Last Autumn I set myself a challenge to read the full Man Booker Shortlist 2016 (six books). I didn’t manage all of them before the winner, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, was announced. I planned to complete and review the final one on my list (Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien) this week, but I’m afraid I haven’t finished it; it is taking me an inordinate amount of time to get through!
Now, dear reader, this blog is rather like the proverbial swan – whilst it may look smooth and effortless to you on the surface, the planning (reading, idea generation, social media, writing, etc) that goes on behind the scenes is like a military operation! Well, not exactly, but, you know, I do plan my reading, aim to bring you a book a week and try to blog twice a week. And this book has totally blown my schedule! You know what it’s like when you’ve got a busy day planned either at home or at work…and you hear the words “Mum, I’ve just been sick!” and you know your day is irretrievably banjaxed. Well, that’s how I feel.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing, broadly speaking, is about China after the revolution, what it was like living under the dictatorship of Mao Tse Tung and about the hardships endured by the population, particularly by artists and intellectuals, in an era when culture was heavily proscribed. I have had a lifelong fascination with China, have read very widely about this enormously diverse and culturally rich nation, so I should be loving it. But I’m not! And I’m barely halfway through! I took a break from it this week and read Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe (which I’ll be reviewing soon), and that book is at the very opposite end of the literary spectrum – light, fun, quick to read. Many people probably would have given up by now. After all, a book, particularly a long one, is a huge investment is it not? I rarely give up on a book – I gave up on White Teeth by Zadie Smith a few years ago after a couple of false starts, but I have always planned to go back to it. My rationale for continuing with Do Not Say We Have Nothing is as follows:
- I’ve already sunk several hours into it
- I keep thinking that it’ll get more enjoyable
- It seems a worthy book, so I feel I ought to finish it
- I set myself the challenge to complete the shortlist and I can’t let one book make me fail.
Reasons 2 and 4 are the most compelling. So, I will carry on to the bitter end and hope that a turn of the plot will make it all worthwhile. I’ll keep you posted!
Do you give up on a book if you’re not enjoying it?
If you’ve already read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether you think it’ll be worth it in the end. Is it just me?
5 thoughts on “What to do when a book feels like a hard slog?”
Firstly I am impressed by the challenge you have set yourself! And secondly I share the dilemma you describe. I always feel obliged to finish a book, for similar reasons to the one you describe. But perhaps we should cut ourselves some slack! I read an interesting book on this subject if you’re interested https://brontespageturners.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/the-rights-of-the-reader-by-daniel-pennac/
Ooh thank you, I’ll check that out.
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