It Take Three Strikes

20171112ma_5277Years ago, when I’d crack open a book, I knew I was in it for the long haul. If I committed to reading the book, I would finish it… no matter what. Yes, no matter what.

(I’m guessing this is probably (most likely) due to school. We are assigned a book and we have to read it for class or do a report on it or whatever.)

But now things have changed.

For me, most of my reading is (supposed to be) for pleasure. So, when I crack open a book, and for whatever reason I’m not liking it, I’ve found that it’s okay to give myself the luxury of NOT FINISHING THE BOOK.

Yes, it’s okay to not finish a book.

Really.

Now, this came as a bit of a revelation to me.

By nature, I’m a rule-follower. I always felt this (perhaps unwritten) rule that once you start a book, you need to finish it. But for what purpose? What if the book is poorly written? What if I can’t stand the plot? Or the characters? What if…? What if…?

As I stated above, I’m a rule-follower. So, I created a new rule for me to follow.

What I call”My Three Strike Rule”.

This is how it works. I always start with fresh optimism that this book may become one of my favourite books. (And sometimes it does! Hooray!)

But, sometimes, the book gets strikes. Strikes can range from lousy writing to too much historical inaccuracy to too much profanity. (Aside: If every other sentence features the f-bomb, I’m probably not going to stick around.) Or sometimes I’ll just realize I’m not actually enjoying this read. For any of the above, that’s when I’ll say to myself (and yes, often I say this out loud to myself): “Strike One”.

Now, I am pretty kind when it comes to giving strikes. If it’s a minor thing, I may ignore it at first. When it starts to get on my nerves, but it’s still not THAT big of a deal, I may even give it only a half strike. My hope, always, is that the book will just get better. (And sometimes it does! Yay!)

But sadly, in my experience, once I’ve identified a strike, or even a half-strike, it usually goes downhill from there. Strike Two. Strike Three. DNF.

A few years back, this happened to me with a book that took a modern-day girl into the world of Little Women. Now, I love this kind of book. Except when it messes with the original book too much.

(Note: If you’ve never read Little Women, this next bit contains SPOILERS.)

In this case, this book messed with Amy. Now, to be perfectly honest, Amy has never been my favourite character. And as a kid, I wanted Jo to marry Laurie just as much as anybody. I ranted at Louisa May Alcott for what she did. But, I’ve also come to accept Amy and Laurie as a couple (although I do wish Alcott had left Jo single instead of marrying her off to the Professor). But even though I don’t care for the Professor as  marriage material, I know and accept that Little Women is Little Women. And just as you cannot change history, I believe you cannot change book history.

So, as I was reading this modern take on Little Women, I began to see what the author was doing. She was getting rid of the real, true Amy of the book! Louisa May Alcott’s creation. And then she was arranging for things to be different for Jo and Laurie.

Yes, here’s the point where I gave the story my first strike.

Why was that a strike for me? Because I think the author of this book missed Alcott’s point. Amy didn’t steal Laurie from Jo. Even if Amy never existed, I still think  Jo would not have married Laurie. And while I wish in my heart of hearts that Jo could love Laurie as he loved her, sometimes that just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen in real life. (Marriage didn’t happen for Alcott.) And so, it doesn’t always happen in book life.

Did this book get three strikes? Absolutely, yes, it did. Probably about half-way through. I can’t remember the exact point anymore. I do remember peeking at the end of the book to see if I was right about the author’s intent. I was. If I was a book thrower, I would have thrown that book across the room. (I’m not and I didn’t.)

So, I’m glad I did not feel obligated to finish this book in any way.

What about you? Do you have any rule for finishing or not finishing a book?

5 thoughts on “It Take Three Strikes

  1. I used to finish every single book out of sheer optimism. Sometimes books just don’t come together until the end. (I just finished Heather Dixon’s Illusionarium and, halfway through, I was wishing the thing would just end. But the final chapters were great!) However, I don’t finish every single book now. If it feels too dark for me or if I can’t see what benefit I’d get out of struggling through to the end, I set it aside. But I don’t do this very often.

    And I can see what you mean about that retelling. I’ve never liked Amy and Laurie, I think largely because their romance doesn’t feel convincing. It just seems like, “Oh yeah, Amy’s beautiful and likes elegant things and she’d be great as a rich man’s wife.” But they both seem to lose personality once they get together and just become…that rich couple or something.

    Still, I see what Alcott wanted to do with showing Jo not marrying Laurie. Sometimes first crushes don’t work out (probably most of the time they don’t), so it’s realistic Laurie’s first crush wouldn’t turn into his wife. But the retelling decides that it doesn’t respect Alcott’s thinking on romance and that it “knows better” how things “should have been.” I would want a retelling that is fresh and original, but feels respectful. Even if it’s totally weird and turns everyone into fish fighting against sharks or something, it could still feel like it’s respectful of the work–respectful but just having fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, yes. Little Women. I feel any retelling of this book might prove a hard one for me to like. Because I love it so much. Warts and all. (I love how you hit the nail on the head with Amy/Laurie losing their personalities once they are married. So true.)

      A retelling of Little Women turned into Little Fish. Hmm… That sounds interesting to say the least. (Is Aunt March the shark??) I’d give it a shot. And I’d finish it too, as long as it stays true to Alcott.

      Like

  2. A few years ago, when I reached 70 (!), it came to me that I don’t have that much time left to read good books, so now, my rule of thumb is:
    10% if I’m on Kindle
    50 pages in a print book.
    At the point, and sometimes earlier or even later if I’m unsure–I decide if this is how I want to spend my time. I even created a “Chose not to finish” category on Goodreads!

    Liked by 1 person

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