Jun 25

Mixed feelings about not finishing a book; why we plan our summer reading; and recommendations for Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and Life After Life by Jill McCorkle

Abandoning Books

Karen R. asked if we keep track of the books we read, especially the books we don’t finish. She’s worried about re-starting a book that she previously tried and didn’t like. Ann recently switched to keeping track of her books in a physical notebook and will mark unfinished books as DNF (Did Not Finish). I’m still using Goodreads because I’m addicted to the ease of entering and marking the books with an app. If I don’t finish a book, I just delete it from my “currently reading” shelf. We both have to read a lot of excerpts of books for work; we don’t count those, even though they’d probably add up to a couple of “whole” books!

This all comes back to the feeling some people have that they must finish any book they start. That’s a personal opinion, of course, but we feel very strongly that there are too many good books out there for you to slog through something you’re not enjoying. Two articles (WSJ and Guardian) recently discussed this subject and came up with some interesting perspectives.

Why Do We Plan Our Summer Reading? (7:56)safety

Even if you don’t have the summer off, chances are, you still plan out your summer reading more than any other time of the year. Why? Vacations, long hours of daylight, lack of new TV shows, whatever the reasons, Ann and I have each chosen a few books that are on our Summer Must Read Lists: Great Expectations for me and Crossing to Safety (for both of us). Ann has also re-committed to the Classics Impossible Facebook Group which is currently reading Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady, and will finally get to Lonesome Dove this summer. She’s still reading a short story every day, including forthcoming collections from Lorrie Moore and Aimee Bender.

What are your summer reading plans, if you have any?

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (16:22)

LAL Atkinson     LAL mccorkle

Though I am late to the party, I am thrilled to recommend Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. I began by listening to the audio which was simply wonderful as narrated by Fenella Woolgar. After getting out of my car, I immediately went inside and had to buy the eBook, because I had to keep going. I read the middle part and then finished it on audio. However you decide to read this book, print or audio, I think you’ll find something unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. (Goodreads discussion thread here)

Ann also recommends Life After Life, but this time it’s the novel by Jill McCorkle. Jill’s first novel in seventeen years, Life After Life centers on Joanna Lamb, a hospice worker at an assisted living home in North Carolina. It’s a book that Ann loved; its first few chapters almost read like short stories that then come together into a beautiful, heartfelt novel.

  • Chris K. in Vermont

    Hi Ann and Michael!

    Great podcast, as usual this morning! I’m always interested when the season turns to summer and there is lots of talk about summer reading lists, because I don’t have one of those, I have a winter reading list. The cheese stands alone! I always plan a big tome set aside for the month of January, “goal” books I’ve always wanted to read. For me in the winter, there is nothing much to do besides read and knit (and watch “Downton Abbey!”). But I admit, reading outside in the sunshine is one of my most favorite things to do; while the books tend to be lighter and shorter, I have many happy memories reading lots of great books in the warmer months. No plan, I just read what strikes my fancy. 🙂


  • Beth Welshons

    I adored the Jill McCorkle book. The Kate Atkinson is on my Nook, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. Really weird how they came out on the same day. It seems to me that the Atkinson one is getting more acclaim, but I really do think the McCorkle book is one of my favorites for a long time.

  • Birdy & Bambi

    Do you have an opinion about e-books vs. books?!

    If yes, please check this out and tell us all about e-books vs. books!


    Love from Germany

  • Alice

    Hi Ann and Michael

    I really liked the discussion about abandoning books. I spend a lot of time selecting books that I think I will really enjoy so am very reluctant to give up on one once I’ve started – I always hope that it will draw me in as it progresses. I also worry that if I give up on one book I will find it harder to stick with it on a future occasion if I get to a few less exciting pages. I used to record my books for the year once I started them – now I only allow myself to record them once I have finished – that gives me an extra incentive to carry on!

  • kategreen

    Hi Ann and Michael,
    Loved this episode, as usual. I am married to a man with a strict no abandon policy which I don’t always understand. The books I put on my dnf shelf are usually books where I have bought into the hype but secretly knew I wouldn’t like for one reason or another. I have kept a reading notebook, sorted by date and author’s last name since 2002. I have been using it and goodreads since 2009 to keep track of what I have read, but I did not import the whole notebook onto goodreads.
    My summer reading is Booktopia Petoskey authors whom I will be meeting in September as well as The Portrait of a Lady read-a-long. I abandoned War and Peace further on, (pg 351) but have lurked in the Classics Impossible group and Ilike Henry James.

  • Melissa

    I have a difficult time abandoning books. I attribute this to having been an English major and you had to finish the book whether you liked it or not because you had to pass the class and likely write a paper on it. I have stuck with a few pleasure reads that definitely turned out to be wonderful reads (or at least better than when they started out), but I just had to trudge through some slow moving first chapters.

    I really enjoyed Crossing to Safety. I finished it a couple of weeks ago and read it because of the chapter in The End of Your Life Bookclub (I really adored that book).

  • Annette Petavy

    As usual this year, I’m spending my vacation on an island by a Swedish lake. Book stores are far away, the scenery is gorgeous, reading on the terrace is a wonderful pastime.

    I plan on loading up my Kindle with plenty of books to read (no Internet connection available there). However, with the change of setting, I know that I will change my mind, and probably end up reading the eight or ten paperbacks available at the closest grocery store…

  • Vanessa D

    Wonderful episode as per usual!

    On the subject of summer reading: I use to have summer reading lists, but now I look at the whole year calendar for. I may, however, pick a book that seems to fit the “summer mood”. For instance, last summer I read Jaws by Peter Benchley. Somehow, my trips to the cape and my family’s cabin on a lake seemed all to perfect setting. Similarly, I always pick a scary read around Halloween and a more heart-warming (I hate that word, but you know what I mean) novel around Christmas. It puts me in the mood to enjoy whatever season/holiday I’m in.

    On the subject of abandoning books: I am pretty cut throat about it. I have an 80 page limit per book unless I have been forewarned that the second half far surpasses the first half. The way I see it, there are so many life-altering books out there waiting to be discovered. Why should I waste my time on a dud? Plus, 80 pages is PLENTY of time to get me engrossed. That is over generous, if anything. Don’t feel guilty people! Free yourself of silly constraints! 🙂

  • Suzanne Weiner

    I really don’t like to abandon books, but since my to-read pile is so huge I have realized that it is not worth wasting my time on books I am not enjoying. My exception to this rule though is books that have been selected for my book club; I try to read those to the end even if I don’t like them.
    For books that I can’t get into at the moment but would like to try again I created a shelf on Goodreads titled “Not Now, Maybe Later” to distinguish them from the books I just didn’t finish and don’t plan to ever try again.

  • Pingback: Holiday Reading | bibliosue()

  • Dani

    Hi Everyone,

    Though I haven’t read “Life After Life,” I have seen it all over blogs, podcasts, and bookstores. When I stumbled on the cover that was used in the UK (http://www.guardianbookshop.co.uk/BerteShopWeb/viewProduct.do?ISBN=9780385618670), I thought that I would share it. From what I have heard, this cover seems to embody the story a lot better than the American cover. But I want to hear what others who had actually read the book think!

    In regards to the abandoning books, my mom and I usually stick to the rule that if we are not drawn in by the end of the third chapter (or page 50), then we leave the book. I don’t like to think of it as “abandoning” because that seems to imply that the book is hopeless or not worthy of being finished. I like to think of it as “not meant for me.” I think that there are some books out there that speak to me completely; I feel a strong connection to them as if they were written with me in mind. When I come across a book where there isn’t a strong connection, I just assume that it was not meant for me. If I got it from the library, then I promptly return it. If I bought it, then I usually leave it at a coffee shop or airport so that it can be found by the person it was intended for.

    Thanks Ann and Michael for producing so many fantastic episodes that I listen to over and over again!

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