“I thought: if I had a view like this to look down on every day, I would have the energy and inspiration to conquer the world. The trouble is, when you most need such a view, no one gives it to you.” (A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan)
I’m sure you’ve heard people proclaim “I never leave a book unfinished” like they want you to both award them a scout badge that reads ‘finished every book’, and console them with a gentle back rub. Though I do occasionally power through a book if I’ve dedicated a certain amount of time to it, I’ve never once ended up liking a book for its second half. Every book I’ve started out disliking, I’ve finished disliking, and often actually regretted reading since books and their flaws have the power to upset me terribly.
There’s a saying in librarianship: to each reader their book, to each book their reader. Even if everyone says a book is ‘good’, even if the Pulitzer prize committee says so, that doesn’t mean that you are that book’s right reader. So, in opposition to those martyred book-finishers, I suggest you stop finishing books you don’t like. Put them down, return them to the library, donate them to Good Will, burn them in your backyard. No matter what, don’t feel guilty about not finishing. Instead, joyfully move onto the next book, unencumbered with any pressure to complete that one either.
I wanted to quit A Visit from the Goon Squad about 2/3 of the way through, but couldn’t quite bear to put it down so close to the end. It’s of those ‘nothing but beginnings’ books, a book that attempts to capture a certain time period by zooming in on dozens of loosely related characters, spending just enough time on them to make the reader care, but then denying satisfaction by only hastily sketching their fate. The book kept teasing me with short visits back to earlier characters, then ended with a chapter dedicated to badly-made near future predictions: one of my many reading pet peeves. If only I had put the book down when I realized It wasn’t for me, I could already be half way through the next read instead of wallowing in the hopeless post-bad-book-blues.