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An abandoned book, and some bloggy stuff

September 15, 2008

Has everyone seen (and entered) my haiku-review contest? Write a book-related haiku and be entered to win a $20 gift certificate to Amazon! That’s $1.18 per syllable! Details are at this post.

What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin

I used to be a compulsive finisher. I couldn’t not finish a book I’d started, no matter how little I was enjoying it. I think it was because I couldn’t bear the idea of putting in the time and energy to get as far as I had, without even a notch on the “books read” belt to show for it. But, I think I may have been cured… or at least started down the road to recovery. The combination of a slow-moving book in a sub-genre with which I have had very little luck plus a mild hangover and some moderate sleep deprivation pushed me over the edge into actually quitting a book.

It happened like this (while trying to read by the pool on Saturday afternoon):

Me: I’m on page 93 of a 496-page book. How long should I give it before I give it up?
D (who knows I can’t not finish a book): Erm… page 150? That seems like giving it a fair shake.
Me: Okay.

…twenty minutes of laying in the sun pass…

Me: Okay, that’s it. I’m giving up on this book.
D: You’re at page 150 already?!
Me: *slightly sheepish* Erm… no.
D: What page are you on?
Me: 94.

It’s not even that it was a bad book – it was actually a fair bit better, at least in terms of the language not driving me crazy – than many similar books I’ve read before. I just was not absorbed by it at all, and reading it was getting to be a chore that I didn’t want to tackle with a headache and a brain that would much rather just nap. Apparently I am just incapable of getting into books about India. I still have two of Jhumpa Lahiri’s books unread on my shelf, and everyone seems to love those, so I’ll give them a shot eventually, even though most people seemed to love The God of Small Things, too, and I really didn’t. I don’t know what it is – most historical fiction and other-cultural-fiction goes just fine… it’s the south-Asian women writers who just seem to give me trouble.

So, I think What the Body Remembers is going into the stack for some future giveaway – I know there are people out there who would enjoy it more than I did. There’s so many other things on my TBR stack that I actively *want* to be reading that it seems silly to force myself to read something I don’t. I don’t expect abandoning books to become an active feature of my reading life, but at least now there’s a precedent.

Also, for anyone who’s interested, I’ve updated several old posts with their vocabulary words, and updated my big vocab list accordingly. (Posts are Sailing to Sarantium, A Northern Light, The Jane Austen Book Club, The Zookeeper’s Wife, and Voyager.) During the windstorm we had yesterday, our internet (but not our power) went out, so since I couldn’t be surfing the book blogs, I decided to spend some quality time typing my vocab lists. The ones I did were all from late April/early May, where I was reading (and therefore posting) a lot, and didn’t have the patience to sit and do the vocab for each of them. Still to do are Drums of Autumn and The Fiery Cross – probably a full third of the words already on my list are from Diana Gabaldon’s first three books… darn those historical nouns and Scottish slang!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2008 8:47 pm

    I usually give a book about 100 pages before I give up, but if it’s really bad then I have quit after 40 pages.

    I love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series! I’ve read it 3 times, and I don’t usually do that, especially not with books so long, but hers are such a nice guilty pleasure!

  2. September 15, 2008 9:16 pm

    Alice – I think about 100 pages seems right. I’ve heard the 50 page rule, but I’ve definitely read some books that are slow starters through at least page 50, but that I wound up really liking. Maybe it’s not even so much about page number, but how hard it is to force myself back to reading that should be my guide.

    I love the Outlander series as well – I’m still on my first time through, and I’ve still got A Breath of Snow and Ashes to go, but I could easily see myself re-reading them at some point.

  3. September 18, 2008 8:19 am

    I try to stick with a book for 100 pages. The Book Crush lady says 100 – your age.

    I love that you do vocab lists for the books that you read! I used to write down unfamiliar words as I was reading and either look them up right away or save them for later.

  4. September 18, 2008 11:12 am

    Rachel – Thank you! I knew there was some formula for “appropriate” giving-up distance out there, but I couldn’t remember what it was.

    My vocab words get jotted down on the back of whatever scrap paper I’m using as a bookmark, and not looked up until I’m typing the review post.

  5. September 19, 2008 12:34 pm

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized it’s not worth my time to finish certain books. But you’re right–it’s so hard and I feel so guilty giving up…oh well.

  6. September 20, 2008 1:51 pm

    I’ve been trying to assuage the guilt by reminding myself that there are already so many things that I have to force myself to do that reading for pleasure shouldn’t be one of them.

  7. Elizabeth M. permalink
    September 21, 2008 2:38 pm

    I force myself to finish my books even when I hate them. I don’t know why I torture myself so. Perhaps it’s my unconscious way of making sure I choose more carefully next time? There has only been one book in my life that I couldn’t finish. I made two different attempts and wrote that book off for good. There’s a little part of me that wants to try again though just to see if I can beat that book.

  8. September 22, 2008 9:04 am

    Elizabeth – Heh, I totally understand that fighting spirit. The only way I got through The Name of the Rose was by sheer stubborn determination not to let that book win.

  9. September 23, 2008 10:19 pm

    I actually like slow-moving stories and big books. I might enjoy this. I’ll watch for your giveaway. Nice to read an honest review though.

  10. September 26, 2008 2:38 pm

    I used to feel compelled to finish every book, too. Now I quit whenever I feel like it. Usually I try to give a good fifty- hundred pages a try, but some books don’t even make it that far. It’s a relief to move on to another book, there’s so many waiting to be read.

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