Abandoning Books - To Read or To Give Up

Batty About BeyondersTo read, or to give up on reading?

Since Kathy and I decided to abandon A World Without Heroes, we thought it would be a good time to chat with each other about what leads us to give up on a book. 

Next week we’ll resume our book chats, as we’ll be starting up Bruchac’s Dragon Castle.

As usual, my thoughts are in purple and Kathy's are in blue.

Abandoning a book isn’t something I do lightly. I often feel like when I commit to a book I need to follow through, no matter what. I’m not sure what gave me this conviction, but it’s been true for as long as I can remember. As I get older, though, I’m less and less willing to devote my limited time to reading a book I just don’t like. I find myself skimming quickly, pushing myself through it, or just abandoning it altogether. Of course, I’m doing the Newbery challenge (Check out tweets using the #nerdbery tag) and there are plenty of books I’ve read so far this year that I’d normally toss onto the garbage heap.

The first book I remember abandoning was a Paddington book when I was in elementary school. I had read – and loved – several of the books. Yet there was just something about this book that I didn’t like. Looking back, I don’t recall the details. I can’t even remember exactly which book in the series it was that I abandoned. Yet I remember vividly the trauma. I felt like a quitter – a cheater.

My most recent abandoned book reminds me a LOT of World Without Heroes. It was the first book in the Pendragon series. Just like this one, the Pendragon book had a boy sent into an alternate world, and it moved so slowly. I just didn’t care about the character – not even a teeny tiny bit. I felt guilty tossing this book to the side, since it was recommended to me by several of my students who devoured the entire series. I just couldn’t make myself finish it.

I’m not easily offended, so I don’t abandon based on language or violence. I’d just keep that in mind if I were considering giving the book to any students. Books that are misogynistic or racist would probably get tossed, though, unless I planned to use excerpts to help students identify stereotypes in literature. (Unless they are Newbery winners, of course. Some of those early books are frighteningly bad.)  No – really – it’s bland writing and ho hum characters that will convince me to give a book the old “heave ho”. 

I asked for some responses from Twitter friends, and I got a few people to share their thoughts on when they give up on a book.

@utaliniz () I abandon a book when I have no interest in how it ends! 

@dogtrax () Lack of rich character, obscure plot paths, & either underwriting or overwriting .. all lead me to say "farewell" to a book

And now for Kathy's perspective, as a librarian! 

 I understand that there are different books for different books for different people. So, I’ve always read books I didn’t like if I thought there was the slightest chance I could find a student who might like it. It wasn’t until 2010 that I felt comfortable not just abandoning books, but making it public. It was then I set up my first abandoned goodreads shelf.  Since then, I’ve added a shelf each year. I seem to abandon about 10% of the books I read in a year. They are either abandoned because I had to work on something else or I just wasn’t “feeling” it!  

Being a school librarian means I don’t always read for my own edification!  Sometimes, I’m reading to see if a book would be good for discussion in the classroom or in book club.  I may want to recommend that book to a certain teacher or student.  Sometimes, I’m reading because we need to to use the book in the classroom.  The teacher and I will divide up the books and make sure at least one of has read it.  This means any self-selected reading is out the door.  I’m also on the One Book, One School and Young Hoosier Book Award - Middle Grades committees. I don’t take these commitments, and they are HUGE time commitments, lightly.  I have a responsibility to set aside the time and read and review these books in a timely manner.  I may have to set aside my plans for  a while and make sure I’m doing my required reading!

Although it rarely happens, sometimes I abandon a book is because it is becoming a chore to read.  That’s what was happening with A World Without Heroes.  It was taking me twice as long to read the book.  And all along, a commentary of dislike was running through my head.  This made it worse.  Looking back at the 12 books I’ve abandoned so far this year, this is the only one I’ve actively abhorred.  

Sometimes I get into a reading slump and NOTHING seems good.  I pick up and put down many, many books.  I don’t consider this abandoning though, since I haven’t really invested that much time in it.  I like to call that sampling.  

One of the reasons I created my abandoned shelf was so I could go back and revisit those books when the situation permitted.  It’s kind of like a mini-TBR shelf.  It shows me what types of books I’m abandoning and when.  My next step will be to list why.

I always tell students they don’t have to finish a book but I’ve always tried to finish them myself.  I’m always hoping for that light at the end of the tunnel and most times, I find it.  A book can totally redeem itself.  Unfortunately, sometimes I just can’t wait for that!

There you have it, our thoughts on when "enough is enough". As the end of the school year looms, let us know what you think. When do YOU give up on a book?


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