I find when I pick up a book and start reading it, that 99.9% of the time I have to finish it. Even if I’m not enjoying the story. Even if the protagonist irks me. Under those circumstances, though, I don’t read it word-for-word. I tend to skim the text. I’ll breeze right through the lousy setting or the overdone description and try to get the general gist of the story from chapter to chapter.
I am a fairly good skimmer. I skimmed a lot in school. I know how to read the topic sentences and pick out key words and draw out the main ideas.
Skimming has been my reading salvation since having kids. My reading-for-pleasure time has been cut to 2 hours a day. If that. And I’m lucky if I can get through a page without some sort of interruption.
This is why my choice of reading material is crucial. The boring, poorly written books don’t stand a chance under such strenuous, demanding conditions. My attention span is stretched plastic wrap-thin these days, and only the stellar books will get read word-for-word.
But still, I can rarely bear to leave even a terrible book unfinished to the point where I don’t at least know who the killer is, or whether the protag is really a cyborg, or who gets Bella—sexy vampire or studly werewolf.
I have this insatiable need to know. I suppose this is why I’m a writer to begin with because I’m constantly asking questions, the why’s and the how’s and the what if’s. Starting a book and then closing it, never to know the story arc and how it all ends is like eating half an ice cream sundae. You don’t feel satisfied.
But having said all of that, there is one book out there that I started and could never finish. I picked it up on several different occasions thinking, ‘Okay, I’m going to read this thing all the way through—even if it kills me!’ Well, guess what? I couldn’t.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.
I wanted to read it because I visited Savannah, GA and absolutely fell in love with the city. This book was recommended to me because supposedly the author had perfectly captured the essence of the city and all its folk.
Well, I couldn’t get into it. That book remains my one and only book that I started and never, ever finished. Sometimes I tell myself I will try it one more time.
Then I remember that life is too short.
Do you always finish books you read, no matter how awful they are? Which ones were especially painful to get through?