I Can't Finish It!
by Sacred Chickens Staff
I have a guilty secret. I’m an English literature major and I don’t always finish books. There I said it.
Sometimes I just can’t get into a book. Moby Dick and As I Lay Dying fall into this category. The first few chapters are like swimming through jello and....I’m lazy, or weak. Or cowardly. I just don’t go on. I’m willing to admit the entire history of literary criticism is against me here, willing to accept it as a character flaw on my part. But I’m getting old. There’s only so much time for so many books. Sorry Moby Dick, you crazy devil whale...I just don’t have time to swim after you for what must be like, a million pages.
The other reason I don’t finish is a bad habit of reading ahead. (Don’t judge me. It’s like a super power. I CAN SEE THE FUTURE!) 1984 was suffocating me. Depressing me. Depriving me of the will to live with its stark, interior feel...so I peeked ahead just to see if it was worth it. Needless to say, I flung the book under the bed, sadly failing my research paper, but relieved of the symptoms it caused. Am I right or wrong? I don’t know. But there you have it. Confessions of an English major.
Sometimes I feel like my reading history is just a trail of unfinished books. It seems that every couple of months I look at a book with an air of disappointment and, with a vague sense that I have been betrayed, set it back on a shelf. In reality, I don't often go without finishing a book. I'm very indiscriminate about what I like in a novel, and I usually don't pick up books that don't draw me in. Sometimes I do, however, after I have deluded myself into thinking it might be good. I put it in the stack of books that I intend to read, and after I have neglected it for a few weeks, I convince myself that I might like it. When I'm hesitant like that to read a book, it's usually not for me. Even worse than that is when I finish a book out of spite. It could be that the book is so bad that I feel compelled to finish it, and oftentimes I finish it so I can write a book review on it.
There are some people I know that will power through a book even if they hate it, because they feel obligated to finish it. These are the people that read ALL of Paradise Lost and found out the ending to Moby Dick. Were they happier? No, but they knew the meaning of the white whale. This is something I don't understand, because reading is not a chore. It's an enjoyable activity and you shouldn't have to force yourself to do it. It's not like taking vitamins or watching the news. You don't have to force yourself to finish every book if you don't like it. Be that as it may, you should still read widely. Don't get stuck in a rut, just because you may not like something, and don't be afraid to pick up a book you normally wouldn't read, but if you hate it, don't be afraid to put it back on the shelf, and move onto something else.