I don’t often not finish books. Sometimes they take a long time to read, and a lot depends on what’s going on in my life in the mean time as to how quickly they get read and what time I’ll allow for reading. But, generally, I finish them. There are a couple of books which I’ve started, and, despite several attempts, have never managed to finish (Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, and Margaret Mahy’s Maddigan’s Fantasia, for example) mainly because I think I ought to like them: I’ve loved every other book by Mahy I’ve read, I think – why is this one different? and try going back to it again in the hope that I’ll love it now. This has worked well in some instances: for example, I read the first two volumes of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Trilogy immediately after each other, then managed only a bit of the third. I went back to it later and polished it off in no time (well, insofar as one can polish off one of Stephenson’s books that quickly!).
There are a lot more books which I’ve completely abandoned due to not feeling the love at all (Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost, for example, which was just dull, despite all its plaudits), and have never felt the desire to revisit. There are too many books and not enough time!
At the moment I’m struggling with Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw: I started this with great anticipation, the story unusual and arresting, but now, several chapters in, it’s not compelling me enough to continue reading. In fact, I’m finding David Norbury’s Soil and Rock Description in Engineering Practice a more riveting read (to be fair, I am a geologist, and find these things interesting). Perhaps it’s the sense of impending doom I’m getting from the set-up: things are going to go horribly wrong, I can feel it. Or perhaps Walton has done her work too well: the dragons are too dragonish, and not human enough? Whatever it is, I am not picking this up when I need to read (also not helped by the fact that I’ve also started Robin McKinley’s Pegasus, which is far more gripping and compelling, and her pegasi are not at all human).
I don’t normally feel guilty about not finishing books I’ve disliked, but I don’t dislike Tooth and Claw, and it’s been highly recommended by people who seem to have similar tastes as me, so I’m reluctant to abandon it completely.
Do you have to finish a book once you’ve started?