Abandoned Books Meme

This meme was started by Mrs. B at The Literary Stew. She was reading Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust when this passage set her off thinking about abandoning books:

“..your mood has a lot to do with whether or not you will like a book. I always leave open the option of going back to a book that I haven’t liked (especially if someone I respect has recommended it to me) sometime later. I’ve begun many books, put them down unfinished, then returned a month or two, or years, later and ended up loving them. This happened with Mathew Kneale’s English Passengers, John Crowley’s Little Big, and Andrea Barrett’s The Voyage of the Narwhal.”

Here are my answers to her questions.

1. What would cause you to stop reading a book ?

I never used to give up on reading books, but now I have few qualms about it. I start a book and if it doesn’t appeal within 50 or so pages I put it down. I give up if it becomes a chore to read it, or if the writing is bad, if it irritates me or makes me squirm. Sometimes it may just be that I’m not in the right mood at the time for that book, or it may be that another book is grabbing my attention.


2. Name a book or books you’ve abandoned in the past that you ended up loving later on.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel immediately springs to mind. When I first started I groaned because it’s written in the first person, which often grates with me. It’s also very big and heavy. When I went back to it I soon forgot about the irritating first person and became entranced. I loved it.


3. Name a book you’ve abandoned in the past that you hope to finish someday.

There are several I could name. The first one I thought of is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, followed closely by Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, which has an excellent beginning  but as I read on all the stops and starts became disjointed. I’d borrowed the book from the library and had renewed it a few times so eventually I gave up and returned it.

I’ve started Cloud Atlas at least three times and found it interesting at first and then confused by the changes in the narrative. These are both books with novels-within-novels. I have nothing against such books – I loved the Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, another book that uses this technique – but both Cloud Atlas and If on a Winter’s Night are maybe taking it a step too far for me. I’d like to think I will read them both but I doubt it.

Another book I’m much more likely to start again is The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf. This is her first book published in 1915. It’s about a young woman aboard the Euphrosyne, bound for South America, travelling with her aunt and uncle, a coming-of -age novel. One of my favourite books is Mrs Dalloway and Clarissa Dalloway makes her first appearance in The Voyage Out.  I can’t remember now why I stopped reading this book. It may just have been simply that other books took precedence at the time, but it’s one I definitely want to read.


5 thoughts on “Abandoned Books Meme

  1. Thanks for joining in the fun! I’m enjoying reading everyone’s answers and it’s funny how people are mentioning books I’ve abandoned too. Wolf Hall – I tried twice and twice abandoned it. I love the Tudor era but can’t seem to get into this novel because of the style. However, it is a book I hope to finally read in the future.

    Cloud Atlas and the Calvino books are also books I’ve abandoned in the past however I’ve since gave away my copies. I don’t know if I’ll ever pick them up again.


  2. Recently I moreorless abandoned ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ and look what that went on to win! A book I abandoned twice, before loving it third time lucky was the Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It was definitely right book, wrong time for that one.


  3. I have heard that 50 pages is sort of the standard for giving an author/book a fair shake, but sometimes I just can’t go more than the first 3! Life is short, and my TBR pile is too big!


  4. As you know I recently abandoned Margaret Forster’s Diary of an Ordinary Woman, and I don’t do it lightly! Another one is Thomas Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon, has anyone ever finished it?
    I’m really glad that you metioned Wolf Hall as I have it but have been avoiding reading it because of the length and weight of it. I’ll bump it up my waiting list now!


  5. Mrs. Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolfo – I’m spelling from memory, so please forgive any mistakes – I tried reading this on the subway to work, on the exercise bike and could not engage with it. Then I took it to a quiet summer cottage and could not put it down. Doris Lessing says in her preface to my copy of the The Golden Notebook, that you should put down books that don’t engage you, but revisit them as you may grow into them, as doubtless we grow out of ones that compelled us earlier.


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