More and more, lately, I find myself not finishing the novels I start.

The latest was Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. It had gorgeous writing and complex characters – I just got tired of waiting for the plot to show up. Before that was Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, which had much the same problem, as I’ve mentioned before. Before that was Clive Barker’s Weaveworld, which actually had the opposite problem: the plot hummed along fine, I just couldn’t take the clunky writing. Heck, the only reason I finished China Mieville’s Kraken was that I was tired of giving up on books – I would’ve put it down otherwise.

What’s the cause of this trend? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m getting all ADD “ooh, shiny” – but I don’t think so. I’ve finished five books in the last three months, it’s just that none of them were novels. Maybe I’m just getting pickier about what I read, but then all the books above came highly recommended. Or maybe it’s only a coincidence, and I’m merely finding a lot of books I don’t like lately.

What about you? Do you usually finish what you start?


16 responses to “FINISH HIM!

  1. Um. A lot of literary novels lack plot, and a lot of genre novels lack polish. I really think that’s why the most commercially successful books nowadays meet somewhere in the middle. (And say what you want about Stephenie Meyer or Dan Brown’s writing, but holy heck you should check out some of their peers.)

    But that’s just one reader’s opinion. One reader who has also had a harder time finishing books.

    Perhaps we’re also getting pickier as we get older? Now that I know that time (and not money, or anything else) is my most precious commodity, I don’t like to waste it.

    (Which is not to say that every book I put down is “bad.” Just that it wasn’t for me.)

  2. I have the opposite problem of never starting. I need to read a whole lot more.

    The few books I’ve started and never finished were:

    “Queen of the Damned” by Anne Rice — It didn’t really have a plot as more like a bunch of people doing a bunch of stuff with Lestat nowhere to be found halfway through the thick ass book. I got tired of waiting to find out what happened to him after the end of the previous book.

    “The Warded Man” by Peter V. Brett — I hated the characters. The good thing about this book is that it made me realize I was getting close to having publishable writing skill (aka the writing was sub par).

    “The Elfstones of Shannara” by Terry Brooks — I have no idea why I didn’t finish this one! It was good, though I think I’ve predicted the ending. Now it’s been so long since I read it, I feel I should read it from the beginning, which is delaying me from picking it up again. Still, I love the Shanara books.

  3. I recommend the dresden files – early ones are a bit rough (first novel published, so not entirely unexpected), but the characters are great and the plot is always good, both for individual books and for the series as a whole.

  4. I had the same problem with Blind Assassin.
    Too in love with the elaborate construction to let the characters do anything believable.

    Once upon a time I would finish everything on principle. Now I think life is too short.

  5. I think ADD may be a factor, at least for me, but the biggest factors are 1) so many other things to do (including writing), and 2) as I get older, I’m a more experienced reader. Kristan’s comment that she knew it wasn’t for her is the point. I can tell, much more easily than when I was younger, if something is for me. It’s not a quality question, I’m not a critic and I don’t make a lot of absolute quality judgements, but I know if a particular book is going to reward the effort and time or not. And I’m sure that I’m wrong sometimes, but I’m okay with that.

  6. I’m having this problem lately, too. I finally got around to reading the Harry Potter series. First three books, no problem, but I got fed up with Harry Potter about halfway through Goblet of Fire. I nitpicked it to death and moved on…

    …to Asimov! One of the classics I always said I’d get around to reading (Forward the Foundation; I’ve already read Prelude). But I couldn’t even get halfway through it.

    I’m almost done with Kingdom Beyond the Waves. And I did finish the entire Hunger Games series! But there’re half-finished books a-plenty around here, as well as the looming stack of yet-to-be-reads.

    So…really I don’t have an answer for you. This book was too much this, that book was too much that: I feel like Goldilocks here. I think that, as you get older, you decide not to settle for anything but Juuuust Right. And that’s okay…if difficult, sometimes.

    • RE: Asimov, have you attempted any of the Foundation books besides Prelude and Forward? The original trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation) is the only part I would call “classics.” Consider giving those a chance if you haven’t already. He wrote the others later.

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