This is sort of an existential question, which, to a reader, lands somewhere in the same range as whether euthanasia is appropriate in medicine. Should you finish a call/save a life at all costs?
I have always fallen on the “finish” side of the equation. The reason is that there are too many books which start out difficult or unclear and who are setting you up for something better, and when they come together after the first hundred pages, it is really worth it.
This particular rule does not cover our reading challenge or Infinite Jest. Let’s be clear: if I hadn’t sworn a blood oath to finish Infinite Jest, I never would have.
Other books I didn’t finish were The Power Broker by Robert Caro and A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. In both cases, these are award winning books…and I quit both of them after several hundred pages, appreciating the genius but feeling like I had gotten the point. Also, Wolf Hall.
Great/good books I have finished despite the urge to quit have included Catch-22, Post Office Girl, Life Of Pi, A Widow for One Year, The Imperfectionists. I wish I hadn’t finished Skinny Legs and All, Sophie’s Choice, A Way of Life Like Any Other, Primates of Park Avenue, The Detroit Electric Scheme.
I’m glad I never started City on Fire.
Anyway, I think I’m softening my former hardline position. It doesn’t come up very often because I am relatively careful about what I read. I look for validated books from trusted sources and this rarely leads me astray.
So, just recently (like, last night) I decided to abandon The Ugly.
I had picked it up because I had been reading some serious stuff and I decided that I wanted to get something funny. Novels are rarely funny, in fact. My theory is that happens because it is so much easier to be maudlin than it is to make someone laugh.
So, this was supposed to be funny. And it is in spots, but I did not find it to be interesting or compelling after 80 pages and I’m going to go ahead and pull the plug and let the water out of the tub. If the last 300 pages are comic genius, it is my loss, but I wasn’t getting the sense we were heading in that direction.
Why the change? I just feel like reading time is precious. If a book isn’t grabbing you, you can abandon ship and invest your time in something that is more your speed. When I looked over my reading list, looking for books that I had abandoned, I mostly found books that I was compelled to read from the opening gun.
Doesn’t mean the book is bad…for whatever reason (and it could be a particular mood or something going on in your life), the book isn’t clicking for you. Nothing wrong with fishing a different part of the lake.