Culture Crash 20-49

Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

It’s a moment that eventually befalls all book-readers: You finally picked up a book you’ve been meaning to read and…you don’t really like it.

Do you finish reading it, or abandon it halfway?

For most of my life, I’ve believed in the former. I thought it was a cardinal sin to abandon a book before completion. Then I met my match: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. By all accounts, I should love that book. I love mysteries and detective stories. My friends and family have read it to rave reviews. And yet for years, I have stopped-and-started, trying to get through a book that just doesn’t grab my attention.

Last month, I gave it one final try. I got 200 pages into its 804 page length and decided it just wasn’t going to happen. For some reason, this renowned book that everyone says I’ll love and me just don’t click. So I set it back down, maybe forever.

For a little bit, that felt like quitting… and then I remembered all the other books I want to read. Since abandoning Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I’ve torn through Cujo and The Outsider by Stephen King and started reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. None of them have given me the feeling of having to eat my vegetables before dessert that I had every time I picked up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

So my advice is this: If a book or movie or TV show is starting to feel like self-assigned homework instead of an enjoyable experience, just remember you don’t have to finish it. There are plenty of other stories on the shelves. And maybe down the line, you’ll go back to that abandoned novel and it will grab you in a way it didn’t before. Maybe there’s another attempt at Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in me. But not right now, I’m having too much fun with these other books.

I’m Evan Rook.