How I Decide When to Abandon a Book

img_6558Readers can pretty much fall into two categories: those who will abandon a book, and those who won’t.

I’m not a terribly picky reader.  I like books my friends don’t.  In the last month, I’ve completed the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riorden and finally read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I’ve read a few books I loved (A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven), one I hated, new books, and rereads (There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake).

Even though I read about 90-100 books a year, I abandon only about 2 a year.  Even though I don’t do it often, when I do, I don’t feel the least bit bad about it.  I decide based on a few things.

  1.  The book doesn’t speak to me. Everyone’s tastes are different, and I’ve abandoned “good” books which simply didn’t interest me.  The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt was one of those.  My friends read it and liked it, it was reviewed well, and I could even tell it was an interesting book.  But for some reason, it didn’t speak to me, so I put it down. By this, I mean that I couldn’t relate, and I sometimes read paragraphs but didn’t remember what I’d just read.  When I find myself doing this with a book, I know it’s time to abandon.
  2. I keep finding reasons to put it down.  When I really like a book, it’s hard for me to do anything else until I’ve finished it.  I carry it around the house with me.  I stay up late reading it.  I’m late to appointments.  If I pull out of the driveway and have left it inside, I’ll go back in to retrieve it, just in case I have two minutes while waiting somewhere.  When I’m not into a book, it’s easy for me to become a responsible adult.
  3. I can’t figure out the point of the book.  I like plot.  I like to understand the point, the message, the happenings in the book.  If it’s just a random collection of stuff on the page, it loses my interest.  I’ve known way too many people who think they’re interesting (but aren’t) to spend time with a book that doesn’t go anywhere.
  4. It’s forgettable.  If I have trouble remembering what’s going on in the book when I pick it back up to read, that’s a good sign that it’s either not a good book, or just not a good fit for me.
  5. I hate the characters.  I’m fine with characters not being likable, but they should be interesting.  I love a good anti-hero, and I have no problem rooting for the bad guy.  I’m not a snob, and enjoy books that are widely hated (like Twilight).  But sometimes, I hate the characters, find them dull and boorish.  And then I know it’s time to go.  I stayed with the Casual Vacancy longer than I would have if it were any author other than JK Rowling, but after awhile, I couldn’t stand those characters one more moment, and I quit reading in the middle of a sentence in the middle of a paragraph.  And I never regretted it.

I read for entertainment, and if I’m not entertained, then I let go.

“One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books: bad books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind.

In order to read what is good one must make it a condition never to read what is bad; for life is short, and both time and strength limited.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer

The Casual Vacancy- A review

I recently tried to read the Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling.  I wasn’t expecting it to be like Harry Potter, since all the ads said that it was for adults and it was much different.  The problem was that I expected it to feel like Harry Potter.

In my opinion, Harry Potter was all things good in fiction.  The characters were likable and flawed, made good choices much of the time, and made me feel good toward humanity in general.  Even the characters I was most convinced were irredeemable (like Draco Malfoy) came though in the end, though it wasn’t hearts and flowers.  It felt real to me (the themes, not the magic… work with me here) and made me feel hopeful toward humanity.

A reviewer on Amazon summed up the Casual Vacancy best… it felt like watching the Jerry Springer show.  Not that I don’t love me some Jerry Springer, but I don’t watch the show for plot or meaning.  The Casual Vacancy was full of characters I didn’t really like, and there was no main character to even root for.  Some of them were interesting, but got lost in the mix and mush of all the other characters.  I need someone to identify with or root for, even if it’s a villain.  In this book, I just didn’t care.  I got a 3rd of the way into the book before I just decided that it wasn’t worth my time.  If it weren’t JK Rowling, I wouldn’t have given it that much of a chance.

Now, for the caveat.  The book was well-written and the characters were well-developed (though not likable… I can’t stress this enough).  I don’t like literary fiction, and that’s what this read like.  I like story… and plot… and characters.  So… If you like literary fiction, it might be worth a try.  If you care about a good, entertaining story, I wouldn’t bother.

JK Rowling’s New Book!

JK Rowling has finally announced a new book!  It’s aimed at adults, and is called The Casual Vacancy, due out on September 27.

The new book is aimed at adults rather than young adults, and by the description on Amazon, seems like a huge departure from the Harry Potter series.  One of the reasons I liked Harry Potter so much is that none of the characters were perfect.  Harry didn’t make the best decisions all the time.  He was impulsive, short tempered, and irritable.  He was also loving, selfless, and loyal.  This new book seems to be another look at the flaws and foibles of people.  I know that it’s not going to be Harry Potter, but I look forward to reading it.