A Short Meme on Abandoned Books

While reading Book Lust by Nancy Pearl, I came across a part where she talks about abandoned books:

"..your mood has a lot to do with whether or not you will like a book. I always leave open the option of going back to a book that I haven't liked (especially if someone I respect has recommended it to me) sometime later. I've begun many books, put them down unfinished, then returned a month or two, or years, later and ended up loving them. This happened with Mathew Kneale's English Passengers, John Crowley's Little Big, and Andrea Barrett's The Voyage of the Narwhal."

I'm curious about everyone's experiences with abandoned books so I've made up this short meme. Please answer it below in the comment section or better yet, post about it in your blogs and leave a link.

1. What would cause you to stop reading a book ?
If a book fails to captivate me in roughly 20 to 50 pages (sometimes even just the first few paragraphs)  then I have no qualms to put it aside because life is short and there are too many wonderful books in the world.

2. Name a book or books you've abandoned in the past that you ended up loving later on.

The first book that comes to mind is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I abandoned it last year after just a few pages but I recently picked it up again. It's just perfect.

3. Name a book you've abandoned in the past that you hope to finish someday.

For me, this has got to be Justine by Lawrence Durrell, the first book of the Alexandria Quartet. Over the years, I've picked it up twice and both times abandoned it after just a few pages. Somehow I know if I could just get through the difficult beginning, I may end up liking this book and maybe even loving it. It seems to have everything that will captivate me - lush prose, an exotic setting and unrequited love. In fact if any of you have read this then please let me know your thoughts. I need someone to convince me to finally read this.

On a side note - next year, Virago is releasing Joanna Hodgkin's Amateurs in Eden, a biography of Lawrence and Nancy Durrell and their lives in Paris and Corfu in the 1930s. Henry Miller and Anais Nin appear in the book as well. The initial buzz is that it's utterly fantastic. I definitely plan to read that even if I never read Justine.

Do let me know if you join this meme. I'm looking forward to reading your answers.


  1. Just yesterday I wrote about a book which I recently abandoned. I loved the writing and thought the book was very unique - but I couldn't get into it because I needed a different kind of reading at that point in time, something a little easier and more relaxed. Your mood in absolutely related to whether or not you finish a book.

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  3. Great meme! I'm going to have a go myself tonight.

  4. so, the other comment was mine on the account of somebody else. I'M SO SORRY!

    here we go again:

    I ususally give a book 100 pages to make it work, if I still don't feel like I'm in the story at that moment, I quit the book.
    Yesterday I quit One Day by David Nicholls. I know a lot of people think it's wonderful but it just didn't do it for me. About a week ago I abandoned Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco - same reason. But, I think I might give this one another try since there are things I did like about this story.

    The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson is a book I did try again later and I ended up loving it. So yeah, I do think Nancy Pearl is right in some cases. But there also are books that are just not for me and when I feel this I don't give it another go for the simple reason that there are so many other books.

  5. Hey I wrote about this once before but I answered your meme on my blog today. Great idea, thanks :-)
    Stop by to check out my answers.

  6. Have done it now! Good fun, thanks for the idea.

  7. @winterlief - 100 pages is a lot! Actually I loved One Day but it seems to have divided a lot of people.

    @jfeldt and StuckinaBook - Thanks for joining it! I'll hop on over to your blogs.

  8. Thanks for a great meme, It's really got me thinking about books I abandoned in the past and then went on to love, it's also got me thinking that I should probably revist some past abandoned books. Here are my thoughts:


  9. wonderful questions. i rarely abandon books, but when it does happen, i try not to beat myself up about it.

    i'll start thinking about answering this meme.

  10. Nice meme. I've just done it -- see here: http://harrietdevine.typepad.com/harriet_devines_blog/2011/06/abandoned-books.html

  11. I enjoyed this post and have done the meme too - it's here.

  12. @ihugmybooks, @harriet and @margaret - Thanks for joining in. I'll go check your blogs.

  13. Great idea--I'm joining in (www.dactyls-and-drakes.com) as well as subscribing to your lovely blog. Can we think of a category for books that we don't completely abandon, but wind up skimming just to find out what happens, having lost patience with the pace and/or the writing?

  14. I have now added this to my blog, along with a fourth question: How often do you stop reading and just skim to the end?

  15. Do give Justine another try, it, and the other three books that make up The Alexandria Quartet, are wonderful - it's like inhabiting another world. The problem with Justine, though, is that you don't actually know what's going on until much later - I think I remember that it's partway through Mountolive that the plot really starts to coalesce (haven't read it for a long time so not sure about the exact point), but by that time the characters are like people you know and you are completely caught up in their world. It took me three goes to get into it (admittedly, I was only 14 the first time) but it's really worth it - close to my idea of perfection. I do think, though, that it helps if you can read it in huge gulps, you do need to be immersed in it.


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