Recently, I attempted to read “The Paying Guests,” a long novel that comes highly recommended from many reviewers. Although I struggled early on to slog through the long descriptions of house cleaning and pages upon pages spent on the protagonist’s inner musings, I kept on reading. Towards about the 30% mark, I started to falter, so I looked up some more non-spoiler reviews for encouragement to keep going. I continued reading until about halfway when I finally decided I couldn’t go on any further. The characters were uninteresting, the author insisted on using 30 words when 5 would do, and the plot was moving at a glacial pace.
I don’t really like to give up on books, especially once I’ve already spent a few hours on them. However, I find that forcing myself to read something I don’t like invokes a few familiar emotions I haven’t felt since high school and college. Everyone remembers having to read classic literature in school. Classics certainly have their place and their value, but not everyone enjoys each and every book that is considered a “classic”. But when you have a grade on the line, you slog through the books anyway, trying desperately to absorb as much of the book as possible while reading it quickly so you can do something more enjoyable. In high school, for example, I remember having to read “Wuthering Heights,” and I strongly disliked it, especially the awful characters. In college, out of boredom, I decided to reread it to see if I still didn’t like it. My second reading did not improve my opinion of the book. However, I decided to read another classic written by another Bronte: “Jane Eyre.” I enjoyed that book immensely and wished it had been assigned in high school instead of “Wuthering Heights.”
Some readers have a policy of finishing a book, no matter how painful it becomes. Others have a set rule to quit after a certain point (such as the 100 page mark) if the book isn’t pulling them in. I don’t really have a firm policy, but as I learned in high school and college, reading a book that you can’t stand isn’t any fun. My attempt at “The Paying Guests” reminded me of that. Although it’s hard to quit a book after you’ve already read a significant portion of it, why suffer through it? Put it down and pick up something else. There are so many amazing books to read instead.