Breaking Up with Books

Abandonment sounds so final. If it isn’t a good fit, there’s no point to continue reading. However, I’m the type who wants to hang on until the end, gives me more to talk about if I don’t like it. I use the term “breaking up with a book” to explain to students to move on and find something else if they aren’t connecting with their selections. It’ll still be there if you want to go back to it later, I tell them.

Why don’t I take my own advice? Why would you want to read a book you aren’t enjoying? I do it to myself. I’m loyal. Even with books. Usually.

I’m on a re-reading streak of some favorites. Deenie by Judy Blume. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on audio (so good!). The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I need to stop here because I’m already overloading my list. This in addition my regular TBR tower, which groans under the heft of a new book I can’t resist when I’m shopping. I buy the ones that have library waitlists longer than several months.

I’m a slow reader, so if a book sounds like a great read, I usually buy it so I can spend all the time I need with it. Unfortunately, it takes me a while to get to them.

Beyond the queue, I’m considering adding break-up books. For different reasons, I couldn’t handle them at the time I picked them up. Dare I go back?

I broke up with A Wrinkle in Time as a kid, as a teacher, and as a parent. I checked this book out every year in middle school. I couldn’t get past the first few chapters. I tried reading it to my fourth graders one year. They weren’t crazy about it, we reassessed, and chose something else.

When the 2018 movie was released, the one with Oprah, my nine year old requested the book. We got a copy after having watched the movie, which is the opposite of our books-to-movie household rule. I started reading it aloud to her and she intercepted the book after the first few chapters. Book dumped. Similar to being Netflix dumped, but with a book. She finished it without me. It wasn’t a favorite, but she enjoyed it while it lasted. I seem to stop every time after, who is it–Mrs. Whatsit?– shows up.

The Hobbit. Fourth time’s a charm? I also broke up with this one as a kid, as a teacher, and as a parent. I have it on Audible. It’s next in line after I finish HP2, which is due tomorrow. I watched the movie with my oldest and enjoyed it. This one might work.

I once read or heard somewhere that people need to listen to great stories. Was it Neil Gaiman?

Those great classics? They’re meant to be read aloud. They sound different when you hear them. I enjoyed Harry Potter, but listening takes it to a whole other level. If it’s a great listen, I can always go to the book to annotate, highlight favorite passages, and maybe add it to my TBRA pile, to be read again, in print.

I’m sure there are more, but here are other book relationships that didn’t work out, each for different reasons. I may rekindle these by listening instead. (Except for Verity, I flat out didn’t like that one.)

Neil Gaiman on reading aloud and audiobooks linked here.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

14 thoughts on “Breaking Up with Books

  1. Love this analogy of breaking up with a book. I do it ALL the time, and now I wonder what that says about me. Thank you for this entertaining slice. Sometimes it is just not meant to be. My biggest break (where I listened/slept through most of it and then tried to read it) is Cloud Cuckoo Land. Not meant to be.


    1. I listened to this one, but I might have enjoyed it more if I could see it and take notes. I must’ve been a little cuckoo to get through the whole thing. I’m getting so much better at being okay with dumping books. Must be my first-born, rule following, personality. Sometimes I don’t like her, especially in situations such as these.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on books. I’ve since revisited some of my once abandoned books. Some I liked and some I still hated. Wrinkle in Tine being one, oddly enough. Good luck with your towers of books!!


  3. Yes! It’s so hard to take our own advice about books and step away from them when we don’t click. Some of it is interest, and some of it is style: I struggle with classics sometimes because the exposition. is. so. long. (I’m not an Austen fan because everything is…people talking?) Glad you’re able to take that good advice to break up with books when they aren’t doing it, so you can spend your reading time on something that feeds you.


    1. Hi Christina. I do need to spend time with those books that feed me. For a lot of these, I think the timing was off or maybe I wasn’t mature enough to read them. Who knows?
      Something Wicked This Way Comes, that one scared me when I got to the part where the carnival is on its way. I was reading it around midnight and this was where Bradbury spoke about 3:00 a.m being the death hour. I heard a train whistle in the distance and the carnival is traveling by train! I threw the book far away from me and pulled the covers over my head. Haven’t picked it up since. I watched the movie plenty of times as a kid, but the book just spooked me. There is a quarry not far from our neighborhood, but surely they wouldn’t be running the train through it at midnight. I’ve never heard it other than that night.


  4. I was with you for all of the post–even not getting through Wrinkle in Time, which I loved as a kid–but Anne of Green Gables is a step too far for me. How can you not love Anne? Glad it wasn’t “abandoned”, but just put on hold indefinitely. 🙂


    1. That’s a good way to put it, “on hold indefinitely.” My daughter has watched Anne With an E and we have watched a few episodes together. She hasn’t picked up the book yet.


      1. I only watched the first few episodes of Anne With an E, but what I saw deviated from the book hugely. (“That’s WRONG!” I kept telling my husband. He teased me by saying, “That’s not how it was in real life.”) Definitely don’t base the books on that series. I wonder if you might actually like the last book in the series best. Rainbow Valley is about Anne’s youngest daughter and takes place during World War I. When I was a kid I didn’t like it as much as the others because it was sadder, but when I reread it as an adult I found its picture of what life was like for the people back home (ie. not fighting) really interesting.


  5. You know we both share the “more books than time” habit…and two more arrived on my doorstep last week, both from recommendations. I am currently juggling SEVEN books! I so wish I had the capability of following along with an audiobook; perhaps I just need to find the right activity to pair with listening (hello, exercise?). The bestseller I couldn’t get into? The Goldfinch….and it’s still sitting there, in my bookpile…


    1. Seven? I have to limit myself to three. A nightstand book, one for work, and an audiobook. My current nightstand read has been lingering since October where I went full speed and tapered out. Come to think of it, Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart is there too. I’m almost finished with it, but haven’t picked it up since August. Sigh…

      Liked by 1 person

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