On Breaking Up with Books

I was just reading Sonya Chung’s article in The Millions on breaking up with books (funny!) and thinking about my own reading. As a former English major, I read oh, so many books in school. Well, at least, I was supposed to read them–and for the most part, I was faithful about it. I loved quite a lot of the things I read, but honestly, some of them felt like wading through so much literary garbage. I’d consider it an exercise in sardonicism, and spent many of my evenings interrupting my roommates’ concentration every several minutes with performances of passages, read as absurdly and disdainfully as possible. I’m not sure they always knew what the heck I was talking about, coming to the book mid-stream, but they were good to indulge me, anyway.

Regardless, I knew how to stick with a book, and I don’t think it was until I’d been married and had children, even, that it occurred to me that I could throw caution to the wind and just…stop reading. Just put the book down and walk away. The whole concept was exotic and freeing, like international travel, or going bra-less. (In fact, I began to realize that it was a pattern I could take up with anything, which explains my pile of unfinished knitted…things.)

In any event, I do still generally try to finish my books. I’m a person who prefers closure, and so I like to read to the end if I can stand it. But, inspired by Chung’s article and using her categories, I thought I’d post my List of the Unfinished here for you to behold and mock at will:

Books I Did Not Finish But Very Much Want to Try Again
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Beethoven’s Hair, Russell Martin
The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain

Books That I’ve Already Tried More Than Once But Couldn’t Engage With, I Don’t Know Why
Main Street, Sinclair Lewis
The Cranford Chronicles, Elizabeth Gaskell
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle
My Antonia, Willa Cather

Books That I Found Mostly Painful and Likely Will Not Revisit
The Privileges, Jonathan Dee
Away, Amy Bloom
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Moby Dick, Herman Melville

Shlogged Through and Almost Abandoned, But Kept On; No Pay-off, I Felt, In the End
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles, Margaret George
Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper

Struggled Through, Maybe Put Down For a While, But Finished and Am Very Glad I Did
The Scarlett Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Inferno, Dante
Most of Shakespeare’s plays (I had a class. I don’t know anyone who reads most of Shakespeare for fun. I love the guy, but he’s much easier to watch than to read!)


2 thoughts on “On Breaking Up with Books

  1. I’m with you on A Farewell to Arms, against you on reading Shakespeare for fun (me! I read it for fun!), and against you on Gatsby and a Wrinkle in Time. I loff both those books.

    I’ve not yet tried to read Moby Dick, but there’s a lot of stuff I’ve slogged through–A Widow for One Year comes to mind. Ugh.


  2. Just found your blog:) Loved your list of books and there are a few I’ll check out and a few I agree on (Farewell to Arms). You should give My Anotonia one more try-I lvoed it.
    Michelle (Madarieta) Price


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