To be honest, I find it very difficult to start reading something and then to leave it unfinished. I’ve read a plethora of books that I didn’t like, because I either hoped that they would improve, or I had already invested too much time into them. But just because I finished something doesn’t mean that I would ever, ever pick it up again.
Sometimes I read unpleasant books to their ends in order to learn more about what I don’t like, so that I can avoid doing it in the future. Sometimes a book doesn’t turn out to be painful until you are already too far in. There are a number of reasons as to how books can go bad, and I want to explore some of them today.
We’ll start with the “I didn’t know the milk was bad until I’d already drank half of it” type of book. These books are jerks. The covers are usually nice, the back cover copy enticing and interesting, and the endorsements come from good sources. This is the kind of book that you pick up at the grocery store wondering how it ended up in the clearance pile until you get it home and start reading.
Then there are the “this is terrible but I can’t stop reading it” books. For me, this was the entire Twilight series. The whole time I was reading them it was like self-torture. But I couldn’t stop. I had to know what happened. I had to know if the story ever redeemed itself. These books are like dollar store chocolates—they are similar to something that you know you like, but once you take a bite you realize they’re cheap replicas of the real thing.
Next on the list are the ever painful “a family member recommended/gave this to me and now I have to read it” books. These usually come in the form of, “Oh, you vaguely enjoy non-fiction and politics?! Then you are going to LOVE your birthday present!!!” And because you are a good person, and because you are a book lover, you give it a try. But it is just as you expected and getting through it is like trudging through cement wearing overalls and a backpack full of bricks.
Oh, but let’s not forget the “this book looks pretty, and it’s expensive, so it must be good!” mistake. Also known as the “I paid too much for this not to read it” mistake. Yes, we’ve all been there. A beautiful hardcover calls to us from afar, and when we pull it from the shelf our hands tingle with anticipation. It is beautiful. It is expensive. And we must have it. Then we read it and find out that all that pretty paper just masked a whole lot of nothing.
Or the “I LOVE this author” splurge. I mean, if you liked all of their other books, why wouldn’t you like this one?! Well, because it’s not the same book. Because sometimes authors explore other genres and styles and it doesn’t always suit your tastes. Because now we have a book on our shelf that made us think differently about a favoured author.
What about the “THIS WHOLE BOX OF BOOKS IS ONLY $1!” decision? The one that gets you no good books, but that makes you feel as if you have to give all of them a shot anyway? Yes, that one. And will you ever learn from it? Probably not. Because who on earth could let a box of books escape them for only $1? What if there’s a first edition something or other in there? You never know. So you will probably do this over and over again.
See, all of these reasons are generally the fault of the reader, and not the writer. Every book out that has been enjoyed by someone, so it isn’t up to the writer to make you pick books that you will like. That’s all on you. It isn’t always easy, especially when you are a book collector or an avid reader. Books just seem to flock to you, and it’s hard not to welcome them with open arms.
Have you experienced at least one of the above? Do you have any to add? What was the worst book you ever read?
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