Thursday, 25 March 2010

Giving up the ghost

I feel no small amount of shame and embarrassment as I write this for the blog. It was my wonderful wife's idea, thank you darling(!) The subject of this article is one of my biggest literary habit of putting down books before I finish them.

I have picked up approximately 110 books of which 25 I never finished. Almost 25% of all the books I have ever bought or borrowed lay unfinished either in my dusty bookcase upstairs, on the shelves of numerous charity shops or (in the worst cases) rotting on a rubbish tip somewhere in England.

Now you can see why I am so ashamed!!

Its not my fault you understand, I can't help it. It's just that once I decide a book is rubbish I can't bear to turn the pages any more. I feel like I'm wasting my life by forcing myself to read on. Is this wrong? I can't decide.

I suppose at first glance this might appear like extreme cynicism, to give up on a book just because I dislike one part of it. Am I giving the book a fair chance? I suppose in some ways I'm not, in some ways it is cynical to give up so readily on something someone somewhere put a lot of effort into. However the other side of the coin shows there is a large amount of optimism in my attitude towards these unloved books. I say optimism because half the problem I have is my choosing inappropriate books. I have lost count of the number of occasions my long suffering wife has had a conversation with me in a bookshop that goes something like this;

“What book is that you've got there?”

“Oh it looks really interesting, I just found it by chance, its about how the Universe came into existence”

“But you have no interest in that sort of thing, you hate science”

“Yes but it will be different this time! I'm so keen to learn all about the Universe”

“Yes, dear” *sigh*

Of course, three days later I'm reading something else “What happened to the book about the Universe?” says my wife, having already guessed the answer.

Will I ever stop buying inappropriate books? I hope so but somehow I doubt it. Now that is cynicism.

By Chris


  1. Just this year I have made a point to stop forcing myself to finish every book I start. Until now, there have been only two book I have started and not finished, and I had been determined to start over and finish them at some point in the future. But, I've realized there are too many good books out there to force myself to finish books I'm not enjoying. I've still finished a few that weren't worth it this year, but I've given up on several and it's liberating! So, don't feel too bad.

  2. Thanks for the message Lindsey, I suppose it is quite liberating being able to give up on a book (it still feels naughty though!)


  3. Go with the rule of 50. Read it to page 50, if you don't like it feel no guilt in abondoning it. And for every year you are over 50 (probably not you) you get to subtract a page. Life is too short to read books you aren't enjoying.