?
I’ve just finished reading Wicked by Gregory Maguire which according to my Spreadsheet took me 199 days to get through (a tiny part of me was annoyed that if I’d taken just one more day it would have been a lovely round 200) but did I get anything out of it? No, not really, that’s why it took me 199 days to finish. Having seen and not really enjoyed the stage show I wasn’t expecting much from the book but it was even worse than I anticipated – 406 pages of interesting premise overshadowed by dreary political machinations among almost universally unlikeable characters and with little direction in terms of plot. Yet I couldn’t stop reading. The book would sit, untouched, on my bedside table for large stretches at a time but I’d keep coming back now and then to chip away at the remaining page count until finally I was done.
I think I kept expecting better things, I kept thinking ‘once we’re past all the political stuff there’ll be some action’. ‘Once Dorothy arrives, it’ll all kick off’. ‘SOMETHING HAS TO HAPPEN SOMETIME RIGHT??’ And I have to admit that towards the end the pace did pick up a little bit and there were sections where I was actually interested in the goings-on it’s just that they were relatively few and far between.
So did finishing it give me a sense of achievement? Was I glad that I saw it through to the end? Not really. I suppose I felt a small sense of success but looking back now I can’t see what would have been so bad about quitting along the way. I know other readers feel like this; allowing yourself to stop reading something you don’t enjoy was on lots of new year’s resolution lists so I can’t help but wonder why we do it to ourselves.
Maybe it’s so that we get that sense of ‘closure’ that comes from completing an arduous task or maybe it’s so that we can feel justified in our opinion that that is a bad book. I think that part of the problem for me is a ‘what if’ sensation. As in ‘what if I stop reading but the next chapter is really good?’ kind of thing. That and I love being able to have a good moan!
Anyone else out there got any thoughts? Do you stop reading if you don’t enjoy a book or do you force your way through? Why? Are there any books that have got too much for you and you’ve had to give up?