When It’s Okay To Quit

A couple weeks ago, I conducted a poll on this blog concerning the next Russian novel I would read. The winner, as you’ll recall, was Doctor Zhivago, which won by a landslide. (Not really; I’ve just always wanted to type that.) I started reading the book and am part of the way in, and, shockingly enough, I just don’t like it.

I’m not saying Doctor Zhivago is a bad book. Maybe my Russian isn’t advanced enough for it. Maybe it’s just not the right book for me at this time. Or maybe it truly is badly written and has an undeserved reputation. (This latter point could be true: observe James Joyce’s work, which reads like the drunken ramblings of someone who didn’t know how to write, yet is revered by English teachers and academics everywhere.)

The point is, I have not been enjoying the book. I’ve disliked it so much that I have been avoiding reading in Russian for the past couple of weeks. I believe language learning should, first and foremost, be fun. Learning grammar was fun and reading news articles about Russian politics has always been fun for me. I read a few other Russian classics before and I loved them. I also read some more “popular” literature and enjoyed that even more.

I have decided to stop reading Doctor Zhivago for now. Avoidance of it is detrimental to my Russian studies. Instead, I’m going to read something more modern, maybe one of those science fiction novels about a war between Russia and NATO over Ukraine. Or maybe one of these alternate history books I found out about last night.

A part of me feels bad for being such a let-down about this. I was so excited to conduct the poll and even more excited to announce the results. But this project is just not working out—it’s actually been causing me a bit of anxiety—so for right now, abandoning it is the right thing for me to do.

Now, I’m going to go finish eating my salad—and start searching for a contemporary novel to read. Suggestions are welcome, of course. 🙂


7 thoughts on “When It’s Okay To Quit

  1. I think it’s fantastic that you’re quitting the book, but moving on to other stuff you like better. The only tragedy would be if you stopped with your Russian studies altogether. By the way, my favorite book is “The Myth of Sisyphus.” It took me six years to read, because I kept putting it down and not wanting to pick it up because it was so challenging. But when I was finally ready, it changed my life. So there’s no shame in tapping out and fighting tomorrow.


    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Ron! I really was feeling bad about this, but you’re right. It’s much better to stop reading a book (that I can always read in the future, anyway) than to stop studying an entire foreign language due to frustration. 🙂

      That’s impressive it took you so long to read that book! Good for you for persevering, though—it sounds like it was worth it. 🙂


  2. I just recently re-read The Count of Monte Cristo (in English, not the original French, since I don’t know French). But it is Middle English, not modern English (did you know that a “report” is a gun shot or loud explosion?) If I were to do it a few years ago, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much because I wasn’t reading at that level. But now I appreciate the fact that it’s long (around 450,000 words) because there are just so many subtleties, backstories and character development that you wouldn’t get otherwise.

    Who knows? Maybe you would pick it up again sometime later and your mind would be in the state to truly enjoy it


    1. Thanks for your comment, Kelvin. Though I must correct something you wrote: The Count of Monte Cristo is in modern English, just with some nineteenth-century vocabulary. No one has spoken Middle English since the late 1400s or so. 🙂 I do want to read The Count of Monte Cristo at some point—maybe I’ll even try to tackle it in Russian!


  3. Don’t feel bad- I tried reading Anna Karenina in Russian and only managed a page. And it’s one of my very favorite books.

    I’ve only read Dr. Zhivago in English and like it quite a bit, but it was a fairly challenging read, so I’m sure it’s very difficult in Russian.

    It’s not bad to quit if you really aren’t enjoying it!


      1. I studied it for a few years in college, but never really learned to speak it. For a while, I could read it pretty well, but I stopped practicing, which was the situation when I thought I’d try reading AK! 😒

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