Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Reading Dilemma N'3

Normally I have no qualms whatsoever in putting down a book I am not enjoying, I usually go by the wonderful 'Rule of 50' (If I don't like a book after 50 pages the book is consigned to the 'failure pile', soon to be shipped off to the literary purgatory of the local charity shop) However there is one book which consistently haunts me in my dreams; no matter how many times I try to put it down and forget about it, no matter how I long to send to it the failure pile, never to darken my bookcase again; I cannot do it.

It is in fact two books rolled into one; 'The Voyage of the Beagle' and 'The Origin of Species' both written by the illustrious Charles Darwin and they torment me.

Charles Darwin is a man I greatly admire. Of course he is not popular with everyone but in my opinion he is one of the greatest figures in human history. Darwin's most famous and influential work is 'The Origin of Species' the book in which he puts forward his controversial theory of evolution which caused a tremendous stir in the 19th century and, in some places, still does today.

There is only one hitch; I am not a scientific person, not in the least. My science grades at school were poor, I have very little interest in why an apple fell on Newton's head or how many atoms are in the average human body (7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 apparently!) a lot of what Darwin wrote I can't understand or it bores me. He was not a natural writer and his style is dry to say the least. He also flits from subject to subject very quickly making it difficult to get a grasp on what he is saying a lot of the time and the language is very archaic in places. The books together are 933 pages long with tiny print. I have reached page 325 and feel ready to have a stroke but I keep plodding on.

Should I continue reading this book? I don't honestly know but something is keeping me from putting it down. I feel I am reading it just for the sake of it but I can't get rid of the damn thing without feeling guilty.

They say nothing worth doing is easy but when it comes to books I beg to differ!


  1. How do you feel about audio books? You can download both of these from for free! I am limping through Anna Karenina this way (real reading at times, combined with listening at others). I feel like I'm cheating, but at least I'm not quitting. ;)

  2. Can you read one without the other? Because I've heard that 'The Origin of Species' is pretty dull, dry and dense (not a good '3 Ds' I think you'll agree), but my mum just finished 'The Voyage of the Beagle' and found it much easier than she expected - just an old-fashioned travel memoir, really. But if ain't doing anything for you at all, give it up - you could always come back to it sometime in the future and maybe then the time will be right! In my experience, a few years, even a few months, can make the difference between an incomprehensible yawnfest and an enjoyable read. Good luck, whatever you decide!
    Ellie @ Musings of a Bookshop Girl

  3. The version of Origins I read was abridged, and I don't regret it one bit! I agree with Ellie than The Voyage of the Beagle is more accessible, though. Anyway, life is short, so yes, I would put it down - and I say this as a fellow great admirer of Darwin.

  4. Well... I'd sure be tempted to put it down. Knowing me though I'd just put it back on the tbr shelf and keep making myself go back to it. I think I'll just agree with the others and read the other, easier one first and then decide!

  5. I would recommend instead going with "The Reluctant Mr. Darwin" by David Quammen. You'll learn a lot about Darwin's theories in a very entertaining format.

  6. Ah, I hate that feeling. But then, I probably have it more often than you, as I somehow force myself to finish every book I start.
    Anyway, maybe allow yourself to read it over an extended period of time. Tell yourself you'll read, like, 25 pages a week or something, and then move on to other things.

  7. I would love to read this book but am hesitant to approach it for the reasons you outlined. Maybe you could try reading a chapter at a time? Read a chapter, read a novel, read a chapter, read a novel? That way you aren't forcing yourself to sit down and read a whole book that is dry and difficult?

  8. This is why I hesitate to pick up Origin. I want to but I'm scared.

    I hear there is a graphic novel version.

  9. It's funny but I generally have the page 50 rule too. I usually give away books I abandoned or didn't like. However, like you there are a number of books that have 'haunted' me and though I abandoned them I refused to part with them. I found that years later, I picked them up and loved them. I think books have their time and place and if they 'haunt' you then definitely keep them. You may find you'll want to try them again in future.

  10. @ Kathy: Thanks very much for the suggestion, I may well give that a try and see how I get along although I suppose technically it's cheating ;o)

    @ Ellie: I wasn't clear in my blog post so I apologise for that but the book I started with (and am struggling with) is Voyage not Origins lol I suspect I may put it down and leave it for a while then come back to it

    @ Nymeth: I am beginning to see that I should put it down, even if only for 6 months or so, then have another go. Perhaps if I still can't get on with it i'll put it down for good

    @ Amy: This is exactly my problem, I have put it down at least three times and said 'thats it, i've given up' then a few days later i'm reading it again lol

    @ rhapsodyinbooks: Thanks for that suggestion, i'll keep an eye out for that one

    @ Brizmus: I already tried the 'few pages a week' approach and it didn't work. The trouble is I am not reading it because I am enjoying it and thats a problem for me. I never usually force myself to read something i'm not enjoying but out of respect for Darwin that is exactly what I have been doing with this one :o(

    @ Rachel: The staggered reading approach just hasn't worked for me which is a shame because its a good idea.

    @ Chris: Yes, there is. It was on my list of books to buy for a while but I removed it. I'm not convinced these books can be read unless you have an interest in science, if you do thats great but I have realised it was a very unwise purchase for someone like me.

    @ Mrs B: Thanks for that, I believe I will keep my copy and perhaps try again in 6 months and see what happens. I spoke to my father about this recently and he said 'Darwin didn't rush to write it so why should you rush to read it?'