Friday, 9 August 2013

Life's Too Short to Read Bad Books

Whenever I pick up a book I make a commitment to see it through to the end. No matter if I hate it or find it tedious or boring, I've got to read it right up until the very last page. I don't know whether this is because I feel like I'm doing a disservice to the author by just giving up, or I just enjoy the satisfaction of adding another book to my 'Read' pile. I actually think it's a combination of the two, although the fact that a book is a chore to continue should really be a slight on the writer and not the reader.

In a bid to break this habit, which definitely inhibits my enjoyment of reading, I've decided to share with you some of the books that I've wasted time finishing. The enjoyment of a book or a particular genre is of course subjective, but alongside some great works of fiction there are definitely some questionable pieces. And there's no point wasting time on a bad book.

Life's too short to read bad books

The Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein

I picked this one up from the 'Free Books Shelf' on my work experience at DK Books - it's basically a bookcase where press copies, misprints and other unwanted books go to be picked up by others. It looked interesting as it's a historical fiction piece set in 20th Century China, but I found it really tedious. And this is not a thin book! At almost 500 pages long I battled through it, and followed the journey of Chinese painter Pan Yuliang through her life as a concubine and then an art student. Whilst I enjoyed some of Epstein's poetic descriptions and quotes, I found the romantic aspect of it quite dry. I'm not really one for romantic epics at all

The Island by Victoria Hislop

I remember someone recommending a book of the same name to me, but it turns out that I bought the wrong one. I think I was supposed to buy this one by Aldous Huxley instead, which is definitely more my cup of tea. The one I read however, really dragged and I found it incredibly boring. It's basically a love story set on a Greek island at the time when those suffering from leprosy were banished from mainland Greece. It managed to win an award from Richard & Judy's Book Club in 2006 (wooo!) and sold lots of copies, but I spent most of it thinking 'It's got to get better at some point. It's got to get better'. It spans four generations through wars and various tragedies but it felt clunky and cliched. This is also a 500 page-er. *whelp*

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

This is by the same author who wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which I read in school and must read again, but it didn't live up to expectations. The main character is George, a 57 year-old who has just begun his retirement and starts to lose grip on reality after finding a suspicious lesion on his hip. The prose is boring and monotonous and flits about from scene to scene. Not a patch on his previous work and definitely a spot of don't bother.

This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes

I really want to say something scathing like 'This Book Will Make You Want to End Your Life Just So You Don't Have to Read it Anymore', but that's a little too harsh. Haha. It wasn't that bad, but with such a strong title you expect the story to be a little more life affirming. It's hard to relate to a wealthy LA man who's main problem is that his dietitian doesn't allow him to eat anything nice at all. Maybe I'm remembering it wrong, but it didn't have much to give aside from the usual 'money is bad, people are good' adage.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Don't believe the hype. Or do, if that's what you're into. I don't even like crime/detective novels, but I LOVE watching them, but only the good ones like Luther that pop up once in a while. I read this because my boyfriend bought it and everyone was reading it. I got bored after THAT middle part but I did want to know how it ended. Very unsatisfying.

And this is why I tend to stay away from award lists and shortlists and nominations and all of that. Just because a small awards panel deems it a 'must-read', doesn't mean that it's going to be the same for everyone - or am I stating the obvious? Although I have wrongly shied away from over hyped books in the past, such as the first Harry Potter book and the Hunger Games - both of which I thoroughly enjoyed! My best bet for book recommendations is from friends who know which type of book I enjoy, but then I don't want to get stuck in one genre.

From now on I'll definitely put down a book I'm not enjoying. It's not worth wasting time on a bad book, don't you agree?

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