Sunday, March 9, 2008

Hello, my name is TwoSquare, and I'm a compulsive book finisher.

Congratulations to Kerry at A Ten O'Clock Scholar, winner of my "100 Books I Love" giveaway. Her name was drawn at random, and I am so happy to send my new bloggy friend the book of her choice from my list. Thanks to all of you for the amazing suggestions, some of which have been on my must-read list for a while and others I have never heard of. I'm excited to get reading.

In the spirit of Lent, a confession and a plea for help:
I have a problem. I am a compulsive book finisher. If I start a book, I have to finish it, no matter how terrible it is. I have this book that has been holding me up on other reading forever. It's really an interesting read, but it is so depressing that I have trouble getting through it very quickly. I have taken multiple breaks from it to read other books, but my pile of books to read is growing larger at an alarming rate while I barely seem to make a dent in this book. I have tried to just let it go. At one point I even lost it at my in-laws' house and didn't try too hard to find it. It has since returned to haunt me. I always laugh at my husband's ability to be in the middle of about a dozen books on as many subjects and rarely finish more than one of them. I'm starting to think he's onto something.

Why am I writing this? I don't know. Perhaps I am hoping I'm not the only one out there who has this problem...I mean, this gift. Perhaps I want someone to tell me it's okay to just let the book go. Perhaps I am looking for advice on how to get through a hard read quickly so that I can get onto other things. Honestly, I don't think I can just leave the book unfinished. It will probably haunt me to my grave. I mean, you're talking to the teenager who read every book she was assigned in high school cover to cover, even that horrible Red Badge of Courage. Oh, and college? I read every piece of literature put in front of me, good or bad, even if it meant skipping a night of beer and good music. I am just that way. I can think of one book that I didn't finish in the past ten years, and it was a piece of fluffy, fun fiction. Anything that at least tries to take itself seriously I feel required to finish.

Now you know. Can you help?


Missy said...

First, I receive your confession, and grant you the grace to hang onto this quirk-- we all have some!


However, I used to be a finish to the bitter end reader, but motherhood and limited reading time have made me a drop it like a hot potato if it does not compel me reader.

Even with drastically reduced TV and a husband who is a reader too, I have so much less time for reading now that the thought of all the delightful things I'll never get to keeps me from sticking with a book I'm struggling with.

So from my perspective, let Mao go. He'll be ok.

Mark Horner said...

If a book is lousy, you must put it down. There is no sense in wasting your time, and the luxurious experience of reading, on drivel. Really.

Recently, I have come across a couple of real disappointments, both biographies. The first is a new book on Alice Roosevelt Longworth, TR's eldest daughter. Great jacket, great photos, but lousy, lousy writing, tinged with a "I'm writing my masters thesis, therefore I must literally impregnate my text with my theme, even though it of course has no factual basis" tone. Talk about a bore.

The second, also a bio, looks at Oona O'Neil Chaplin, daughter of the playwright and wife of the legendary entertainer. Again, potentially-fascinating subject, but the writing was just miserable. It took all my effort to plow through the first two-thirds of the book to get to some remotely interesting stuff.

So, again, don't waste your time. The world is filled with good reading--and Chairman Mao ain't it.

Mark Horner said...

*"literally impregnate" should be "liberally impregnate." You get the idea.

Kerry - A Ten O'Clock Scholar said...

Thank you, again, for my book! I'm finally here (after a very busy day) to select my book from your list. But, I saw this post and had to comment!

Sometimes I have to finish a book - which makes me very picky about starting books, because I don't want to waste my time with a rotten one. But I also have a habit of starting books and leaving them lingering for weeks, months, even years.

As I think about it - I'm a compulsive fiction finisher, but a slacker non-fiction book lingerer.

So, I have no help here for you - just a little commiseration. :) In fact I just finished a book (At World's End) simply because I had too, not because it was all that good.

Farrah said...

I am so this way and it can be a little debilitating. I get so easily distracted and sometimes put the book down for awhile but if I ever pick any book up again, I feel guilty if it isn't the one I last put down. I am not as much the avid reader like you and Cath, but it is partly because of this obsession.
I feel for you. If you fix it, tell me how! :)

Jamie said...

I finish most of what I start, too. However, after reading a couple of doozies from cover to cover a few years ago, only to wish in the end that I hadn't, I decided to stop punishing myself.

The last book I didn't finish was a classic: Wuthering Heights. Superbly written, but so much of a downer I felt as if I were sinking in to Kathy and Heathcliff's dark world every night, and dreaded cracking open the spine. I got more than halfway through it before saying enough is enough! and moved onto something that didn't depress me to sleep.

There are too many wonderful books out there to force yourself to continue with a book that isn't worth reading or is incapable holding your interest. You didn't sign a contract that binds you to the book, so don't feel guilty--just walk away. :)

Catherine said...

I used to be this way. But then it became really clear to me that I would not read all the books I wanted to before I died. So I realized that any book I waste my time on equals other books I will not read at all. So, saying No to one book I've started but hate is saying Yes to other books I will love. And saying Yes to a book I've started and hate is saying No to other books. It makes more logical sense to only say Yes to books that I like, since I have to say No to so many...

Be healed.

Rachel said...

hi girlfriend... just stopping through for a sec.
from the why-was-i-an-english-major?-really-bad-reader-gal... i gotta say- you have such a good problem. i so appreciate your ability to sit and sit and sit and be committed to things... the self control that you have- i don't have. i'm a bk dater... more often a mag or blog reader... or a run-around-the-house-what-should-i-do-now? person. anyway, enjoy how you are made b/c it's pretty darn fabulous! love ya!

TwoSquareMeals said...

An update. I only have 90 pages to go, so I am going to do it. I can't help it.

I should clarify that I never finish a poorly written book unless it is non-fiction and the only book written on a subject of great importance to me. I NEVER finish poorly written fiction. That said, I think I will show more discretion next time I think about picking up a non-fiction doozy, no matter how well-written and interesting. I need to start those when I have a few days completely alone, like when I am 50!

Jennifer F. said...

I am so glad to know I'm not the only one who does this!

I always end up in ridiculous book situations when my various quirks collide: I have a short attention span but *have* to finish whatever books I start, which means I'm often reading more than one book at once...but I also have a thing about not reading more than one book at once.

I loved Catherine's thought: "saying No to one book I've started but hate is saying Yes to other books I will love.". I'm going to keep that one in mind!