Breaking Up with a Book

I have a bit of a problem with too much commitment. When I’ve decided to read a book I struggle to abandon the pursuit, for a number of reasons – although, if I’m honest, the biggest reason is probably that I’ve already paid for it so I feel obligated to myself to go through with it. So I’ll start a book, get a few chapters in and think ‘I’m not really liking this’. Happens to everyone, right?

At what point do we end the relationship? Do we adopt an ‘immediate quit’ approach, where we drop the book as soon as it becomes clear that we might not actually enjoy it? Or do we, like I tend to do, refuse to quit, either out of some bizarre sense of reading obligation or perhaps in the (possibly vain) hope that it’s going to get better?

I’m having this argument with myself over Gone Girl. I started reading it at the same time as two of my friends. Both of my friends LOVE this book. Couldn’t put it down. Fangirling all over the place. Addiction, excitement, all that good stuff. Meanwhile, I’m over in my corner trying to commit to it and finding myself surprised and disappointed because I just feel a bit bored. Because everyone around me seems to love this book so much, naturally I assumed that I would love it, too. Am I simply not “getting into it” because I’m too busy and distracted by life at the moment? Should I try it again when life is less hectic? Am I disliking it because the characters are so notoriously unlikeable? Will I like it eventually if I just keep pushing through it? And, the biggest question of all for me, should I keep pushing??

At what point do you end it? Give up, quit, admit defeat, whatever you wish to call the scenario? And why do I see this is such a negative thing? Maybe it should be more of a case of me just saying ‘so this book isn’t my deal, oh well. I’ll just move on to something else’…? How many chances do you give a book before you decide the story is just not for you?

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7 thoughts on “Breaking Up with a Book

  1. I feel that there is a certain time in my life for all books. If the book doesn’t grab me now there will be a time in my life it will resonate more with me. I have unashamedly given up many a book but I know I will go back and see something different in them later.

    Other people I have known have a 50 page rule. If it doesn’t grab them in 50 pages they stop reading and never go back.

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    • Mmm yes, I think I’m at about the 50-page mark with Gone Girl. I haven’t picked it up for a few weeks now. I think what my main issue might be is that I’m a very emotive reader (hence the narrative empathy thing…), I engage on an emotional level with books that I enjoy, and usually specifically with at least one of the characters. With Gone Girl I’m finding none of the characters appealing, and it’s putting me off reading the book. Others I’ve talked to about this have had an opposite reaction to the unlikeable nature of the characters – their hatred of them made them want to read the book more. Kind of like a ‘love to hate you’ relationship. Interesting. I will be holding onto the book – I’m a terrible book hoarder, very difficult to convince me to give any away – and will probably try it again a few months down the track. Maybe I’ll adopt a rule of if I’ve tried it twice and still don’t get into it, let it go?

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  2. Firstly, yay! Blog!

    I broke up with the Game of Thrones series at about halfway through the second book. I think for me (like you) it was because everyone loves it to death but I’m not getting the same feeling. What am I missing? I’m regrettably having the same issue with Wuthering Heights, like most classics I feel obliged to read them.

    When I prepare the ‘It’s not you it’s me’ speech for the book I tend to have already progressively given it less attention each week until the book is sucked into the surroundings that is my desk. Then I have to tell myself that I will never actually finish reading it.

    If I have the ability to keep pushing through a book I will as I tend to question if it started to get really awesome. But if it really sucks it’s gonna take me like 5 minutes of reading the same line.

    Question: how do you, as a literary PhD student, feel about the Twilight saga?

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      • haha glad you found the answer on your own – it’s a long and convulted answer! One thing I probably skimmed over in the post about Twilight is that whole thing of how you’d ‘expect’ literature people to feel about something like Twilight – I’m finding myself surprised by how many of my fellow PhD students really, really love Twilight! Especially my friend whose PhD is in childrens/young adult literature. Their love and enthusiasm for it is what finally convinced me to read it.

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    • I haven’t even tried Game of Thrones yet, either books or tv series, as for now I’m just not interested. It’s really not my genre of choice, and also it just seems sooooooooooooooo…. violent? I think that’s the word I’m looking for. It could also be that obstinate streak in me that refuses to like what everyone else likes, though 😉 Maybe I’ll pick up those books in ten years time and enjoy them, who knows. Wuthering Heights! I have had that book on my shelf for about five years now and I am yet to even open it! I bought it when I was in my ‘obligation’ phase – just starting studying english lit and feeling like I had to ‘catch up’, but never got around to it. Some classics make me scratch my head and think ‘why do people like this?!’ (don’t get me started on my dislike of Pride and Prejudice!), while others are some of my favourite books of ever (Jane Eyre, Lady Chatterley’s Lover). Entering the world of classics always tends to be an interesting experiment, you never know what you’re going to get. And yes, there have been some books that I’ve ended up pushing through to the end and ended up really enjoying in the process (was bored shitless for the first half of Love in the Time of Cholera, but by the end couldn’t put it down).

      p.s. I love the use of descriptive terms like ‘it really sucks’, sometimes I wish I could speak that way in academic writing! hehe

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