I’ve been putting a lot more books in my Did Not Finish pile on GoodReads lately, and to be honest, I’m not feeling too worried about it. It’s not that the books are bad (though there have been a few), it’s more that they’re just not my thing.
I’ve found that for me, one of the most common reasons for not finishing a novel is that trying to get through it is a chore. They’re either far too verbose, far too infodumpy, or just in a really irritating style. There are also the Everything/Everyone Is Horrible novels that I really don’t have time for in my life right now.
When I was a teenager it used to irritate me that I would lose interest in a book. Granted, a good handful of the assigned reading when I was in high school was dry as a bone (George Eliot’s Silas Marner remains one of my least favorite books for its desert-level dryness); others were Written to Make a Point (like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, which dropped metaphors on you like Acme™ anvils). Both are my least favorite styles of writing. It actually put me off reading for entertainment for quite some time.
Yes, this, coming from a writer, right? This is why I focused more on storytelling in different mediums, like comics, movies and television. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I figured it was time to actually read novels for entertainment again. Once I got back into the swing of it, my personal library expanded exponentially.
Thing is, I found that I was trying to read everything, whether it was enjoyable or not. There were very few books that I wrote off as DNF; I kept a hold of them for years, trying to read them again at a later time.
Nowadays I go by my book ownership rules:
- If I just bought it new, it needs to be read within the year.
- If I’ve bought it but haven’t started reading it in over a year, I push it to the top of my To Be Read queue. If I don’t think I’ll get to it anytime soon, however, it goes to the donation pile.
- If I’ve owned it for ages and enjoyed it in the past but don’t think I’ll be reading it again, it goes in the donation pile.
- If I’ve gotten a quarter of the way in and it’s just not doing anything for me, or if it’s more irritating than enjoyable, it’s not worth finishing. [Note: This is not to say I toss books at the slightest irritation. It takes a lot for me to give up on a book, so I give it a serious go before giving up.]
I donate the books to the Friends of the SF Public Library at their book store over in Fort Mason. I’m totally fine with not making any money back, because these end up getting sold at their store or at their Big Honkin’ Book Sale they have a few times a year. I might not have liked the book, but hey, someone else might!
I’ve found that sticking to these four rules works out really well, as it helps me get through my towering To Be Read pile quickly. Time’s too short to force myself through novels that are more of a chore than a joy. Plus it leaves me more time to check out new writers!