Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Abandoning Ship

Pirate Ship Book by wetcanvas
Sailing is a funny thing. Sometimes you get out to sea and it's smooth sailing with bright sunshine and dolphins prancing in the waves. Other times it's a rough journey, with huge crashing waves and bolts of lightening setting your mast on fire. You always make it home, though. You complete the journey and make it back to the safety of the docks.

Rarely, you crash into some rocks and you sink.

While it sounds like I'm talking about sailing, I'm really talking about books (when aren't I?). Reading a book is like sailing. Sometimes it's an incredibly journey, sometimes it's an emotional wreck, and very rarely you sink and die.

It is extremely hard for me to stop reading a book before it's finished. It has to be godawful to make me stop rowing and allow myself to sink down to Davey Jones locker (yeah, I'm gonna keep the nautical theme going. Bear with me). I feel like a personal failure when I have to put a book away because I can't finish it. I'm always left telling the book "it's not you, it's me". Sometimes it's clunky prose that does me in, or glaring historical inaccuracies, or things like rape or massive amounts of senseless violence (I'm looking at you, George RR Martin). I hate abandoning ship on a book and many a time I've sailed into harbor after a particularly lackluster read, kicking myself the entire way. My time on this earth is finite (until I find a willing vampire), why am I wasting time forcing myself to read something I don't even like?

This week I had to put aside a book after only sixty pages. It was dull, confusing and lacked the spark the first book in that series had. I felt seasick over it. I won't name the book, but I was disappointed and it was agonizing deciding to abandon ship and find a more enjoyable vessel. The book sits on my shelf, glaring at me, and I just feel so bad. Should I have stuck with it instead of letting it sink? Maybe it could have been saved. Maybe page seventy would make the book come alive and I'd feel so silly for putting it down. Alas, it is not meant to be...

So I ask you, fellow crewmembers readers, do you abandon books? Do you try to plow through them no matter how bad they are, on principal alone? Or do you just remorselessly scuttle them against a rocky shoreline and find a better ship? Do you feel guilt when you can't finish one? What are dealbreakers that make you set down a book, never to return again?
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  1. It all depends. Like you, I struggle with guilt whenever I give up on a book but a lot of the time, I'll try to get back to it later. I only completely give up on a book if A. I hate a predominant character that I'm supposed to like, B. A main character does something so ridiculous or stupid that it just knocks me out of the story, or C. if I just don't care, which is the biggest offense to me.

    If I don't care that your planet is about to implode into another dimension or you're trying to break into the most impregnable bank vault to save your family by 100 pages, I won't read it. It's the writer's job to make sure that I keep turning the pages, to make these character as real to me as the people around me, to make me feel. If I don't feel anything, why bother?

  2. I agree with you both, though I couldn't tell you if I've ever really *not finished* a book. I tend to be reading more than one book at a time so maybe I just haven't finished it yet... After all, those unfinished books are still on my shelf, taunting me. For me it hinges on my mood. I have to be in the mood to read a certain type or genre of book. If the book I'm reading doesn't suit my mood it may end up put aside for a while. As terrible as a book may be (and I've finished some really terrible books) I'll usually hang in there as long as the tone of the book suits my mood.

    I laughed when I read Geesejuggler's #2 because that was me with "Twilight". I eventually read the full series, but on my first attempt I slammed the book shut when Bella decided she was "totally and irrevocably in love" with Edward Cullen less than half-way through the book. :P At least I can't say it didn't make me feel anything. I wanted to throw the book out the window.

  3. I usually give a book at least 50 pages before I abandon ship, but if I find myself gazing at other titles and thinking too much about what I want to read next, I know that it may be time to move on...

  4. Never used to when I was a kid, but then there was this gawdawful book about hackers and I put it down. And putting it down didn't kill me. So, since then, when a book doesn't really grab me - I let it go and pick something that does.