You’ll be ::insert adjective here:: to know that we’ve rescheduled our cruise, the one that I mentioned had been cancelled. In preparation, I’ve been bustling about, busy with work and whatnot, but mostly planning my flight/poolside/late-night-on-deck reading list. I’m bringing nine books. Nine. And I picked up two more at the library yesterday “for when I get back.” So really eleven books. What am I going to do with eleven books?

Well, I’ll tell you what I’m probably not going to do: finish all of them. I like finishing books. I like reserving final judgment on a book until I’ve heard all the author has to say. And there’s always the possibility that the ending will make up for all a book’s wrongs, a kind of reverse Life of Pi (I loved Life of Pi until the ending; I hated that ending). But there are just too many books in the world. If I (somehow miraculously) read 100 books every year of my life and lived to be 100 years old, that’d still only be 10,000 books. Do you know how many books are published each year? Millions. I’m not kidding. Even if we’re just talking new titles, the number is still in the hundreds of thousands, which means that in this perfect-life scenario, I could still only read, at the extreme, 10% of all the books that come out just this year. Really it’s well below 1%, though. Add together all of the books that have ever been published and it turns into one of those scale of the universe diagrams and gets really depressing.

“Yeah, but Brian, not all of those are good books. Some are self-published and unedited or put out by crazy people or generally about something you wouldn’t be interested in, like fishing lures.” Yes! Yes! That’s exactly my point! I’m not going to love every book I pick up, and with so many books out there, so many that I might potentially love, that might change everything about my life for the better and make my world a happier place, why bother with the ones I don’t like? What’s the point of wasting all those precious reading minutes on something I’m not enjoying?

Which is why I don’t always finish books. There are some books that I don’t finish because they’re beautiful but unbearably slow (The Portrait of a Lady), some that I love but are simply too long (Agaat), some that aren’t quite as good as their predecessors (The Girl Who Played With Fire), some that are weird and experimental in a way I don’t care to sit through (The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium), some that are wildly overrated (Catch-22), and some that are sadly just plain boring (The Casual Vacancy). Often I leave these books on my nightstand for months, convinced that someday I’ll return to them—::cough::Les Mis::cough::—, but for the most part I’m never going to open these books again. I don’t have time. I have eleven books to read on this cruise.


What are some books that you put down—for whatever reason—and never picked back up again?

Oh, and those 11 books: 101 Famous PoemsThe Complete Anne SextonThe Complete Emily DickinsonThe Works of Lord ByronA Dance With DragonsA Visit From the Goon SquadBilly “The Hill” and the Jump Hook: The Autobiography of a Forgotten LegendLeaves of GrassThe Waste Land & Other Poems, and two Agatha Christie books that I don’t even know what they are, I just know I haven’t read them yet.


2 thoughts on “500 Words On…Finishing Books

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