Inability to go back to a book

Here’s a post by Diana Pharaoh Francisat Book View Cafe: Reading and Hoarding:

My problem is that I can’t seem to finish a book. I find that am delighted with the story, but after I set it down for whatever reason, I can’t make myself pick it up. I have two really good books I’m reading now that I can’t seem to make myself go back to.

I have no idea why I’m having trouble. … I sure wish I had an answer, though. And a way to change it.

I don’t have an answer, but I do have an observation.

When this happens to me, it is almost always because:

a) The situation in the book is tense, I put it down because I was nervous about where it was going, and now I’m having trouble picking it back up because of that nervousness. I don’t really want to see the characters suffer through what I can see is probably coming up.

b) The plot looks like it might be heading in a really annoying direction, one that will involve an important personal pet peeve. I am worried about that and I don’t want to go on with the book because I liked the first part and I’m reluctant to see it ruined with a trope I hate.

c) A character in the book is petty, stupid, selfish, and completely unpleasant to read about. That character has walked on stage and I put the book down because I just don’t want to read about him or her. Even watching other characters have to deal with this character is just too unpleasant. If I could be sure this character would walk offstage again in short order, it would be easier to go on with the book, but as it is, I’m delaying.

In all three cases, the only real antidote is trust in the author, so all of these problems hit much harder with a new-to-me author. I do not experience any of this with a new book by Martha Wells or Andrea K Höst or, for that matter, Gillian Bradshaw.

Given a new-to-me author, it can take a possibly surprising amount of willpower to go back to a book once I set it down for any of the above reasons.

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5 thoughts on “Inability to go back to a book”

  1. If one of those things happens, I’ll often skim ahead to get over the block. If the annoying character is there for the rest of the book, or the suspected annoying direction is confirmed, then I ditch the book with confidence. Or, I know how long I need to tough it out before things get good. Sometimes I’ll just flip to the end and not read, but skim for names. If things are super tense, it lets me confirm that the characters I like are still there.

  2. Rachel Neumeier

    Sarah, I do that too! Skim to the end and look for the names to make sure someone survives. Or at least brace for their death if necessary.

  3. It’s one of the things I like less about ebooks – that sort of thing is much harder, so I’m more likely to stay stuck

  4. Yes, the thing I like least about ebooks is the inability to rapidly and easily consult a Dramatis Personae or glossary is a related weakness. Just hard to thumb back and forth easily.

  5. A lot of the time when I go through these periods it means I’m really really tired, or ill; sometimes that I just want to read something else nothing I’ve picked up it hitting the sweet spot. Often, if it’s the latter, trying non-fiction works to break the jam.

    When I’m not very interested in a book it could be any of the reasons above, and even in e-copy I’ll skip and skim to see if I want to go on.

    That Thousand Perfect Notes I found increasingly repellent due to the Mother’s handling, but I had to skip to see if the kids got a decent ending.
    Others just aren’t holding attention. Sometimes I’ll just stop, sometimes I’ll skim to see if things get more interesting. Depends on how it’s hitting my interest at all.

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