Going to try a few features on all things book, so here’s a little offering, for if you’re wavering on whether to continue…
Pushing through the book barrier
So you’ve got through to a third of the book and It’s been a few days, it catches your eye on the side there, and you instinctively go to pick it up before pausing. You’ve definitely hit the barrier, and you’re just not sure if you want to continue. For whatever reason you just can’t seem to ‘get into it’. Fear not, we’ve all been there, my friend, and often your caution is reasonable. Now, I’m quite a stubborn reader, and talking to my friend the other day, realised that there are many like me. Both of us had only ever given up on one book. I’m quite proud of my resilience, but understand it’s not for everyone. However, if you’re someone who would like to finish more books, here’s a few tips.
There is such a thing as a bad book. As much as we would wish it otherwise, sometimes publishers make bad calls, and allow the odd shocker to slip through the net. Sure, we should be willing to give books a chance, as some are late bloomers, but sometimes your reservation is right, and it’s just a bit rubbish, so don’t feel like you need to finish it out of a sense of literary duty.
Think about the exact time you have your reservation, could it be in the morning, with a hot drink and a clear head you’re going to have a better chance of pushing through? Similarly, sometimes it’s just not the right time in our lives for that book, as what is going on around you will of course affect your state of mind and how you perceive the events. If you’re going to tackle a big ol’ fantasy trilogy, starting it in the midst of a busy holiday period or the middle of exams, say, is not going to be ideal, and acknowledging that can give you a second chance on a better occasion.
Now, it may be a case of horses for courses. Perhaps you’ve gone outside your comfort zone and in a different direction. This is fantastic, but maybe you’ve jumped in the deep end and are struggling to keep up, which is easily imaginable with something like sci-fi or Dickensian for example. This is where we can start to think laterally about the experience of reading…
For me, the easiest way to keep going with a book is to think laterally about what I’m putting myself through. The reason, often, that we put a book down and struggle to pick it up again is because we feel that either we are not sufficiently entertained or we are getting nothing stimulating for our investment of time. In this case, we must consider what other benefits we’re getting from the reading of the book. The examples I put in brackets are books where I could imagine this being the case, not necessarily meaning I experienced it myself with them. Are we appreciating a new style (‘Cloud Atlas’)? If we finish this are we going to come out with a better understanding of a genre (‘Mansfield Park’)? Are we going to learn some cool stuff about a period of history (‘Pillars of the Earth’)? Even if the plots not a cracker are the still things in that make you laugh (‘The Long, Dark Tea-time of the Soul’)? Has the author used a device that is intriguing (‘Ella Minnow Pea’)? Is the book provoking thoughts about something you’ve not considered for a while (‘The City & the City’)? Do you want to see if that peripheral character pops up again later because they were interesting (‘Netherland’)?
The biggest question of course is, are you going to be disappointed later on that you stopped? All of those questions, though, allow us to think about the wider perspective of the book we’re reading and why we’re reading at all. Not every novel is going to change your life, but you can still get to the end of the book and think, well, this element was interesting and new, and that can be enough.
Finally, if you need something else first, maybe a lighter read based on the time in your life, or an easier introduction to a new genre, don’t worry, when you come back to this book, you’ll be amazed how quickly you remember.
Keep on keeping on.