Sunday, August 23, 2009

Do You Discuss Unfinished Books?

Today's discussion topic is something I've been thinking about for a couple of weeks -- unfinished books. I definitely follow some bloggers that write about books that they weren't able to finish. But I've also seen bloggers who have said that they don't review unfinished books. So I'm wondering what everyone's opinions are here.

My personal view is that all information about a book is useful to perspective readers, including the reasons why someone left a book unfinished. Especially in the blogging community where we seek out bloggers with similar tastes, this can really help in choosing books. Here are a few things that I think it's important to share when discussing a book you didn't finish ...

**Let me know why you chose the book in the first place. Perhaps it's in a genre that you normally read but it's a poor example of the genre. That's useful to know! Maybe it's an author that you normally read but this one novel just didn't do it for you. Whatever the reason, it could be the same as why I am looking at the book.

**Tell me how far you got in the book. Did something in the first chapter turn you off or did you slog through hundreds of pages until you set aside the book?

**Be constructive and tell me what ended your reading of this book. Was it the subject matter, the writing, the plot details? This way I could guess if I would have the same issues.

**Finally, it would be awesome if you could suggest another book instead. Is there a novel that you've read that is similar but you liked better? This is helpful if I'm interested in the same topic but now am choosing not to read the original book.

So, what do my readers think? Would you or do you discuss unfinished books on your site? Are there any other things that you would want to read in someone else's review of an unfinished book?

Taking the good with the bad,


  1. Great post and food for thought, I do have to admit that there have been books that I have not finished and I haven't blogged about them, I am not sure why. After reading your post I think that I may blog about these books as well, as I can understand why this may be helpful to other bloggers/readers. Thanks for such an interesting post!
    Have a great weekend, Big Hugs, Bethxx

  2. I just did my first 'abandoned book' post a couple months ago and found it liberating. :) I think you've given great advice here, and if I do another one I'll definitely follow it!

  3. As a reader I'm always interested in the books that other people couldn't put down, but I'm just as interested in the opposite. It takes a lot for me to put a book down and not return to it. The more time I've invested, the more likely I am to finish it, so the decision to walk away becomes even more germane (for me at least) the further you progressed into the narrative before closing it for the last time. I want to know why so I can better assess whether I will have the same issue. I can't think of any points to add to your suggestions of how to frame the discussion about books you've abandoned.

    Incidentally, as a writer I find it is just as important to know why people stop reading as it is to know why they keep going.

  4. I sometimes do mini-reviews of books if I don't finish them. It depends on if I have a good reason for putting it down. "This book seemed okay but then I got distracted by a better book and then I went on vacation and it ended up under a pile of mail," isn't particularly blog-worthy.

    It was great to meet you this weekend!

  5. Great post, Kristen. I usually give my thoughts on DNFs, but not in the kind of depth you suggest...I like your suggestions! I've starred this post for the next DNF I happen to pick up :)

  6. I too enjoy hearing why someone chose to abandon a book! I have never written a review of one myself though. The only thing that I have written that comes close was a discussion on ebooks. The only book that I was not able to finish was an ebook and I firmly believe it was because of the format. I love your suggestions here by the way! I'm going to keep these in mind (and probably post about them in my weekly review next week)! Thanks!

  7. Scattie - Thanks! This really was meant to be food for thought. If someone is not comfortable with posting about not finishing a book, then they shouldn't do it. But if they weren't doing it because they didn't think that it was a valuable post, I wanted to point to the value.

    Eva - I agree that it's liberating. You spend time reading at least a portion of the book so then to just skip discussing it seems restrictive.

    Scott - I like the writer's perspective and I hope more writers could see these "did not finish" reviews as constructive. I think this is part of why I wanted to lay out a productive discussion format rather than just a "trash the book" fest. They should be a source of information for all who are at the table.

    Ali - I totally agree that it's not as productive to just say "I'll get back to it later but there wasn't really anything wrong with it" ... although, that may even be useful because, honestly, maybe the book is just boring!

    Wendy - Thanks! I think that going into this depth helps our credibility as reviewers to those who still don't believe that bloggers are capable of thoughtful discussions.

    Tif - Awesome. I hope that this discussion continues because although we hopefully aren't picking up books that we dislike all of the time, it's bound to happen and we are a community and we benefit from sharing ALL experiences.

  8. If I can't finish a book I just say it, and give a link to books in that genre or with similar appeal that I did enjoy. It has worked well. I do it even if I did finish the book and hated it. I figure, it is good to add a little positive in every post :)

    (it was nice to meet you this weekend!)

  9. Interesting issue. I am so Teutonic in my reading habits that I have to confess that I hardly ever abandon a book once I start it. In fact, A Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis may be the only one. And it has bothered me so much that I didn't finish it, that I will probably go back and read it just to not have that nagging at me. :)

  10. These are some interesting ideas to think about. I have never reviewed a book that I haven't finished. Not that I have a specific rule against it. I just find it very difficult to not finish a book that I start. It does waste a lot of time on boring books though, so I may try to abandon ones that are really not worth reading.

  11. Bethany - I love that you give links to other books. That's definitely something I'm going to start doing.

    Rose City Reader - I have only recently started abandoning books. I think it's because I'm reading more recommendations from other people and not just coming to all of my books on my own. I'm reading a lot more variety but also picking up some books that just aren't for me. I also have some that I got part way through, quit and then stored on my nightstand table to remind me to try and read them another time. ;)

    Jemima - It's hard when you are in the habit of finishing books to start letting them go unfinished. But the way I see it is that there are far too many other books out there that I know I want to read. I will give a book a fair shake and not quit too early but I can usually tell when I'm at the point that I need to walk away.

  12. Since I started blogging in January, I think I have only reviewed unfinished books that I was sent for review. There are several I have been reading and have not finished but have not reviewed because I feel the timing was off and I might go back to them at a later time. I will definitely do this for unfinished review books and consider it in other cases. Thanks for the discussion!

  13. Rebecca - Yes, the unfinished review books do have a bit of a deadline on them so there's more need to do some sort of wrap up with your impressions. Strangely, these are also the books that one is most hestitant to review in a less than positive light because there's a chance that the author will be clued in.