Here’s a question. When is it acceptable to give up on a book? Some may say it never is, but surely there are times when we are allowed to ditch a book halfway through.
I’ve been struggling with this for some time now. I’ve meandered through the last four or five books with mild interest without ever having that undeniable connection. I see people with their heads in books on trains and in cafes and I’m filled with jealousy at how much fun they’re having. I can’t help but feel that I’m becoming fussy, because I never struggled with book boredom as a child.
I tried researching how to resolve this. I typed “can’t find your book” and Google regurgitated a whole range of possible solutions: Wikihow’s “3 ways to find lost objects”, how to find a book on a library system, and “7 steps to find lost objects after panic sets in” (that was just as patronising as it sounds).
None of this was what I meant. I wanted to know how to find MY book, the book that would keep me up all night and have me clinging to every page. It’s a cliché but, annoyingly, clichés are often true. I wanted that experience of falling in love with a book, feeling like you knew the protagonist intimately and was a part of their story as it unfolded. I’ve only felt like this a select number of times, two occasions being Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. Both series are seven books strong and although the latter took me a while, I was just as engaged during the last book as I was at the beginning (good job George).
My latest attempt – and I predict soon-to-be failure – is The Lion’s Eye by Joanna Greenfield. The story is one student’s account of her time studying chimpanzees in East Africa on a once-in-a-lifetime research opportunity. When I found this book in the library I was intrigued. I always love a female protagonist with gumption and I thought I would empathise, seeing as the author was only just in her twenties when offered the research assignment.
I’m now eighty pages in, which is shamefully only a quarter of the book. She’s in the Impenetrable Forest and struggling to adapt to the unforgiving environment, but I find myself still very disconnected. I don’t feel any anticipation or excitement – to care one jot about a real-life story I need to know the author’s history, understand their passions and what drives them. Aside from a genetic condition in one of her eyes, I barely know anything about this woman. As I write about it now I’m not surprised I don’t care what happens to her.
This has turned into a rant, and I didn’t really want to start slating books, but I’ve convinced myself that I shouldn’t need to hang on to an underwhelming book just because it seemed like I would enjoy it or because other people have. While I would advise against giving up most things, there really are too many fish in the sea and too many books in the library. Although there are millions to try, one day I will find MY book.