Finishing a Book You Don’t Like: Do You or Don’t You?

Have you ever stuck with a book that you weren't enjoying? Do you always finish the books you start, or are you able to let go? Let's confess in the comments!

finish books or not

Maybe this has happened to you. You pick up a book – maybe it’s a favorite author, maybe it’s someone new – and you dive right in expecting to like it, but … you’re just not hooked.

For whatever reason you decide to stick with it, so you give it another 20 pages, another 50, another 100 … until you find yourself stuck in the last third of book, trying to convince yourself that you HAVE to finish it. I mean, you’ve come this far, right? But really, you can barely force yourself to read another paragraph.

Do you finish it? At this point, you’re invested. You’ve dedicated your precious reading time to this book. You’re so close. Do you plow through to the end? Or do you let go? It’s a book lover’s dilemma.

This is happening to me right now with a John Irving novel. Before you read how tortured I’ve been trying to finish Last Night in Twisted River, let me say this: I’ve read The Cider House Rules and Prayer for Owen Meany, and I really enjoyed both. Years ago I went to hear John Irving speak at a public lecture – he was engaging and smart and funny. I like his books very much.

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So when I found a copy of Last Night in Twisted River at my local library book sale, I was psyched. I was in the mood for a big fat doorstop of a novel that I’d tear through, reading before bed over the course of a week or so.

And … not so much. Every night, I take Last Night in Twisted River off my bedside table with a heavy sense of obligation. I must keep reading, I tell myself. But the sad, hard truth is: I don’t really care. I’m not attached to the characters; I don’t really care what happens next.

(Please don’t be offended if you love this book! It’s just not working for me right now. Maybe I’ll pick it up in a few years, and I’ll be in a different place and will love it. That happens.)

So, I’ve been at it for weeks and weeks. I read a page or two, I fall asleep. I lose my place, I find myself skimming. Last night I actually skipped 100 pages so I could get closer to the end! I thought that’d jumpstart my interest somehow. It didn’t. Tonight I’ll try to get through the last 50 pages. If it’s tough going, I’m probably going to skip to the very last page, read it, and be done.

“Skip to the end and read the last page?” you may be thinking, “Sacrilege!” Or maybe you think I’m crazy for sticking with it so long in the first place. Truth is, I could have read three other books in the time I’ve devoted to one I don’t care for. So many books, so little time, right?

But I can’t help myself. I simply can’t leave this book unread. I keep trying to let it go, but I find myself picking it back up. I feel like Michael Corleone in The Godfather: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

About Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

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