When To Quit Reading A Book

At what point when you’re reading a book and not enjoying it do you call it quits?

When I was younger, I never quit books. Even if I despised them, I kept reading and stuck it through to the bitter end. This was pre-Goodreads days, so I didn’t even get to do any cathartic venting online when I didn’t like something.

After I started working and had limited time to read, I started being more picky about what I read through to the end. Plus, I enjoyed the freedom of not being in school anymore. In school, I had to read a lot of books, many of which I didn’t like. But they were required for class, so not reading them wasn’t really an option. (Unless I wanted a bad grade, which obviously I didn’t.)

Suddenly, after I started working, I realized there were a lot of books I just didn’t want to read. Moreover, I realized it wasn’t a bad thing that I didn’t want to read them. If I started something and just couldn’t get into it, I would dump it.

I still do this. My local library has a fantastic ebook collection and I’ve started many books that I didn’t end up finishing. It’s actually liberating because it means I have more time to read what I want. This doesn’t mean that I don’t force myself to read difficult books. I’m slowly working my way through Jane Austen’s works. I think they’re difficult reads, but I still enjoy reading them.

At least the cover is cool?

No, the type of books I’m talking about quitting are ones like Red Queen. Years ago, everyone was talking about this book. I decided to read it last year—only to put it down in disgust after a few chapters. I just couldn’t get into it. I figured it wasn’t for me.

Earlier this year, one of my coworkers said her sister recommended it to her. My coworker hasn’t read it, but said her sister loved it. I decided to try it again. I made it a bit further than last time, but I still didn’t get very far.

Last week, I saw that the library had the audiobook version of Red Queen available. I’ve been somewhat getting into audiobooks lately, so I thought I’d give this book yet another try. Third time’s the charm, right?

You’ve got to give me some credit: I made it over halfway through this time. I still ended up abandoning this book, though. I just don’t care for it. I think the plot is dumb and the characters are like cardboard. I know it sold well, so obviously I’m missing something here. I guess it’s just not my kind of book. And that’s okay because I will spend time reading books that are my kind of books.

When do you quit reading a book if you don’t like it? Have you read Red Queen? If you have and you liked it, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. When I look at good reviews of it online, I feel like everyone who wrote a good review read a different book than the one I did!

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Random Thoughts About ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’

I just finished rereading Susana Clarke’s excellent fantasy novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, last night. I’ve read it a couple of times before, but it’s been a while and I figured a sufficient amount of time had passed since I last read it so that I could justify reading it again. I’m happy to report it was as good this time as it was previous times. Unfortunately, there have been times when I reread a book and did not enjoy it as much during the rereading as I did the first time I read it. But that’s beside the point. If you like fantasy and haven’t read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, I’d highly recommend you do it. It’s a regular adult (as opposed to young adult) book and it’s very good. Mild spoilers may follow.

  • Who is the protagonist in this book? When I first read it, I assumed Mr Norrell because he appears first in the book out of the two title characters. Then I thought Jonathan Strange because his actions drive so much of the plot, especially towards the end. Then I thought maybe both of them are protagonists. After reading the book this time, I’ve been thinking: what if neither of those characters is the protagonist? What if John Uskglass, the Raven King, a character who isn’t technically alive during the years this book takes place, is actually the protagonist? This may be a strange idea, but it’s not one I’ve considered before.
  • Within the context of the story, the Raven King ruled Northern England for three hundred years, many centuries before book takes place in the early nineteenth century. He is a divisive figure all throughout the book, even though he is long gone and the north of England is under the rule of King George III’s regent, as it was in reality.
  • Getting back to the two title characters, in a way this book is as much about their relationship as it is about them. They are great friends due to their shared interest in doing magic. In fact, their friendship reminded me a lot of another famous literary friendship: that of Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. The Aubrey-Maturin series is not fantastical in the slightest—if anything, it errs on the side of extreme realism, as the author did extensive research and put in so many arcane details that the books are boring to read at times—but I still can see some similarities between these books.
  • (As an aside, I read all twenty of the Aubrey-Maturin series years ago. It took about two or three years and it was rough going sometimes. The books are long and dense and did I mention there are twenty of them? There’s actually an incomplete twenty-first one as well, but the library didn’t have a copy, so I haven’t read that one. Honestly, I don’t know if I have a desire to read it at this point.)
  • The ending of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a bit… strange. (Forgive the pun. I couldn’t resist.) On one hand, it ends on a positive note because many good changes have occurred in England. On another, the fate of the title characters is a bit ambiguous and could be interpreted in a very sad way. My interpretation of the ending has changed over the years. I used to think one thing happened, but now I think something else happened.