Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Last Eight Books I Abandoned and The Psychology of Abandonment

Recently an interesting infographic has been circulating from Goodreads. Elizabeth K. Chandler tried to sort out why readers continue reading or give up on a book, peppered with interesting quotes from a few of the participants. It caused me to reflect on the books I've given up this year.

I came up with eight books I'd given up this year. While I probably forgot a few in-between, it was a helpful exercise. I won't name the offenders because I don't want my reasons mistaken for reviews or to even put potential readers off the given books. This is only an experiment in the things that set me off of something, sometimes temporarily, but mostly personally.

1. The most recent abandonment was last week. I had a free day, rolled the dice on a very short book. Opened like a Star Trek: TNG teleplay, filling in the gaps with gobs of generic setting description. Space war stories aren't my thing anyway, and this kind of dialogue doesn't work when Patrick Stewart isn't performing it.

2. Gave another YA novel a shot, this one by an exceptionally gifted novelist. Gave it 150 pages; did nothing badly, prose stronger than average YA, but did nothing particularly well either. Characters were all simple, no humor, minimal stakes, and the world seemed very big but with no interesting things in its breadth. Not bad; just not for me.

3. Short story anthology. The stories I read were all very rich and provocative, and I was just too exhausted from my week to give them their due. Had to return to library unfinished. Entirely my bad. Will check it out again later.

4. Too heavily reliant on dialogue, and specifically banter that never landed for me. The tedium of jokes that weren't funny built up until I re-shelved the book. Could have been my mood. Will give the author another shot some day.

5. Classic Fantasy novel that lured me in with its reputation. Opened with an amnesia trope – unappealing, but probably wasn't overdone in its time. Amnesiac is then insufferably selfish and violent, and surrounded by people in the know who won't tell him anything. Don't care about him, insulted by the presentation of the plot. Back on the shelf it goes for another try some day.

6. Horror novel with a sociopathic hero. Generic prose, tried to get into it for the story. Sociopath tells psychiatrist he thinks he's a sociopath because he thinks about serial killers; psychiatrist instantly believes him. Made me twitch severely. Entire family then convinced in hackneyed argument, during which hero both defines sociopathy as inability to perceive or read emotions, and then perceives family having emotions and actively manipulates them for his benefit. Book has no irony. Threw the book at the ground.

7. It tried to open with shock, with gore and uncomfortable injuries and a survivor having to eat offal to survive. That sort of shock intro seldom works on me. Then it switched point of view to a sexy girl who promptly stripped and tried to seduce someone into boinking in her pool. The one-two punch of fake maturity.

8. Had a hazard, as the author already had one strike with me for an unentertaining previous book. This one sported a first person point of view, the narrator someone sounding like someone I would make excuses to get away from at a party. Not something I could put up with at the time.

If you can think of any recent abandonments on your own part, I'd be very interested to read about them in the Comments. What made you give up on a book most recently?


  1. Hopefully that first one wasn't mine...

  2. Abandoned one book about a superhero. Meant to be sympathetic, she was just... nothing. She didn't do anything because she was depressed about how her life had been up to that point, so despite having various superabilities, she mostly just moped and griped.

    Stalled on another book because, after 100 pages, the hero has a) sat around a lot, b) bickered with his wife, c) smoked cigarettes.

  3. I am almost certain I know what #5 is ;)

    This is interesting. I'm having a hard time coming up with anything like a rule for when I abandon books versus when I keep on keepin' on. I finished Swords and Deviltry, although I hated almost every word. But I stopped less than 50 pages from the end of Perdido Street Station--an amazing book, but not the most engrossing read in all parts; plus, it slid under my bookshelf and I lost it for a few months. (Once I've put a book down for that long, it's really dang hard to pick back up). I also have only read half of Games of Thrones because I didn't finish it in time for the book club meeting and wasn't inspired to pick it back up?

    I suppose there is a species of "as a rule, I like to finish things" in me, but also a bit of "once my attention has been diverted, it's really hard to get reinvested."

    Btw, good to meet you yesterday!

  4. There aren't many books I give up on. I'm easily entertained. =) There's only a handful I didn't finish from start to end. The first one I put down because I figured out how it would end within the first five pages. Flipped to the back to confirm. The other two started out amazing but kept having moments that were too unbelievable for me and ruined the story. The other books that come to mind, I ended up not finishing because I put them down and got distracted and have never picked them back up.

  5. I can only think of a couple books that I've just walked away from. One was a series of books. I read the first book and it was fine. Read the second wasn't great, but I managed to finish it. Got the the third book and had nothing but negative feelings toward the character I was *supposed* to be liking. I mean, I got angry just picking up the book knowing I'd probably see those characters win the day, and I didn't want them to. It felt unhealthy, so I stopped reading. >.<

    Another was a series of short stories about characters from a series of books I LOVE. I thought it would be great, and in a way it was. It filled in some missing pieces. I only got about three and a half short stories into it before I completely stalled, though. The problem was that I had already read everything out in the series, and these short stories were SO far behind where I was in the plot. I think the problem was that I had *just* finished the last chronological book in the series out so far, then hopped back to those short stories. It didn't work. I wanted the next chronological book, not a jaunt down memory lane. So I'll no doubt pick it up again when I'm in a better mindset for it. ^.^

  6. I loved the line about fake maturity -- that sums up a lot of failed books, methinks.

    I've thrown a couple of books across the room in the past twelve months. Let's see: one of them had a plot with a lot of internal contradictions -- I scanned ahead to see if anything ever matched up, and they didn't, so I dropped it.

    Another book depended on ethnic stereotypes to categorise the good guys and bad guys, which got tiresome very quickly.

  7. Gigantic multi-prize nominated historical novel by Flavor of the Moment author. Yodels of praise, warbles of ecstasy about immersive experience. By p200 I was so bored I was prepared to jab the scissors into my leg simply in order to feel something. So I quit.

  8. I was previously of the "I usually finish no matter what" party, but in recent years my lack of time has made it so I have to give up if I'm really struggling. I'll still try for awhile, but when I can't bring myself to go to bed because I desperately don't want to read the book waiting there for me, it's time to shelve that sucker.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  9. I haven't abandoned many books - but I'm fairly picky about what I pick up. The only two I can think of off the top of my head (there have been more than two) were because:
    1. The first, a so-called "classic" had so many swears in the first paragraph (and a brief skim of the next few pages attested that this was not going to change upon further reading) that I couldn't find the story.
    2. The most recent was one that started out truly promising and I really wanted to like, but the events of the story went from unbelievable to shocking to truly horrific, until I just couldn't stand to read one more word.

    Oh, there was a third book I put down last year because I just got bored. I read a ways longer than I normally would have because a friend who generally likes the same stuff I do had recommended it quite highly. But when I start to describe reading a new book as "slogging through" it's time to put the book down and go read something else. It wasn't bad, just not my cup o' tea.

  10. I only finish about one in four novels that I start. I can often get past halfway before a book loses me.


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