Almost every book I’ve picked up in the last few weeks has got dumped before I reached the end. And this despite each one coming with some heavy-duty recommendations.
What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for somebody else. It’s a matter of taste and the preference of the moment, and is all very subjective, which isn’t a bad thing. It’d be a boring world if we all enjoyed the same things, and for the same reasons.
All the same, the process forces me to question what I’m looking for in a piece of writing, and how I might address this myself. And how to sustain a reader’s interest when they might be feeling a little flighty and not easily hooked.
First off the rank was John Banville’s The Sea (winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize) which I stopped reading at page 40. This was followed by Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris, which won a Richard and Judy British Book Award for 2008, and which my sister and my wife both enjoyed tremendously (whereas I came to an end with it by page 51). Then I tried James Frey’s ‘memoir’ A Million Little Pieces, which grabbed me so soundly for 160 pages that I carried on reading for 130 pages more despite feeling that nothing new was happening, and eventually stopped reading with 210 pages to go. After this catalogue of failure on my part as a reader, I was determined to finish Penelope Green’s autobiography When In Rome ... and did. T'ra-t'ra!
Somehow I had to break the jinx.
I won’t go into why I put three of these books down prematurely, although I try not to reject a book until I know why I’m doing it. The important thing to remember is that each of these books worked well for big numbers of other people. Who knows, but perhaps the planets were out of alignment or something as far as I was concerned. Perhaps I chose the wrong book for the wrong moment. Selecting a book to read can be a random process at times.